Zombies, along with other classic horror icons like vampires, mummies, and werewolves, are so incredibly over the top in almost every medium. In movies, comics, books, video games, TV shows, and even anime, zombie-based stories are everywhere.
Luckily, while anime does have some examples of boring classic zombies, many of them try to refresh the concept at least a bit like some horror movies try. So let’s go through some of the more memorable anime that add to, and even completely switch, the zombie formula.
10/10 Zombieland saga
Start with one of the funniest examples it has to be Zombieland saga. People probably didn’t expect a list of zombie anime to start with comedy, but here it is.
Essentially, the story is about a group of wannabe idols, all brought back from the dead by a twisted scientist in a bid for idol glory. The main character, Sakura Minamoto, is literally hit by a truck and killed in the first episode before suddenly “waking up” as a zombie ten years later. Overall just a very fun twist on zombie command prompt.
9/10 school life
Well, this next show has been around since late 2019, so it goes well beyond the usual courtesy most would give regarding spoiling things.
That is, most of what makes school life so captivating depends on the viewer’s first reaction when the “real story” begins. To keep this as pure as possible, let’s just say it’s not a mistake that this show is on here.
8/10 Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress what happens when someone mixes Berserk and Attack on Titan with just a pinch of Snowpiercer. Obviously the show is more than that, but that should work well to paint a picture of its 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 zombies in a few key ways:
Zombies in this series are more like metal undead than anything else. Their hearts burn like engines, their skin is tougher than metal, and even sparks are created when they cut them.
The whole setting is very steampunk and the cabin also follows this theme.
They don’t exactly eat their victims, they just seem to want their blood to increase their own iron stores.
7/10 Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul is probably the most famous example here, and that’s one because ghouls are 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 retain the appearance of a normal human, don’t rot, maintain their sanity, and gain additional superhuman abilities on top of standard abilities like strength or durability.
For one thing, ghouls can only digest human flesh or the flesh of other ghouls, since human food (other than coffee) tastes like garbage to them. Second, ghouls have kaguns, an extra organ/limb that comes from their RC factor and comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and functions. Third, they are very regenerative, able to heal most wounds without issue given the time and food. Finally, they can actually become more powerful by eating other ghouls, which is very different from how zombies work.
This has to be the most unique shot here, as this next anime didn’t start out as an anime and get a game adaptation, it’s actually the other way around. Originally Gungrave was a video game that eventually had its own anime adaptation about a year later.
In this world, zombies exist in the form of dead men, who act as mindless soldiers used by all sorts of people. The main character, Brandon Heat, now known as Beyond the Grave (usually just Grave), is one of the few examples of a Deadman who still retains some awareness and purpose of his own. Honestly, deadmen aren’t all that different from zombies, but the fact that they’re crafted 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 at first glance. This story takes place in a world where fifteen years earlier God left the earth and took with him the concept of death. Now everyone on earth are immortal zombies who will never die from old age or injuries but they can no longer have children or end their own lives.
Luckily, there are people in this world called gravekeepers with the ability to actually put anyone they choose to rest.
4/10 D. Gray man
Next up is another story set in an essentially post-apocalyptic world. D. Gray man. In this world, there is a constant war between the Black Order and the Noah family, with humanity at stake. The Black Order is like an alternate 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 creepy monsters called Akuma. These are people who have died but their loved ones made a deal with the Millenium Earl to bring them back. The Earl then provides a metal skeleton and “calls” her soul into it. Once in the body, the soul is now bound by the Earl’s orders and ordered to kill her lover and wear her skin to merge with humanity. So these akuma are such an interesting take on zombies based on their origin alone.
3/10 is that a zombie
Another example of a rare zombie comedy, Is that a zombie? is a story that hilariously mixes a bunch of over-the-top horror or anime concepts together to create a confusing yet hilariously funny mess. Basically, the protagonist Ayumu Aikawa is killed by a serial killer and then brought back as a zombie by a necromancer.
After that, Aikawa accidentally comes into contact with a Magical Girl (think Sailor Moon), who accidentally absorbed her powers from Aikawa. Now this zombie boy is forced to disguise himself completely Magical girl ore-style to fight demons, so it’s a bit complicated premise.
2/10 corpse princess
Next comes another classic by the name of corpse princess. Zombies in this environment are known as Shikabane and Shikabane Hime, and the main character Makina Hoshimura is brought back as one of the Hime variant to kill other Shikabane like her.
The Buddhist monk who brings her back tells Makina that she must kill 108 more Shikabane to get to Heaven. The fact that these zombie-like beings are “under contract” to their own monk, who keeps them alive while they work toward their Shikabane-slaying goal is an interesting twist on the concept.
1/10 Sankarea: Immortal love
Finally, let’s talk about it Sankarea: Immortal love, another comedy, but this one has a big emphasis on romance. The most interesting part of this zombie story is that its main character is essentially a zombie otaku obsessed with all media related to the undead. And while he’s trying to use an ancient manuscript to make a potion that will bring his dead cat back as a zombie, a girl named Rea Sanka drinks it. She dies in an accident shortly after and comes back as his new “zombie girlfriend”.
As for what’s new with zombies, it’s more the actual story structure and the morally wrong main character that’s different than the zombie itself, as Rea works a lot like a normal non-rotting zombie, she just has to eat hydrangea leaves to get around to survive as flesh.
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https://gamerant.com/anime-that-twist-change-zombie-monster-concept/ 10 Anime That Twist And Change The Zombie Monster Mythos