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Is This A Zombie? Of The Dead Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

15 min read

Is This A Zombie Of The DeadSilliness abounds and little in the way of deeper story, but that’s okay if there’s fanservice, right?

What They Say:
Season Two gets off to a shocking start as Ayumu breaks Haruna’s magic chainsaw and accidentally exposes his fondness for pretty pink dresses to the entire school! Next there’s an incident with a dreadful dance that turns out to be a curse – and an embarrassing trip to a maid cafe where all the zombie’s roommates work! But the shenanigans take a backseat to bigger problems when Ayumu’s mysterious drinking buddy turns out to be the most powerful magical girl of them all!

To save his friends and defeat this adorable new menace, zombie boy must do the unthinkable: throw a mixer for his own murderer! With a little help from his loyal harem of vampires, magical girls, and the world’s cutest necromancer, Ayumu just might survive to rot another day!

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in [email protected], 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 ten episodes plus two OVA episodes spread across two discs with seven on the first and five 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.

Packaging:
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 reddish purple background, the covers are great as the front and back shows off different character combinations that are definitely cute as the first one gives us Ayumu and Haruna together in their transformed state while the second has a lot of the cast in their school uniforms looking a bit more mature than you’d expect. The cover wraps around with more silly character artwork while the first volume only has the episode breakdown by number and title. Each case has wonderfully detailed and designed artwork on the reverse side that plays well with only a mild bit of fanservice overall. No show related inserts are includjed with this release.

Menu:
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 kicks off with Ayumo in her transformed mode with chainsaw out that definitely looks cute 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.

Extras:
Similar to the first season, we get a couple of good extras here. Dub fans will be glad to have a pair of new commentary tracks by the English language production team and we also get the standard in the clean opening and closing sequences. The other extra included in this release is a lot of fun as we get the four main voice actors together for a video commentary of episode one, which has a little lead-in first with them all acting in-character that’s just very amusing to watch. The commentary is like most commentaries as there’s not exactly a lot of depth, but it’s fun to watch the cast talking about the show while it plays in the corner.

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 ten episode anime series with two bonus episodes from Studio Deen that brings together zombies, demons, magical girls, vampire ninjas and more. This second season of the series is one that I had seen during its simulcast run and unlike the first season, just didn’t click as well for me in some ways. A lot of what made it difficult was that while the first season had an odd breakdown of material, it was one that definitely had a couple of stories to tell with some meaning and it also gave us some really good character moments between Ayumu and Eu in particular as each of them deals with the issues in their lives. With this season, it’s all about basic stories without any larger feeling to it and that does give it more of a sense of being a filler season in a way. It also didn’t help perceptions when it got only a ten episode run, which juts felt like something less than a real commitment to the work, even if they did bring out additional episodes, reworked the number and cobbled together twelve episodes overall.

Ayumu was certainly an amusing character in the first season as not only did he become a zombie under Euclid, but he also ended up as a magical girl because of Haruna as she granted him those powers. The combination does make him kind of potent, but he’s got the kind of near-lazy attitude about him that makes it difficult to really feel like he excels at things. Of course, if he gets too active, especially in the heat, he can literally start falling apart since he is a zombie. But he’s also the only male in a group of woman, including Seraphim, so you can understand the kind of downbeat attitude he has as they continually push hard against him, though Euclid is pretty easy on him overall.

While he does have this attitude, it’s useful because it does cover up the stress in his life, such as how we see early on here about how longer days in the warmer weather makes it harder for him to get home at a decent time since the heat is too much. While he does suffer, Haruna is making out good at the start of this season as she’s regained her powers and not a moment too soon as people were starting to put two and two together about who the mysterious magical girl person was from the first season, which made Ayumu very nervous. Of course, events aren’t going to play out in a way that helps Ayumu as his lot in life is to simply suffer, which is why we get the very public incident where he has to deal with the giant squid monster, chainsaw in hand, as everyone takes pictures of his transformation sequence.

