Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Is This a Zombie? of the Dead
Episodes 7-10 Streaming
Whether by design or mind-boggling coincidence, the insanity of the cultural fair manages to bring together everything that drunken pixie Chris needs to unleash herself on the world. Ayumu always assumed she was a figment of his imagination, but naturally she's something far more substantial, and sinister, than that. Once the most powerful Magical Garment Girl of them all, she was cursed to spend her sober hours as a middle-aged man when she staged a coup many years ago. Now freed, she's hell-bent on…well, mostly having fun at Ayumu's expense. Not exactly evil, true, but in freeing herself she has once again drained Haruna of all her magic, and Ayumu wants it back. But how to wrest it from someone who could single-handedly lay waste to the entire world?
There are several ways Of the Dead could have botched its ending, and these four episodes manage to hit pretty much all of them. This is not the deranged rollercoaster of mad yuks and loopy plot twists that season one was, nor the gut-busting laugh factory of this season's first half. Remnants of both remain, but the result is staid in comparison—and frustratingly inconclusive to boot.
The first half of this season was a long run of deliriously sick jokes held together by a bare thread of plot and the promise that something more plot-like was coming down the pike. That promise is fulfilled, more or less, by the revelation of Chris's identity. It unites the final four episodes in a way that the freewheeling episodes previous to it definitely weren't. Frankly though, the series would probably have been better off free-wheeling right to the end. The Chris problem drastically cuts the series' laugh factor, but lacks the deadly stakes and concerted build-up to be workably tense or exciting. In short, it screws the pooch both coming and going. When the first season stopped chainsawing our funny bones, it was to deliver maniacally bloody action of incongruous intensity. Of the Dead's climax stops the chainsawing but delivers no compensation. No magical-girl psychopaths bent on messy dismemberment, no malevolent zombies determined to off Eu's friends, no savage magical showdown, no sadistic action inventions, not even a proper villain. Chris isn't evil or even a real threat, just a girl who wants to be free.
Instead what we get are a series of character episodes. Ayumu and company learning something of Eu's past through their investigation. Saras making her feelings for Ayumu clear after a concert. Kyoko working out some of her issues at a singles party. Ayumu's roommates learning about him while spelunking in his head. It's the kind of solid character-building that would be welcome in most other series, and it is nice to get a little background on Eu and a little insight into Ayumu's warped workings, but it's also dispiritingly…ordinary. Zombie thrives on chaos and twisted imagination, not character construction or, heaven forbid, romance. The character interludes slow the already underpowered climax to a fitful stumble, hindering it enough that it shuts down before it can tie up its loose ends or reach any kind of a satisfying conclusion. It feels less like an ending than a segue into a third season that may or may not ever happen.
Disappointment isn't, however, synonymous with disaster. These four episodes may leave Zombie feeling more conventional than it ever has in its cross-dressing, chainsaw-wielding history, but it's still a pretty strange bird. That singles party that Kyoko goes to? It takes Ayumu an episode's worth of hilariously out-of-character wheedling (“let's par-tay!”) to get it underway, and the party itself features two karaoke-ing luchadores and a pair of fashion faux pas so mortifying as to make your hair curl (oh, the nippleage). When the girls go spelunking in Ayumu's head, they find the fragments of his personality prancing around his skull like visual kei villains. The final battle, or what passes for one, has Eu in magical girl drag running a chainsaw through a preening Ayumu's stylishly exposed abs. If nothing else, the series' instinct for visual humor remains intact.
The series' other visual instincts are more or less intact as well. Its action, though drenched in B-movie sensibilities, still has moments of A-level quality. Particularly memorable is Haruna's brutal thrashing of the Ayumu-fragments. Of course it can't match the series' best battles for spectacle, imagination, or twisted humor, not to mention narrative punch, but it has fun and looks good doing it. As before, the way the series moves is more impressive than the way it looks, but absent the shock-and-awe comedy/horror inventions of arcs past, Shinobu Tagashira's designs actually take on a shine of their own. Ayumu is kind of generic, sure, but also a veritable fount of sight gags. Haruna, with her pipe-cleaner limbs and arsenal of goofily simplified expressions, is absolutely adorable, and Kyoko is a terrifying mixture of sex appeal and rubber-faced psychosis. Which makes the episode where her personality gets neutered all the more dispiriting.
It is fitting in its own way that a series that thrives on chaotic unpredictability would end not by blowing the lid off the plot or hurtling around a hairpin turn, as it has in the past, but with an anticlimactic turn towards the introspective. Not that that makes it any less of a letdown. The series will always have a place in the blackened recesses of our hearts, and there are moments here that remind us why, but mostly these episodes just ensure that that place will be smaller than it was at Zombie's deranged peak.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : C+
Music : C
+ Periodically very funny; occasionally recaptures the madness that made its earlier stages great.
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