So. Speaking of zombie fiction, I just read a zombie manga, I am a Hero that’s surprisingly well constructed. One of my issues with zombie fiction is people failing to take into account how zombies function. They might learn some factoid (like the popular “zombies are attracted to noise”) and there might be a scenario where people even use that to their advantage, but then they forget about it again. Here, people seem to learn and carry forward those lessons. Also, these zombies are actually a lot less predictable than the standard ones, so they’re far harder to deal with.
The manga is imperfect, of course. It relies really heavily on the idea that no one really reacts to what’s going on for the first half, which is undoubtedly commentary on the state of Japan, but the manga’s a lot stronger when it’s going for realism. Also, the initial zombies are pretty awful – I think the half-naked zombie girlfriend bit was trying for grotesque horror but it was just gratuitous, and the next major one isn’t better.
What I really like are the characters.
The main character is not really a great guy, but you can see he’s actually trying. He’s also insane in a wonderfully accurate, reasonable way – he has hallucinations, and not the cool, insightful kind, and he tries to deal with things by sticking to rules and regulations. He wants to be a hero, but he’s not one. He can be an asshole, but much of that turns out to be posturing as well. He actually has a gun (and the typical lack of gun ownership in Japan is a major point) but it’s a security blanket, not something he uses. There’s this wonderful sequence where he’s in the middle of the forest at night after escaping zombies for the moment, and talking about how he’s safe because he has the gun, and going through each component that he has available, and then the camera pulls back and you see what’s actually happening.
And unlike most of these stories, the zombies are characters as well.
WWZ doesn’t like this sort of touchy-feely thing, but I think having it, or even just the uncertainty of if it’s there, is crucial to zombie fiction. Otherwise they might as well be a plague of orcs. The fact these were once people, and perhaps part of them is still there, is the particular horror of zombies. And these zombies having something left to them serves to make them more dangerous, because they’re not all acting in one standard way. WWZ views zombies as a survival test only, and that’s its greatest failing.