Because of this fallout, life at school is a particular hell since everyone has the pictures, the magazines and the questions about what happened. What ends up saving him after some struggles is that of Tomonori as she invites him up to the mountains for some time away. While normally he would just refuse about going stargazing, he sees this as an ideal situation, though Euclid mocks him about going hermit. Of course, while he intends to head up there with just Tomonori, the others end up tagging along as something to do and just because it seems like Ayumu is just a trouble magnet and they’d best be around. Plus, they get the bonus of actually doing some stargazing outside of the city.

Of course, the time in the mountains isn’t all fun and things just get kind of weird, and fun, as there are small “attacks” along the way, such as a mass of bees that comes flying at them. Haruna’s priceless during this as she uses Ayumu as her shield – a flying shield no less – and just goes crazy with it. Thankfully, these bits aren’t the overwhelming aspect of the episode as it focuses more on the light interplay between the characters, particularly with making Tomonori feel more like one of the group. It’s simplistic to be sure, but there’s a softening of things between them all that wasn’t there before that helps to make her not quite so brusque at times and it helps to make the rest of them also seem not so superior and standoffish.

Within the school setting, there are definitely issues going on there that are slowly starting to surface more, especially with the way Tomonori is getting abused and picked on because of how she’s a failed vampire ninja. Something that still has me shaking my head from the first season. Ayumu does his best to keep himself off to the side of things and away from it, but there things of his own he has to deal with. In particular we had the introduction of Orito in the previous episode and his interest in Ayumu, which feels like it’s something that could be dirty but is actually a little different as he’s trying to grapple with how the world is very different to him now after seeing Ayumu in the outfit and what he did. Ayumu’s reaction is utterly priceless.

As life goes on, Is This a Zombie? does have a lot of familiar material to work through since it is a high school based supernatural comedy/slice of life series. And that means, unfortunately, that it’s time for the culture festival. I dread these episodes in a lot of ways because they’ve been done so many times and in so many ways that it’s hard to imagine that any would really stand out at this point unless something radically different is done. And honestly, the whole culture festival story has been done so expertly before with the Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer movie that nothing has even come close to that kind of expert storytelling.

Still, the culture festival must go on. And Ayumu has given the suggestion that has been approved this time around with a Spooky Cafe being chosen s what they’ll do. The show works through a lot of standard aspects of the festival with students taking charge, sets and walls being built, costume designs and more. Ayumu does a fair bit himself rather than just slacking off and it’s interesting to see that he’s starting to feel comfortable with his existence at this point and is enjoy his high school life. Which you know is foolish to say after he meets a strange man on the street who gives him a ring in between coughing up huge amounts of blood. Anytime he starts to feel good about something, bad tidings are just around the corner and this is no exception here.

Be that as it may, it is a lot of fun to see just how upbeat he is, even if it feels forced with the way events are playing out. And amusing because as soon as he gets so happy, he has to not only do the Spooky Cafe, but dress up in a dress as part of the fright. The whole thing plays through a lot of familiar things that happen during festivals, including an amusing confession of interest by Tomomori while Ayumu is wearing the dress no less. Of course, that’s just the calm before the real storm but it’s a pretty mild bit of chaos that’s more just to get Ayumu to try out the ring and understand what it’s real power is before a whole lot of bad things happen. This series has long established a method of showing the potential for something big and then cutting it short just before it has to go all out.

In one of the later episodes, Kyoko’s attempts to win Ayumu over are cute, first at dinner and then later at night when she makes her way into his bedroom while using more sexuality tied to a cute attitude over it. Of course, she’s got a lot of darkness too which is what makes it difficult since Ayumu is keenly aware of it. There’s a great scene where the two are out on the town late at night to get a drink and the utter insanity of her comes through in something as simple as her using a swingset. There’s something utterly disturbing about her personality in the way it can change on a dime to reveal what she truly is. And Ayumu’s knowledge of that makes it easy to view her in a particular light. What she’s offering him though, the secret to Chris’s weakness, is too good a deal to pass up and he gives in to her weird whims.

