Manga Review: Crueler Than Dead Volume One

Crueler Than Dead Volume One establishes the world of the manga and the important characters that inhabit that world.

Crueler Than Dead Volume One
Written by: Tsukasa Saimura and Kozo Takahashi
Publisher: Editions Glenat
English Publisher: Ablaze Publishing
Release Date: September 21, 2021

At the beginning of the volume, the main protagonist, Maki Akagi, wakes up in a lab full of corpses… and she has no idea where she is or why she’s there. She encounters a dying soldier and learns that she is the result of a desperate experiment to cure humans of a virus turning them into zombies. The soldier, who had been fighting the zombies, also tells Maki that there is a boy with her who also survived the vaccine experiment. The solider tells her that she and the boy need to escape, and that they need to make it to the Tokyo Dome, where the last survivors of mankind are. He also tells Maki that there are three vials of the vaccine in the lab that she should take them with her. After seeing that comment, I knew that these vials of vaccine would become important in the story in some way.

Maki, along with the boy (named Shota) have to make it past the bloodthirsty monsters as they try to reach their destination. Whenever I saw scenes of the zombies trying to eat people, it kept giving me some Attack on Titan vibes. As this is a horror manga featuring a zombie apocalypse, it should go without saying that there’s blood and violence contained within the pages of this volume.

Not only do Maki and Shota encounter the zombies, they encounter other people as well. As they travel, they come across a group of men who capture the two of them. They meet Yugo, a man fleeing from the Tokyo Dome who was captured by these three thugs. We find out why Yugo was fleeing from the Tokyo Dome and how he wasn’t exactly a “good guy” before being caught by the thugs. He finds ways to redeem himself during this volume. Later on, though, Yugo becomes infected by the zombies, but Maki has something that can help save him… the vials of vaccine. By the end of the volume, Yugo becomes a traveling companion for Maki and Shota. And surprisingly, the leader of the thugs joins up with these three characters.

During the climactic fight with the zombies, Maki runs into a mysterious man who wears a jacket with “The Rising Sun” on the back of it. Later, when Maki asks other people who look like this man if they know him, they have no idea who she’s talking about. It appears that at least for the short term, this man’s identity is going to be a mystery to both Maki and to the reader.

At the end of the volume, there is a “Chapter 0,” which serves as a prologue to what was seen over the course of Volume One. It basically tells the story of a man who, early on when the virus was spreading, was helping to protect people from the zombies. He meets a woman who he falls in love with and is going to have a child with. At the end of this chapter, this man is heading off on a mission that saw 50 people being sent to a pharmaceutical laboratory to create a vaccine for the virus. I thought this was a nice inclusion, because it shows some of what led up to the events that opened this volume. I also thought the public’s reactions to the zombies that are created by the virus was very realistic… since it was so new, people had various reactions. In a lot of ways, it kind of reminds me of how people acted early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID may not turn people into zombies, the fact that this horror story utilizes a rapidly spreading global virus just hits a little too close to home during the time of a pandemic.

When it comes to the art in Crueler Than Dead Volume One, there is a “softer” feel to it when compared to a lot of manga that I’ve read. I don’t know if it’s just the quality of the digital copy that I read, or if that’s the way the art actually looks. If this “softer” feel was intentional, then it creates quite the dichotomy with the horror and violence that is the focus of the story.

I’m usually not one to read horror manga, but I wanted the chance to review a release from a publisher that’s newer to the manga industry. From the digital copy I was provided, it appears that Ablaze Publishing has done a good job with this release. And even though I’m not much of a horror fan, I think that Saimura and Takahashi did a fantastic job of keeping the story moving and providing interesting enough characters to keep a reader’s attention and become invested in the series. Honestly, I wouldn’t be adverse to reading another volume of the series if I am presented with the opportunity to do so.

After reading Crueler Than Dead Volume One, I think fans of horror manga and horror stories will enjoy what’s presented in this manga.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by Ablaze Publishing

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