Is This a Zombie? Well, sort of. Ayuma Aikawa was murdered by a serial killer, and brought back from the dead by a very cute necromancer called Eucliwood Hellscythe. Most of the time, you wouldn’t really know he was a zombie, though, but anime often tends to get far away from most people’s idea of what a zombie actually is. Ayuma doesn’t eat human flesh, and he still possesses all his faculties. The only negative effect seems to be a tendency to dry up if he is in the sun for too long, whereas the positives are eternal life and incredibly fast healing (often taken to silly extremes), so it’s not a bad deal. This is not a million miles away from the appeal of the isekai genre; it’s just another way of showing an ordinary teenager starting a new life of super powers, surrounded by pretty girls.
Apart from Lady Hellscythe, he quickly ends up living with a “magical garment girl”, Haruna, and a “vampire ninja”, Seraphim. The former is a fairly typical tsundere, often reacting violently to Ayuma while also having feelings for him. She can transform into a sort of super being, and when that happens her clothing changes too, not an unfamiliar anime trope. Ayuma discovers that he can absorb other people’s powers and by accident becomes a magical garment girl himself, while Haruna ends up powerless and naked. This leads to a lot of funny cross-dressing moments, and as the series progresses, Ayuma ends up almost as much the focus of the fanservice as the girls.
Seraphim goes beyond a tsundere character, because she is basically just mean to Ayuma the whole time, calling him a “maggot” in the dub, or a “dung beetle” in the original Japanese. I found her an irritating character to watch, because she is basically there to always assume the worst of Ayuma and react violently, while being defined by little other than her ample chest. She is one of those annoying characters who occasionally crop up in anime who wear very skimpy outfits and then punch the guy if he accidentally casts a glance in her general direction. Bizarrely, he puts up with that and lets her live with him.
Certain aspects of this series reminded me strongly of Shakugan no Shana, although nothing like as accomplished in the execution of its ideas. Like Shana, it’s a series that doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to do, veering between episodes that focus on joking around with the characters and a bit of lazy fanservice (and the most annoying kind of fanservice with constant lens flares to hide everything), and episodes that get very dramatic and advance the main story. However, my reaction to this series was the exact opposite to Shana, where the action scenes tended to be dull in comparison to the character development episodes. Is This a Zombie? has very little noticeable character development. Haruna is just always a tsundere, with a focus on the tsun-tsun, and Seraphim is always a pain in the butt. Lady Hellscythe is the only character worth watching, who actually has some kind of a story progression. She is so powerful that she can kill with one word, so she is afraid to even speak. Ayuma helps her through some of the emotional baggage of her negative feelings about herself, and that’s a great storyline. But the episodes that focus on the more dramatic storylines are the best. Much of the series is concerned with the identity of the serial killer, and there are some great twists and turns along the way. A couple of new girls come into the picture, including one with a secret alter ego who decides she needs to marry Ayuma because of an accidental kiss (only in anime, eh?), and another victim of the killer who had a lucky escape, or so it seems. Making up the ensemble cast is Ayuma’s best friend at school, who is a horrendous cliché of a bespectacled jealous pervy secondary character, a carbon copy of dozens of other bespectacled anime pervs. I have to grudgingly admit that he is very occasionally amusing.
Towards the end of the series, there is a very strong focus on a major storyline, and it would have made for a great conclusion to the series, were it not for a frivolous final episode and an even more frivolous and disposable OVA to round off the series. Astonishingly, while so many great anime series fail to get picked up for a second season, this one got a second run. With a slightly heavy heart, I’ll take a look at that for a future review. RP