The Brilliance And Darkness of Zom 100 Bucket List Of

The Brilliance And Darkness of Zom 100 Bucket Record Of The Lifeless – Manufacturing Notes 01

The first episode of Zom 100 is an incredible demonstration of original, innovative, and bombastic animation and direction that has been put together with purpose. It is definitely worth investigating the team behind it, the emerging star director, as well as the dangers in their strategy.

The glorious first episode of Zom 100 begins with a highly cinematic sequence. Dynamic, at points first-person camerawork to frame cuts so ambitious that even such an outstanding animation effort can struggle to keep up with the underlying ideas. Beautiful shots that evoke the horror of a zombie outbreak before it is in full display, composited so that another feeling is conveyed on a technical level—the idea that this is being filmed by an actual camera, as implied by quirks like the noticeable chromatic aberration and depth of field. And of course, the cinemascope aspect ratio, a traditional sign that we’re in fact watching a movie.

The protagonist is definitely watching a zombie movie on TV while consuming instant noodles when the camera zooms out of his eye. In spite of the fact that this is an office worker’s typical day on paper, many of the filmic elements from the frantic opening scene continue to be present. It’s impossible to miss his ill-mannered demeanor, the purposefully stilted character acting, or the fact that he stated unequivocally that a zombie apocalypse would be better to reporting for work. He falls to the ground and wishes that the following day was a holiday. Although Zom 100 surely hasn’t run out of fun ideas, you better stick around because it has already made its point in about the same amount of time as your typical opening scene.

A flashback takes us back 3 years, to the day when protagonist Akira Tendo joined his workplace. These memories are immediately brighter and more colorful than anything we’ve seen before, befitting his enthusiasm over his new job, but that doesn’t mean that the visual presentation changes completely; if anything, those lens effects first seen within the zombie movie are more noticeable than ever, and we’re even greeted back by the black bars of the cinematic aspect ratio. On a layout and shot composition level, the theatrical intent remains noticeable as well. Though this aspect may be harder to grasp for some viewers, it’s in Zom 100’s unsubtle heart to provide some clear examples; Akira’s first tour of the office is framed in first person and uses his blinking as means of transition, much like the movie that the start opened up as its protagonist’s eyelids did, following that with a POV shot. Just a few seconds later, he’s already meeting the love of his life, which is also presented with the flashy flair of a bombastic movie with romance elements. It’s almost like there is a theme.

A nifty wipe, just one of the many cool transitions in the episode, takes us to the warm colors of Akira’s welcome party. Unfortunately for him, this is also the point where the gig is finally up, as he finds out that the actual welcome event is the first of countless all-nighters. The literal and figurative filthiness of his workplace is now in full display, as the episode neatly uses editing tricks like time-lapses and jump cuts to convey how Akira’s days are becoming an exhausting, blurred-together nightmare. We’re talking about the same bright protagonist that only recently joined this company bursting with enthusiasm, though, so he quickly bounces back. This is portrayed through a particularly brilliant sequence, relying on many of these recurring visual tricks, as well as a clear contrast between the cold tones of his job and the warm colors of his passion… or should I say delusion at this point, since it’s followed by a hilarious scene that highlights the massive difference between his optimistic read and the actual reality.

At this point in the episode, you might be asking yourself two things. The first one is why the constantly flaunted logo of Akira’s company, which was completely nondescript in the original, feels sorta familiar to you—the answer being that it’s very clearly inspired by a major anime studio. In fact, it happens to be the same company that Zom 100’s core team used to belong to before going independent as a studio of their own; an event recent enough that, when this project got going, many of its central figures were still physically working at OLM.

The ruthlessness is evident, even though this may not be nearly as brutal a dunk as some viewers have perceived it to be. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had even received someone’s okay for the entire prank. With many production lines collapsing and others being overworked to increase output, nightmare schedules everywhere, and even franchises with historically strong production buffers witnessing those fall, OLM is a sizable studio that has been going through a messy period. Even if it was meant as a joke, portraying OLM as a media production company with nightmare working conditions by ex-employees can only be taken in a certain light. This was perhaps best exemplified by the catharsis felt by their Malaysian employees at OLM Asia, who felt strongly that this hit close to home.

The identity of the filmmaker is the other important query that might now arise in your mind, albeit in a nicer manner. Their storyboards do a fantastic job of depicting Akira’s mental state while he endures this horrifying experience, quite literally demonstrating the box he must shut his emotions within to prevent total breakdown. Because of the episode’s clever editing, which emphasizes both the physical and emotional continuity of Akira’s torment and gives events that are anything but a pleasant rhythm, you could very well believe that Takayuki Hirao, or someone similar, was behind those inspired choices. There are stylistic hints that point to the director who made those choices, such as the somewhat diegetic typography. Additionally, if you enjoyed these scenes, I highly suggest watching Hirao’s Pompo the Cinephile because it is a film about filmmaking with wildly entertaining editing and also acts as an outlet for a writer who has accumulated a lot of negative emotions. However, Pompo the Cinephile has a much more unhealthy perspective on creative work than Zom 100 does.

