An optimistic schoolgirl. A deadly accident. A dark and stormy night. The dead rising from their graves. And…a pop idol group?
Upon reading that sentence, you might think I’m talking about two or three completely different anime. But what if I told you that not only am I describing a single anime, but that all of this happens in just the first episode?
That is the wackiness of Zombie Land Saga, an anime series produced jointly by MAPPA, apex pictures and Cygames. The first season aired from October 4 to December 20, 2018 with a second season announced last year.
The story begins when 17-year-old high school student Sakura Minamoto is excitedly preparing to head to an audition – only to be inexplicably (and comically) hit by a truck on her way out the door. Flash-forward 10 years, Sakura wakes up in an unfamiliar house seemingly crawling with a bevy of undead women all trying to eat her.
Sakura escapes the house and finds a police officer, who promptly freaks out upon seeing her and shoots her in the chest. It isn’t until she happens to see her reflection that she realizes what’s going on: she is also a zombie.
It’s all a very confusing situation for Sakura until a mysterious, obnoxious man named Kotaro reveals everything to Sakura. Through some strange means, he has brought Sakura and the others back from the dead in order to….get this…. start a pop idol singing group for the purpose of “saving” the declining Saga Prefecture. Or so he says.
Along with six other dead girls, which include a child TV star, a courtesan from the Meiji Era, the leader of a biker gang, an idol from Sakura’s favorite J-pop group, a solo idol, and “The Legendary Tae Yamada” (How is she legendary? Screw you, she just is.), Kotaro tries to get these ragtag zombie chicks working together to make his dream a reality.
As you can probably tell from this premise, Zombie Land Saga never takes itself seriously. It takes many of the tropes you’d expect from your typical idol anime and smashes it together with elements of comedy-horror. It’s ‘Love Live!’ meets ‘School-Live’. And it’s freaking great!
This is coming from a guy who NEVER watches idol anime. I’ve never been a fan of Love Live! or The Idolmaster or anything of the sort. I had no idea going into Zombie Land Saga that it would go this route. But this show’s unique blend of genres had me so hooked that I couldn’t wait for the next episode to come out each week.
The comedy-horror troupes this show brought to the table fit my tastes, and the songs are surprisingly catchy and fun to listen to. Each of the girls’ personalities are established early on and blend well together, while the character of Kotaro absolutely steals the show (especially in the original Japanese). On top of all that, Zombie Land Saga features the most respectful representation of a transgender character I’ve ever seen in an anime. For the sake of not giving away too much, I won’t say which character is transgender. Only that I appreciated this anime’s treatment of this particular character.
If I had one criticism with the show, it would have to be its use of CGI that ends up look very cheap and awkward whenever it switches to this from the standard animation. However, I don’t know whether the CGI scenes were unintentionally bad or were meant to satirize the poor CGI used in other popular idol anime. I’m really hoping it’s the latter, so I’ll give this show the benefit of doubt with this one.
Zombie Land Saga is an interesting ride that has just enough goofy comedy and campy horror troupes to make you forget at times that you’re watching an idol anime. It’s probably not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of cheesy zombie stories and don’t mind the musical element, give this anime a try. And if you aren’t hooked by the start of the second episode, I have just three words for you.
Zombie. Rap. Battle.