‘Zom 100: Bucket List Of The Dead’ Review: Lessons On How To Not Be A Literal Or Metaphorical Zombie

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Movies aren’t made in a vacuum, and movies aren’t consumed in a vacuum. When a story is conceived, the storyteller is undoubtedly influenced by what is happening around them, or it’s a distillation of everything they’ve experienced in life. Similarly, when the viewer tunes into a film, their viewing experience is not only influenced by what they are witnessing on the screen but also by how their day, their week, their month, or their year has gone. If our mood is bad, a technically brilliant movie can have little to no impact on us. If our mood is good, a mediocre or even bad movie can feel like a masterpiece. Most importantly, if we see ourselves in the film or even a reflection of our lives, it gives us a perspective that we couldn’t have gotten if we continued to be a cog in the wheel of the cycle of life. Well, long story short, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead manages to do all of that while being an extremely fun and action-packed movie.

Haro Aso and Kotaro Takata’s Zom 100 is a manga that has been turned into an anime TV series. Simultaneously, it has been adapted as a live-action film of the same name for Netflix by director Yusuke Ishida and screenwriter Tatsuro Mishima. It follows Akira Tendo, who works for an advertising company called Master Shot. He is very enthusiastic about being hired by such a prestigious institution. But sooner rather than later, he realizes that his boss, Kosugi, is a tyrannical and inhumane douchebag who doesn’t think twice before making Tendo work overtime and insult him for nothing. Just as he’s about to complete one year of his employment over there, Japan gets struck by a zombie pandemic. However, instead of panicking, Tendo sees it as his road to freedom. So, he starts to make the titular list in an attempt to do everything that he has always wanted to do before becoming food for the zombies. This endeavor brings him across the survivor Shizuka and reunites him with his old friend Kencho, and the three of them embark on a journey that’ll make-or-break Tendo.

Watching Zom 100 in a time when various parts of the country are burning due to communal fires, and people are acting without thought, reason, or empathy hits in a way that it wouldn’t have if I watched it in a less fascist and less capitalist time. Being ignorant about the times we are living in would’ve diminished the impact of the film as well, and I would’ve viewed it as just another zombie film. But since the red flags are so visible and the alarm bells are so loud, the film feels eerily relevant. Yes, it’s true that the world isn’t going to be hit with an actual zombie apocalypse. However, the way capitalism has sucked our souls out and the way politicians, vitriolic news channels, and toxicity on social media has filled that void with venom, don’t you think we are in a very realistic version of a zombie apocalypse? Financial insecurity and identity crises are so rampant that people need a strongman figure behind whom we can cower. And if anyone dares to show us the mirror, we immediately try to tear them into pieces.

The difference between Tendo and the zombies roaming through the streets of Tokyo is that the zombies are infected with an actual virus, while Tendo has the choice to live life on his own terms or give in to the whims of his boss, Kosugi. But when push comes to shove, he crumbles. Thankfully, Tendo has a support system in the form of Shizuka and Kencho, who show him the right path. Do you have one? If so, then you should celebrate them. If not, you should learn to be self-sufficient. As shown in Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, humanity is hurtling towards doom. There’s no way out now. We have gone past the point of no return, as exemplified by the zombie apocalypse in the movie. However, this inevitable future shouldn’t dissuade us from being humane. We should have the reasoning capability to discern between what’s right and what’s wrong. We should help those who are in need of it and those who don’t think they need it. And we should know when we need help and express our gratitude as explicitly as possible. Because things going downhill shouldn’t be an excuse for abandoning empathy.

I’m a massive supporter of animation. I believe that everything should be animated and that animators should be compensated properly. Even though I’ve only watched the trailer, I’m sure that the anime version of Zom 100 is way more visually dynamic than this live-action version. But that doesn’t mean Yusuke Ishida and his team of insanely talented artists have pulled any punches in this adaptation. The tone of the film is on point. It is over-the-top and whimsical, but since it’s a horror comedy, it’s appropriately tense and gnarly. The make-up, special effects, visual effects, and CGI are all top-notch. The zombies look amazing, but that zombie shark had me punching the air in excitement. The use of slow-motion, comic book-like panels, and long takes is worth appreciating. The whole movie looks fantastic due to great lighting and color grading, and it has some of the most innovative sequences as well as traditional set pieces that are synonymous with the zombie horror subgenre. Music and songs are used in an effective fashion. And more than the action-heavy stuff, I really liked the moments when Ishida just slows everything down to let the characters breathe and cherish each other’s presence.

In terms of performances, the entire cast of Zom 100 has delivered in spades. Eiji Akaso is unbelievably brilliant. It’s a difficult job to generate empathy for a character who sees liberation when his country is dying. A character like that can become annoying or offensive. But the longer you stay with Akaso, you notice that he’s subtly hinting at the pit of despair that lies at Tendo’s center. He perfectly portrays Tendo’s transition from an escapist to someone who genuinely wants to make things better. And if that’s not the most relatable thing in existence, I don’t know what is. Mai Shiraishi is a force of nature, and she beautifully essays the vulnerability that Shizuka is hiding underneath her armor of confidence. Shuntaro Yanagi has the task of being the most impulsive member of the trio. So, it’s nice to see him transform into a responsible individual who doesn’t fumble it during a decisive moment. Kazuki Kitamura has the most punchable face, and he makes the most of it to craft a character that’s an amalgamation of every oppressive CEO in the whole wide world. Since these are only the central actors, I have to make it clear that everyone in the supporting cast, the zombie actors, and those who appear on screen for even a second are spectacular.

In conclusion, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is one of my favorite movies of the year, and it’s certainly one of my favorite zombie movies of all time. I love the fact that Yusuke Ishida and Tatsuro Mishima had a lot of fun with the premise but didn’t compromise in terms of the visuals, character work, or effectiveness of its themes. In doing so, they ended up making such a timely film that will definitely (or hopefully) speak to the hordes of recent graduates who are stuck doing menial jobs to fight the growing inflation while their bosses reap the benefits of their labor and the richest of the rich decimate every natural resource in existence. There’s no easy solution to this, but it’s highly important to wake up from this habit of brainless behavior and fight for our right to live life the way we want to. I know I’m making it sound all gloom and doom, because it is, but Zom 100 is a genuinely good film. However, since all this is just my opinion, I urge you to give it a watch, form your own opinion, and then share your thoughts with all of us.


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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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