Michiru is a shy teenager with little self-worth, no confidence, and a rather unusual power of which she’s only dimly aware. When she removes her oversized glasses, Michiru can see things no one else can: gray rings around the necks of people who are fated to die soon. Rings that darken as the unfortunate event grows closer. When she realizes two mysterious boys at her school have completely black rings around their necks, Michiru tries to warn them, only to discover it’s too late. Chika and Shito have died already. They just didn’t let that stop them.
Chika and Shito have taken out a loan with Zombie-Loan, also known as Z-Loan. Operated by the enigmantic Ferryman, Z-Loan allows certain people to hang around as “legal zombies” – zombies that appear to be regular humans and retain their human minds – in return for exorbitant amounts of cash paid in installments. If a legal zombie pays off his loan, he gets to become a regular, living human again.
In the meantime, being a zombie has some advantages. Chika and Shito can solidify the ectoplasm that keeps them “alive” into weapons – weapons they need because they’re paying back their loan payments by working as bounty hunters and destroying dangerous illegal zombies. And after a near-death encounter binds her fate to theirs, Michiru finds herself helping them hunt down undead nasties.
There’s a lot to like about this manga. Set in Japan, it includes lots of fun cultural details, jokes, and more, which are explained in a series of notes at the back of each volume. From wordplay that’s derived from Japanese terms to the presence of shinigami and the use of Buddhist prayers to fight zombies, the cultural background is strong.
The art is action-packed, often cute, and sometimes provocative. (There are a lot of bathing scenes, for example, with nipples and bits just underwater or strategically covered. Michiru’s friend Koyomi is also a walking, talking piece of busty fanservice – or at least comes off that way at first, before her character deepens a bit and becomes more interesting.) There is some sexual content, most of it verbal (more on that in a moment), but when Koyomi is periodically possessed by the demon Yomi who lives inside her, she gets extremely handsy with Michiru. (It’s worth noting, though, that while Yomi takes longer than she should to get the message, she does stop groping Michiru when she realizes it’s upsetting her.) Surprisingly, I find the violence of the series to be mostly pretty mild. There are some grotesque creatures and a fair bit of splattered blood, but if you come to the series thinking “zombie hunters,” you’re unlikely to be shocked.
Indeed, if you’re shocked by anything in this series, it will likely be what’s inside the speech bubbles. Chika has an extremely nasty mouth, especially early in the series. And we aren’t just talking about your typical swear words, though he certainly knows his way around all of those. I nominate for “line most likely to make you rethink recommending this series to teens” his declaration that girls who are into boys’ love (yaoi, etc.), “should be raped and drowned in the Tokyo Bay.” One of the Ferryman’s colleagues, the founder of A-Loan, is a dedicated gropester who also makes a few sketchy sexual comments, but at least he’s a bad guy. Chika seems to mellow a little after a few volumes, making me wonder whether the authors might have gotten negative feedback from readers. Still, the rape comment alone, coming from a character portrayed as at least partially sympathetic, almost put me off the entire series.
This review covers only the first seven of the series’ thirteen volumes. Many characters and plotlines are clearly still developing. Michiru’s relationships with Yomi, Chika, and Shito are going in particularly intriguing directions. Our protagonists also have to contend with the competing organization A Loan and its group of legal zombies, Chika’s now-evil ex-best-friend, and the Ferryman’s mysterious “higher-ups.” The fast pace and increasingly complex and interesting characters make prospects bright for the enjoyability of the second half of the series.
Zombie-Loan, volumes 1-7
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9780759523531
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9780759528369
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9780759528376
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9780759528383
Vol. 5 ISBN: 9780759528390
Vol. 6 ISBN: 9780759528406
Vol. 7 ISBN: 9780759530959
Yen Press, 2007-2009
Publisher Age Rating: OT (Older Teen)