Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead – a dead-end job like you’ve never seen before

The anime adaptation of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (the first major project produced by Bug Films) premiered yesterday with its first episode, and it’s like if Aggretsuko and School-Live! had a baby.

Content warning: Zom 100 includes depictions of sexual abuse and suicidal ideation, both of which are touched on in this review. Please take care before reading.

Spoilers ahead!

Mondays, amiright?

Our show begins with the classic gory fare, showcasing some expressive 3D-blended animation alongside trademark themes of death and destruction as we swoop through a decimated city. The phrase Memento Mori is shown graffitied on a wall (in dripping red paint, naturally), foregrounded by a mindless zombie ripping out someone’s entrails. But then we see the suffering reflected in the dead eyes of a salaryman as he joylessly watches one of his screens.

It’s just a horror movie, but the salaryman (our protagonist, Akira) seems to prefer its grim reality to his own – one of endless toil, drudgery and sleeplessness. That sounds kinda familiar. We’re one minute in, and Zom 100 has wasted no time establishing its core themes: we are instantly made to question whether you actually need to die to become undead.

The irony is doubled when we’re flashed back to three years ago and shown that Akira’s white-collar job is at a production studio, reminding us of the infamously poor working conditions that Japanese animators often have to endure. Unlike the soulless ghoul he was introduced as, Akira is fresh-faced, wide-eyed and excitedly imagining a bright future for himself on his first day in the role – we’ve all been there, right? Heartbreak imminent.

The fun stops when Akira grabs drinks with his friendly new colleagues at the end of the day, but is shocked to learn that no-one else is going home. They’re going back to work, and Akira is forced to stay in the office for two whole days to avoid a bad first impression.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
Another day in paradise!

Despite this, our poor cutie refuses to be broken, and heads back in with reinforced enthusiasm. A co-worker informs him that they are allotted mental health days – “never seen anyone use them, though.” His department chief is a careless, self-contradictory brute, and his emotionally exhausted colleagues are eager to place him in the very bottom of the pecking order. His one ally, the kind Miss Ohtori, is being sexually assaulted by the CEO.

Long before any actual zombies show up, Akira is being zombified, made into something less than a person by a corporation that only cares about the bottom line, like the rest of his co-workers. By his second year, he is walking into traffic and fantasising about world-ending events. Lucky for him, there’s one right around the corner.

Akira’s days have become black and white by his third year at the company. But, when he comes across his building manager eating from the stomach of a corpse, he and the impending catastrophe that crashes down on Akira’s lifeless world is doused with bright colours (most of all red, naturally). Horrifying as it is, the sight makes Akira feel something, which is more than he has been able to do in his time at ZLM.

As he realises he is finally free from work, Akira’s world returns to its normal hues (the show even transitions back into a widescreen aspect ratio), and we are treated to possibly the happiest zombie chase scene ever to grace our screens. Sure, this new world will still be full of abject misery and office stationary, but Akira will finally be able to experience life to the fullest. As far as he’s concerned, it’s an even trade.

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is poised to be a delightful dark comedy in the vein of Shaun of the Dead, focusing less on the usual zombie tropes and more on how the lives of the working class are dimmed by mindless, soul-sucking labour. Any reality free from capitalism can be a utopia with the right attitude!

What a cheerful looking bunch!

Bug Films has smashed it out of the park with the debut of Zom 100, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! The first episode is now available to watch on Crunchyroll. Netflix will also be hosting a live-action film adaptation that’s set to drop in early August.

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