Some anime were destined to resonate with the viewers by their concepts, with Zom 100 being a shining example. Beyond being a colorful zombie anime based on the fantastic series by Haro Aso (Alice in Borderland) its core concept is shockingly relatable. Still, there is plenty of appeal past this as a proof of concept. In Zom 100, you’ll see a story full of heart, optimism, and a potent animated tour de force that has outshone everything to premiere so far in the Summer 2023 anime lineup. This is my review for Zom 100 Episode 1.
#37: Tell Off My Jerk of a Boss
Akira Tendo is a new salaryman in the Production Department at a company pumping out big commercials for major companies. He’s excited and optimistic about his outlook, meets the charming Saori Ohtori, and bonds with his coworkers. But things are not as they seem, as he quickly gets subjected to all-nighters and brutal working conditions.
Akira’s youth and energy helped get him through at first, but even his bright disposition was soon defeated by a company that betrayed his expectations. He was feeling overworked, he discovered Saori being coerced into an unfortunate affair by the CEO, and it got to the point where he fantasized about a world overrun by zombies that would end the monochrome humdrum of day-to-day. Little did he know, he’d soon have this wish granted, and be able to confess his feelings.
#1: Confess to the Girl I Loved
All too quickly we find out the story pivots into a zombie survival story but with a twist: it’s given Akira a renewed sense of purpose and drive to live. He finds himself motivated to create a bucket list of 100 things to do before he dies. His first item is to find Ohtori and confess his feelings to her. He does so while deftly evading zombies seeking to feast on his flesh. His background as a former rugby athlete allows him the stamina to avoid or push through them with ease.
It’s in this story that we see a neat, positive twist on an increasingly tired horror subgenre, with Akira seeing zombies as his ticket to freedom. He says this from the very beginning, watching zombie fiction and wanting this from the start, and it’s so darkly relatable. It’s hard to imagine a day where an illness consumes enough of the population that you’re unable to show up to work (and to spin it as a good thing, that you don’t have to return to a job you hate.) But something tells me readers can fill in the blanks on why this might be relatable to some.
Akira finds his zombified work crush at her apartment, along with their mutual boss, and the confrontation is cathartic as hell. Instead of being overcome with fear and disappointment that they are zombies and thus no longer lucid, Akira powers through, gives a rousing resignation speech, and tackles his boss through a window. He then confesses his feelings to Ohtori and promptly runs away before she can sink her teeth into his flesh.
To Akira, this whole apocalypse was a wake-up call, and he begins to seek out everything on his bucket list while he runs away from zombies. The way the show presented it, his coworkers were already painfully zombie-like, to begin with.
#6: Travel Around the Country
The show paints Akira’s situation going into 3 years with his company as the true lowest point of his life, rather than the zombie outbreak. It achieves this brilliantly with the gradual desaturation of colors, and a visible deterioration of Akira’s mental health as he longs to be free. His youthful swagger turns into a zombie shamble as the years pass, and he heavily implies his desire to end his life due to it meaning he’d no longer have to work.
Akira’s life is a clear satire on the Japanese salaryman cliche, doomed to death by overworking. He’s surrounded by garbage in his apartment, the color leaves his daily life, and he’s utterly trapped by work. The zombie apocalypse happens out of nowhere and engages Akira’s fight-or-flight instincts, where he must run for his life, and all too sudden, color returns with a vibrant, gorgeous vengeance.
Akira runs through the urban streets of Tokyo, seeing the zombified denizens from different walks of life, undeterred. The sight of blood is even a welcome sight, a sign of color, while the hordes chasing down our protagonist are splattered with a neon smorgasbord of ichor.
The show flaunts its style here, where Akira’s optimism gives life to the show’s visuals, and his depression warrants revisiting entirely to see the contrast. It’s also supremely well-animated and highly cinematic at times, armed with cool visuals ranging from black-and-white sketched manga to sprawling shots of a devastated city. I haven’t seen as wide-ranging a showcase of skillful direction and animation in months, and the result is a hell of a first impression for this new anime by Bug Films.
#0: Watch This Anime Immediately (The Verdict)
If you’re going to add your bucket list of 100 items to do before you die as an anime fan, check out Zom 100 Episode 1 before writing anything down. It breaks down a tired subgenre of horror fiction, injecting a healthy bit of comedy with a vast neon splash of anime style, and this is before we even meet Akira’s fellow cast of survivors. It reminds us that for some, even the end of the world can be a form of escapism, and can remind us to find things that make life worth living.
Zom 100 is the best Summer 2023 anime debut I’ve seen so far because of its excellent storytelling, visual style to convey mood and character sentiments, and solid characterization. The zombie apocalypse is merely a MacGuffin to renew Akira’s optimism in an extreme escapist fantasy, as much as it is the setting of the story.
The promise of meeting other survivors in a colorful, overrun Japan is highly enticing, and what I’ve seen so far has left me nothing but impressed. Upon review of Zom 100, from Episode 1 you see Akira chasing his bliss, his optimism renewed as he runs from hordes of flesh-eating zombies in a glass-half-full kind of apocalypse, and you feel more alive just watching this.
This review of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead Episode 1 was made using a screener provided by VIZ Media. Zom 100 premieres on Sunday, July 9, 2023, at 2:30 AM PT / 4:30 AM CT / 5:30 AM ET, and is available to stream weekly on Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll.
- This article was updated on September 7th, 2023