3 Reasons To Read: Bougyaku no Kokekko

#1 The zombie chicken apocalypse

Graduation day should be a special and joyous occasion for teenagers, but 18-year-old Yuu Enji tries to treat it like any other school day. While his classmates celebrate, Yuu knows that he’ll soon have to travel far away from the city for work and dreads having to leave behind his “siblings” at the abusive foster home they all grew up in. However, the graduation ceremony is promptly cancelled when adults all around the nation begin turning into… chickens?

Yes, indeed. Chickens.

While it has the makings of a traditional zombie survival story, it exchanges popular media’s undead staple with a type of foe that is significantly different. People just start turning into giant chickens the size of mini-vans, which are driven to mindlessly hunting the few normal people that remain. Yes, a zombie tearing at your flesh is creepy on paper, but it’s also overdone and familiar. But a horde of chickens just charging at you and pecking at people with a velocity that shatters skulls? That has the right mix of being absurd yet utterly horrifying to consider.

Bougyaku no Kokekko seems like a gimmicky horror story, but it really nails its central idea. The chickens are beautifully illustrated and making them these huge, lumbering creatures overemphasizes all the uncanny details that don’t seem quite so off when you look at the real thing.

#2 Moderately edgy

I’ll admit that Bougyaku no Kokekko has a very poor first impression. Its character introductions are alright, but once the chickens enter the scene, the manga goes south quickly. The violence is certainly cool, but it combines this with some very forced “sexy” scenes. A good example is a brief encounter where a random schoolgirl flashes Yuu and offers her body to him if he saves her, which promptly gets her killed by the chicken that she was running from in the first place.

In that moment, I felt like I understood where the series was headed. It had the smell of Rei Mikamoto all over it and I feared that it would try to parse this through an overly serious filter, whereas Mikamoto’s work usually excels in its self-aware excess. However, the story quickly changes direction yet again and manages to salvage itself. Sex doesn’t have much of a place in the manga, so it disappears almost entirely outside of the bonus chapters, and the story is stronger for it. It instead focuses on the continued ultra-violence and the struggle of reasonable people as they have to adapt to a new reality where murder and betrayal are vital tools for staying alive.

This is a perfect angle because the manga has such a perfect nemesis in the chickens. There is an unhinged lunacy to the carnage that these monsters cause and that’s much more unsettling to see than somehow forcing a few bare titties in there. People are torn apart and half-eaten by these relentless monsters, leaving the streets littered with disfigured corpses. There is some mild censoring employed here, but it leaves very little to the imagination.

#3 Kids banding together

The fact that only adults transformed into chickens plays neatly into Yuu’s backstory. He and his makeshift family of fellow orphans have a deeply-rooted loathing for adults, stemming from years of abuse at the hands of parents, guardians, and even their teachers. Yuu and the other kids have always fended for themselves and stood up for each other; now, in the face of the apocalypse, they will do so again.

The kids are the emotional epicenter of the story and they bridge a variety of ages. Yuu, Tora, and Aki are late in their teens and that makes them the leaders, upon whom a bunch of younger boys and 3 toddlers are completely dependent on.

My first impression was that author Yousuke Suzaki would use these kids for cheap drama, brutally killing them off one by one to “shock” the audience. That’s far from true, fortunately. Despite looking so gratuitous, Bougyaku no Kokekko is very careful with its dramatic plot twists and wants the few character deaths it does feature to be tragic and important. To that end, character development is very strong throughout the manga. This is best shown in a handful of chapters where Yuu enlists the help of a nursing student who happens to be a daddy’s girl. They end up in a fight when Yuu generalizes and claims good adults do not exist. Though he’s adamant in his arguments and never takes anything back, by the end of the arc it’s plain to see that his view of adults has changed as a result of meeting this girl.

I liked Yuu quite a lot, but my actual favorite character ended up being the second-oldest orphan, Taro. He is an intelligent, resourceful guy who struggles with an inferiority complex. Yuu is such a great leader that Taro can’t fill his shoes whenever he is absent. His brothers and sisters look on with worry when Taro has to make the tough decisions, causing him to feel like he’s just not good enough. These feelings inspire him to adopt a more radical approach to protecting his family, as he becomes more inclined to shun outsiders and rely on violence to survive. His personality is in constant development throughout the story and the changes he goes through and the consequences of his actions are fascinating to watch unfold.

The gore and insane concept are certainly what drew me to the manga, but it was ultimately wanting to see how these kids would fair and develop that kept me reading. The manga never let me down in this regard and I was very happy with the story I read by the end of its final chapter.

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