Despite what some anime might have taught you, being a school kid can be tough. This is particularly true in the case of Ayumu Aikawa - okay, so he isn't the kind of student to be bullied or branded a failure, but he does have his own rather unique problems to deal with. Namely, and to answer the question posed by the title of this manga series, yes; Aikawa is a zombie, thanks to a chance meeting with a serial killer and an equally chance meeting with an adorable little Necromancer who resurrects him in his new, zombie form.
As if becoming a zombie isn't a tough enough break (especially on a hot school day), our protagonist also finds himself bumping into a chainsaw wielding "magikewl girl" - no, not a magical girl, but not far from it - tasked with preventing rampaging beasts with a penchant for wearing school uniforms named Megalos. Somehow the powers available to Haruna, the girl in question, end up being transferred to Ayumu, so as if he didn't have enough to trouble himself with he has to take on her magikewl tasks (and clothing) while also looking after Haruna as a house guest alongside the aforementioned Necromancer, Eu, and a passing ninja vampire who also seems to have taken it upon herself to stay with this little group of oddballs.
If all of that sounds rather crazy, then welcome to the world of Is This A Zombie - a light novel adaptation in manga form that has no qualms about being as bizarre and odd as it possible can. If further proof were required, a simple flick through the pages of this first volume of the series from Yen Press says it all, with random references from Steven Seagal through to a lobster wearing a school uniform. Similarly, this opening volume has on concerns about being... well, a little bit perverted - Haruna loses her clothes with alarming regularity, with Ayumu's imagination has a tendency to run away with him, particularly when it comes to the otherwise mute Eu who he prefers to imagine as calling him "onii-chan" a lot.
The story which results from this mix of fan service and supernatural insanity is... rather a mess in all honesty. The early plot in this volume darts this way and that while events occur in an almost unfathomable chain that makes the whole thing feel like its being made up as it goes along. Then again, considering that the back of this volume contains a "Zombie lovey-dovey level checklist" to see how in tune you are with Aikawa, including check points such as "You've decided you're not even gonna worry about the story", it's clear that creating a deep, coherent plot isn't exactly high up Is This A Zombie's list of ambitions.
To be fair, that focus on crazy harem-esque antics does work from time to time - this first volume of the series got a few laughs out of me, and Yen Press' translation (and subsequent translation notes) works hard and mostly successfully with the tough job of localising some of the more obscure or otherwise difficult bits of Japanese pop culture and wordplay that pop up throughout, while still stepping aside to the whims of its otaku readers by leaving phrases like the aforementioned "onii-chan" untranslated. Visually, the art style of this volume won't blow your mind but manages to be either cute, sexy and/or funny when it needs to be and is pretty satisfying for the most part, with glossy, full-colour inserts at the start of the volume giving the feel of a well-presented offering.
As a whole, I have to hold my hand up and say that, judging from this first volume, Is This A Zombie isn't really the kind of series that's for me - I enjoy a bit of random humour as much as the next guy, and this offering hits the spot occasionally, but this kind of comedy still works best when it ultimately has more purpose or intelligence behind it, and that seems to be lacking here. If you enjoyed the anime adaptation of the series (under its Japanese title Kore wa Zombie Desu ka) when it streamed on Crunchyroll and fell in love with its characters there, this manga might do enough to be worth parting with your cash for, if only to check out this first volume. For new-comers to the series via this manga though, chances are it'll fall a little flat - other series mix fan service and comedy in better, more entertaining and accessible ways.
Occasionally funny and largely well-presented, this volume's wacky comedy and premise simply isn't consistently entertaining enough to merit higher praise.