I don’t think there’s any question based on the posting traffic on Animesuki that this was one of the more popular series of the winter season. And it’s no wonder – it certainly hit a lot of the checkpoints. Busty girls, flat-chested but genki loli, uber-kawaii necromancer. Zombies. Magical girls. Unfortunately, the series as a whole was never able to live up to the promise it showed in its better moments.
Perhaps as much as any show this season – in competition with Yumekui Merry – Kore wa Zombie suffered from inconsistency. But where the primary problem with YM has been pacing, in this case it seems to me that it’s laziness. Lazy writing, lazy plotting, cheap humor. I don’t so much have an issue with the multiple personality disorder the series had. Some episodes were deadly serious, some outrageous, and some inexplicably changed course in mid-episode and acted almost as if the first half hadn’t happened. But that’s not all bad – I don’t mind different faces that keep things unpredictable and interesting.
But where I ran into problems was that too often, the humor was repetitive and lacked imagination. Really, how many times do I need to hear Sera call Ayumu a piece of shit? How often does Haruna need to beat him up for no reason? How often do we need to see him chopped up into little pieces and put back together? We get it, already. And as far as plot, way too many things happened that were never really explained – or at least not in depth. Why was Yuu able to speak in episode 11, for example? We’re more or less supposed to absorb all the vampire ninja politics as part of the plot, but there’s not much effort put in to giving it any context. Same with King of the Night and his death wish. It’s an interesting premise for a conflict, but we never really learn enough about him and how he got that way to care.
It’s certainly not all bad. I liked Ayumu as a male lead – his back story had some genuine pathos, and the episodes dealing with it – featuring Kyoko – were probably the best arc of the series. When I call the show a tragedy posing as a comedy this arc exemplifies what I mean, and it shows why the show has some real power when it’s at its best. Ayumu, Yuu, KotN, even Sera to some extent – these are really tragic characters. The undercurrent of their lives is death and sorrow, and – despite being powerful beings – powerlessness when it comes to being masters of their own fates. Even Kyoko is a tragic character – a wayward masou shoujo driven by base desires down a terrible path. I wish her arc had been given better closure.
When the show stuck to the pathos of the situations, it did pretty well – and some of the humor was pretty clever as well. While the sight of Ayumu in masou shoujo garb lost some impact from overuse it’s a pretty good gag on the whole, and often played well. Haruna in general was a positive, if a mixed bag. She’s undeniably adorable and her manic insanity was responsible for some of the biggest laughs. But she became shrill and one-note just a little too often for my tastes. Sera was the weak link in the cast for me – her act stopped being funny after seeing it once, and it pretty much never changed. Maybe with a little more backstory she would have been more sympathetic, but with that not forthcoming she really needed to be softened a bit to be attractive. Tomonori was likable enough, but again never really had the screen time to feel substantial as a character.
Yuu, of course, was probably the strength of the series overall. Her circumstances are indeed tragic, and she managed to convey both power and frailty at the same time. The fantasy sequences with guest voices were one of the cleverer running gags in a show full of them. Her relationship with Ayumu was genuinely moving at times, and I thought it was wrapped up pretty well – openly admitting they were both in for a rough time of it, together or not.
I don’t know if I can recommend the series on the whole, but there are certainly some moments here that are worth your time. The problem is, you have to slog through a lot of flat comedy and inexplicable plot to get to them. Maybe with two cours this would have been a more coherent, involving universe – there was a lot going on in the background that seemed interesting that we just never learned enough about to care. But I wonder if 12 more eps would have meant just that much more time wasted on meandering story and failed gags. In the end, it’s a matter of personal choice – would you rather watch a series that’s consistently mediocre, or one that veers between genuine inspiration and outright inanity in equal parts? In a perfect world you don’t have to make choices like that, but as in any other field the bulk of anime series probably fall in that pool.