Series Review

Anime Hajime Review: Zombie Land Saga

Original Run: October 4, 2018 - December 20, 2018
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Comedy, Idol, Music, Supernatural

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Zombie Land Saga. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

The year is 2008 and Sakura Minamoto (voiced by Kaede Hondo) wishes more than anything to be an idol. Sadly, before she can seize her goal, Sakura is involved in an accident.

Suddenly, Sakura wakes up in an old mansion in Saga Prefecture. Here, she realizes a bleak truth. It is ten years later, and Sakura did not survive her accident. She is walking around now because she has been resurrected as a zombie.

If that wasn’t shocking enough, Sakura was given a second chance at life for a most unlikely reason. A mysterious, very loud man named Kotaro Tatsumi (voiced by Mamoru Miyano) brought Sakura back for her to join the ultimate idol group.

Unbelievably, Sakura’s dream is more alive than she is. But this is a journey she will not face alone. Along with Sakura, Kotaro has zombified idol stars from across multiple generations:

  • Saki Nikaido (voiced by Asami Tano), a biker boss. Died in 1997.
  • Ai Mizuno (voiced by Risa Taneda), an up and coming idol star. Died in 2008.
  • Junko Konno (voiced by Maki Kawase), a popular singer from the Showa era. Died in 1983.
  • Yugiri (voiced by Rika Kinugawa) a courtesan from the Meiji era. Died in the 19thcentury.
  • Lily Hoshikawa (voiced by Minami Tanaka), a child star. Died in 2011.
  • Tae Yamada (voiced byKotono Mitsuishi), the legendary legend because of legends. Death unknown.

These seven come together to form Franchouchou, and their aim is to become the top idol group in Japan. Before they can do that, though, they first must make it big in Saga.

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Series Positives

Unless I am very much mistaken, Zombie Land Saga was easily the BEST idol-anime I have ever seen. In fact, I would say this was one of the most surprising, enjoyable, and fun series from 2018. I truly mean that.

This show was fantastic.

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I won’t blame anyone who thinks turning a bunch of zombies into idols is beyond gimmicky. My thoughts were precisely that when I realized what Zombie Land Saga was going to be. Having now sat through it, my opinion on the matter hasn’t changed. That said, although the idea may have been questionable, there was much more to this series than I could have imagined.

For starters, Zombie Land Saga had an outstanding sense of humor which incorporated a healthy dose of darkness (I’m a little screwed up like that). Remember, the members of Franchouchou, to become zombies, had to die; and since the oldest was maybe around twenty, each of them died young. We may not have learned the details of all the members’ deaths, but for the ones whose were revealed, they met their ends in horrifically tragic ways.

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Without spoilers, the fate of Ai Mizuno was a brilliant example of how this series acknowledged the grief of death while remaining incredibly funny. Ai’s death wasn’t the joke, and that was critical. Zombie Land Saga made clear how much regret Ai left behind and how she was determined to give her second chance her best effort. The actual comedy came from the intensity of Ai’s demise, as well as Saki Nikaido’s reaction to what happened.

Zombie Land Saga understood that characters are the key. The members of Franchouchou were this show’s most powerful tool. Each of the girls had defined personalities which played off one another, and it can’t be understated how much this added to the story.

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I loved how this series not only had characters from different eras, it made that detail a central point of its narrative. Zombie Land Saga had multiple generations of idol stars, each of whom perceived the current idol industry in their own way.

Junko Konno, for instance, died in the 1980s, a time when the internet, let alone social media, just wasn’t a concept. Therefore, her idea of how an idol should interact with their fans was worlds apart from what is expected today. This made Junko’s mindset outdated, but that wasn’t her fault. The world thirty years after her death was unrecognizable, and it scared her.

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Stories such as Junko adjusting to her new surroundings or Ai coming to terms with her death were prevalent throughout Zombie Land Saga. The emphasis on character development allowed this series to turn typically boring, every-idol-anime-needs-to-have-this story bits and give them meaning.

