Anime Adrenaline! 2023 Summer Season Edition

    Ah, summer. The sun's out, the guns are out, and it is officially bikini season. And yet, here I am in my humble abode watching some of the newest anime this season. I wouldn't have it any other way, especially with the uptick in global temperatures and shark attacks going on (it's true, look it up!) maybe it is best I just watch more anime. 
    As a caveat, there are only two shows this time around that have caught my attention. But boy, oh boy, have they captured my mind and had my ass glued firmly into my seat! But enough talk, here is your dose of Anime Adrenaline for the summer! 

Zom 100: Bucketlist of the Dead

The picture to the left of you is all you need to know if this show is right for you. If you like splashes of color and joy thrown about your media like candy then Zom 100: Bucketlist of the Dead is right up your alley. Oh, and as the picture shows there are also zombies. But unlike a lot of the zombie fare peddled in movies and shows, Zom 100: Bucketlist of the Dead turns the tired old tropes of zombie survival flicks on their heads. Zom 100 is a colorful representation of the old adage "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

But before the vibrancy can begin, the series symbolically asks its viewers a question, You are alive, but are you living? For the main lead, Akira Tendo, he might be breathing but his life is one of hell, working for a company that abuses him mentally and physically with grueling hours, inane demands from vindictive bosses, and no upward mobility. He barely sleeps, lives off of a steady diet of instant ramen, and his blood might as well be replaced with energy drinks at this point. It is a miracle that he has been working for his company for three years. The working plight of Akira Tendo makes the gripes of the folks in the "work sucks" classic, Office Space, look like a walk in the park by comparison. 

In fact, there is a condition in the Japanese workforce which is called 'karoshi' which can roughly be translated as death due to being overworked. While there have been some improvements in Japanese society toward fighting this trend, traditionally Japan has been a society of workaholics. This anime outing is a protest from younger generations against such a tradition and the disdain it has for work is one of the most blatant--even more so than one of my favorite anime series of all time, Aggretsuko--and is a resolute stunner of a series, a feast for the eyes. 

In the beginning, it is apparent that this is going to be one hell of a show with attractive character designs, scathing dark humor, and an effective use of color palette. The outset of Akira starts off sunny and optimistic, he's made it out of a good college to land a solid job and thus the world around him is stunning. The skies are blue, his eyes are radiant, and every shade and hue of color pops. Then time marches on and his work slowly killing him turns the world around him from sepia to a dull gray--various shades of the color of shit. That is until, with no explanation, (as far as the first episode is concerned) a zombie apocalypse breaks out in Tokyo. Instead of caving in fear, he is ecstatic and what once was a gray world is now filled with a kaleidoscope of color--that is no exaggeration. He is so overjoyed with not having to work that he runs about the city to a thumping and bumping techno soundtrack as if his world is dancing. Bloody reds turn to candy apple colors, and the zombies themselves are not a threat and are covered in splashes of bright paints that are only found on the hands of kids during a messy finger painting session at a preschool. 

With his newfound freedom, Akira hunkers down on the rooftop of his apartment building and resolves to complete his bucket list. The main lesson I can gather from this first episode--and will probably be so for the rest of the series--is that life can change at any moment and one should take it all in stride. There is also a sunny optimism in the feel and tone despite the morose setting the main lead finds himself. It is crazy that I would ever find myself stating that the most feel-good anime of this season (probably this year) is about a zombie apocalypse. But hey, stranger things have happened and I stand by my statement that this is a wonderful and peppy anime that I am sure to tune in every week to see what happens to our plucky zombie apocalypse survivors. 

Undead Murder Farce

Your eyes do not deceive you, this is an anime where one of the main characters is just a head without a body. Okay, it's a little more complicated than that and there are plenty of paranormal hijinks that ensue within the first two episodes of this new anime. But I'll summarize it quick so I can get to what makes this anime shine.  

In an alternate version of the Meiji Era, (one of my favorite periods of Japanese history) monsters, demons, ghouls, and yokai are not just fairy tales but a fact of life, and with Japan's modernization efforts, there is big money in hunting them down. Our (anti) hero, Tsugaru Shinuchi, who is a half-demon himself, makes his daily bread by fighting demons in a carnival sideshow. He became a half-demon due to the experiments of a madman and straddling the world between being human and demon is no easy task and thus he wants revenge for the misdeeds done to him. His life takes a turn for the interesting when he meets a young woman named Aya Rindo who is also a victim of the same injustice--an immortal--who is a great detective. But there is one catch. She is a detached head with no body. Promising Tsugaru not only freedom but also a means to enact revenge against the man who wronged him, the two work together to solve cases and find their mutual foe. 

One of the first things that can be noticed about this anime is that while there are promises of plenty of fights within, the first episode is filled primarily with exposition. In any other series, this would be a detriment but in Undead Murder Farce there are enough playing around with styles to make even the most mundane of conversations seem intriguing. Instead of having the two leads banter back and forth, the banter is exhibited with plenty of symbolic visuals to add flair to the conversation and keep the audience engaged. A prime example could be when poised with the question of an arduous journey, Tsugaru is shown to be with his headless companion near a surreal winding staircase with rickety steps amid a pitch-black background. This is to tell the viewer that a long and winding road with perilous steps is ahead of them and since the background is black, there is no other choice except to go down this path which could lead to tragedy. 

While seemingly dark there is enough gallows humor bandied about, with a lot of said humor contingent on the chemistry between Tsugaru and Rindo. For viewers to hang on every word of the two characters, the dialogue has to be engaging and I can safely say that the two of them have nice chemistry and bounce off of each other very well. Tsugaru is the troll of the series, playing off of Rindo's words and spinning the truth just for shits and giggles, getting a rise out of her only to have her beat him down with logic and then the both of them have a laugh over the matter. It is refreshing to see a series where seeming opposites, instead of being at each other's throats, find value in the other and humor in their macabre situation. The banter and snarky humor are needed in a series such as this since they add some much-needed levity to the dark tone that drips from it. 

All in all, I am excited to see what direction Undead Murder Farce is going to take as the episodes go on. If they are as half as good as the first two episodes, then I am going to have a good time. And on a side note, I plan on cosplaying Tsugaru at some point, which just goes to show how much of an impact this new anime has had on me in the short time it has been around. 

Undead Murder Farce and Zom 100: Bucketlist of the Dead are copyrighted by their respective companies and can be seen every week on the Crunchyroll streaming service. 


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