The following contains major spoilers for Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead Season 1, Episode 3, “Best Friend of the Dead,” now streaming on Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll.
As the first few episodes of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead begin, it definitely has a lot of style. This zombie apocalypse is fresh and filled with color — depicting bloodshed in the apocalypse differently from other anime. It gives Akira Tendo’s survival mission a lot more life and a distinct, unique identity to match his witty personality.
However, there’s a nuanced message in play as well. Zom 100 has an anti-capitalist story at its core, playing on those who get frustrated by traffic, the monotonous nine-to-five, and being overworked in general. Interestingly, as Akira’s adventure begins, it nods heavily to what transpired in a popular comic book: Mark Millar’s Wanted.
Zom 100 Is All About Corporate Hate
Wanted (from Millar and J.G. Jones) depicted the sordid life of Wesley Gibson. He hated his office job, and he had an abusive boss. She demeaned him constantly, and Wesley’s colleague and “best friend” was actually sleeping with his girlfriend. The sad thing is, Wesley knew, but he didn’t mind taking the guy’s extra assignments or suffering emotionally under the boss. After all, he just wanted purpose and meaning in this mundane world. This made the 2008 film adaptation starring James McAvoy so relatable, as audiences connected to this rote way of living.
Akira’s the same way amid Zom 100‘s vibrant visuals. He’s overworked at his production job, scripting ads and such. In addition, his boss is abusive to the staff, especially him. What makes it worse is the boss is forcing Akira’s crush, Saori, to sleep with him, so she can rise up the corporate ladder. This breaks Akira in due time, the same way Wesley would get disenchanted with his profession. Both men just couldn’t handle the toxicity of their jobs and how it translated to their personal lives.
It’s why Wesley berates his boss, insults his friend, and cracks the latter with a keyboard. Wesley left to join Fox and her assassin crew, while a less confrontational Akira, though, gets his release when the zombie apocalypse happens. There’s no more work at that point — not in the office. In that sense, both men get liberated, with Wesley wanting to avenge his dad and become the perfect killer. Akira just wants this new lease on life so he can enjoy his bucket list and live out his dream in his high-rise.
Zom 100’s Corporate Drama Is Becoming Fuel
Now, while the corporate drama was something Wesley hated, it became his fuel. He used it to harness his rage and unleash the monster within. He needed it for hits and to chase his dad’s killer, especially because other murderers had no problem taking him out if need be. Considering how brutal his fraternity was, Wesley knew he couldn’t lag behind or be seen as weak. The key to becoming this alpha predator was remembering the office, its exploitation, and the capitalist canvas he was stuck in.
Akira’s corporate wheel sticks with him the same way. While he’s not an apex now, he knows he soon has to be. The existential Episode 3 affirms as much when he rescues his friend, Kencho, from a gentleman’s club. Akira’s afraid to kill, but he can tell that time’s coming. He already did so when he shoved his zombified boss out of Saori’s home. However, he fled from a zombified Saori, compounding that he doesn’t have a naturally lethal instinct, even if it’s to put someone out of their misery. Wesley endured this same issue in both the book and movie, too.
But the more Akira remembers how his boss prevented him and Saori from getting together and all the time he lost working multiple shifts without sleep, Akira becomes stronger. It’s very much akin to Wesley breaking out of his pacifist shell. But while Akira is slow to get there, it’s much more of a necessity due to the constant threats around. Wesley still had safe spaces and backup, but Akira’s bubble is lonelier and not that secure. It’s why he’s glad to have Kencho, who’s going to help him unlock more of his talents. It’s evident in the way they jump buildings to avoid the undead and then celebrate. Kencho spots greatness like how Fox did with Wesley. As a result, Kencho wants Akira to become a hero, rescue people, and end zombies, making Zom 100 truly revolutionary in the way it builds a hero from scratch. It’s all in the interest of self-preservation and survival, but also to make Akira the symbol Kencho believes in.
Zom 100’s Akira Can’t Be Consumed By the System
Now, while Wanted‘s film made Wesley a hero in the end, the comics had him transform into a villain. He just couldn’t stomach the capitalist system that the world really was. He vowed to keep killing heroes, allowing criminals to run their rackets. It’s evolved with Wesley and Nemesis teaming up in Big Game, proving Wesley was never meant to be part of the light. Akira, though, is the total opposite.
Akira’s rage is healing him. He knows about recognizing the problem, being honest, and letting go. It leads to him confessing how he was jealous of Kencho in a healthy discussion. He hated Kencho’s fancy lifestyle and high-paying job. This inspires Kencho himself to admit he is an egotist and how he overcompensated, flexing on Akira to trick himself. He just needed to feel good about his miserable life, so he thought being condescending and boastful to Akira would help him. Instead, it alienated their bond. As a selfless Akira apologizes, Kencho realizes he’s the one who helped tip Akira over the edge. He kept taunting him about work, so a grateful Kencho is now making up for his snide ways.
Ultimately, this arc paints an Akira who’s becoming wiser as he processes his anger. That’s because he has a lot more care, compassion, and empathy. While the selfish Wesley let the rigors of the job corrupt him and skew his worldview, Akira remains incorruptible, viewing it all as part of life. This molds a learning experience — one that Akira won’t let get the better of him or change his altruistic heart and soul.