Real quick, I want everyone who has seen her series to recall Honoka Kosaka from Love Live. For those of you who don’t know who she is, Honoka was the leader of the idol group µ’s (muse). For the record, I like µ’s, as well as the original Love Live (Love Live Sunshine, its sequel, can wallow in obscurity for all I care). Honoka herself was an alright main character, but she didn’t have much to her character. Nevertheless, she somehow always managed to rally everyone around her. How and why?

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The only things Honoka had going for her was high energy and enthusiasm. The problem was, every one of her fellow µ’s members was far more interesting than her. If anything, Honoka’s friends were the ones giving her purpose, and yet, they claimed it was the other way around. Thus, when Honoka had a bit of a self-confidence crisis, it felt hollow when her friends told Honoka how much she had helped them out.

Let’s jump to Zombie Land Saga and Sakura Minamoto where a vastly different sequence of events played out.

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Sakura, unlike Honoka, was actually shown to go out of her way for her group members. She had to set an example for the rest of Franchouchou who weren’t particularly keen on becoming idol stars. It was Sakura who had to stress how lucky they were to be given a second go at life, and that they all had what it took to stand on the stage.

As a result, when Sakura went into a similar spiral as Honoka, the members of Franchouchou reminding her how much she had done for them was far more meaningful because it was actually true.

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I won’t claim Zombie Land Saga changed my lack of enthusiasm to the idol genre. Despite the occasional gem, I still feel as though these types of shows are part of a fad which refuses to die. However, what I will say is:

Everything has its gold standard, and Zombie Land Saga is now that for idol-anime.

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Series Negatives

I’m writing this section out of fairness.

Whenever Franchouchou performed one of their concerts, Zombie Land Saga employed awkward, video-game-ish CGI. It was reminiscent to what the original Love Live did way back when.

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The reason I bring this up is because the Love Live franchise had polished itself up significantly by the time we got to Love Live Sunshine Season 2Zombie Land Saga, by comparison, felt like a regression.

HOWEVER, that regression I am referring to only applied to the animation itself. Everything else about the live concerts seen in Zombie Land Saga were terrific. This series made these moments feel important.

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Along with getting to know its characters, Zombie Land Saga showed Franchouchou preparing for their performances. This series built up each venue as the next step forward. Plus – and you would be surprised by how many idol-anime failed to do this – we actually got to see the damn things.

By the way, it was during the performances when Franchouchou being zombies really came into play. Instead of turning itself into a spontaneous music video, this series, if it wanted to do something insane, simply did it.

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In a show like Love Live, you’re not going to see µ’s spontaneously start singing in autotune and shooting lasers out of their fingers after being struck by lightning. But in Zombie Land Saga you will.

What I’m getting at is, it’s hard to care about small things like subpar CGI when everything else surrounding it is on point. In every idol anime I’ve ever seen, they have all emphasized energizing the fans. A performance is supposed to get a crowd moving and cheering. They are meant to be spectacles.

No other show has done this better than Zombie Land Saga.

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Final Thoughts

I think “blown away” is the proper way to describe this series.

There was actually quite a bit more excellence to this show that I didn’t mention, but I think I should let you discover those points for yourself. However, I would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least say how great the character of Tae Yamada was.

What’s even better, I can totally see where a second season could go. There remains plenty of information which was never discussed. Although I was more than satisfied with what was here, I will be eagerly searching for any news regarding a sequel.

Zombie Land Saga is an easy recommendation.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Zombie Land Saga? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me here and on all my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Edited By: Onions

4 comments

  1. to be fair and from what most people could tell the “subpar” CG was more than likely intentional given MAPPA seemed more than fully aware of what they were doing when they chose to go the CG route that looked par to pretty much emphasize the fact they’re zombies and to most pretty much leave a commentary about the Idol genre anime and the Idol industry as a whole. Doesn’t mean it fixes the problem you mentioned in your review but it is something to think about given how this series was more or less a big fat F U commentary on an industry that has a history of shit happening behind the scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

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