#1 Ridiculous characters
Most people go about their lives thinking that magic is the stuff of fairytales, but to Ayumu Aikawa it has very suddenly become a daily reality. He was recently murdered by a serial killer and brought back to life by a mute necromancer called Eucliwood Hellscythe. His life may have ended, but his unlife is only just beginning.
Like the recently popular Konosuba, the cast of Is This a Zombie? consists of a variety of lovable goofballs that parody well-known tropes of anime and fantasy. Ayumu Aikawa is a cynical, Japanese high school boy turned into a zombie who rots away under direct sunlight. His master is a cute girl in plate armor who communicates exclusively through notes, and who moves in with him as a freeloader. Soon after, they are also joined by the chainsaw-wielding magical girl Haruna and the tsundere vampire ninja Seraphim.
The show has some light harem tendencies, but for the most part it’s a wacky comedy series that satirizes all kinds of genres and never takes itself too seriously.
#2 Sharp translation
Adding to my enjoyment of the show was the phenomenal dubbing effort by Funimation. While not being quite as out there as the infamous Ghost Stories dub, I was very pleasantly surprised with how daring Is This a Zombie? was.
I kept the subtitles on for some scenes and that really highlighted how much sharper the English writing is. The banter between the main characters is spot on and especially jokes with a sexual load (ha!) are made much more explicit in the dub. I constantly got the sense that the subbed version was phoning it in by comparison, which is a shame because the visuals sure aren’t holding back. You end up with very tame dialogue set to hilariously raunchy scenes.
As can be expected from Funimation, the dub is brought to life by a star cast of great voice actors. This includes personal favorites like Jad Saxton, Stephanie Sheh, and Caitlin Glass. I was also very fond of Austin Tindle as Ayumu, who does a great job at being a lovable jerkass.
#3 Fanservice galore
Another quality that Is This a Zombie? shares with Konosuba is that its mostly female cast gets to star in a lot of ecchi fanservice shots. The anime wastes no opportunity to show of its girls, but knows how to do so without being obnoxious or losing its effect.
Panty shots, exposed cleavages, accidental nudity and gropings, fantasy scenarios, Is This a Zombie? has all of it and constantly manages to surprise with new ideas or fun parodies on well-known tropes. Even something as gratuitous and well-explored as an episode at the pool manages to come with layers of (sexy) surprises, which are amplified by the characters’ fun personalities and diverse body types.
#4 Battle Shounen action
Despite being a parody on so many different genres, Is This a Zombie? often manages to also be a pretty good example of those kinds of anime. For example, it manages to both poke fun at shounen action series while also definitely being one.
Through Haruna, Ayumu and his friends become involved with an order of magical girls who are protecting the world from evil monsters known as Megalo. This leads to many battles against strange creatures, where Ayumu’s zombie nature proves to be rather useful. He can survive being completely gored and is very resistant to pain, but he also learns how to surpass his body’s physical limits and channel inhuman strength. This comes on top of other powers he gains throughout the story, but I won’t spoil those.
Additionally, there are humanoid villains to battle with as well. Season 1 is largely about Ayumu wanting to enact revenge upon the serial killer who murdered him, but this leads into other plots with powerful, maniacal villains for the team to overcome.
While no powerhouse in terms of animation, Is This A Zombie? has some well-directed action scenes and gets a lot of mileage out of its hype soundtrack. It’s not the first anime I’d recommend to anybody looking for an action series, but it absolutely shouldn’t be overlooked either.