Zombie Loan

February 12, 2011

I am not a fan of horror genres whether it is Hollywood movies or animes. However I decided to give Zombie Loan a try after thinking they were created from Peach Pit, the same authors of one of my favourite animes, Rozen Maiden. Really? That was the only motivation and reason that I ever needed just to check this out? Sometimes I don’t understand myself :p.

So the plot? I wasn’t really following it closely to understand in detail what is going on but at least I have a gist of the basic premise. We have a bespectacled girl named Michiru Kita. To call her a weak person isn’t accurate because she’s always being ‘used’ to do errands for her buddies. Michiru possesses something that others don’t. She has Shinigami Eyes that allows her to see people who are going to die! It’s a reluctant power she has so unless you want to know if you’re going to kick the bucket soon, don’t go near this person. Just joking about the last bit. You see, when people are about to die, a black ring is formed around their neck. The thicker it is, the nearer their time is up. And yeah, after meeting a couple of hot guys, you can definitely tell her life will change. For worse or better, it’s up to you to decide. Though, I always feel it’s the former. And did I mention hot guys? Yeah, if you’re one of those bishonen fans, this series is filled with lots of them to drool over for. Why didn’t they have any bishoujos… Don’t get the wrong idea…

Episode 1
Michiru bumps into those hot hunks, Shito Tachibana and Chika Akatsuki while buying bread for her buddies. Then she sees black rings around their neck. In her attempt to warn them about their deaths, she tails them outside and to her horror, sees them exchanging their right hands! Coming right out from a zombie movie, eh? Well you know what they say, all witnesses shall perish. Good for Michiru that they decide to handle a monster stray dog first. Chika’s sword and Shito’s gun take out the canine but Michiru runs away after saying something about their black rings. That word caught their attention so the next day in school, those guys (supposedly popular in school too) whisk Michiru away, much to the surprise to her friends because who’d ever think that ‘gopher’ would stand a chance with a bishie like them. The duo take Michiru to an agency called Zombie Loan or Z-Loan for short. After explaining to her about her Shinigami Eyes, Michiru gets more surprise when she learns the duo are already dead! So they’re like living zombies. Then they decide to make use of her ability by taking her out to the streets to find other people with black rings. Of course lots of mistakes because most of them are just fashion necklaces. During the break, she further learns that they are hunting down zombies and that although they are zombies, their very existence makes them much different than your average zombies. Hmm… Hot and cool looking, able to think independently, having special weapons. Yeah, I can see why. When Michiru returns home, she is horrified to learn a black ring around her own neck. Are you sure somebody didn’t play a prank by drawing a thick line with a black marker pen?

Episode 2
It’s normal for a person to become a worrywart after learning your own days are numbered. That’s what Michiru is feeling. Then there’s the case of missing students from her school. Chika and Shito try to take her along to investigate but she insists of staying in her room. Michiru gets a call from her friend’s mom that her daughter Yumi is missing so Michiru heads to school and meets up with the duo. Mysterious ghost-like hands start to grab her but the boys defended her but left her behind because of their usual argument. Lost Michiru is brought by the school nurse to the infirmary where she sees Yumi sleeping. The nurse starts acting weird because she’s commenting how delicious Michiru is. That’s when the guys break in and reveal the nurse as the source and culprit. But she takes Yumi and escapes. Though they manage to catch up, Michiru sees a black ring around the nurse’s neck. The boys are having a tough time so Michiru takes a blow intended for Yumi. Chika then stabs the nurse to kill her. As Michiru is lying in her own pool of blood, Z-Loan’s other staff, Bekkou (the manager and ferrymen) and Yuuta (his androgynous assistant. Looks a little like Rozen Maiden’s Sousei Seki) appear but they mention Michiru’s wounds are too deep to be healed. After living a big part of her life dull, uneventful and filled with loneliness, you’d think she would want to just go to the other side. But no, she reflected on her short life and yelled out how she wants to live. It’s natural for humans that they don’t want to die. She wakes up in Z-Loan office and the ring disappeared from her neck. Seems that Chika and Shito took on additional debt to save their lives. Michiru returns home to settle things with her guardians by leaving them a large amount of money from her late parents’ inheritance and leaves the place. She borrows Chika’s sword to cut herself a new shorter hairstyle.

