I’m going to repeat myself for the new readers in the audience so bear with me if you have heard this before. I have read ZOM 100 in manga form. Not all of it but quite a bit and certainly everything that has been adapted so far. That’s why the title: Flight Attendant of the Dead, told me exactly what I was going to be in for during this episode. And I wasn’t looking forward to it.
Let me clarify, it’s not that the mini arc that was covered in episode 4 of ZOM 100 is at all bad. It wasn’t bad in manga form either. It’s actually kind of thought-provoking and one of the most effective ways ZOM 100 establishes context in the story. It is good. But it’s also heavy. In the manga, this was one of the few straight-up dramatic sequences and it felt like a tonal whiplash to me. I am a bit precious at times.
I tend to prefer anime to manga so I was still hopeful that the magic of adaptation would make this passage more pleasant than the first time around, or at least more entertaining. But I was still getting myself ready for a bit of a bummer episode.
I underestimate animation I think. As in movement. You know that first scene on the rooftop. When Akira swears he’ll get a girlfriend and after a beat, Kencho gives him the most devastating thumbs up? I had already seen that on paper. But it was completely different in animation. The long pause and stern expression before instantly jerking his whole body into the most condescending sign of support while trying to be earnest. Those few seconds were pure comedy gold! And I was already more optimistic!
For a quick recap of the episode, one of the items on Akira’s list was to go on a date with a flight attendant. I’m not sure how old the author is. I feel like it was my parents’ or even grandparents’ generation that had this odd notion that flight attendant was a super sexy profession. Don’t get me wrong, flight attendants are indeed super sexy but so are a lot of other people, you know? I’m saying it used to be a thing like you could get sexy flight attendant costumes for Halloween and flight attendant lingerie and I haven’t even heard of that in forever! It makes Akira seem way older. Maybe the show is set in the 80s? Oh no they have smartphones.
Anyways, Akira wants to go out with a flight attendant but there’s a small obstacle. He’s very bad at chatting up women. And also it’s the end of the world. So really two small obstacles. He also wants a big-screen TV which seems like the more attainable goal. Only when they go to an abandoned mall to “buy” a TV, they get trapped in the basement with a handful of other survivors 3 of whom just happened to be, you guessed it, flight attendants! What are the odds!!??! There’s no way Akira can let an opportunity like that slide, is there?
There is a lot happening here. So much that it’s hard for me to figure out what to talk about. Kencho and Akira’s friendship is once again renewed and redefined as Kencho shows that he obviously cares a lot about this college buddy he hasn’t seen in years. He’s actually a pretty good friend and that is something I admire in a character.
There’s also this subtle growth that happens in Akira and is mirrored by the show itself. Akira wrote he wanted a date with a flight attendant. No mention of anything specific about the person, anyone would do as long as they were a flight attendant. And the guys’ attitudes changed considerably as soon as they learned what the survivors did as a job. It was a bit objectifying. The ladies were mostly a prop for the plot. But that changes.
One could think that Kencho had the better success as he actually had a physical thing going with one of the ladies but Akira made a real connection. For a few minutes there, in the middle of all this chaos, Akira got to honestly know someone who was genuinely kind and sweet. Yukari started out as a flight attendant (ironically that’s her AniList description) and became an actual person. She has a boyfriend she refuses to believe is dead, a job she both loves and hates and that wears her down at times but she still sees value in. She doubts herself but instinctively strives to help those around her. She’s gentle and patient. Probably exactly who you want to be there if you happen to be afraid of flying. Yukari has dreams, or should I say she did.
ZOM 100 spent half an episode slowly showing us that Yukari is a good person with a rich and complex life, a full history, and a vibrant mind. Then in an instant, they wiped it all away. Yukari gets a single line, one that lets us know that in the end, she doesn’t regret her life and then she’s gone in a violent frenzy. Both we and Akira are just left to deal with that. To rage at the fact that we couldn’t stop it, to slowly understand that Akira’s (and maybe our) turn could be next and to decide what we want to do before that happens.
It was always a heavy and contemplative chapter in ZOM 100. I thought it was a bit heavy-handed. But you know what, I was wrong. It was sad in a way that was important for the show to make sense. It’s a foil to what happens. Akira’s goofy optimism is only powerful when contrasted with actual stakes. Or maybe I just like animation better. I really liked this episode. It feels like a true start to the story and I can’t wait for the next episode!