Zombie Loan: Marked by the ring

Welcome, My Friends, to the final review of horror anime month. Zombie Loan was a manga written by the duo, Peach-Pit, also responsible for Shugo Chara, Rozen Maiden, DearS and some other stuff I have never seen nor read. It was published by Square Enix. The anime version was handled by Xebec in 2007 with eleven episodes airing two more being released only on the DVD. Let’s delve into the series and see what awaits us.

Story:

Kita Michiru can see something that no one else can when she takes off her glasses, a dark ring around the neck of a person who’s fated to die shortly. One day, she spots a pure black ring around the necks of two classmates, Chika and Shito, who had shortly before survived a bridge accident that had killed everyone else involved. Following the two to warn them, Michiru discovers a secret. They didn’t survive the crash. They died and were given a loan that allows them to keep going. To pay off this “zombie” loan, they fight mindless and illegal zombies for bounties. At first, Chika and Shito plan to kill Michiru to keep her quiet, but once they learn of her ability to see the rings they decide to put her to work. She just has to use her shinigami eyes to help them in their endeavours, but it won’t be easy. There’s a rise in zombies like Chika and Shito, except these zombies operate without authorization and they turn both animals and people into the mindless variety of zombie.

There are two significant problems with the narrative. The first is that the series has an issue with continuity. There’s a major retcon that comes out of absolutely nowhere because… the plot needed it to work. The series also establishes that zombies start to lose their emotions, outright states that it’s happening with a specific character and then proceeds to show us that character experiencing anger, distress, and all manner of other emotions in subsequent episodes. There are also some real contrivances for the plot to work. The biggest one being the reason why Chika and Shito are working together.

Those complaints aside, there are some positive aspects to the story as well. The premise is interesting and the tension is developed very organically. The series is also very good in terms of progression. There’s always something compelling happening and the stopping points for the individual episodes are very well chosen. The series proper ends at a good point as well, with the completion of a major arc. Although the extra episodes start a new story arc, but only do the basic introduction for it, which didn’t bother me since they are added episodes, but I can see why it might bother someone else. The series also excels at emotional investment. There are some really strong tragic scenes, some good triumphant moments, some touching scenes and amusing comedic moments. That isn’t to say that all of the emotional moments work, there are certainly some that don’t, but the majority of them do hit the mark.

Characters:

There are some really interesting characters in this. Initially, it looks like Shito, Chika and Michiru are all going to be pretty archetypical, but all of them develop beyond that fairly quickly and grow into fairly complex characters. The same is true for a lot of the side characters. Even if I’m not sure whether they’re using a pseudo-scientific understanding of dissociative identity disorder with Koyomi or there’s something else going on with her. It’s probably explained in the manga at some point, but the anime either leaves it out or doesn’t get to it.

Really, the only weakness is in the familial dynamics. Chika’s interactions with his father and sister are questionable at best. There are also some disturbing implications involved in Shito’s back-story. Really, the most natural family relationship is Michiru’s dynamic with her aunt and uncle and they barely appear in the anime, act like jerks and are banished from the story.

Art:

The art is a bit odd. Most of the time it does look really good with some strong character designs, action sequences and backgrounds. However, there are quite a few more light-hearted scenes where the art style switches to a very lazy, minimalistic style. I’m not certain whether they thought stick figure drawings were funny or they just decided that they didn’t need to put an effort into drawing those particular scenes. Either way, it looks pretty bad.

Sound:

They got some great actors for this series. Chika is voiced by Suzumura Kenichi (also the voice of KnK‘s Mikiya Kokutou) Kuwashima Houko (Kurumi 2’s Nako) voices Michiru. Shito is voiced by Sakurai Takahiro, the actor known for his work as Cloud Strife. Although he plays against character a bit since he doesn’t cross dress or chase after a childhood love interest in this one. The music is decent enough except for the stuff with lyrics. The stuff with lyrics is a cacophonous mess.

Ho-yay:

There’s a fair amount of ho-yay in this. Shiba gets some homo-erotic moments with both Chika and Shito and they also get some with each other. During the extra episodes Shito even asks another guy if he can kiss him. It does, however, have more les-yay. Koyomi’s second personality, Yomi does quite a few things with Michiru. Things which she really should have asked before doing, but to be fair she does stop when Michiru tells her she doesn’t like what she’s doing. Although, even with that scene it’s hard to call it a one-sided thing. Since, during the two extra episodes, Michiru does demonstrate some feelings for Koyomi. So, there is some pretty blatant stuff both between men and between women but none of it amounts to a full fledged romantic relationship, at least not in the anime. It might in the manga, but I haven’t read through it yet so I don’t know. So, the ho-yay factor for the anime is going to be a 6/10.

Final Thoughts:

Zombie Loan is a good action adventure series with an interesting premise, compelling build up, strong acting, and good characters. Unfortunately, it also has some serious drawbacks in terms of narrative continuity and character dynamics. So, it is good but not great. My final rating is going to be a solid 7/10. If it sounds interesting to you, check it out. It’s only eleven episodes, thirteen if you get into the specials, so it’s a pretty fast watch. Well, that’s another horror anime month complete. Next week we’ll open November with a requested review, Claymore.

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