Episode 3
Michiru feels glad to be alive after realizing those friends of hers who always used her for errands are friends indeed. They’re not totally ill hearted. Currently, Michiru has to work at Z-Loan office and learns more weird stuff like Yuuta’s talking hands named Ken Ken and Kon Kon. Since Michiru has nowhere to live, a little girl named Shimotsuki Kuze takes her on her limo to the dorm she’ll be living in. Shimotsuki is also the head of this dorm. Apparently Michiru has met 2 conditions to live in this dorm. One, she has housing problems (due to her parents death and inheritance thingy) and two, she is an asset to the academy (otherwise she will be evicted if she is no longer one!). The place seems rundown but hey, it’s better than nothing. Couldn’t be expecting a 5-star hotel, right? Walking along the dilapidated corridors, she meets another dorm resident, a lively girl, Koyomi Yoimachi (note, Chika and Shito also live here). Though she finds her room to be facing the graveyard, this doesn’t put her down as she starts cleaning her room. After finishing and returning to her room, she finds the gang have prepared a welcoming party for her. Michiru learns from Chika that her Shinigami Eyes were the reason they decided to take on additional debt and bring her back to life. Call it long term investment and asset but I guess that means she has to work extra hard for them to repay them. And she thought they were being nice and kind. Obviously got ulterior motive lah… Later as Michiru is alone with passed out Koyomi, she tries to wake her up but suddenly it’s like she’s got a different personality coming alive. Calling herself Yomi, she begins to kiss and fondle Michiru! Ah, that’s where that poor girl’s first kiss went. Koyomi returns back to normal the next day but the rest of the Z-Loan gang decides to use her other half’s ability to channel words from a woman as part of an investigation they are doing. Not that I can make anything out. That night, Chika works part time at the convenience store (forced to by Chika who is bossing her around). They chased after a thief he steals a magazine but they bump into Chika’s old friend, Reiichirou Shiba.

Episode 4
Shiba comes to Chika and Michiru’s rescue after the latter duo are being surrounded by a pack of … Zombie rats? I don’t understand the explanation about using sound waves from his mp3 player to drive them away. The return to Z-Loan office and find a new middle aged guy, Sawatari Otsu, will be working with them. Seems Shiba is in the office as well but Shito doesn’t like his face the instant he sees him, he points his gun at him. Chika tries to calm his partner down and that Shiba is no threat but Shito isn’t convinced. This causes some friction in Chika and Shito’s relationship. Oh wait, they’ve always been like that. Moving on, they look at photos of gruesome murder scenes. It baffles everyone till Shiba’s wisdom and wide knowledge enlightens them of its connection. Later as everyone dines at the sushi shop, Bekkou thinks of having Shiba to work temporarily with them on this case. He accepts after finding it interesting. After everyone has left, Chika and Shito are still loggerheads. Michiru tries to cool things between them and learns that they aren’t really friends and their partnership was created during an accident 6 months ago. They have each other’s right hands to control their weapons and they can’t stray too far from each other or else it will rot.

