REVIEW: Crueler Than Dead Vol 1 (2015)

A manga by Tsukasa Saimura, Kozo Takahashi

As we head closer and closer into spooky season, I saw this in my queue and decided – “why not let’s look at a Japanese take on Zombies”. To be honest, I’m kind of burned out on zombie fiction; I feel like Hollywood has beat the dead horse over and over until there’s almost nothing left. Is this the answer to my woes? Could this be a fresh take on it, or is it just the same old stuff? Sadly, a lot of it’s “the same old stuff” with little deviation from typical Romero zombie mythos. But honestly, that’s perfectly okay. The author hints that the zombies are nocturnal, and a few other minor changes, but nothing Earth-shattering. Even that change is dropped when zombies show up during the day and everyone is like “I thought they hated the sun!?” It will be interesting to see if the story develops this idea more as the story progresses.

“No one knows where it started … But when the world finally realized what was going on, it was already too late.

When Maki Akagi wakes up in a lab full of corpses, she learns from a dying soldier that she is the result of a last-ditch experiment to cure humans of a virus turning them into zombies. Accompanied by a young boy who also miraculously escaped, she will have to try to get to the very center of a devastated Tokyo filled with bloodthirsty monsters. The dome located there contains the last survivors of mankind. And humanity’s very survival depends solely on a few drops of this miraculous vaccine…

Inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), The Walking Dead, Romero classics, and new zombie films like 24 Hours Later, Crueler Than Dead delights in the meticulous detail of decomposed flesh, with a wicked and hungry eye…evoking a modern vision of a zombie world that is terrifying and tension filled. (published in Japan by Tokuma Shoten)

There are pro and cons for this book – on one hand I LOVED the art style – it’s definitely a more “old school” look, and the body horror stuff is truly grizzly. As many can surmise, I prefer the designs in most 80’s and 90’s anime/manga to the stuff today, so anything attempting to be like that is great. The writing is fine, and the story moves well. However, it’s somewhat derivative of most zombie things, even opening in a similar manner to 28 Days Later or even Day of the Triffids. You can tell the author was definitely inspired by Romero Zombie stuff and possibly the recent Resident Evil movies. The plot sort of time-jumps around a bit, making it hard to really get to know the characters very well in the first half. right when you get used to something, suddenly the characters have entirely different appearances due to haircuts and new clothes and the reader is left like “what?”. The main character even goes from being naïve And fearful to a zombie killing badass in like 3 pages. Once we’re out of the first couple of chapters, everything picks up and improves immensely.

By the time the book reaches around the halfway point, I REALLY enjoyed it. Everything becomes far more grounded and less jarring once Maki’s group is basically forced to enter a large refuge from the zombies called Paradise. It’s a huge city-block sized skyscraper that is defended from the zombies due to a high voltage electrical fence. As long as they don’t lose electricity everything will be fine! You can see where this is going and bad things predictably happen. All-in-all this is an uneven, but enjoyable zombie book somewhat akin to The Walking Dead, or any Romero Dead Film. I honestly did not like the first few chapters very much, but the comic finds its footing eventually, and has a solid second half. I’d be interested to see where the story goes, so I will try to be on the lookout for more. I can imagine that this will be one of those manga where the second volume is better than the first.

If you would like a copy of this for yourself, check HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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