The Fall 2018 Manga Guide
Zo Zo Zombie
What's It About?Upon hearing tall tales of the living dead roaming a playscape, 5th Grader Isamu ventures out to corroborate the stories with his own eyes. Despite its seeming impossibility, the stories were very, very true. Isamu finds the bizarre Zombie Boy lying in a sand box, and although at first Isamu flees, fearing for his life, he finds that Zombie Boy couldn't be farther from how zombies are traditionally depicted.
Zombie Boy is able to substitute his own blood with tomato juice, sever and reattach his limbs at will, and has more of a craving for clothing than brains. And Zombie Boy seems to want nothing more than to be Isamu's friend. But he sure has an odd way of showing it, as Zombie Boy's odd behavior and physics-defying abilities seem to only cause the young boy even more grief and stress. How will Isamu cope with Zombie Boy interrupting his daily life? One thing is certain: with friends like Zombie Boy, Isamu need not even dream of enemies.
Zo Zo Zombie is an original gag manga by Yasunari Nagatoshi. It is published by Yen Press and retails for $11.99 physically. A two episode anime adaptation aired in 2017.
Is It Worth Reading?
You know that old adage about repeating a joke too many times? Zo Zo Zombie is kind of that but in manga form.
Well, that's not totally accurate. It's less the same joke over and over again and more increasingly nonsensical, random variations on the same joke. This means that in Chapter 2 when Zombie Boy throws his head into space it is the volume's absurdity apex. So by the time you get to Chapter 6 and Zombie Boy is a super hero fighting crime you're extremely burnt out. Not to say that Zo Zo Zombie is bad or anything. It's made with a lot of love by an author's who very clearly loves this style of humor. It's just...This kind of no-diegetic-rules-or-real-earthly-grounding joke choice isn't invalid, but it is one that has to be done carefully and artfully. Zo Zo Zombie isn't that. It's more a throw everything at the wall kind of manga, which means that it's incredibly hit or miss and hard to really get invested in. Judging by how the characters are reintroduced at the start of every chapter, I think this is a manga best read week to week. Reading it in volume form, with the rules of how Zombie Boy operates constantly changing and the character's relationship never really evolving, or even any real variation in the overall structure of jokes, makes it a little exhausting.
It should be said that I am not not this book's target audience. It's for kids. And honestly, for that target audience I think it's pretty perfect. The art is cute and appealing, the jokes simple and easy to relate too. I even got a few genuine laughs out of it. Chapter 3 in particular is a fairly well-done shaggy dog joke. That's the thing about absurdity—it casts such a broad net that at least something is bound to make you chuckle, even if most of it slides off of you.
I don't have any ill-will toward Zo Zo Zombie. It's earnest and sometimes quite cute. I think kids could really get a kick out of it, and the volume itself is well designed to cater to that, including omake and games in the back. I'm just in the wrong age bracket. And that's ok. Let the kids have their fun and move on.
ZoZoZombie is juvenile, simplistic, and overly reliant on its core concept—a zombie boy trailing elementary-school kid Isamu around town—but it's incredibly funny in a grotesque yet all-ages appropriate manner. There should be only so many times the tsukkomi-like Isamu can be surprised by the bizarre things Zombie Boy can do, and yet every single chapter, Zombie Boy has some new bizarre behavior to share with his would-be best friend. While Zombie Boy can't even speak—though his Wile E. Coyote-style signs on occasion make for some amusing commentary—he's a master of slapstick, using his removable body parts for the punchline for virtually every gag. This isn't a manga where you'll find any character growth or an overall plot. It's a gag manga, pure and simple, and as long as Nagatoshi can come up with new ways for Zombie Boy to freak Isamu out, it never gets stale.
Nagatoshi's art is easily one of the most important ingredients in the manga's success. Zombie Boy himself perfectly walks the line of gross and adorable via his simplistic design and Isamu is incredibly expressive as he takes in the zaniness around him. In addition to cartoonish depictions of an average Japanese neighborhood, the background often relies on screentones and blank spaces, but that augments the comedy thanks to the expressiveness of the characters.
ZoZoZombie isn't for everyone, but those who appreciate a comedic manga and don't mind more than a few instances of potty humor are sure to find themselves chuckling throughout this first volume. Its juvenile nature makes it ideal for both kids and adults, and though it runs the risk of fatiguing the audience with its singular concept, it never fails to find fresh and funny ways to show just how zany Zombie Boy can be.
Do you need a gift for the potty-humor-loving child in your life? Then you're in luck – Zo Zo Zombie's first volume delivers just that. It's a totally goofy gag manga featuring Isamu, a hapless fifth grader, and his new friend Zombie Boy, who does wonderful things like poop out information, send his lower body to use the bathroom while he's sleeping, and forgets to put his brain in before going out. It's definitely enjoyable by the adult crowd if you've got a high tolerance or fondness for that style of humor, and actually may even be a little funnier if you know the basic zombie tropes that are being lampooned.
Not that any such knowledge is required. Basically this all about how Zombie Boy freaks out Isamu, who really does want to be friends with the little undead guy but can't quite get over things like Zombie Boy dumping out his organs at random moments. For his part, Zombie Boy is trying to be super helpful, but his inability to say anything other than “argh” makes this difficult for him to get across. There are lots of silly misunderstandings and gross-out moments, but underneath it all, Zo Zo Zombie is about two very different people trying to be friends.
That may make it more appealing as a gift for the budding manga reader in your life, especially because it doesn't ever get preachy. Both Isamu and Zombie Boy know that the other means well (mostly; Isamu has his moments of doubt), and the story would rather have fun with their differences than anything more serious. As far as kiddy fare goes, this is a step above some of the cutesier titles in terms of audience, but its potty base may keep it firmly in the kiddy realm for most readers.
There's a rumor that zombies live in a park, but that won't stop 5th grader Isamu from checking it out! Stumbling upon the Good Kids Sandbox, Isamu spots Zombie Boy sleeping, and we're off to the races. Each chapter is a different event in their friendship - it's always good for a laugh and not much else. Each chapter also wraps up with two yonkoma.
There's not a whole lot of depth to Zo Zo Zombie. At its core, it is a slice of life children's manga with really spot-on humor. I found myself laughing out loud at Zombie Boy's antics and his character. He ultimately wants to help his friends and help them be the best they can be, even if he might not be the most traditional help.
The art style of the manga is over the top and simplistic, a really fun cartoon style - it makes for a really creepy and cute experience. Children and lighthearted adults alike can and will enjoy this manga. Whether it's Zombie Boy using his organs to solve a problem or Isamu actively trying to run away from Zombie Boy's over-friendly advances, this manga is super cute and a breezy read that can be picked up at any time.
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