Episode 5
Yuuta discovers some butterfly website connected to their case and informs the rest of the guys. Shiba manages to enter the website by keying in a password as they find an event to be held on the same day. They are running out of time and have to make a move. Koyomi drags Michiru out to the mall to shop. Michiru spots the thief from the convenience store and he has a black ring. They follow him and inadvertently got involved with a group of people who mistaken them as part of their members because of the clothes they bought spotting the butterfly design. The group converge at a restaurant to discuss the next victim of the butterfly. Michiru speaks up about the importance of human lives and this causes the rest to think she is against them as they target to rid of her. Yomi awakens and at the same time, Chika, Shito and Shiba arrive to take care of the pests. After Yomi helps Michiru, she reverts back to Koyomi but falls asleep. The gang leaves her there while they continue their search. In a building, the find that thief holding a woman hostage and proclaiming himself as God. Chika and Shito unleash their weapons to beat him when he falls to his death. After guiding his spirit, Chika is disheartened that they didn’t receive any monetary rewards so Bekkou explains that they didn’t get the right zombie. Otsu comes back with his investigation about zombies that tried to attack them but burn up soon after. Thinking that his is the work of the butterfly, the use Yomi’s ability on a dead woman to reveal a message from the butterfly himself. The go meet him and are shocked to see Shiba there.

Episode 6
So yeah, Shiba is the mastermind and culprit behind it all. I mean, how can somebody know so much and connect the pieces of the puzzle with much ease, right? Not to mention he has a black ring around his neck so he must be a zombie. Flashback reveals that genius Shiba was so bored with life that he jumped off the roof. He made a contract with a mysterious woman, Carmella to become a zombie. So being undead is more interesting? Upset Chika decides to fight Shiba alone. They fight as he reveals his plan about setting up that thief into believing he was the butterfly. Then they talk about freedom and since Shiba isn’t listening to Chika, he lets himself go off Chika’s grip and falls from the building but is caught but a fearsome Shinigami. Back at the dorm, Chika sinks into depression. But asking for somebody to sleep with him (Michiru?) is just crossing the line. I guess he forces himself into Shito’s room (he likes collecting weird and rare items. Isn’t that Colonel Sanders?!). They discuss about death, where zombies go after they die. Next day, Michiru is taken to a funeral for the zombies as they pay their last respects for those victims of the butterfly case. They talk about there are those who shed tears for those die and Chika has a family he can’t return to now because he’s a zombie. The longer one takes to repay the loan, there’ll be renewal charges and even so, being too long a zombie will make one lose human emotions.

Episode 7
Shimotsuki thinks it’ll be good for Z-Loan people to take time off once in a while so the gang heads for the hotsprings. Not exactly what they hoped for because it’s abandoned as it is believed to be haunted! Damn. The usual fanservice and Yomi molesting Michiru while soaking in. Michiru and Shito go out to get some food and on their return trip are attacked by a wolf-like creature assumed to be a zombie. It attacks Shito but Michiru decides to fend it off instead of running back to call for help. They return and tell the rest about this. Michiru learns the different pricing of zombies. The more dangerous it is, the higher the reward. Before embarking on the search for it, they decide to take another dip in the hotspring. However waiting for Michiru isn’t Yomi’s molestation, but that wolf creature. Chika and Shito barge in to attack but were stopped by Yomi and it escapes. Furthermore, Shimotsuki explains that it isn’t a zombie but a living human being holding onto too much angry dead Gods soul. They find the wolf hiding in its cave as Shimotsuki approaches and seems to purify it. She takes a liking for it and brings the tame creature back as her pet on their ride home. She even calls it Pochi! Meanwhile a Chinese guy, Toho, plans to vandalize Shito’s room of all his prized collectibles.

Episode 8
As expected, Shito is bloody upset that someone has messed with his things. But Michiru finds the dorm being visited by Chika’s dad, Yuri and Chika’s little sister, Momoka. Another weird pair. Yuri is so annoying wanting to bond with his son (he’s like so gay too) while stoic Momoka is being indifferent playing with her handphone and unheeding to Chika’s attention. Though the trio are odd, Michiru is glad that he has a family. The father and daughter soon leave at the end. Meanwhile Shito confronts Toho and the latter cautions him he isn’t supposed to have friends because he is a real monster. Later Chika and Michiru see Shito at the graveyard. Chika tries to comfort him but it results in the guys fighting each other. Michiru then notices a beautiful comb in Shito’s room. Soon they get another zombie hunt job from Yuuta. Elsewhere, a doctor, Yoshizumi is doing experiments on a live corpse while his supposed golem creations, a young speechless girl (what an ‘apt’ name she has: Life) and a huge masked chainsaw guy). Michiru fails to find any black rings and after given a gum by Shito to improve her eyesight, she mentions about the comb, causing him to get angry. Bad boy for making a girl cry and how ungentleman-like. Chika chides him for being rude so they both end up in a fist fight till Michiru yells for them to stop. Shito walks away but he gets pierced in the chest through the back by that chainsaw guy.

