Unlike many of her prim-and-proper friends at Shirayuri College — a Catholic school in Kanda, Tokyo — 20-year-old Akane Kanbayashi doesn't recoil at the sight of splattered blood and dismembered human bodies. Instead, she embraces it. Which is no surprise really, given her childhood environment. Having a grandfather who worked as a surgical photographer, Kanbayashi would often accompany him to hospital, where she relished in the proximity to specimens of human organs and skeletons. Occasionally her grandfather even brought home unusual "souvenirs," including a glassed specimen of a sliced-up human brain, which, unbeknownst to him, helped fuel the little girl's penchant for human corporeality.

Her pursuit of the grotesque has not abated since then. When she was an elementary school kid, she avidly painted fake scars on her arm, and showed them to her mother, an mischievous attempt to surprise her on April Fool's Day.

Little wonder, then, when Kanbayashi won a global competition in March last year to join the popular American drama series "Walking Dead" as a zombie extra, her mother responded rather matter-of-factly to her daughter's excited call from the Los Angeles auditions, saying: "I knew it. You have always been such an oddball."