Friday, 8 June 2012

Anime REVIEW: Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? Of the Dead

The first of my 2012 Spring anime season reviews is the second season of 2011's Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? (Is this a Zombie?), now with an added "Of the Dead" tagline. The series ran for a total of ten episodes (two less than the previous season) between April and June, with an one prequel OVA and another due in the near future.

Ayumu Aikawa has settled into his turned-upside-down life as a zombie, sharing a home with genius magiclad girl Haruna, necromancer Eucliwood and vampire ninja Seraphim. However his life still has its stresses, and Ayumu takes solace one day in confiding in a drunken girl he finds snooping through his school's nurse office one day. When a Megalo attacks the school, Ayumu is forced to reprise his role as a cross-dressing magiclad girl, but when his magical chainsaw weapon (and source of his power) Mystelltain breaks in the fight, Ayumu's identity is revealed to his horrified and disgusted classmates - and with Mystelltain broken, Ayumu is unable to wipe their memories of the event!

The entire cast are back for more supernatural shenanigans

As Haruna attempts to fix Mystelltain, Ayumu has to adjust to life with his school friends knowing of his occasional cross-dressing tendencies. Worse still, the drunken girl he once confided in turns out to be a rogue Magiclad girl named Chris - who has secretly been collecting mana from the supernatural beings around in her in order to be freed from a curse placed on her.

For me, the first season of Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? came as somewhat of a disappointment. The synopsis suggested the potential for greatness, however the actual content was brought down by repetitive one-note jokes and poorly balancing its comedy with an unnecessarily serious plot. Thankfully ...Of the Dead has a far clearer focus of what it wants to be, and has chosen to go the comedic route rather than amp up the story. While there is still a clear story present in the season, its development is spread far more thinly across episodes instead of having a "serious" episode being illogically followed by a number of one-shot comedy ones (or vice versa). Unfortunately, what ...Of the Dead DOES have in terms of story is also swept under the rug without any real conclusive element. The conflict with Chris, who is brought across as being the most powerful foe Ayumu will ever face, is cast aside in the final episode so that an emotional episode about how the central cast love and need Ayumu can go ahead instead - something that perhaps would have worked just as effectively as an OVA episode rather than a season finale.

Not really the situation Ayumu wanted to be put in

...Of the Dead also makes greater use of its extended cast far better than its predecessor, resulting in a better variety of characters both in terms of comedy and character development. We see a lot more of Ayumu's classmates Orito, Taeko and Kanami, as well as vampire ninjas Mael Strom/Yuki and Saras. Yet somehow the use of an extended cast doesn't mean that the main characters are left forgotten. Well most of them anyway - while Eu and Haruna are still by far and large at the forefront of the show Sera's role is greatly reduced. As arguably the weakest character in the show, her diminished presence only improves the quality of the show.

Chris, the drunken magical girl

While perhaps still not essential anime viewing by any means, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? Of the Dead is an obvious improvement on the original. Its got a clearer focus on what it wants to be, a better variety/quality of jokes and a more interesting array of character focus. Its only really the rushed story that lets it down, and that could have perhaps been sorted with an additional two or so episodes. If you were a fan of the first season then you'll love this, and if like me you felt underwhelmed by the original then ...Of the Dead may just prove to be somewhat of a surprise hit.

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