Despite possibly being one of the more alienating genres in the medium and the one that gets the most strange looks from non-anime fans (and not usually unearned, let’s be fair), it should be noted that harem anime are possibly the most pedestrian and rote genres in anime. Unlike the medium’s action series, there isn’t an emphasis on spectacle to draw you in. Unlike the slice of life shows, the atmosphere isn’t calming enough for it to relax the audience. Unlike most comedies, it isn’t really as writing-dependent or laugh-worthy as other examples. It’s why straight harem pieces are rare, with most harem series aping off of other genres to flesh out the fantasy it’s trying to deliver (like the action harem, which places the fantasy in being a badass that every woman instantly falls for, or the harem comedy, where every girl falls for the protagonist but causes him nothing but misery). This series tries to be a harem comedy, focusing on the various girls causing the leads life to become a living (or undead) hell of non-stop suffering and embarrassment. It doesn’t really play much to the fan service element that harem series usually go for (although it is still present) and is more focused on making this guy suffer, but it has one small problem: the writing is nowhere close to the level to pull this off.
Ayumu would be a normal high schooler, but he was killed by a serial killer. Luckily, he’s revived by a mute necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe (or Eu, for short), but is now a zombie. When he’s hanging out at the cemetery one night, he encounters Haruna, a magical garment girl wielding a pink chainsaw, and accidentally absorbs her magic, which makes her powerless and allows him to transform into a magical garment girl (you read that correctly, and no, he doesn’t change genders but instead becomes a cross-dresser). He now has to deal with the magical threats that Haruna was warding off while trying to discover just what caused all of the chaos around him.
If that paragraph sounded chaotic to you, then the show is doing it’s job. The show desperately wants to be wacky, with a fight move being called a kick while involving chainsawing someone to death, and ninja vampires, and a McDonalds knock-off where the staff wears luchador masks. If there’s a series I can definately point to this taking influence from, it’s Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-Chan, since both go for over-the-top wackiness, exaggerated suffering from the male lead, and massive amounts of blood. However, there are two problems that this underlines (well, more than two, but this isn’t the review where I’m talking about how bad Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-Chan is): the writing isn’t wacky enough, and the wackiness undercuts the actual momentum of the series.
The show, if you couldn’t catch on, is quite dark in content. The different story threads followed are based on death, serial murder, cultural obtuseness, accidental marriages, suicidal thoughts, deep distain, and ritual sacrifices. The different episodes involve jokes about molestation, cross-dressing, extreme violence, general perversion, drunks who look like children, never getting names or sayings right, and the wackiness of the different characters. The different focal points for the show involve revenge killing (which is oddly and needlessly cruel), finally passing on, duty versus desire, overcoming a gender curse, and confronting the dark thoughts buried deep within the mind. None of these elements seem like they would come together to form a coherent story, and they don’t. The story pulls in way too many directions and changes tone so much that it ultimately becomes a dull mush of too much in too short a time.
This extends to how the show treats the characters. Since they’re considered little more than vessels for wackiness, they don’t really get much characterization. They’re all somewhat one-note, but what kills them is that the show keeps forcing them into recurring gags, which makes their interactions repetitive and uninteresting. The writer was not talented enough to create comedic chemistry between them.
The animation is decent, but it’s decent movement for really dull designs. Despite trying to seem wacky and unique, the show looks quite generic (which definitely hurts the fan service moments, since the show isn’t really desirable to look at). Maybe if the show had a more unique design style, or even a different color saturation, the visuals would match the energy the show desperately wants to give off. Alas, that’s not the case.
While I wasn’t bored watching this and will admit to a few scattered chuckles, the show is too unfocused, chaotic, and tonally all over the place to really work as a comedy. While there is definitely worse harem fare you can watch, in a genre that is full of some of anime’s biggest duds as well as best-hidden treasures, you can easily do better.
FINAL GRADE: C-
PROS: Occasionally funny; occasional bouts of good ideas shining through
CONS: Switches too violently between dark comedy, harem comedy, and action; uninteresting characters with no real comedic chemistry; not wacky enough
Is This A Zombie? is available on home video and streaming from Funimation and can be watched at Funimation.com.
NOTICE: if you are watching streaming from Funimation, be aware that the video for episode 19 only covers the first five minutes of the episode. I don’t know why that is, but be aware that you cannot easily watch episode 19 streaming.