Thanks to Japan’s Yurei, a rich culture of art concerning the supernatural, specifically horror elements, the anime and manga scene has been chock-full of good horror content since the very beginning of the genre. The artistic freedom that manga allows the creators to work with makes its presence felt in a unique way through sci-fi and horror works. From that aspect, the zombie horror subgenre, which was once more popular in the Western landscape, is gradually gaining its foothold in manga as well. If the recently released live-action adaptation of Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead is any indication, mangakas have already created unique narrative structures to interpret the zombie subgenre in various ways.
Zom 100 delves into the delineation of human existence in contemporary Japan, questioning the scope life provides even in the midst of the zombie apocalypse by taking the characters through a journey in a changed world. There are a number of mangas you can check out that explore similarly unique plotlines through the use of zombie horror elements, and we will like to recommend a few among them.
1. Tokyo Zombie
Did the commentary on toxic corporate work culture in Zom 100 intrigue you? If that’s the case, then the 1999 manga Tokyo Zombie written by Yusaku Hanakuma, a precursor in the same subgenre, might be in your lane. The minimalistic cartoon-like art style is hilarious, to say the least, along with the subject matter itself. Two fire-extinguishing factory workers, Mitsuho and Fujio, decide to kill their abusive boss and bury his body in the toxic waste dumping site/mass grave known as Dark Fuji. However, the chemical reaction at the site raises hordes of undead zombies, who start causing havoc by taking control of the country. To top it all, several years into the zombie apocalypse, the surviving rich and powerful have enslaved the hapless poor and used the opportunity of lawlessness to full effect.
If Tendou’s superior Kosugi seemed like an evil boss in Zom 100, you have not seen anything yet because here, corporate bosses organize gladiator fights with zombies inside fight pits. Fujio and Mitsuho will use their penchant for Jiu-Jitsu to conquer the tyranny of the greedy upper class, and it turns out to be quite a spectacle. The satirical tone and gore tend to go over the top with Tokyo Zombie, and the similarity with Zom 100 on class disparity can be identified pretty easily. There is a movie adaptation of it as well, but we recommend reading the fairly brief manga to enjoy the ludicrousness in its true essence.
2. Tokyo Undead
Created by Nakayama Shigeo and Saimura Tsukasa, “Tokyo Undead” was released in 2012 and, much like Zom 100, opens in Tokyo after a viral infection causes a zombie outbreak that pins the nation to the ground. However, unlike Tendou’s reinvigorated high spirit in Zom 100, in this manga, the protagonist Masaru’s continually challenged optimism shapes the dark, brutal tone of the narrative. There are multiple scenes in Tokyo Undead that can be stated to have acted as inspiration for Zom 100, which manga readers can easily identify. The notion that even amidst a horrid monster-ravaged apocalypse, human beings turn out to be the worst, which was prevalent in Zom 100, can be identified in this one as well. Finding hope in the direst of situations is another common factor both of these mangas explore.
3. I Am a Hero
In Zom 100, the protagonist Tendou Akira was inspired by learning about his best friend Kencho and the unfortunate zombie victim Yukari’s aspirations in their lives and was reminded of his own childhood dreams of becoming a hero, a protector of the unfortunate. Tendou takes it upon himself to help his close ones survive in the zombie apocalypse and find his truest potential. A very similar concept is explored in Kengo Hanakawa’s I Am a Hero, where, in different settings, several common folks who struggle to maintain a balance in their daily lives turn out to be heroes during a horrible zombie apocalypse. It questions unethical work culture and explores the true nature of humanity in perilous circumstances much like Zom 100, but along the way, it also moves through the psychological ramifications of a tragedy like this, making this manga’s depiction of the zombie apocalypse feel pretty realistic. There is a live-action adaptation of the same name, but we will recommend checking out the manga first.
The last one on this list isn’t a zombie or survival-based manga, but it deserves its spot solely because of the key similarity it shares with Zom 100. The weird yet funny juxtaposition of horror and nonchalance in Zom 100 was achieved by how, as an overworked, broken-spirit corporate worker, Tendou Akira was so invested in his professional life that even in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, initially his only concern was to save his job instead of trying to survive. Once he realized that he was free from his concerns regarding his workplace, he started living life to the fullest, almost completely ignoring the fact that the country had been devastated by flesh-eating monstrosities.
Mieruko-Chan revolves around the eponymous schoolgirl, who can see deceased people, monstrosities, apparitions, and supernatural beings of every gruesome kind. She is afraid, yet she chooses to ignore them completely and engage in her daily routine. The more she ignores it, it seems, the more the supernatural beings try to attract her attention, but to no avail. This creates a hilarious situation every time, as the visual of Mieruko trying to be busy while ghostly figures try to hold a conversation with her will straight up leave readers in splits.
Aside from these aforementioned mangas, there are some classics of the zombie genre, like High School of the Dead and Biomega, but we did not mention them because of the thematic and tonal differences. Webtoons or manga like Dead Days and Sweet Home come to mind, but then again, they are from different mediums to begin with.