This latest volume can be neatly divided into three sections. What’s telling about the division is that even its weakest section, which would be the first, is still pretty engaging. That first section focuses on a manga editor and his assistant traveling to Taiwan to get some photo reference shots after just about everyone else in their office falls ill. There’s no getting around the fact that this mini-arc comes off as filler as it appears to have zero significance to the events going on back in Japan. It’s still enjoyable on its own terms as it picks apart the casually adulterous relationship between the couple, slowly ratchets up the tension over the course of its four chapters, and showcases the start of an outbreak in another country. In particular, there’s a sinister casualness with which the telltale signs of the outbreak are brought up in the narrative that’s all the more unnerving for how natural they feel to the setting.
The middle and longest section of the volume returns the focus to Hideo, Tsugumi (“Yabu”), and Hiromi as they make their own way after escaping the mall. Hideo and Tsugumi’s primary concern is finding a place where they can safely remove the nail in Hiromi’s head. It’s a tall order considering that most hospitals are likely to be overrun by the infected. So this section turns into a road trip that runs the emotional gamut. There’s triumph in how they manage to find enough spare change to gets some water from a vending machine, and gut-churning horror as Hideo encounters a new kind of infected when he goes out to scavenge for food. If you have bad memories of the zombie baby from the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, then let me assure you: what’s here is worse. It’s followed by liberation and even triumph as Hideo and Tsumugi’s efforts to try and do the right thing in this crazy world look to be the new core of this series.
So where does that leave the omnibus’ final section as we’re formally introduced to the mysterious Kurusu and his followers from the point-of-view of a shut-in who is rescued by them? They don’t seem to be outright evil, just focused on the mission in front of them with an interest in recruiting worthwhile survivors. Kurusu himself is something of a gigglingly creepy enigma with some impressive combat skills. How did he manage to create a following of his own and forge them into an effective strike force? It’s something I’m definitely interested in finding out, even if I’m a bit wary about the special infected abilities teased in the next volume preview.