Without her glasses, Michiru Kita can see death marks on the necks of those about to die- and on those already dead- and she's a little surprised to see the black mark of someone already deceased on two of her classmates who are nevertheless walking around. It turns out that the two guys are "registered" zombies (with an outfit called "Z-Loan"), which means that they're allowed to exist- and even work toward resurrection- as long as they wipe out zombies (and other supernatural creatures) that are NOT under control.
I've seen four Peach-Pit shows by now, but this is the first one where I've found the character design SO distracting in its unpleasantness that it affected my enjoyment of the show. The characters are impossibly lanky, angular, and above all gaunt; I know it's a "horror" show, but it didn't have to gives its leads the physique of The Nightmare Before Christmas' Jack Skellington. (And at least you can't accuse Jack of having bad HAIR as well.)
Our leading men here, Chika Akatsuki and Shito Tachibana, reminded me of the leads in Get Backers and similar shows; in other words, they engage in endless posturing, as well as insulting and threatening each other, which is the way self-consciously straight male characters in shonen shows always demonstrate their bromantic feelings I suppose. They're stuck with each other in any case, for they're normally obliged to wear each other's right wrist and hand, and can only have their own back long enough to materialize and use their own particular weapons- Chika's is a sword, Shito's is a gun (firing ectoplasmic bullets.) Chika is more social (or at least more garrulous); Shito somehow comes across as more reserved and thoughtful (despite this pair's nearly constant bickering with each other.) It's related to Shito's background, which is very different from Chika's (and quite a bit stranger, as we'll see later in the show.)
The general framework of the show is of the sort we've seen more recently in shows like Beyond the Boundary and Phantom in the Twilight, i.e., supernatural beings who live under certain constraints battling more "feral" examples of their own kind. In THIS show, the constraint is this: the dead are allowed to keep living if they take out a financial obligation (that "zombie loan"), though not all of them have to become "bounty hunters" like Chika and Shito. It's never explicitly stated, but I got the impression that few or none ever finish paying off their loans (and return to "real" life)- maybe the interest is just too high- and that most ended up just "refinancing" (and continuing to be Living Dead.)
Compared to a more typical Shōnen show like Get Backers, I'd have to say that this one has a much higher percentage of jokes that actually WORK, but alas much of the humor is at poor Michiru's expense. If there's an award for "Good Sport In A Shonen Show", I'd give it to her. At the start of the show she's being exploited by her classmates AND by the uncle and aunt she lives with (she's got an inheritance eventually coming from her deceased parents' estate), and while she initially has to endure death threats not only from the "evil" zombies but from Chika and Shito too, nevertheless she eventually gets more confidence; and despite her general ineptitude she puts up with being the butt of the jokes (AND with the general weirdness of everything) with surprising grace. She's usually the show's POV character, and I certainly liked her more than anyone else in the cast. (She even charms a Grim Reaper, at one point.)
Some of the side characters are, in any case, much more interesting (or at least more bizarre) than the VOLTS gang members were in Get Backers. Michiru ends up at a boarding school hanging out with a flaky girl named Koyomi who has another personality inside her simply named Yomi; the problem is, Yomi has the hots for Michiru, but Yomi is also USEFUL to the efforts of Chika and Shito (she's a medium), so at times poor Michiru is used as bait to bring her out in the open. (Michiru NEVER seems to escape being exploited, no matter WHO she’s with.) We've got Yuuta, another screwball girl who's the medic, with the ability to repair some pretty severe damage, at least to the zombies; and we've got the guy who runs Zombie Loan, a "ferryman" (apparently there are others of his kind) named Bekkou.
I found the various adventures of our little group kind of a mixed bag. One with a character who called himself the "Butterfly" I thought ran a bit too long. On the other hand, the show was very successful in creating pathos with a female character created by a Dr. Frankenstein type; and some of the random lines are kind of glorious. (My favorite: "Quiver in fear at drooping socks.") But I hated the heavy-metal opening song. And the single most exasperating thing is that the show does not come to the best stopping place...
An awfully mixed bag overall; perhaps that is why the show is a bit obscure now .Minuses include the character art (a BIG minus); the typical shonen macho attitudes in Chika and Shito; some weak stories; and an awkward ending. Pluses include Michiru (who really begins to develop confidence over the course of the show, and she's a sweeter girl than this show maybe deserves); some great gags (and endearingly weird lines); and some memorably eccentric characters (and that female "Frankenstein's monster" may break your heart.) Pretty much a 50-50 show; the rating reflects this. I DID like it much better than I liked Get Backers, though. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Violence and horror elements. Rightstuf rates the DVD 17+.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Zombie Loan © 2007 Xebec M2
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