Junior businessmen complain about transport delays when someone jumps in front of a train then manages to stand up and keep walking. Two children starve inside their locked apartment as a monster that looks like their mother bangs against their door. A young construction worker uses a safety harness to move around Tokyo meters above the mass of shuffling corpses on the streets below. The zombie apocalypse has come, and survival is the only priority.
Tokyo Undead is written by Shigeo Nakayama with art by Tsukasa Saimura, better known for Hour of the Zombie. Where Hour of the Zombie takes a more philosophical look at humanity, Tokyo Undead is classic self-contained survival horror about desperate humans who know they are doomed the moment they are bitten. We learn nothing of where the zombie virus came from or the government response to it, nor do we have a single protagonist to root for. Instead, Tokyo Undead tells the stories of individuals and small communities reacting to this crisis in isolated pockets around the city with no expectation of rescue.
The story is nonlinear, skipping from weeks into the outbreak back to the first days then forward again, effectively replicating the characters’ disorientation for the reader. The art is reminiscent of Attack on Titan, both for its weaknesses—unpolished style and some confusing design choices—and its strengths: unnerving depiction of unnatural bodies. In a story so straightforward, it’s the detail that counts, and Saimura provides. Background details like a small, half-torn sign taped to a shutter reading “Help, we’re in the basement” or foreground features like a zombie in a noose, neck stretched after the person hanged themselves before turning—these elements add a depth and repulsiveness to the standard decaying corpse gore.
In an age of gimmicks and twists, it is almost refreshing for a story to focus on the trauma of unexceptional characters making life and death decisions for themselves, loved ones, and complete strangers in a new world of moral gray areas. We see the best of humanity, as people overcome dislike and distrust to forge new connections and appreciation for one another when truly tested. We also see the worst, as opportunists commit sickening crimes not just in the name of survival, but for pleasure. It is a simple story, with some artistic shortcomings, but a solid zombie apocalypse one-shot.
publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
story: Shigeo Nakayama
story and art: Tsukasa Saimura