It’s the classic horror set-up: five young people (students, members of the Occult Research Club) break into the university library store, ostensibly searching for a Japanese historical treasure. What do they find amidst all the ancient books and artefacts? Two coffins (European). One of their number just has to open the coffins, revealing the mummified bodies (‘very well preserved’) of two blonde young women in what we, the audience, recognise as goth loli clothes. The intrepid student murmurs the name ‘Euphrosyne’ and reaches down to surreptitiously remove a mysterious glowing red stone from the mummy’s body.
When the two young women come back to life and start to wreak havoc, demanding that the red stone be returned, it’s ‘spot the stiff’ time for the students – and the others on campus: a member of staff, his sister, their cute corgi dog and the caretaker. And it very soon becomes apparent that some – not all – of the humans may have other motives. Will Euphrosyne begin to fall apart (literally) without the stone? What do the others intend to do with it? How do they know her history.
What’s difficult to work out with this mummy/zombie gorefest in which the wretched protagonists seem doomed to die gruesomely, one by one – is what tone of voice the creative team were going for. Maybe the original light novels by Ryou Ikehata (2011) on which the film is based were aiming for an ironic, satirical touch: pretty, sexy European goth-loli girls, preternaturally strong, take out Japanese students because one of them violated their resting place, which means… what? Also, what’s with the mummy/zombie/shape-shifting confusion? Euphrosyne and her maid Alma are not only sentient but highly intelligent (if somewhat confused when they are awakened). But surely zombies are traditionally mindless undead, driven by the desire to eat live brains, not walking, talking, sentient undead? A brief flashback to Euphrosyne’s earlier life in the nineteenth century is too little too late. And then there’s the climax of the film where the writers obviously not so much lost the plot but maybe just said, ‘oh, what the heck, let’s throw everything at the zombie/mummies and see what happens’.
This is not GONZO’s finest hour (they joined with Stingray to put this one together as an ‘Original Net Animation’ some six years after the adaptation to anime was originally announced). The film seems to be director Hideaki Iwami’s only project so far – and in spite of a starry vocal cast with Sayori Hayama (Shirayuki in Snow White with the Red Hair) as Euphrosyne and Yui Ogura (Priestess in Goblin Slayer) as Alma V and music by veteran composer Kou Otani (Haibane Renmei, Gundam Wing), no amount of good voice acting or atmospheric music can rescue the script.
The Blu-ray release from Anime Limited has a trailer for the film as its only extra and, although the colour and sound are good, the subtitles (in white) are quite small and not always easy to read (there’s no English dub).
The Calamity of a Zombie Girl feels more than a little out of its time; written at the end of the noughties when there was a fad for extremely violent goth-loli girls in anime and manga (Princess Resurrection c.2006) it tries to go for an ironic splatterfest humour but, unable to decide whether it’s inviting the audience to be amused or horrified at the bloody antics, fails to deliver on either count.