Is This A Zombie?
One day, Ayumu Aikawa, a normal high school student, is killed by an unknown serial killer. He is, however, soon revived as a zombie by a necromancer named Eucliwood Hellscythe, and he begins to serve "Yuu" as her "guard" (doing relatively little besides serving her meals). Now possessing superhuman strength and a weakness to sunlight (but otherwise virtually unchanged), he soon encounters the "maho shojo" Haruna in the middle of a battle against a strange creature called a Megalo, and in the process happens to deprive her of her magic power. Haruna orders Ayumu to fight against the anti-mahō shōjo system "Megalo" in her place; nonsense, harem antics, and fanservice ensue.
If you knew my tastes, you would probably expect me to hate Is This a Zombie?, a harem show chock full of fan service and almost entirely devoid of plot integrity. I watch very few shows of its genre, and when I do, I seem to inevitably find myself rolling my eyes at the "plots" they conjure as window dressing for their respective galleries of stereotypical girls. I'm also not particularly interested in ecchi for ecchi's sake alone. Is This a Zombie? possesses both of these traits, reeking of pointlessness for its entire run, and as such, it would seem to be the kind of show I would take no joy in watching. I was thus surprised when my mild disdain for the series slowly evolved into reserved enjoyment, in spite of any and all strikes it initially had against it. I don't mean to imply that this show exceeded my expectations or broke the boundaries of the genre, as it did neither: it remains a silly and poorly-constructed series, but one that I happened to find amusing and entertaining enough to forgive some.
If Is This a Zombie? can really be said to have a plot, it is a plot that has the depth of a magical girl parody, which it sometimes resembles: the characters, including the male lead, are all supernatural creatures of some sort, each somehow connected to a confusing story involving Yuu's hidden powers, multiple orders of magical beings and their attempts to fathom said powers, a mystery involving the serial killer who killed Ayumu in the first place, and a wave of attacks by the evil "Megalo" race. It would be an understatement to say that the plot makes no sense, and attempting to dissect it logically would be a waste of time. As an example of its antics, Ayumu's accidentally stripping Haruna of her powers causes her to lose her clothes and forces him to become a "mahou shoujo" himself, giving us fan service and humorous cross-dressing in one strike. When a new plot element is introduced, meanwhile, it is invariably done in order to introduce a new girl, as happens when the involvement of a society of "vampire ninjas" (whatever that actually means) heralds the arrival of the aloof and disdainful Sera, or to conveniently provide space for moe traits, Yuu's inability to speak and ensuing "shy and demure" image being the best example. Is it any good? It is capable of being entertaining, certainly, as the battles are enjoyable enough, but it does not spawn any serious interest in seeing a resolution. I was, however, more amused by the show than I'd expected to be, even if there's little that induces uproarious laughter, and the show at least rarely takes itself seriously enough to be pretentious. There's plenty of fan service, including numerous panty shots and a small amount of yuri, but I was less put off by it than I expected it to be: the worst of it is concentrated in an unapologetically superfluous "bonus" episode at the end, and to my great relief, the characters kept a reasonable amount of clothing on more often than not. The music is pleasant enough and the art is bright and crisp, the character design being fairly generic but attractive nonetheless; the only serious complaint I have about the visuals, in fact, is that there is an uncomfortable amount of gore and bloodshed that does not juxtapose particularly well with the show's humorous tone. If the intention was to somehow help make the series into a dark comedy, it wasn't quite successful, as the humor tends more to the slapstick and the sexual than the sardonic (with the exception of Sera's derisive remarks).
As for the characters, harem fans will likely enjoy the array of archetypes, as the show safely doles out a moe fang (Haruna), a shy and demure girl (Yuu), and a sarcastic, tall, and busty older girl (Sera), neither making any egregious choices in characterization nor going out of its way to distinguish its characters from those of other series. Ayumu, while slightly perverted and unintelligent, makes for a pleasant enough lead character, his slightly inconsistent characterization having him alternate between a hapless everyman similar to Tenchi Misaki or Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad and a daydream-prone loser (he frequently has fantasies of Yuu calling him "Onii-chan", for example). Later in the series an awkward arc about his accidentally marrying another vampire ninja, by falling on her and accidentally grabbing her breasts no less, makes for a cringe-inducing experience, but we could certainly do much worse for a main character. Those tired of female-on-male abuse may want to look elsewhere, for while it is restrained in comparison to other harem series, both Haruna and Sera hit and punch him regularly, and Sera habitually refers to him as "the piece of s***". The villains come and go, meanwhile, with only two lasting more than a single episode and only one of those having a major role in the plot; the usual presence of perverted male friends is thankfully kept to a minimum. I can't recommend the show too strongly based on its characterization, but it never makes enough mistakes with it to warrant a loss of points, either; it's forgettable but pleasant cast makes an equally forgettable show into a moderately pleasant ride.
In summary, I don't have many strong feelings about Is This a Zombie?. I had expected to dislike it and instead came away pleasantly surprised but not riveted. It remains a relatively "safe" show in terms of any variations from harem formula, and I'd say that all except for those with a fondness for harem anime should proceed cautiously.
It's a very weak three stars: I liked it more than I'd expected, I disliked relatively little, and I was never entirely sold on it, which leaves it squarely in the middle. For fans of the harem genre, this is more likely to be a strong three stars or weak four stars. — Nick Browne
Recommended Audience: Teenagers and up. There is plenty of fan service and nudity, in addition to profanity (in the Japanese track) and some surprisingly graphic violence.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Is This A Zombie? © 2011 Shinichi Kimura / Kibuichi Muririn / Fujimi Shobou / Korezon Partners
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