Undead Unluck Volume 1 Review
The oversaturation of zombie-related media in the early-mid 2010s was enough to make even the most diehard zombie fans exhausted. Now that we’re several years removed from that peak, however, it feels like the world is finally ready for some new undead content–with the caveat that it’s presented in fresh and creative ways. Thankfully, Undead Unluck hits the sweet spot of having an exciting shonen spin on the formula while still retaining some of what people love about zombies.
The story opens on Fuuko, an 18 year-old girl who wants nothing more than to have a teenage romance like the ones she reads about in shojo manga. Sadly, this has never been a possibility for her due to an ever-present fear of physical contact. Be it other children suddenly getting sprains and broken bones on the playground or more catastrophic events happening as she grew a bit older, bad things have always happened to whoever touches her. Sick of causing other people pain and living in a constant state of fear, Fuuko has come to terms with her cursed existence and decides it’s best for all involved if she jumps in front of a train and ends it once and for all.
Enter Andy, a scarred-up muscle-bound man who overhears her dilemma and, intrigued, steps in to test it. After he’s convinced, Andy’s interest in Fuuko skyrockets and their relationship becomes clear: he’ll use her “unluck” as a way to permanently die after being stuck as an undead for over a century, and in return he’ll keep her safe from the shady organization that wants to capture him and kill her. Thus begins Fuuko’s sudden plunge into a world of supernatural beings, ruthless assassins, and perhaps the romance she so desperately wished for.
Undead Unluck hits the ground running and never looks back. From a shocking death to a sudden partnership to a tense showdown, the first chapter sets the tone for what’s a fast-paced, high-action, playfully deviant comedy/action manga. While the comedy generally boils down to Andy being naked after regenerating and trying to take advantage of needing to touch Fuuko to activate her unluck, the clear highlights are the jaw-dropping battles the two find themselves in.
Much of this is because of Andy and how creatively he uses his undead status to his advantage. Not only can he rapidly regenerate parts of his body, but he can use that regenerative power in battle to great effect. Whether it’s cutting off his feet and using the force of regeneration to launch him into the air or biting off half of his finger and shooting it like a bullet, mangaka Yoshifumi Tozuka comes up with some decidedly unique ideas for powers only Andy can use.
Of course, the other side of that coin is that Undead Unluck absolutely revels in body horror. It’s not drawn in a particularly grotesque way, but the sheer number of times enemies hack away at Andy (and the number of times he cuts off his own limbs to execute attacks) makes it hard to imagine anyone who gets squeamish being okay with all the blood and limbs flying about. The wealth of (censored) full frontal nudity may also make some readers uncomfortable, though it’s only really emphasized in the first couple of chapters.
All of that said, for as much as Andy has the spotlight during skirmishes, it’s his teamwork with Fuuko that really takes the bouts in Undead Unluck to the next level. Her ability to harm whoever touches her is leveraged in all kinds of ways, be it dealing direct damage, causing a distraction, or catching foes off guard with a sneak attack. And since Andy is undead, he can invoke her unluck and bring it upon nearby enemies without fear; their abilities compliment each other perfectly.
Between being constantly hunted, making their way overseas, and getting into chapters-long showdowns, this introduction to the world of Undead Unluck has been nothing if not a page-turner that plants a plethora of seeds that should blossom down the road. Will Fuuko attempt to learn how to master her powers of unluck so she can actually fight on her own like other negators? Who’s running the organization known as The Union and what’s their ultimate goal? Is there actually a way Andy can die once and for all? There are a ton of questions left unanswered and it did an admirable job of sinking its hooks into me.
Undead Unluck is about as classic shounen as it gets. A cool protagonist with an awesome special power, a shady organization pulling the strings from the shadows, a love interest; all the elements are here and accounted for. This first volume sets the stage for what has the potential to be an action-packed journey that takes Andy and Fuuko around the world and pits them against other negators with scarily powerful abilities. Though it ends on an absolutely soul-crushing cliffhanger, the foundation laid here has me more than excited to see what happens next.