In a way, that lack of an immediately recognizable directorial style despite the demonstrable skill feels like part of Kazuki Kawagoe’s identity, especially at this still early point in his career. He joined the anime industry just over a decade ago, doing management work on franchises like Pokemon. It took him quite a few years to receive storyboarding and directing jobs—and even when he did, with the exception of some nice opening sequences, it was under such limitations that he did not shine in the way he does now. Like many other industries that deal with commercial art, anime systemically holds back many creators with tremendous potential, be it by placing them in restrictive projects or outright denying them the role where their voice is best heard. And as an episode director for long-running series without particularly high production values, Kawagoe was one such creator.

Even as someone who closely follows the industry, his identity was unknown to me—but again, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t already capable of excellent work. In a brief escapade on Dogakobo’s Koisuru Asteroid under a pseudonym, his excellent episode #05 already had me wondering who the mystery director with Kyoto flair could have been. While his ability was largely unknown from the outside, though, there was someone who got to see it in person: his OLM co-workers, most notoriously Hiroaki Kojima, head of the appropriately named Team Kojima at the studio. After heading a few respectable but ultimately modest projects there, Kojima was ready to take everything to the next level with the much-awaited adaptation of Komi Can’t Communicate. To do so, he relied on renowned veterans like chief director Ayumu Watanabe, who has become a recurring ally of his, but also on the sheer potential he saw in Kawagoe. And, more sneakily, this was also the moment when he founded his own studio Bug Films, which was immediately credited for production assistance on the episodes led by the core team still at OLM.

Komi-san and Kawagoe burst into the scene with a tremendously vibrant first episode and opening sequence, the type that turns heads across the entire planet. The wealth of fun character animation on the backs of artists like Hayato Torii, William Lee, and Haruyoshi Nomura felt like Kojima’s statement about the ability of his team; whether that was representative of their consistent greatness or not is something we’ll discuss later, as that involves more aspects than the undeniable skill of those animators. But more interestingly, both the episode and intro showcased different sides of Kawagoe than we’d seen in his episodes in the past, or even in current works like Zom 100.

The underlying qualities like his sense for editing remain the same, but even when applying similar techniques, Kawagoe is the type of director who feels very conscious about gearing his style to each work; earlier I’d mentioned the diegetic text in Zom 100 as a tell of his, but in a more comedic first episode like Komi-san’s and given the context of the titular character communicating through notes, the in-world presence of the signs and onomatopoeia is used in uniquely amusing ways. As a viewer, his inventiveness, those seemingly broad influences coupled with a desire to adapt them to specific situations, felt truly fresh—and, having spoken with people working around him, that is how he comes across to his peers too.

There’s no easier way to appreciate that freshness than going back to the first episode of Zom 100 where we left it. After undergoing the grind for 3 years, Akira has grown dull and numb to everything—best represented through the once muted colors shifting into actual greyscale. This deeply tired office worker can barely see what is happening around him anymore, and Kawagoe effectively puts us in his shoes with this change in the palette. One that, for example, effectively obscures rivers of blood that would have normally been an alarming bright red. It’s not until he comes face to face with the zombie feasting on his building manager that Akira begins realizing there is a bit of an outbreak going on. And, rather than further traumatize him, this is the event that starts bringing some color back to his life.

The ensuing zombie chase is depicted through the most comedic animation we’ve seen yet, a joy palpable in the looseness, in its timing, and in the fun staging itself. The flames of the planes falling off from the sky and exploding into the city become yellow petals that bring a warmth to Akira’s life we hadn’t seen since his welcome party. And then it finally hits him. He won’t be late to work because of this zombie outbreak, because there is no work anymore. He symbolically sheds his suit, gets rid of Not-OLM’s employee id, and bursts through the cinematic black bars that had framed his traumatic life before exploding into galactic joy. Kawagoe’s unsubtle hand is finally on full display: the reason why the cinematic stylings from the intro were applied even more strongly while narrating Akira’s work life is that those years were to him the actual zombie movie, scarier than any film could hope to be. Hell, scarier than an actual zombie outbreak currently is!

