zombiesNoriaki SugiyamaHiroki TakahashiShinji Kawada
Francesca: Girls Be Ambitious
Also known as: Hungry Zombie Francesca
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2014: F
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2014
Director: Hitoshi Kumagai
Actor: Yui Makino, Ami Naito, Asami Tano, Daisuke Nagumo, Hiroki Takahashi, Jin Urayama, Kanomi Izawa, Katsuya Miyamoto, Kenji Hamada, Noriaki Sugiyama, Saki Kudo, Tarusuke Shingaki, Tomofumi Ikezoe, Kotaro Nishiyama, Marie Oi, Satoshi Hino, Shinji Kawada
Keywords: anime, zombies
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 24 eleven-minute episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=15955
Website category: Anime 2014
Review date: 20 May 2016
This show has lots of wonderful, funny ideas. It's silly and feels as if it's aimed more at a kiddie audience, but how can you not love a cute zombie heroine with prehensile pink hair, a frilly loli-goth dress and a brain that just wants to climb out of her head and run away on little legs?
Francesca also has a heart-shaped hole right through her chest and a tendency to put her limbs on back to front. Her dog, Franken, picks them up when they fall off. Other cast members include: (a) a walking statue made of chocolate, (b) a flirty zombie and his two girlfriends and (c) the Exorcist, an undead hunter with a machine-gun and an attitude problem. (The latter is also an infant in nappies.)
All this is in ep.1. It's awesome. However on eventually watching the rest of the series, I discovered that almost all of its ideas had gone into that first episode. Most of the show's creative energy went into there. The other episodes are mostly vaguely comedic runarounds. They're only eleven-minute episodes. There's almost never any drama except in brief flashes (although the finale's trying a bit harder), while the characters are almost entirely surface-level. It's lightweight fun. That's what to expect, although that said I don't mind it. I watched it. It's inoffensive and sometimes it even made me laugh. (Francesca's runaway brain is always funny.)
However it's the kind of show you might potter through in dribs and drabs when you've got nothing better to do and, perhaps, be sort of amused sometimes.
It's also the cheapest-looking anime you'll see that's not a DVD extra. We have lots of computer-generated animation so bad that it's practically Flash cutouts. At its worst, it's horrible. That said, though, the character designs are fun and colourful, while the voice actors bring it all alive.
It's okay. It's amusing. What's actually good in it, though?
There's a dramatically meaningful episode at the halfway point and then a surprising final run. Most of the cast give their lives willingly in the fight against the big bad and they don't all come back afterwards. That worked better than you'd expect. At least the show doesn't end on a downer, with everyone fired up to go off and find their friend, but it's still perfectly possible that SPOILER is now charcoal briquettes in Hell. There's also unexpected depth given to an anonymous expendable grunt in ep.15.
Francesca herself is nifty. She's perky and genuinely lovable, but she also has a dark side that might return if she ever gets her brain back. The Francesca everyone loves is actually a false personality, presumably just waiting to be supplanted by the one in her cerebellum. Incidentally, the character was created in 2012 as an undead moe idol to promote Japan's Hokkaido region, so this anime has lots of Hokkaido food, history, attractions, etc. It's like a 24-part tourist advertisement, but I don't mind that. It adds personality.
The show's subsequent episodes aren't completely without fun ideas. Ep.11 shows an amusingly whimsical way of winning a power competition, ep.10 tries putting an egg in Francesca's skull instead of a brain and I quite enjoyed the Saved By Sheep moment.
On the downside, though, we also have some Shinsengumi. (Quite a lot of this show comes from the 19th century, which seems reasonable since they're almost all undead. The chocolate statue, for instance, is the founder of Hokkaido University, William S. Clark, and the show's subtitle is taken from his parting words to his Japanese students in 1877.) This show's Shinsengumi are fairly generic sword-wielders and about as interesting as you'd expect in a show where no one can kill anyone.
Is this a good show? Not really. It passes painlessly enough, but the highest praise you're likely to find for it is "watchable". Watch ep.1, by all means, but there's not a lot of point in continuing beyond that. Almost everything thereafter is basically more of the same. It's the kind of thing you'd be more likely to dig out if you had small children around.