Fans were waiting a long time for me to review the following show. Wait no longer for it is finally here as we take a look at the zombie idol anime Zombie Land Saga.
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Idols, Music
Number of Episodes: 12
Plot Summary: In 2008, high school student Sakura Minamoto is on her way to audition for an idol group when something unexpected put an end to those plans. Ten years later, she discovers that she, along with six other “legendary” girls from various eras of Japan’s history, are resurrected as zombies by Kotaro Tatsumi to save Saga Prefecture as an all-zombie idol group.
Before we get to what the show is about let us go over the commendable presentation. The cool soundtrack and especially Insert Songs, both ones surely to be included in CDs/performed at live concerts and random ones thrown here and there are enjoyable to listen to and different from the usual idol fare. Then there is the animation. The character designs are good but what stood out for me were the “horror close-ups”. This being an anime starring the undead there are some episodes that took advantage of this with close-ups of their cold, shriveled, decaying, scarred, patched and bandaged blue bodies despite looking cute and/or sexy from a distance. These are very effective during the more scary parts of the show. The rest of the animation is also good, even during CGI performances, which are intentionally slow at points as both a parody and to invoke character progression within the songs, specifically in character centered episodes like the eye-opening “Episode 8”.
1: A show about zombie girls doing idol things. This is personally the preferred narrative. First reason is that when episodes are about the girls forced into weird predicaments to get noticed or gather a following, these are when the show is at its best. Without spoiling anything most of these episodes are where the girls step out of idol comfort zones, tacking music genres one would normally not expect in idol anime. The second reason is these are the episodes that focus more on the ZOMBIE part of zombie idol. There are even references to popular zombie series and franchises. Let me put it this way. Episodes 1 and 2 were some of the funniest television in 2018. While other episodes such as 5 were also filled with more laughs than usual the show could not capture the magic of the first two again. Luckily it made up for this in other ways as we discuss the second narrative.
2: A show about a zombie idol group starting from the bottom. This, at first, was not as interesting. Unless the reader is a fan of idol media (specifically anime) then this may not be a show for you. Initially the idol stuff was standard fare for the genre full of predicaments seen before in other shows of its ilk. However, similar to Girls Club shows, a good idol show is one that finds a way to stand out in either its gimmick or character arcs. For example, what helps the first season of Wake-Up! Girls stand out from The Idolm@ster is it covering the dark side of the idol industry. This is why, unlike most, I enjoyed the Ongaku Shoujo TV anime. What helps Zombieland stand out from other idol shows, besides the undead gimmick, are the character arcs. Besides the eye-opening Episode 8, the other arcs feel familiar but have an extra spice added to them to make them stand out from similar arcs in other idol shows. Basically there is drama but it is pretty good drama.
3: Ah yes. The Locodol part of my description. The show in some parts is also a commercial for the city of Saga. Keep in mind that anime are primarily made with a Japanese audience in mind. The West (usually) comes second. Anyway the Saga promotion is more of a side activity and does not take precedence so readers need not concern themselves with it much. It is there to serve its purpose.
Next up are the characters and once again we must address the elephant in the room, the producer. It feels like I have to do this every time I talk about a female idol show with a male producer/manager. In Zombieland it is the insane and hammy Kotaro. Unlike most producers he does all he can to steal the spotlight with his (sometimes) admittedly funny insanity and berating of the girls. I get the point of the character. Instead of encouraging the girls he mostly insulted and was generally mean to them so they would not let success get to their hands. However, though intentional for laughs, he often berated them for no good reason. For me it was hit and miss. Sometimes I got a laugh out of his kookiness, but more often than not I wanted to see him get clobbered, which he thankfully did a few times. Of course because he is their producer/manager he secretly had private conversations with the girls and helped motivate some of them THEN.
There are some notable side-characters who serve as running gags or for a select few moral support for the main seven. Most were neat. Some possibly becoming fan favorites like the police officer.
Image source HERE.
Now for the main seven.
-Sakura is the first one noticeably dragged into this zombie idol gig. Even so she cares enough to go along with it, do her best and help the others cope when needed.
-Saki is the appointed team captain thanks to her confidence and upfront personality. She is the “punk with a heard of gold” of the group.
-Junko and Ai definitely have their defining (Junko being the shy one and Ai the serious one) traits but for most of the first half they were the “grouchy veterans who needed extra convincing”.
-Lily is the cute one and youngest of the group. Though cheerful she is a bit snarky towards Saki, for good reason though.
-Yugiri is the oldest and hottest of the gang. She is the onee-san of the group, having a “just go with it” approach to everything. Be sure not to upset her though or she will give you some tough love even though you learned your lesson long before she delivers her “swift justice”.
-Tae is an undead angel who filled my heart with hope for a brighter future despite humanity as a whole sucking so hard.
Yuri ships are Sakura X Saki and Junko X Ai. Yugiri X Lily is a potential third ship but it is not as strong as the other two. The reason why is hinted in Episode 11 though whether it means much is unknown due to the following point. While the episode had a conclusion it was more like “This is only the beginning”. Long story short the season ended with some unanswered questions and huge sequel baiting. Considering how successful the show was it is a matter of whether the real life idol group can get bookings for a season 2. I do not doubt it will happen but you never know.
Oops: Cannot forget the super important legendary pairing that is Tae X Sakura’s head.
Overall Zombie Land Saga is a pretty good idol show with a cool twist. As an idol show it is standard fare but thanks primarily to the interesting character arcs and nice use of the zombie gimmick it manages to stand out from the rest. The main seven are likable (two of which after they calm down), the animation is really good during horror scenes and the soundtrack has varied tunes. While the show peaked in awesomeness at Episode 2 and the idol centered stuff was alright, there were several great episodes and moments here and there. As for who to recommend the show to, readers who are fans of or are okay with idol anime. As for others it, as always, depends on personal preference.
PS: Readers who saw Episode 8 and plan on throwing fits over it will be banned from the blog for life. Viewers who saw Magical Girl Site, was okay with “it” there but plan on criticizing “it” here, will also be banned.