Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kore wa Zombie desu ka? (Episodes 4 - 6)

(For a review of Episodes 1 - 3, click here. Some spoilers may be lurking.)

I'll admit that the first three episodes of Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka? has given me some concerns. When it comes to intended comedy, I sometimes fear that putting conflicting personalities under the same roof, as if attempting a scenario we often saw in reality shows like The Real World and Big Brother, won't equate to actual success. We've seen some success when the supernatural is forced to live with each other in the BBC show Being Human, but I've wondered if it would succeed in anime.

While those worries were appeased by the steadfast behavior and rather Kyon-like approach by our main character Ayumu, there's still that nagging feeling that we're looking at a harem situation. Plenty of fan service in the beginning, but I was hopeful that the underlying current of a serious plot might make this show steady and less situational.

I just wasn't expecting a dark comedy, an animated version of Death Becomes Her. Seriously. I haven't seen this much comedy surrounding blood and death, followed by reanimation and more blood and death since Hyatt from Excel Saga.

When we last left Ayumu and his crew, he was still lost when it came to determining his killer, but a clue had been left by another girl injured by the attacker—apparently his own savior, the necromancer Eucliwood, may have been behind all of the killings. However, it is through the words of a doberman Megalo that we discover how Eu works as a necromancer. Much of the healing she does has such an adverse effect on her own psyche, and the magic she casts is so unstable that even one word from her could lead to untold chaos.

The best thing about this three-episode arc is that you get plenty of action in the process, even with the extreme spill of blood. Yes, we do get tons of fan service from lip-locks between Haruna and Sera, comedy from badly-cooked food, and bathtub nonsense, but each episode seems to have a two-sided personality. Each facepalm comes with an entertaining battle in the process. For the record, Ayumu's transformation into a "magical girl" is hardly a one-time joke, as he uses his powers as a zombie to unlock the extreme potential of Haruna's powers, once again drawing out jokes about him being a pervert.

However, what we did not expect is for the killer to reveal herself so quickly and to reveal herself as Kyoko, the girl who was supposed to have seen Eu as the killer. In reality, she is a magical girl gone rogue, driven mad as she holds onto the lives she has taken from her victims. She even manages to push her own bounds of human capability, shredding the skin on her arms from magic use and busting her eardrums to keep herself from hearing Eu's words. However, just when it appears Ayumu and the rest appear to have Kyoko down to her own life, we realize there are other people piloting this magical girl for their own purposes.

In terms of surprise, I can't say that I wasn't expecting what these episodes provided the viewer—there had to be some connection between magical girls, zombies, necromancers, and even vampire ninjas if they were to all organize as an evil-busting union. It's also quite refreshing to see a magical girl go mad in the process (this season has already had its share) and to exhibit that madness in such a destructive behavior. What I wasn't expecting was for the death to be so dramatic and bloody. These scenes are not for the faint of heart (seriously, you're going there by having Ayumu destroy a giant whale Megalo?), but can also get pretty creative.

In the end, the show has its drawbacks with its occasional split-personalities, pushing for plot creation while destroying some in the process when the girls do what harems do. One moment, mindless comedy turns into numbing drama, as the concept of death is tossed around so easily. However, this split-personality also gives the episodes a clever two-toned feel to them. It's like you're watching two 12-minute episodes in one, closure given to one scenario only for another to present itself.

Is KoreZom a parody of sorts, especially the magical-girl genre? Probably not, but it's having fun rewriting the standards for them. This isn't some Kampfer situational comedy where the male actually becomes a girl to become a magical girl in the process. This isn't a Sailor Moon Sailor Stars where the women masquerade as men before they transform. Mashing all these characters into the same box to produce an undead male "magical girl" has created a brand new monster, and so far it's working.

This show might be the best comedy of the season so far, if only by default. While Puella Magi Madoka Magica may have become the best "magical girl" show in the past few years, KoreZom is certainly fighting to get the title of "Best Magical-Girl Comedy", if it in fact fits into any sort of category in the first place.

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