The rest of the episode basks in Akira’s joy in a way that, even among high-profile TV productions, we rarely get to see. He’s having the time of his life being reckless amidst the apocalypse, and the animation clearly conveys that. Having decided that he’s best off using this newly gained but potentially fleeting freedom to do what he always desired, his zero-regret life begins with a ridiculous quest to confess to his crush. Even as the tragedy makes itself apparent, the outrageous comedic spin the episode gives it makes it hard not to smile; especially when it once again uses cheesy romance movie framing to portray his confession… to someone who’d rather eat his brains now.

To be really honest, if Zom 100 ended there, it would have already accomplished its goal. Even if it has the ability to do so, this is not a short film; rather, it is the premiere of a TV series that will air for the next three months and contains both entertaining aspects and genuinely unsettling ones. You’re in for a treat if you enjoy B horror films in general and zombie films in particular. Zom 100 does in fact turn into a silly romp where naked butts are used to lure zombie sharks into lethal traps, despite the unabashedly trashy tendencies you can see in spots for this first episode. However, it will be challenging to carry out those crazy plans with the vigor that Kawagoe’s staff shown in this first episode. In other words, it’s impossible in any way.

If Kojima’s team has become well-known for anything among those who closely watch the business, it is their notoriously imbalanced outputs. Particularly under Kawagoe’s leadership, they have created extremely ambitious beginnings that they are unable to complete; whether they were a part of the overworked OLM or are currently operating as an independent Bug Films with only a handful of staff members, they are unable to maintain this level at the rate that Kojima intends to release titles. He should be criticized for it, but it’s crucial to remember that he’s not at all stupid while doing so. The influence that episodes like this one, Komi-san’s introduction, or Summer Time Rendering’s peaks may have is something that Kojima has observed. Additionally, he is aware that most viewers won’t notice when they pull the rug out from under them as long as he is working with directors who have distinctive styles that can be maintained even when the production starts to deteriorate.

But the dangers of that strategy are crystal clear. Kojima’s recent works’ ability to be published quickly while simultaneously having these dramatic moments has been mostly due to outrageous amounts of outsourcing, and they have, to some extent, managed to get away with it. 8 of the show’s 12 episodes from the first season were entirely outsourced to other studios, so throughout the most of its airing, specialized aid teams had animated more episodes than the apparently primary workforce. Most viewers at home were unaware of this since Kawagoe had established enticing directorial guidelines and because the key stars occasionally reappeared—though admittedly never with the same force as in the first episode.

That sadly altered when their then-upcoming Summer Time Rendering adaption conflicted with the second season, which had been ominously predicted to “probably air next spring.” Kawagoe’s attractiveness can only be maintained for so long, so a weak primary team and outsourcing of ever decreasing quality—as STR also required almost a dozen episodes from subcontractors—led to a great deal more people being aware of the serious challenges. The second season of Komi-san wasn’t more dependent on outsourcing than the first, despite what has been misconstrued; rather, it “only” contained 7 subcontracted episodes, a very modest decrease from the first season. It did, however, highlight the basic problem with Kojima’s strategy: it is just not possible to produce animation of the greatest caliber with a staff this small, unless the release pace is slowed down to a tiny fraction of what it is right now. This brings us to the present day, where the cycle is beginning to repeat. The Zom 100 team is currently going through its own zombieization process as a result of the show’s disastrous schedule collapse following its wonderful debut episode that made fun of a particular studio where overwork is the norm.

The same factors continue to support that: Kojima’s strategy hasn’t changed at all because the studio already has other difficult projects in the works, which are still completely incompatible with the aspirations of artists like Kawagoe. The primary team will still go through real hardship to finish this show, let alone keep any of the ambition shown in this first episode, even though this time I don’t anticipate as much outsourcing as in past titles. It would be prudent to manage expectations going forward even if I’m not here to advise people to stop watching it, since that would go against what those same people on the team desire.

It’s also worth noting that, for as much flak as producers deserve for reckless planning like this, the situation here isn’t so black and white. Bug Film’s leadership is closer to their actual animation team than is the norm, since their board of directors is populated by active creators like Satoshi Nakano and Kawagoe himself. Though it failed in its goal of creating an umbrella to protect creators from the harsh environment of this industry, the studios that join Twin Engine’s umbrella are meant to at the very least treat their employees and contractors with the respect they deserve—a sentiment echoed by people at the studio, even if their recurring crunch is an unquestionable failure.

The first episode of Zom 100 is a truly fantastic ride, enabled by an up-and-coming star director and his recurring colleagues… but also reliant on a self-destructive approach that only works until it doesn’t, and tends to make people’s job into a living hell. And that, in a show that condemns workplaces like that, is quite a shame.

Support us on Patreon to help us reach our new goal to sustain the animation archive at Sakugabooru, Sakuga Video on Youtube, as well as this Sakuga Blog. Thanks to everyone who’s helped out so far!

Become a Patron!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *