Zom 100 Bucket List of the Dead review: watch the anime instead

The movie adaptation loses the essence of what makes Zom 100 special.

by Justin Choo

We often give Western live-action adaptations of anime or manga a hard time for their failure to capture the essence of the Intellectual Property they are presenting. However, you have to wonder if that criticism is actually fair–we often forget that the Japanese themselves don’t always knock it out of the park with their efforts, especially when it comes to source material that is more fantastical or whimsical. 

And unfortunately, Zom 100, which we mentioned previously as one to watch out for this month, didn’t quite live up to its delightful premise.

On paper, it had everything: Zom 100 is a bucket list movie that subverts the doom and gloom of a dystopian zombie wasteland with a hero that’s delighted that the world has gone to s***. Broken and abused by an exploitative company that gaslights its lower-ranking employees into modern-day slavery, Akira Tendo (Eiji Akaso) even contemplates suicide but lacks the courage to see it through. His life loses all meaning until the outbreak when he realises he need not report to work ever again. 

So, so relatable.

Akira proceeds to draft a bucket list and his infectious enthusiasm for living serves as the rallying point for the many adventures that follow. Unfortunately, this energy is more convincing in the anime series, which Netflix is currently streaming, with new episodes dropping each week. While the anime series is far from complete, I feel that format works far better in conveying the trials and tribulations directly affected by Akira’s raison d’etre.

The anime also conveys the raw emotion of its characters more effectively and you bond with the protagonist pretty much from the get-go. Eiji’s Akira takes a while to warm to his viewers and the movie only gets its groove once he teams up with his best friend and resident jock Kenchiro Ryuzaki (Shuntaro Yanagi), along with love interest and tough girl Shizuka Mikazuki (Mai Shiraishi). The gang slowly buys into Akira’s philosophy towards life, and that’s where we start to see the essence of what makes Zom 100 different from other zombie-themed content.

The movie covers the first three volumes of the manga, though it takes some liberties with how the events play out. It combines two arcs for the third act, and at the risk of giving away the ending, involves a larger-than-life enemy that seems almost impossible to render without looking silly. It’s strangely ironic because, despite the mature themes behind the idea of what it means to live your best life, Zom 100’s source material is not above being just outright silly, which adds to the series’ charm. And realistically, it’s hard to pull that off in the live-action adaptation.

With only two hours to work with, Zom 100 faces an uphill task to convey all of that likeability to film and in the end, only manages to give you a taste. Unfortunately, that also means that the movie feels generic with no distinguishable story beats to set it apart from the rest–just watch Shaun of the Dead instead if you want a zombie flick with similar vibes. The upside is that you can tune in to the anime, which, given room to breathe, does a far better job of telling Akira’s story.

  • 5/10
    Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (live action) - 5/10

Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead (live action)

It’s not too bad but do watch the anime or read the manga if you want to have a better sense of the world.

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