Episode 9
Toho arrives at Z-Loan office as the rest learn he is from the Xu Fu mafia and that Shito is kidnapped. Chika tries to get rough on Toho but his spell was powerful enough to subdue him. Shito wakes up chained to a bed in a room while Life seems to take a liking for him, cuddling up closely to him. Since her intelligence is questionable, Life tries to force feed Shito and even sleeps with him and combs his hair. Shito remembers the comb belonging to a woman he lost and loved (I’m guessing it’s his mom). Chika and Michiru get into a little argument when paper spirits start to attack them. Luckily they are saved when another friend of Chika, the eye-patch bike riding Sotetsu Asou arrive in time to save them. He is also a zombie living at their same dorm but he prefers to go on adventures and only returns to extend his loan. They return to the dorm where Michiru notices that Koyomi may have feelings for Sotetsu. Next day at Z-Loan office, Bekkou reveals that Shito didn’t die on the same day with Chika. Seems Shito was a zombie long before meeting Chika. He is hundreds of years old and his current schooling data, etc are all fake. Thus he is some kind of immortal no matter the kind of wounds he takes and been handed down by generations, thus the perfect monster and disgusting beauty Toho described. Bekkou only reveals as far as his responsibility of Chika and Shito’s hand swap during the accident and remains the rest as secret. He offers the rest a handsome reward to retrieve Shito. This excites money face Chika as he drags Michiru to go search for his buddy with Sotetsu. Yoshizumi is happy that he has Shito and messes with his wounds while revealing his plans to trade Shito with Xu Fu to exchange info on the Corpse Release Spell to make better golems and overcome the problems plaguing humans: Death.

Episode 10
Otsu bumps into an old friend, Nogi but the latter seems anxious and evades any topic relating to Yoshizumi and makes his haste exit. Seems he is working under Yoshizumi and bringing him a pair of eyeballs as requested for that doctor’s twisted experiments. Michiru, Chika and Sotetsu arrive at some train station to find the Shinigami, Zarame, supposedly to know where Shito’s whereabouts. But they are shocked to find he has turned into a chibi version after losing his power core while out on his reaping duty. Michiru takes an instant liking for this cute creature and from now on, it feels like Zarame is like a pet following them around on Michiru’s shoulder. Where has that fearsome guy gone to? Seems Michiru is the only one who understands Zarame’s gibberish. Yeah, she has Shinigami Ears too. Haha, just kidding. Our heroes arrive at a warehouse and take out zombies but are being told by Toho Shito isn’t here. Toho has to return for some business so he reluctantly tells of Shito’s real whereabouts. Meanwhile Shito seems to have bonded with Life as she is quite fascinated with his comb. He also realizes his right hand rotting. When Yoshizumi comes in, Life cowers in fear and was even thrown against the wall. Yoshizumi notices that Shito has some special treasure inside him when Chika and co arrive. Otsu and Yuuta are also there as they take on a group of zombies. Panicky Nogi thinks everything is over but Yoshizumi is unfazed since he is confident his experiment will be completed. Carmella then appears before him and tells him that his eternal life isn’t possible and is going to die. She offers to help him out. Chika has rushed in ahead of the gang and manages to find Shito chained in the room.