With her wanting a blind date mixer, it’s something that just gets silly pretty quickly as Ayumu starts to put it all together. A mixer like this amongst this age group certainly has a lot of potential, but Ayumu has some weird visions of it that are just hilarious, especially since even some of the girls just don’t have the right look. Ayumu is utterly pathetic in a hilarious way when we see his outfit as well. There’s a lot of fun and silliness as they do the whole karaoke club and get together angle here that goes beyond the outfits and the out and out positive nature of many of them is just cute. Even Kyoko has some really good moments to go on top of what came before in how she was so excited about the impending mixer. There’s also some payoff to be had as well since Ayumu does follow through on his promise, but it’s a curiously somber moment for both him and Kyoko that feels a little unsettling, especially when he talks about how he’d never forget her because zombies never forget. Sometimes seeing and hearing his bits about his status makes for an uncomfortable moment or two.

As the series winds down into the tenth and final broadcast episode of the show, events have moved closer to having Ayumu deal with Chris, it’s coming down to a point where they’re wondering if Ayumu is actually ready. He’s done a few things to get the information he needs over the last few episodes and his friends are definitely supportive of things, though it takes some light turns early on by having Haruna take over as the teacher for his class and cause all sorts of trouble. All. Sorts. Of trouble. It’s kind of fun and silly but it’s also the kind of timewaster that kicks into play here where you’re wishing that they do get along with things. Which they do eventually as a form of Ayumu is put to the task of being tested as his memories are removed from him and put into some very pretty boy forms of the seven deadly sins. It’s a comical way of dealing with things that definitely has some appeal, especially since Haruna gets all set off by this.

The matchup has some very fun moments to it, but there’s also a darkness to it as well since Ariel has set it up to really challenge him. Where the real fun comes in though is when all is said and done, we get “Dark Ayumu” now coming to the surface and taking over his body. He has some very fun moves with Ariel right from the start that she’s almost a little blasé over, but he’s instantly attracting attention in the class with his open shirt style and general attitude. The episode feels like it takes some interesting turns here in the second half, especially with eu being far more proactive and involved in events than she usually does, and it also finally gives us some material with her and the show in general that feels like we haven’t had since pretty much the early episodes of the first season. It’s a neat little bit overall, but the episode as a whole feels like this season as a whole in that it’s pretty disjointed.

This set is bookended by the two OVA episodes that came out, released with the manga originally, and they’re both what you’d expect since they’re not huge story based pieces. The first OVA, which is episode 0 here, is all about the fanservice and fun as it belongs more in the first season in a way as the gang goes to an indoor pool park and just have all sorts of bouncy and flesh filled fun. It’s light and silly and is a far better start to the series than the simulcast run had. The final episode plays in similar tones, not constrained by broadcast standards, as we get a festival event at school which has Ayumu having to help Haruna as she sold a priceless device to one of the female students and he has to figure out who has it in order to reverse the invisibility that has been placed on him. It’s definitely a dirty, dirty episode as he’s a lecherous pervert watching all the girls while invisible, but it’s also hilariously fun as he can barely handle it and gets abused often. While some of the episodes in between these aren’t all that engaging, the start and finishes are pretty darn fun.

In Summary:
Though the first season of the series is one that I enjoyed a lot for specific reasons in specific places with the characters and their heartfelt expressions of emotion and thoughts, the second season is more about the mindless fun. In a lot of ways, even as it adapts work from the manga, it feels like a season of light filler, which was originally reinforced by it being a ten episode run. The two additional episodes here definitely make it more fun and I’ll admit the show flowed a bit better for me here, but there are no real big arcs of importance here of depths plundered for emotions and feels. I like the show well enough and do hope for a more serious additional season down the line, but this one leaves an odd taste overall. The release itself is solid and definitely well put together, mirroring the first season just right, and making it a good complete collection for fans. Made all the more impressive with the inclusion of the OAD episodes.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 4 & 10, Character Actors in Action: Episode 1 Video Commentary, 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: September 24th, 2012
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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