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Is This A Zombie? Complete Series Limited Edition Anime DVD Review

10 min read

is this a zombie coverLife as one of the undead has its perks, but being a magical girl is an unexpected one.

What They Say:
Some guys have no luck; he’s got no pulse. That’s life for unfortunate, undead Ayumu. First, he was murdered by a serial killer. Total bummer. Then he was resurrected as a zombie by a cute little necromancer. That seemed pretty cool until she moved into his house, refused to speak, and forced his rotting carcass to do all the cooking. After that, a magical girl in a pretty pink dress used her matching chainsaw to chop his corpse in half.

Luckily, the necromancer’s powers of resurrection trumped those of the chainsaw chick, so instead of dying (again), Ayumu became the world’s first magical girl zombie. There’s also a voluptuous vampire ninja who thinks zombie boy’s a pervert – and a hideous crayfish demon who wants to devour him. Confused? All you gotta know is this: zombies, frilly dresses, demons, and moe chainsaws. Pink. It’s the new dead.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series is pretty standard fare with some good bits to it as we get the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps and the English mix in 5.1 at 448kbps. The show is mostly standard stereo fare but it has some good bits of directionality and impact to it in a lot of the fight scenes as it progresses, giving it a bit more oomph in the right areas. While these segments are well placed, a lot of the show is still pretty much dialogue driven and it has some decent placement and a good approach overall. The second to last episode gets to shine a bit more since it has multiple singing sequences to it and those have a warmer and richer feel since they’re more polished and produced. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has twelve episodes plus an OVA spread across two discs with seven on the first and six on the second. Studio Deen produces a decent look for the show where it has a bit of vibrancy to it but also a certain softness when it comes to particular scenes. It’s intentional but it’s a hazy that doesn’t work too well for me at times. The show has a few different styles going on with its characters but manages a consistent look overall as it spends time both at night and during the day as well as going outdoors regularly. The series works a pretty varied approach and the end result is one that comes across decently but is standard DVD fare with some line noise here and there during panning sequences and some noise in the darker backgrounds, especially with darker blues.

The packaging for this release certainly fits certain aspects of the show and it has a rather unique look to it that’s quite appealing. With a black background around the whole thing, the symbol and logo is what dominates the front as we get the skull and chainsaw crossbones approach. While it basically goes for a pink and white approach, it’s done with a glittery style that makes it far more striking than you’d expect. The obvious route is to go with lots of cute girl character artwork, but doing this works far better as it stands out in a great way. Inside the box we get the two DVD cases which are done with clear cases and each has a wraparound cover. With a red background, the covers are great as the front and back shows off different characters, essentially giving us four character covers of the main girls with lots of detail and a good sense of vibrancy. Inside the cases we get a reverse side that’s black with a pink stripe through it that shows off the episode numbers and titles for each volume. No show related inserts are included with this release.

For reference, here’s the Taiwanese cover artwork used for the official region 3 DVDs, which you can click to see larger versions of:

The menu design for the release is simple and almost a little bland in a way as it has a nondescript background and a pink bar along the bottom that holds the navigation strip. The navigation is simple and easy to move around through with its white text on the pink and it draws in the logo as well. The bulk of the background over the gray and green areas has the character artwork, changing it up for each volume. This has the girls in their usual outfits and it has a good bit of detail to it and a really vibrant feeling as well due to the way those characters are designed. With a bit of a bouncy instrumental piece playing along, it gets the job done but doesn’t really stand out in a strong way. Navigation is a breeze though and everything loads quickly and without problem.

The extras for this release gives us some of the standard fare such as the clean opening and closing sequences which are always welcome. But it also goes a bit further as we get a pair of commentary tracks from the English language production team that has the cast and crew talking about the show and what went into it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Shinichi Kimura that began in 2009, Is This A Zombie is a twelve episode anime series from Studio Deen that brings together zombies, demons, magical girls, vampire ninjas and more. The series is one that I had seen during its simulcast run and rather enjoyed since it had a bit of a quirky sense of self but it also knew when to get serious as well. With its blend of different types of characters, it could become more of a parody of itself than it might be otherwise, but instead it manages to handle things just right. And even better is that it manages to have a main story arc of significance in the first six episodes and then does another with the second half.

