Netflix's 'Resident Evil' Anime Shows Off Exactly Why People Love the Franchise
The long-running video game franchise gets the series treatment based on the events of some of the games.
Resident Evil, the groundbreaking video game series from Capcom that basically invented the survival horror genre, has been around for 25 years and 28 games, so getting into it in 2021 can seem like a daunting endeavor, with a mythology and lore that spans hundreds of years and many shady pharmaceutical companies. If you've wanted to jump into the biggest zombie franchise this side of The Walking Dead, Netflix's latest animeResident Evil: Infinite Darkness offers a distilled version of everything that makes people fall in love with this franchise in a compact package.
Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, the show opens in the fictional country of Penamstan, where a civil war ends up being the least of people's worries when a bioweapon, or zombie, starts infecting everyone. Years later, the nations of the world are not entirely happy about the US still occupying Penamstan. But when a zombie attack happens at the White House, it uncovers layer upon layer of conspiracy.
On the surface, Infinite Darkness works perfectly fine as an entry-level zombie story. You've got a long history of politically charged zombie experiments and outbreaks, an idealistic protagonist investigating how deep this thing really goes, and an action hero caught in the middle of it all, as a zombie incident threatens to start a war. That said, it helps to be familiar with the franchise's larger lore. There are only the briefest of mentions of Racoon City and the events of the game, and allusions to the sinister Umbrella Corporation loom large. Resident Evil as a franchise has always been heavy on commentary, and Infinite Darkness isn't any different. Though less specific than the games, the anime still interweaves many plot lines that touch on enough to make this more than just an action-horror show.
As an animated production, Infinite Darkness and director Eiichirō Hasumi emulate the look and feel of the games, down to the CG-animated photo-realistic character designs. In fact, the entire show does an excellent job of translating much of the experience of the games, from shooting your way out of a zombie-infested hallway down to the smallest of movements in investigative elements, like Claire turning over a photo frame to inspect its backside. Sadly, the designs are not all great, and some characters end up looking like lifeless plastic action figures.
Fans hoping to see some of the more horror-centric elements of Resident Evil may be disappointed by Infinite Darkness' lack of scares, especially at a time when the games are returning to their survival horror roots, most recently with this past May's release of Resident Evil Village. There is no fear that the characters will not make it, no jump scares waiting at the end of the long and dark corridor, but the show compensates by being a darn entertaining shoot-em-up. Taking inspiration from Resident Evil 4's action-oriented tone, Infinite Darkness is more focused on giving thrilling action scenes, including a phenomenal hand-to-hand fist fight with a zombie monstrosity that could easily fit as a main villain in the games. Likewise, the White House zombie outbreak sequence in the first episode offers one of the most thrilling action setpieces in the entire franchise, working even better than a similar level in Resident Evil 6.
It's not like the anime is entirely devoid of horror imagery. On the contrary, there are moments of gruesome body horror that can make even longtime fans squeamish, especially when the zombies are creatures other than human beings, and trapped in an enclosed space.
Infinite Darkness works both as an introduction to the larger Resident Evil world and also as a treat to fans of the franchise, as it focuses on two highly popular characters—Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, who don't show up in the Paul W.S. Anderson's adaptations until the fifth and second movies, respectively. While Leon gets to be the badass action hero he was in the games, Claire gets the short end of the stick, with an arc that feels important but ends up being rather redundant, and her inclusion ends up serving no purpose other than fan service and recognizability.
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness feels like it's setting a new standard for video game to TV adaptations, giving both newcomers and longtime fans a reason to enter this complicated and exciting world of government conspiracies, greed, and zombies. Even within the many non-game adaptations of Resident Evil, this anime signals the start of a new and exciting era for the zombie franchise.