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Preview

Reiko the Zombie Shop Volumes 5 & 6

Creators: Rei Mikamoto
Ain't It Cool News, October 2007

There is a scene in volume 5 of Reiko the Zombie Shop in which a young woman boomerangs a coat hanger into a helicopter, causing an on-board gunman to kill the crew. The fact that she catches it on return should cement the manga as one of the medium's most brilliantly indefensible works not called Golgo 13 or written by Kazuo Koike.

There is certainly a host of out of control, half clever trashy manga series being released in North America, but few of the older-audience variety have survived. Fewer still feature anything as sophomoric as a metal plated zombie quearadactylus (kindof like a pterodactyl) or a zombie serial killer reacting to the loss of her arms by carrying knifes between her toes. Reiko produces instances of the tastelessly bizarre, of that caliber ever other page. It's hard to say that Rei Mikaoto means well, but this splatter horror/comedy is far too ludicrous to be cruel.

It's amazing, but you'll see reviews that suggest that new talk-to-the-dead TV dramas feature novel premises. Here's a related high concept that is legitimately novel. Reiko is a teenage girl who looks and dresses like Britney Spears back when she could pull off the virgin/whore dichotomy act. This teen's gift, which she uses to support herself, is the ability to call upon Satan to re-animate the dead. The deceased come back... they solve mysteries...extreme violence and unspeakable acts ensue.

The brutality is generally kinked out. At nearly every point, nearly every female character is in small, tight clothes. If you've been affronted by the women's wrestling video game Rumble Roses, this is like that, but less sensible. The action follows suit. A girl is running in something like a stripper's version of a school uniform as she's chased by what looks like a shock rock band. She trips over a root as a guy with a hand held pitch fork is almost on her. She catches herself in a hand-stand. There's a pro-wrestling move called a huracanrana described by Wikipedia as a "headscissors takedown that is performed against a running opponent." In this case, it involves shooting herself, crotch first, into the would-be assailantís face.

Yet, this is easier to take, and less misogynous than many sexual violence driven crime/horror manga. Essentially, it functions like Itchy and Scratchy with zombie people who look like Cabbage Patch Kids by way of Crumb's hyper sexualized caricatures.

Like many live action meat grinder horror movies, Reiko tends to be raw. The clunky dialog rattles with exposition. "Midori Yurikawa has an evil soul, just like her sister Saki, who was a serial killer. I know this just by looking at the brutally murdered corpse of this young girl."

Storytelling alternates between episodic situations that arrange events for a sharp final climax, and longer shaggy dog tales. The case that falls into the former category from this set of volumes is a classic story of sibling rivalry and altruism, the likes of which have been used in works like Kazuo Umezu's Scary Book. Yet, it's given the Reiko crack in the head, featuring situations like a bulling older sister pretending to be a magical girl anime character, then kicking her sister down a flight of stairs.

Most of volumes 5, 6 and presumably into 7 are part of the latter case. The wild narrative starts by recounting the history of Shiro Amakusa, who lead a Christian revolt that was brutally put down by the shogunate; an event that has spawned numerous periodic anime, manga and live action. Then the story crosses between a pair of conservatively dressed sibling sociopaths who have been shooting people with bullets that will either cause the victim to evaporate (with their clothes Left Behind) or resurrected with a skull full of tentacles, and the intersecting adventures of a trio of childhood friends/classmates: the judo vigilante, the Visual Kei shock rocker and the spunky kendo girl. Then Reiko shows up. Then an old enemy of Reiko's joins in. Then a new threat injects himself into the middle of everything. Nor is he the last party crasher. Soon the crazy round robin, dog pile has foes literally dropping in. It's the kind of story where if a gun is fired in act IV, it probably was never seen before it fell out of the sky on the previous page. If nothing else, Reiko will keep you uncertain.

Much of the recommendation comes from the fact that Reiko the Zombie Shop a rarity. If the world was full of works like this, the titleís brand of raw exploitation wouldn't be doing anyone any favors. But, it is certainly something uncommon. This is the manga version of Road House, with more throats being ripped out. You don't come for the presentation or the craft. It's compelling because it's so far afield from any notion of what's a good idea that that carefree disregard for taste becomes potent escapism. (Scott Green)

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