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Zom 100: One Hundred Things I Want to Do Before Becoming a Zombie – A Review

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The zombie craze hit its peak in the early 2010s with popular series and movies like The Walking Dead and World War Z. However, it quickly faded away as derivative products flooded the market. Recently, there has been a resurgence in zombie-themed productions, thanks to groundbreaking concepts introduced in The Last of Us and Army of the Dead. Among this new wave of zombie entertainment comes Zom 100: One Hundred Things I Want to Do Before Becoming a Zombie (Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead) by Yûsuke Ishida. An adaptation of the manga of the same name created by Haro Aso and Kotaro Takata, the film offers a captivating blend of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, while also providing an interesting commentary on Japanese work culture.

A Refreshing Take on Work Culture

Akira Tendō, brilliantly portrayed by Eiji Akaso, is an ambitious young man who lands his dream job at a major television network. However, his rosy perception of the working world quickly clashes with the harsh reality of grueling 12, 24, and even 36-hour workdays. He sleeps, eats, and even showers in the office, all to meet the demanding expectations of his relentless boss, played by Kazuki Kitamura.

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Everything changes for Akira when a zombie apocalypse breaks out, and he joyfully realizes that he no longer has to go to work. This prompts him to reflect on all the things he has missed out on or sacrificed due to his relentless work ethic. As he embarks on a hilarious and heartwarming journey, Akira discovers a captivating bucket list, unexpected travel companions, and a newfound desire to fulfill his dreams.

A Blend of Humor and Critique

Directed by Yûsuke Ishida (Afro Tanaka), and adapted by Tatsuro Mishima, Zom 100 brilliantly utilizes visual gags and eccentric character treatment, reminiscent of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. However, the film doesn’t shy away from critiquing Japanese work culture, where hard work, company loyalty, cutthroat competition, and performance-based promotions are prioritized. Akira becomes the embodiment of this critique as we witness his growing disillusionment and even contemplate suicide as a means of escaping the relentless grind. Although this is a serious and concerning theme, the film handles it with humor by comparing Akira to a zombie – lifeless, purposeless, haggard, and hungry.

Later in the film, the theme of work culture resurfaces when the main characters seek refuge in what appears to be a safe haven, only to discover that it operates like a corporation. Each section has its own bosses, and the workers endure double or triple shifts followed by minuscule periods of rest and meager meals, while those in charge luxuriate in extravagance, doing the bare minimum. Here, the metaphor loses its subtlety as the scriptwriters explicitly address the audience through the antagonist’s direct statements.

Captivating Performances

Eiji Akaso delivers an outstanding performance as Akira, consistently bringing humor to the screen. Throughout the film, he maintains a contagious smile, showcasing Akira’s sense of liberation as the apocalypse unfolds. Thanks to a well-crafted character backstory that highlights his athletic past, Akaso has the opportunity to showcase his physical prowess.

Mai Shiraishi (Usogi) and Shuntaro Yanagi (Re/Member) portray Shizuka and Kencho, Akira’s friends, respectively. Shiraishi portrays a serious character who remains vigilant in the face of the new world’s dangers, in contrast to Akira, who constantly engages in foolish antics as a result of his newfound freedom. However, Akira’s carefree spirit eventually breaks down Shizuka’s defenses, and she integrates herself into the protagonist’s group. On the other hand, Yanagi portrays Akira’s best friend, a character reminiscent of Zenitsu from Demon Slayer: fearful, loud, flirtatious, but loyal to his friends and convictions. He frequently serves as the film’s comedic relief and shares some of its most emotional moments with Eiji Akaso.

A Harmonious Blend of Comedy, Emotion, and Action

Zom 100 masterfully combines different genres, including comedy, heart-wrenching moments, tragedy, and even quasi-horror sequences. Yûsuke Ishida’s direction seamlessly navigates between these genres, constructing impactful moments for the audience. Additionally, the director forms a spectacular partnership with cinematographer Tarot Kawazu (I Am A Hero) to create interesting and enjoyable action set pieces.

While it can be challenging to offer a fresh take on zombies, the combination of the bucket list concept with the zombie theme feels innovative and keeps viewers engaged as they anticipate Akira’s progress. Zom 100: One Hundred Things I Want to Do Before Becoming a Zombie delivers an entertaining, exaggerated, and enjoyable journey, featuring charismatic and humorous characters. Yet, beneath its comedic surface lies a serious and relatable theme that resonates with a wide range of viewers. If you’ve ever had a demanding boss or were forced to go the extra mile, you will undoubtedly feel a sense of relief alongside the protagonist as the apocalypse begins.

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Zom 100: One Hundred Things I Want to Do Before Becoming a Zombie is now available on Netflix.

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