Zombies, along with other classic horror icons like vampires, mummies, and werewolves, are so incredibly exaggerated in just about every medium. In movies, comics, books, video games, TV shows and even anime, zombie-based stories are everywhere.
Fortunately, while anime has some examples of boring classic zombies, many of them try to innovate on the concept at least a little like some horror movies try to do. So let’s go over some of the more memorable anime that add to and even completely change the zombie formula.
10/10 Zombie Land Saga
Kicking things off with one of the funnest examples there has to be Zombie Land Saga. People probably didn’t expect a list of zombie anime to start with a comedy, but here it is.
Essentially, the story is about a group of would-be idols who were all brought back from the dead by a twisted scientist to shoot for idol stardom. The main character, Sakura Minamoto, is literally hit and killed by a truck in the first episode before suddenly “waking up” ten years later as a zombie. All in all, just a really fun twist on the zombie prompt.
9/10 School Live
Now, this next show has been around since late 2019, so it’s way past the common courtesy most people would give in regards to spoiling anything.
That said, most do School Live so persuasive depends on the initial reaction of the viewer when the “true story” begins. So to keep it as clean as possible, let’s just say that it’s not a mistake that this show is on here.
8/10 Kabaneri of the iron fortress
Kabaneri from the iron fortress is what happens when someone mixes Berserk and Attack on Titan together with just a pinch of Snowpiercer added on top. Of course, the show is more than that, but this should work well to paint a picture of the tone. Essentially, this story takes place in a world where a zombie virus broke out during the Industrial Revolution, turning a significant portion of the world into Kabane (AKA zombies).
This show innovates on zombies in a couple of key ways:
Zombies in this series are more like undead made of metal than anything else. Their hearts glow like engines, their skin is tougher than metal, and cutting them even produces sparks.
The whole setting is very steampunk and Kabane also follows that theme.
They don’t exactly eat their victims, they seem to just want their blood to increase their own iron reserves.
7/10 Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul is probably the most famous example here, and that’s one, because Ghouls is such an interesting departure from the standard zombie formula, and two, because Kaneki’s torture scene is so memorable. In this series, Ghouls are essentially zombies mixed with vampires who can maintain the appearance of a normal human, who do not rot, retain their sanity, and gain extra superhuman abilities in addition to standard abilities such as strength or durability.
First, Ghouls can only stomach human flesh or the flesh of other Ghouls, as human food (outside of coffee) tastes like garbage to them. Two, Ghouls have the Kagune, an extra organ/limb that derives from their RC Factor and comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes and functions. Three, they are highly regenerative, able to heal from most wounds without difficulty given time and nourishment. And finally, they can actually become more powerful by eating other Ghouls, which is very different from how zombies usually work.
This has to be the most unique inclusion here, as this next anime didn’t start out as an anime and get a game adaptation, but is actually the other way around. Original Gungrave was a video game that eventually had its own anime adaptation made about a year later.
In this world, zombies exist in the form of Deadmen who act as mindless soldiers used by all kinds of people. Protagonist Brandon Heat, now known as Beyond the Grave (usually just Grave) is one of the only examples of a Deadman who still retains some sense and purpose of his own. In all honesty, Deadmen aren’t that different from zombies, but the fact that they are produced and serve as soldiers is certainly new.
5/10 Sunday without God
Sunday without God is by far the most adventurous concept here, at least momentarily. This story takes place in a world where god fifteen years earlier left the earth and took the concept of death with him. Now everyone on Earth is an immortal zombie who will never die of old age or injury, but they can no longer have children or end their own lives.
Fortunately, there are people called tomb keepers in this world with the ability to actually lay to rest anyone they choose.
4/10 D gray man
Next up is another story that takes place in what is essentially a post-apocalyptic world, D gray man. In this world, there is a constant war between the Black Order and the Noah family with humanity in the balance. The Black Order can be compared to an alternative version of the Catholic Church and they travel around looking for objects of power called Innocence (which they use as weapons).
Along the way, these Black Order exorcists come into contact with these scary monsters called Akuma. These are people who died, but their loved ones ended up in a contract with the Millenium Earl to bring them back. The earl then provides a metal skeleton and “summons back” their soul into it. Once in the body, the soul is now bound to the Earl’s orders and is told to kill their loved one and wear their skin to mingle with humanity. So, in origin alone, these Akumas are such an interesting variant of zombies.
3/10 Is this a zombie?
Another example of a rare zombie comedy, Is this a zombie is a story that hilariously mixes many exaggerated horror or anime concepts together to create a confusing yet side-splittingly funny mess. Basically, the protagonist Ayumu Aikawa is killed by a serial killer and then brought back as a zombie by a necromancer.
After this, Aikawa accidentally comes into contact with a magical girl (think Sailor Moon) who accidentally has her powers absorbed by Aikawa. Now this zombie boy is forced to wear everything Magical girl ore-style of fighting demons, so it’s a bit of a complicated premise.
2/10 Corpse Princess
Next comes another classic by name Corpse Princess. Zombies in this setting are known as Shikabane and Shikabane Hime, and protagonist Makina Hoshimura is brought back as one of the Hime variants to kill other Shikabane like her.
The Buddhist monk who brings her back tells Makina that she must kill 108 other Shikabane to enter heaven. The fact that these zombie-like beings are “contracted” to their own monk who keeps them alive as they work towards their Shikabane-killing goal is an interesting twist on the concept.
1/10 Sankarea: Immortal Love
Finally, let’s talk about Sankarea: Immortal Love, another comedy, but this one has a heavy emphasis on romance. The most interesting part of this zombie story is that the main character is essentially a zombie otaku, who is obsessed with all media related to the undead. And while trying to use an old manuscript to make a potion that will bring back his dead cat as a zombie, a girl named Rea Sanka drinks it. She then dies not long after in an accident and returns as his new “zombie girlfriend”.
In terms of innovation on zombies, it’s more the story setup itself and the morally insane protagonist that is different than the zombie itself, as Rea functions much like a regular non-rotting zombie, only having to eat hydrangea leaves to survive rather than meat.
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