Episode 11
The usual teasing and hand swapping thingy by Chika but Chika leaves Shito chained. It is Michiru guided by Zarame who found Shito and free him. Chika faces off with the chainsaw guy but the rest soon catch up and combine their powers. However the chainsaw guy falls flat before the gang could finish him off or when Chika managed to pull Shito up from the edge he was hanging precariously on. Otsu meets Nogi as the latter spills the beans how Yoshizumi is trying to create an ultimate golem called Phalanx. Something about other golems will stop moving by themselves after sometime but this Phalanx will keep itself moving by absorbing those around him. Yoshizumi realizes what Carmella meant and decides to give his own body to merge with Phalanx and serve as its brain. The gang enter the room and have a hard time fighting against the released Phalanx trying to absorb everything. Eventually Nogi planted an antidote into Phalanx. Seems he predicted that Yoshizumi would go crazy and created this in secret. This causes Phalanx to fall apart (that easy?) and the guys finish off Yoshizumi for good. As Chika is ecstatic over the reward he receives, Shito plans to take in Life and care for her but she is shot in the head by Nogi who plans to clean everything up. Enraged Shito punches him. Though Zarame mentions via Michiru that golems have no soul so it cannot be truly alive, Shito doesn’t believe it and later does a proper burial for her. Back at Z-Loan office, Bekkou turns into his true ferrymen self (gosh! Looking quite gorgeous) as he heads off for some WFO (Wheel of Fortune Organization) Management Office officer’s meeting.

Episode 12
As the gang parties in Shito’s room, annoyed Shito eventually thanks Michiru. Koyomi reveals the real season about her and Sotetsu. Something about one day she got drunk and found herself naked in bed with Sotetsu. He acted the same way he always did with her so she couldn’t ask him straight in the face. Bekkou meets his old friend, Hakka who is now the new president of WFO. Meeting with the other ferrymen, they discuss about the Akashic Record Reform Committee (ARRC) and believe they may be responsible for stealing a portion of the Akashic Records. Then Hakka announces that he has created another group opposite Bekkou’s Z-Loan team. He calls his Alive-Loan or A-Loan for short. That doesn’t sound good. So Hakka introduces his A-Loan members to the rest. They are Toko Touma (the sophomore girl), Zen Inubashiri (might be petite but he is their senior) and Shuuji Tsugumi (laidback guy). Aren’t they just mirror images of the Z-Loan trio? You can tell Chika and Shito won’t get along to these blokes because, well Chika can’t believe a little guy like him is a third year (“Use formal language, damn it!”) while Shuuji broke a new and rare collectible Shito bought. And there’s this competition to rake in 10 million Yen in a month and the loser will be closed down. Hey, what do you know, A-Loan’s office is right opposite Z-Loan! Competition is getting tough so get your asses moving! Meanwhile Carmella introduces an ARRC member, Chitose, to their new recruit, Shiba. Hey, he’s still alive and now a Shinigami? Chitose doesn’t approve of the newbie, citing lack of places so Shiba slashes Carmella! Just then, Hakka comes in and as Carmella revives and her wounds heal. But Hakka takes out her life force and shows it to Shiba! Explaining to that false reaper a shoreman’s body created by this core and if it’s crushed, the shoreman disappears.

Episode 13
A-Loan team seems to be doing a far better job, beating Z-Loan to hunting and guiding zombies due to better ‘navigation’ (Shinigami Eyes) and weapons (two swords and machine gun?!). Z-Loan team is down but eventually have to pick themselves up. Meanwhile we see Carmella in a chibi form since her core has been taken away. Hakka returns her core so she reverts back to her normal form and lives. We also learn Shiba was the one who took Zarame’s core, the reason why that Shinigami is still in his chibi form. Hakka uses his body-stopping power on Shiba to show who is boss. Zarame teaches Michiru how to use her Shinigami Eyes effectively and soon bumps into Undertaker who has just finished his meeting with Otsu. As they chat, Undertaker isn’t happy that his repayments have to be increased due to the competition and had to be dragged in. He admits people like them are weaklings but Michiru remains positive because she wants to protect them. When Z-Loan trio return to the office, they see Shimotsuki. She plans to go into debt to help them out after hearing about things but Bekkou is weighing in the possibilities. They also meet Lyca, that werewolf boy. He has been thought to speak and disciplined (okay, maybe not so perfect yet). Shimotsuki lends Lyca to Z-Loan for assistance instead of money. Michiru asserts that she will be stronger and will protect them both. The Z-Loan trio leave office and bump into their A-Loan counterparts. As they stare in a face-off, both sides Hakka and Bekkou’s team prepare to continue their battle.

