When it comes to zombies, my interest levels tend to drop below ground level. While I do enjoy a good gore fest or survival tale, the concept of the undead doesn't do it for me anymore. Then I was hit in the face by Is this a Zombie?, an anime that features a strange mix of magical girls and zombies.
Let's find some refuge, as we take a look at the magical hijinks found in Studio DEEN's anime series that's based on a light novel by Shinichi Kimura.
Is this a Zombie? Season One Limited Edition
Studio: Studio DEEN
Licensed by: FUNimation
Release date: December 4, 2012
MSRP: $64.98 [Buy]
Ayumu is your normal everyday highschool student that lives a joyous life like you and me -- at least that would be true if it wasn't for him being a zombie. Brought back from the dead by a Necromancer that goes by the name of Eu, Ayumu is determined to hunt down the murderer that took his life. For Ayumu, tracking down the murderer is the least of his worries, because he accidentally steals the powers of a Magical Garment Girl from a girl known as Haruna. Now Ayumu is stuck with his new found housemate, as they fight the evil forces of the Megalos.
Despite the "Zombie" in the title, Is this a Zombie? slowly transitions into the harem genre as more girls enter Ayumu's life. Other than the Necromancer and the Magical Garment Girl, Ayumu his joined by Sera, who happens to be a vampire ninja. But don't think that Zombie falls into the typical harem traps, because each girl has their own motives that goes beyond trying to get inside of the main guy's pants. And considering all of the physical/verbal abuse that Ayumu gets from his new housemates, romance is the least of his worries. If there was one show that I could compare Zombie to, it would be Tenchi Muyo!, since both shows have a special guy that's accompanied by a fun lovable female cast.
As a zombie, Ayumu is not your average brain craving abomination, since he retains his instincts as a human being. The only thing that classifies him as an undead is that he has to worry about his corpse getting dried up by the scorching sun. Despite his unfortunate weakness, Ayumu is able to tap into the dormant strength that's normally held back by a living person's mind. Thus granting him immense super strength against any powerful opponent. Add the powers of a Magical Garment Girl, and you have a cross-dressing chainsaw wielding force that gives the word zombie a whole new meaning.
While Zombie has its fun character, the heart of the story focuses on the relationship between Ayumu and Eu. To me it was the strongest element that Is this a Zombie? brings to the table, since Eu's backstory plays an important role in Zombie's major segments. But at the same time, the other characters were only there to contribute to the comedic segments of the series. Sure, we were given a bit of a rundown on their goals and personality, but twelve episodes is just not enough to cover all of the important grounds. Because of this matter, I felt that it was one of the few things that held Zombie down.
Studio DEEN tends to not have a good track record in regards to making good-looking shows, since they tend to not go all out in the design department. The colors, lighting, and animation in Zombie may not be top notch, but it does work great with the story that DEEN has created. However, since I haven't read the original light novels, it's hard to tell if Zombie suffers from the adaptation decay syndrome that most DEEN shows contract. That said, Zombie still has the power to stand on its own, so there's a chance that DEEN's curse has been lifted. In fact, it might be a sign that DEEN is slowly improving as an animation studio.
If there was one mishap that irked me about Zombie, it's that DEEN's method of blocking the nudity made me feel like I was watching a broadcast version of the show instead of a typically uncensored home release, since they chose to use flashing lights that feel out of place. Personally, if the boobs were meant to be covered up, they should have thought of some convenient way to hide them. Then again, these issues were mostly present in Haruna's scene, so we can leave it as a poor attempt at covering up her goods. Even though it doesn't affect the show's enjoyment level, it would have been nice if DEEN made those cover ups more believable.
Austin Tindle's take on Ayumu reminded me a bit of an exaggerated version of Kyon's English voice from Haruhi Suzumia, which went perfect with the turmoil and pain that Ayumu puts up with in the series. FUNimation's choice in giving a western take on most of the perverted jokes went rather well in my opinion, since it presents a similar impact to those that might not connect with the jokes from the original Japanese track. As for the Japanese voices, some of my favorites were Junji Majima's (Ryuji from Toradora!) way of expressing Ayumu's turmoil and development, and Yoko Hikasa's (Mio from K-ON!) role as Sera when she unleashes the verbal abuse on the show's main character. While I was able to click better with the Japanese track, viewers won't go wrong with both tracks. And of course, FUNimation deserves some mad props for using different voice actresses for Eu's special segment, since viewers will now have two great versions of Ayumu's twisted fantasies.
Viewers that are hungry for FUNimation's dub can feast on two commentary tracks where you get to hear Austin Tindle, Jad Saxton (Haruna's English voice actress), and the show's ADR director. All three of them go into full detail about their reactions to certain scenes in the episodes, along with the reasoning behind certain word plays for the English dub. And right when you think that the final disk ends at episode 12, the special 13th episode joins the collection as well. Unlike the other episodes, this special episode is broken up into three short segments that focus on food, perverted determination, and the desire to look under a girl's shirt. In a way, this episode acts as another little reward that manages to expand on Ayumu's character.
With all said and done, Is this a Zombie? succeeds in opening the gates to a series that deviates us from the typical undead threat that we see zombies as. While the show's silly moments were a hit or miss scenario for me, they still manage to balance well with the story that connects Ayumu and Eu's conflicts. Depending on your taste in humor, folks that grab on to Mystletainn (Haruna's magical chainsaw) might be in for a fun and enjoyable ride that will revitalize your love for zombies.
7.0 – Good. A decent story, well-drawn, capable of immersing you but lacking in some aspects. Fans of the genre may love it, while others might simply enjoy it and move on
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