Crueler Than Dead Vol. 2 TP
Publisher: ABLAZE
Release Date: April 6, 2022
Price: $17.99
Creator(s): Tsukasa Saimura (writer), Kozo Takahashi (artist)
Format: 224 pgs, Black & White, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9-7819-5091-255-1
Age Rating: Older teen
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This is the conclusion of a two volume horror series involving biological zombies, victims of sort of an ultra-rabies virus. The writing actually makes sense, in that, while this very infectious virus affects most people upon exposure, pretty much no virus has exactly the same effects on everyone. In fact, it seems like those who have been exposed but survived are at least temporarily “improved” physically.

The artwork for this story is relatively generic for horror manga, with nothing that isn’t creepy, but the story’s grim nature is made more directly horrific by the living conditions of those being “protected” from the virus outbreak. As in the outside world that was in place before that, the rich get along much better than the poor, but in this case, the poor live in conditions that Charles Dickens would have recognized, with little food or water and a high incentive to better oneself through crime.

The first volume of this story involved rescuing a sample of a vaccine for the virus, and the difficulties in getting it to the intended recipients. The second volume made it clear that delivering the vaccine was far from being the end of the story, and that even curing the disease might not help much. What is not made clear is just how the virus victims are surviving, since the virus seems to be making them better at being insane predators, and they are learning predator skills over time, but in an urban setting they would eventually run out of prey.

This story was published in Japan in 2015, before the COVID outbreaks, but some of the social commentary in it wasn’t far out of synch with what has really happened in our world. The manga is more extreme, but deals with some of the same problems, although in the world of this manga story, it would be difficult to imagine anyone choosing not to get vaccinated, because the rabies zombies are just so horrific.

The violence is moderately brutal, and there is evidence of sex trafficking and drug use, but anyone old enough to see an R-rated movie could handle what’s here. Still, the story is edgy enough that the squeamish should avoid it.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.