“Who would’ve thought a single beer was enough to make somebody that happy, despite being in such a state of disarray?”(Shizuka Mikazuki, reminiscing her first meeting with Akira Tendō)
Imagine—you’re in a zombie apocalypse, a desolate dystopia fraught with destruction. Supplies are low, services are scarce, and pillars of smoke rise from the urban landscape. The last remaining news stations issue their emergency broadcasts, and survivors barricade themselves hoping the undead hordes will pass. Along stretches of dilapidated roads, you see a young man zipping past overturned cars on a motorcycle, carrying… a giant flatscreen TV?
Such is the life of Akira Tendō, an ex-production company employee living in Tokyo. After three years of exhausting and abusive office work, his first reaction to a zombie outbreak is to finally celebrate a long-awaited day off! Now free to regain the time he’s lost over the years, Akira starts a bucket list and sets out to meet new and old friends before the zombies get to him.
Thus begins Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, a series that began as a 2018 manga from author Haro Asō. Since its debut, it has gained positive reception for its art and story, even garnering nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards in 2022. The series has continued to build a following with anime and live-action adaptations premiering this past summer, helping more viewers follow Akira’s adventures.
The main way Zom 100 stands out is how it depicts the zombie apocalypse—and all the entertainment that ensues. Unlike most characters in your average zombie movie or show, Akira doesn’t dedicate much time to actively fending off zombies and scavenging supplies. Instead, he sets out to accomplish anything he desires, now that he is free from the shackles of his exploitative job. Whether that is as mundane as doing paddleboard yoga, or as extravagant as dressing as a superhero while fighting a zombie shark (yes, really), the difference between a surviving society and Akria’s antics provides an endless source of fun. Now that’s a nice change of pace from the typical grim zombie fare!
Obviously, Akira’s situation is not without its risks, as he discovers when his neighbours seemingly fall victim to the zombie horde. Regardless, this only strengthens his resolve to make the most out of his life, and he begins writing the titular bucket list in response. Over time, the bucket list becomes more than just a guide of activities to complete. It becomes a tangible symbol of the renewed life Akira now wants to lead, a far cry from his dreary office job.
The optimistic atmosphere of the zombie apocalypse juxtaposed against the monotony of Akira’s office life was a deliberate story choice. In an interview with manga publisher Shōgakukan, Haro Asō explained that he felt zombies had been overdone in manga and movies. Thus, he wanted to write a character who saw zombies as “fun.” Asō built upon this further by illustrating the idea of a “company slave,” noting that real humans could be more unpleasant than zombies.
The results show in Zom 100, where Akira sees the undead risk as a blessing, compared to the soul-crushing desk job he had for three long years. Indeed, the series shows this distinction in the very first episode: when Akira rips off his tie and takes a joyful leap of faith, the grey palette gives way to a sea of vibrant colour, with Akira gleefully pointing out the brightness of the blue sky, the green trees, and the bright red blood (yes, really). As he explains, this is the colourful world that his dreary job, a world of dull monotony and exhaustion, had long prevented him from seeing.
The clash between the macabre setting and a carefree protagonist is amusing, but the wider context helps flesh Akira’s story into a tale that resonates with any worker in a similar boat. Adding to this are parallels between this series and the COVID-19 pandemic. One website—The Mary Sue—notes that Akira’s adventures illustrated the value of finding the bright spots in an otherwise bleak situation. This unique outlook helps establish Zom 100 as a renewed, exhilarating take on a genre that has long seen grim tragedy, themes of hard survival, and bleak atmospheres. Catch up on episodes of Zom 100 on Crunchyroll, Hulu, or Netflix.
“It’s okay to take detours It’s okay to suddenly burst into song Until everything comes to an end”(Shiyui, “Happiness of the Dead” (the Zom 100 ending theme))