The black ring. When it appears around a person’s neck, it is the sign that they will soon die. Invisible to most, only those with the special ability of the Shinigami Eye can see it and thus predict the future.
One such possessor is Michiru Kita, a downtrodden and soft spoken orphan girl who is used by everyone and has no real will of her own. Her spectacles block the sight of the black rings, but by simply removing them she is cursed with the knowledge of which people are close to death.
A chance encounter with two mysterious, seemingly-money grabbing boys introduces Michiru to the enigmatic Zombie-Loan loan office, a secretive business that offers deals that should not be offered or even possible, never mind the fact that the abomination of these deals should probably not even exist! These two boys, Chika Akatsuki and Shito Tachibana are both marked (thanks to an unfortunate accident on a bridge) and should be dead – but yet they aren’t. And their rather ghoulish habit of switching hands which contain spiritual weapons in the form of a gun for Shito and a katana for Chika are more than clue enough that there is something far more to their tragic story than what first meets the eye.
Dragged into joining their bedraggled group in order to assist with identifying monsters with the black ring, beings who should be dead but who are instead living as the undead and feeding on flesh while acting only on desire, Michiru is about to find out that her life is going to all of a sudden get a whole lot more complicated – and very quickly at that!
Based on the 13 issue manga series by mangaka duo Peach-Pit (Banri Sendo and Shibuko Ebara), Zombie-Loan was produced as a 13 episode anime series which ran from July to September 2007, under the directorship of Akira Nishimori and studio Xebec M2.
In terms of story, one has to admit that Zombie-Loan has a pretty neat premise, basically undead monsters hunting undead monsters in order to pay back the debt to an enigmatic loan-shop that is keeping them alive – and in pretty much human form. Mix that action with plenty of drama surrounding the topic of death, will to live and the right to kill and throw in some comedy by making all three main characters pretty antagonistic towards one another, and you have for a fairly interesting show.
In terms of animation, XEBEC have gone for very slim and elongated character designs, mixed with a pretty unusual color palette that shows up in some very strange places. Still, this interesting use of color with the stylized character designs makes for some great atmospheric shots, while the well detailed backgrounds enhance the overall look of the show.
However, action sequences are not particularly well handled and a lot of animation short cuts are worked in, often making the fighting sequences a lot less satisfying that what they could have been. Also, the elongated character designs are difficult to take seriously and that also hurts the impact of the action sequences as well.
In addition to all of the above, comedy brings with it its own use of super deformed or at times WTF animation moments (like throwing in stick characters for effect), meaning that the animation can come across a little… inconsistent at times.
Nevertheless, as a whole the anime is certainly not a bad looking title, and works perfectly fine for a television release. As for the vocal front, Zombie-Loan features a good mix of voices that suit the school-age characters well, and combines great with a good musical score to flesh out the visuals. As for the opening and closing tracks, Zombie-Loan features great energetic work in the form of Okami no Nodo by Yusuke Chiba of The Birthday and Chain Ring by SatoChi of Mucc.
In summary, Zombie-Loan looks like it could be quite an entertaining title, with a good balance of drama, action and comedy. The horror element is certainly present, but not overwhelming, and it is a decent entry into any supernatural shonen fan’s collection.