Will It Become A Non-Performing Loan?
Uhn… So that’s where the anime just ended? At another climax? You see, the first 11 episodes as I found out later were shown on TV and the final 2 episodes as OVAs. But in both cases, the story doesn’t really seem to end at that point. Interested people can of course continue reading the manga but for people like me who don’t even pick up books, what are the chances? It leaves quite a number of development and potentials left hanging. Ending the anime with a looming clash with Hakka’s side that includes Shiba, Carmella and Shito against Bekkou’s team, who has Otsu and Sotetsu on his side, just doesn’t cut it. They introduce new characters like the A-Loan trio and Hakka as the new antagonist and that is how it all ends? I also felt some other characters didn’t make an impact even though they had potential like Toho. I thought he would reappear again after making his little exit but I guess if not for that story arc, he was pretty forgettable. Same case for Chika’s dad and sister. And there I was thinking their short presence would herald something big, shocking and ‘twisting’ at the end. Must be my imagination. Lyca? Too bad he only spoke in the final episode. What does that amount to? Though the story can be divided into small and short story arcs, somehow I didn’t feel excited of each advancement. Maybe it’s because it was horror themed. The action was also okay though sometimes I feel it’s of low quality.

Speaking of the characters, sure we see them grow a little in this short span of the series but overall they are still pretty much the same character. Shito has learned to open up a little and at least have a human heart while Chika still cares for others even if he does this job for money and remains an uncouth lad. Michiru has come to accept her surroundings, no longer weary or lost the will to live and turn her cursed ability into an asset. She sees the guys at Z-Loan as her important family members. I wonder if the inheritance left by her parents has got something to do with everything that has happened. I guess Zarame has been relegated to be Z-Loan’s mascot character. It’s pretty odd for a once ferocious Shinigami to tag along on Michiru’s shoulder and do nothing but guiding. Bekkou and Shimotsuki are mysterious themselves mainly because the series isn’t long enough to flesh out their character. But my guts tell me that characters like them are usually more than meets the eye. Just like Koyomi’s split personality.

The horror part may not be enough to scare normal viewers what more seasoned horror lovers. Don’t worry, I didn’t get freaked out either. Thus the parts that I love are the comical and chibi parts peppered throughout the series. Usually shown when Michiru is surprised, shocked, rebuttal statements or doing some other silly antics. If they showed this all the time, I think the series may lose its point. So I guess it’s worthwhile that they do this from time to time. I didn’t like the opening theme, Ookami No Nodo by The Birthday. It’s more like punk rock and you can hear the hoarse singer screaming throughout the song. Enough to kill zombies. The ending theme, Chain Ring by MUCC is also another rock piece and though there is no shouting, it still doesn’t appeal to me.

So if they are going to produce a sequel, big chance is that I may not be interested to watch it even if they advance the plot, characters and tie up things seeing that I am not a fan of this genre and the story didn’t captivate me enough. I don’t know how long it will take to clear up all their debts because it must be one heck of a big amount taking into account the number of zombies they have hunted down and safely guided. If they ever wanted to go for quantity over quality, they may need to do it Resident Evil style. Michiru having Shinigami Eyes isn’t a bad thing because seeing a black ring around people’s neck is better than seeing dead people. Oh wait. They all are. And considering the never ending output of anime, maybe I can take a Z-Loan to extend my life and watch animes forever. Never mind. I don’t know how to kill zombies anyway.

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