Revive your winter break with ‘Zombie Land Saga’
“Zombie Land Saga” is one of many new anime of the fall 2018 season. It was directed by Munehisa Sakai and produced by Cygames, with animation by studio MAPPA. Ordinary high school student Sakura Minamoto, who dreams of becoming an idol, is about to send a letter to a talent agency when she gets hit by a truck. Only to wake up a decade later as a zombie, revived by a mysterious man named Kotaro Tatsumi to bring glory to Saga Prefecture with an all-zombie idol group.
I’m not a big fan of idol stories or anime focused on cute girls doing cute things, but “Zombie Land Saga” got my attention when a clip appeared on my Twitter feed from the second episode of a rap battle between Sakura and one of the other zombie idol girls. Not only did the rap battle sound good in Japanese, the subtitles matched the meaning of the words and had a flow of their own, which is a level of attention to detail I didn’t expect. So I caught up once I finished my fall quarter finals, and “Zombie Land Saga” has not disappointed.
With seven episodes out of a planned 12 available for free on Crunchyroll right now, “Zombie Land Saga” consistently subverts expected genre tropes with its very simple twist. The zombie idols all come from different time periods, including a courtesan from the Meiji era and a former idol from the ’80s. In the first episode, all but one girl are shuffling around mindlessly, unaware of their resurrected state, before a death metal concert jerks them into consciousness.
None of the girls behave in stereotypical anime-girl ways I would have expected from an idol girl show. Sakura, when she was alive, seemed generically cheerful and cutesy, but the moment she’s resurrected she reveals herself to be driven, competent and unwilling to put up with any nonsense. “A little biting never hurt anyone,” Kotaro Tatsumi, their producer tells Sakura in the first episode. “ … Are you stupid?” she replies, unamused. Lily, a former child actress, is not a spoiled brat but a sweet, dedicated little girl. Yugiri, the courtesan, is not uncomfortably promiscuous because of her previous occupation, but is instead laid-back and interested in exploring the new technology of the present. This unusual approach to the idol genre makes the entire story worth following.
As of episode seven, none of Kotaro’s backstory has been revealed, and it is unknown as to why he’d resurrect these girls, form an idol group and try to save Saga Prefecture at all. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief to enjoy the journey, though. It is a very enjoyable journey.
The performance sequences are animated with CGI in a style I personally don’t enjoy very much, but they’re short and relevant to the story. The character dynamics feel realistic and funny, and all of the girls are likable. The actual songs they perform are catchy, fun and thematically relevant, especially the rap battle sequence in episode two. The opening of the show is beautifully animated.
With five episodes left, there are a lot of questions “Zombie Land Saga” still has to answer. Even if those questions still remain after the finale, however, “Zombie Land Saga” is still a lot of fun to watch and I highly recommend it.