The show introduces us to Ayumu Aikawa, a seemingly normal high school boy in just about all regards except for one. He’s undead. He calls himself a zombie, but that’s not what he is in the classical sense. He’s pretty normal in general though he dislikes the summer heat since it affects his system, but he’s otherwise got full use of his body and faculties. He goes to school as normal, interacts with people with no problem and eats and sleeps. What he does have as a perk is that if his body is broken, beaten or torn apart, it can all be pulled back together and grafts itself well enough. And when he fights, he can go above and beyond his normal physical strength by a few hundred percent, though it has an impact on his body overall. Ayumu also has a good sense of humor about the state of his life as well which makes it fun.

What gave him this life is explored and becomes a good part of the first half of the season, though initially we just learn that he was given this new life from Eu, aka Lady Hellscythe. She’s a young looking woman demon who can’t talk because her voice carries incredible power with it, so she does all her communication through notepads. The two have quite the close relationship and there are some brief but wonderfully tender moments that make the series shine at times. It’s not a romantic relationship, but there is a bond between the two that comes to light in a very good way as they need each other and are looking for that kind of closeness that was missing in their lives otherwise.

Ayumu’s life would be complicated enough like this as he searches for clues about a serial killer that had caused not only his death but quite a few others, and he ends up running into some unusual creatures that are called Megalo’s that are supernatural in nature. Where it expands in a surprising way early on is when he meets a Magical Garment Girl named Haruna who he ends up helping with a Meglo but it goes awry and he ends up absorbing her power as well. Which is good because it gives him a lot of power, but it’s bad because it transforms him into a magical girl, albeit one that wields a chainsaw. With the short frilly dress and the hat, he’s surprisingly adorable, but he hates the whole process of it all. It also ends up bringing Haruna into the household since she’s without most of her powers and it’s no surprise that she develops a bit of a crush, in adversarial form, with Ayumu as it goes along.

Naturally, it gets more complicated as it goes on as we also get the introduction of Sera, a vampire ninja of the conservative faction that’s on her own hunt. She gets drawn into things since she’s supposed to kill Eu but ends up befriending her and Haruna while treating Ayumu as a maggot, making for some good fun. Of course, if you have one faction, you have to introduce another as well, and we get that Tomonori, a girl who shows up in the second half and is part of the reformist faction. She gets closer to Ayumu through an accidental kiss, which in their culture means that they’re married to each other. Complications naturally ensue, but Tomonori brings a bouncy kind of fun to things since she doesn’t want to be close to him but finds herself interested and causes plenty of trouble since she goes to the same school.

The first half of the show does a lot of the introductions and works through the serial killer plot and it really works well since it feels tighter in general and like it’s working towards a purpose beyond just introducing more and more characters. The serial killer storyline works well to show Ayumu’s origins and how it connects to other things, particularly since it leads more into the King of the Night character that’s introduced that has a larger goal that involves Eu herself. She’s the big powerful character here, so having various groups after her or individuals with a longstanding grudge makes sense. King of the Night has some decent material and I like how big it goes, but it never feels like it’s fully formed out in a way to be really engaging.

Over the first eleven episodes, the two stories hit a lot of good notes and it balances the silly, serious and action well. The last episode and the OVA go in completely different directions with nothing to really do with main story ideas. Episode twelve is a lengthy musical episode that starts off initially at one of those indoor pools and then shifts to the main girls getting hugely competitive with a sing-off that happens. It lets the voice actresses show off their wares and it’s more fun than I expected it would be and a decent way to cap things off with some fun. The OVA on the other hand feels a bit forced when viewed right after that, which it wasn’t when it came out originally. It’s three smaller stories done in one normal length episode that just goes for the comedy with different skits essentially. It’s fun with what it does, but two episodes in a row like this in different forms is just a bit too much.

In Summary:
Is This A Zombie is a series that I’ll admit I had some trepidation about revisiting. I had enjoyed the first season in simulcast form but when I watched the second season in the same way, it killed a lot of what I liked about it. And that factored into returning to this first season. Thankfully, watching it over the course of a day reaffirmed what it was that I liked about the show when I frst saw it and it comes across as a bit tighter and well plotted than was apparent on a weekly basis. The show has an amusing cast of characters and an interesting take on a lead character that’s a zombie of sorts. It goes for the humor and the fanservice well enough but it also wants to tell a few stories with two main arcs to be found in this first season alone. This release has some good style to it – I really love the box itself – and the show has a couple of well done stories overall, though with their flaws to be sure. It’s a mixed bag in some ways but the positives mostly outweigh the negatives, unless you were hoping for a high definition release.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 3 & 12, U.S. Trailer, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 4th, 2012
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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