2019’s Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Volume One is the first tankōbon of Haro Asa and Kotaro Takata’s on-going comedy horror manga. Titled Zon 100 ~ Zonbi ni Naru made ni Shitai 100 no Koto in the original Japanese, Zom 100 has been serialized in Shogakukan’s seinen manga magazine Monthly Sunday Gene‑X since October 2018.
A catastrophically terrible choice of employer has transformed once upbeat Akira Tendo into an overworked, underpaid, bullied drone too depressed to clean his tiny apartment.
Death would be sweet release.
Three years into hell, Akira sets out for work only to encounter his landlord, now a flesh-craving zombie. Akira soon discovers that while he slept, the zombie apocalypse transformed most of his neighbours into ravenous zombies. Akira barely manages to flee to safety.
Akira has a glorious epiphany. Sure, civilization has collapsed and it may be a matter of time before Akira is either killed or horribly transformed. Right at this moment, however, the apocalypse means he does not have to go to work ever again. Glorious freedom!
Another epiphany follows. Akira was so focused on school and work he never had a girlfriend. What better time to seize the day, track down Saori Ohtori (the co-worker who is the focus of Akira’s unspoken crush), bicycle across the Tokyo hellscape, and confess his infatuation to her? His quest goes exactly as planned … except that by the time he arrives, Saori is a zombie herself. Ah, well. Not all relationships are meant to be long-term.
Saori’s lamentable fate inspires Akira:
“We could die today or we could die 60 years from now. Either way, there’s never enough time to do all the things we want. Life’s too short to avoid taking risks.”
Akira will not waste whatever lifespan remains to him. Akira conscientiously composes a list of one hundred experiences he would like to have before his inevitable death. All he needs do is methodically work his way through as much of the list as he can before fate catches up with him.
It would be a shame to accomplish one hundred wonderful things alone. Therefore, Akira sets out to discover exactly what happened to his estranged best friend, Kencho.
There’s an obvious parallel with the film Shaun of the Dead. Both protagonists are men in dead-end jobs; there’s a romantic quest early on; both the manga and the film are zomcoms. The differences far outweigh the similarities. For one thing, Akira is more exuberant than Shaun. For another, Akira’s best friend is actually useful, rather than being a plot-enabling hindrance. Finally, unlike Shaun, Akira’s not an idiot.
The fact that there have been so many zombie apocalypse stories is an enormous time-saver for the creators, as they don’t have to explain what is going on1 or what the rules are, beyond establishing that these particular zombies are fast zombies rather than shamblers. Everyone knows zombies crave two things2: eating human flesh and converting the living into more zombies. Luckily for zombies, those activities are synergistic.
Spared the bothersome task of establishing the setting, author and artist are free to exploit the humour inherent in the difference between what’s going on and Akira’s delighted reaction.
The creators do have to establish character and circumstance to justify the above. Thus, this first volume is a bit lean: we meet three of the four eventual protagonists: Akira, his hedonistic pal Kencho, and pragmatic Shizuka Makazuki, who is so very serious I couldn’t work her into the review before now. Akira has a few adventures, during which he deals with some of his many painful personal issues. This manga is amusing but fairly slight. On the other hand, just how deep can a comedy about a guy enjoying the zombie apocalypse be? I suppose I will find out.
1: The scale of the disaster is unclear due to the tendency of newscasters and their crews to be based in insufficiently secured buildings. But if Tokyo is lost, it seems likely Japan is as well. The event may well be global.
2: Zombies may have a third disquieting habit … female zombies, that is. They shed their shirts so frequently that it seems intentional on someone’s part.