Now and then comes an anime show that likes to shake things up a bit and get rid of all the clichés in the industry. The case of Zombie Land Saga, is a great example of how a what-seemed-to-be horror title turns out to be an actual comedy idol show. A collaboration project that has been kept secret by Cygames, Avex Pictures and studio MAPPA, Zombie Land Saga is the most absurd and hilarious idol anime you will ever watch.
One typical morning, Sakura Minamoto, a high school girl that seems to be positive and cheerful, is killed in a traffic accident. Ten years later after her death, Sakura finds herself along with six other ‘legendary’ girls from various different eras of Japan’s history who were brought back to life as zombies by a man named Kotaro Tatsumi. To their surprise, he announces that they are to form an idol group to save Saga Prefecture, as zombies.
Plot & Story
I have to admit that I have never been happier to be ‘tricked’ into watching an idol anime. The first episode’s opening will greatly mislead you as it portrays the ever-so-cliché setting of a young girl going to school but there comes the twist with Sakura losing her life in split seconds. Seeing her facing a crisis between life and death, we are tricked to believe that this might be a horror show but after taking a tremendous turn we learn the series’ real concept: a horror comedy that satires the Japanese idol industry and shamelessly advertises Saga Prefecture with the help of a zombie idol girl-group. What makes Zombie Land Saga great is that it plays with its elements so much without being afraid of making a joke of itself. The story can be very unpredictable as well. You might think that the reason these girls are sticking together is that they were forced to but that’s not the case. Despite dying under different circumstances, they all serve the same purpose and that’s making their group into a sensation. Franchoucou is not popular or gets well-known easily; you follow the girls’ struggles and how they work their way up through hard work, motivation and of course absurd situations that make absolutely no sense.
Another thing that this show does great is the variety in its characters personalities: a weird manager with dried squid constantly in his pockets, an inspiring idol who lost her memories, a delinquent from the 90s that is nicer than you think, actual old renowned idols with dreadful past experiences, a courtesan that adores to slap people, and the legendary YAMADA TAE. Through its effective storytelling, you grow attached to the main characters very fast and you can’t help yourself but being intrigued to learn more about them and wish for their group to succeed. With satirical humor, various gags mostly around the concept of zombies, surprising plot twists that will make the plot darker than you think along with bittersweet and emotional moments, this anime keeps a good balance between making you laugh and cry.
Art & Music
Zombie Land Saga is animated quite well. Studio MAPPA did an amazing job with the character designs, the fluidity of their movements along with the overall detailing and polishing of the whole show. Scenes like the rap battle, the song focusing on Lily and the opening of the anime are impressively animated and definitely worthy of praise. But there is this one thing that will definitely bother you while watching it: the CGI. Even though it is not that bad and (thankfully) not used in every performance included in the anime, you can’t help but being a bit ‘meh’ when it comes up.
On another note, the voicing cast in this show deserves so much recognition. Having tons of songs included in the anime (with the best one being the opening theme song, ‘Adabana Necromancy’) as well as rap battles and other very demanding bits (like the Saga accent and zombie sounds – who would have guessed that Yamada Tae is actually voiced by the same actress that did Usagi from Sailor Moon?), the cast did an amazing job and managed to embrace greatly the comedy and music side the anime. Now is it even worth mentioning Mamoru Miyano at this point? This guy is truly the best voice actor of our generation and his performance as Kotaro proves it once more. For me, some of the best comedy from the anime actually comes (with no exaggeration) from the combination of Koutaro’s ridiculous lines and Mamoru’s expert delivery of them. He is too good to be true. *fangirling mode off*
Themes & Trivia
The Drive-In Tori: It is an actual business in Saga, and the CEO in the anime is voiced by the original CEO of the company, Takayuki Arure. They even posted a picture of him on twitter holding the Zombie Land Saga script. It seems that they even based the design for the character off the actual person as well. Also the dancing chicken footage was an actual commercial for the company, you can see the full version here.
The voice actresses of Zombie Land Saga, participated in Kashima Gatalympics: The Kashima Gatalympics is an event held in the mudflats of the Ariake Sea off Kashima city in Saga. The event takes place every year at the end of May. The Gatalympics are a series of fun-filled competitions that take place on the mudflats. Participants compete in unique silly, game-show type contests, where they become covered with mud. And the best thing is that Kawase Maki (Junko), Rika Kinugawa (Yugiri) and Minami Tanaka (Lily) participated for real while wearing the promotional t-shirts of Franchouchou. I have so much respect for them right now. You can check the footage here.
That bartender is older than he looks: With him implying that he owns a lot to Yugiri from back in the day, it is safe to assume that this guy is kind of immortal or a zombie himself. So we have hint number one which is the bar’s name ‘New Jofuku’ and hint number two, are the pictures inside the bar. The hints reference to Xu Fu a court sorcerer in Qin Dynasty China where he was sent to the eastern seas twice to look for the elixir of life. And to further support this we have the paintings in the bar which are in fact real pictures from his statue and tomb. So, the bartender is probably Xu Fu or his descendant and he was the one that gave Kotaro the ‘elixir of life’ and helped him bring the girls back to life.
Zombie Land Saga was a breath of fresh air for me. With its quality humor and adorable nonsense, I feel like this anime offers an experience that is refreshing by mixing in comedy with music themes and on top of that adding some mild horror stuff here and there. It’s a combination of genres that we don’t get to see very often in today’s anime and honestly it just worked so well.
- Absolutely amazing humor
- Great characters and overall design
- Fun and entertaining
- Polished animation
- So many good details and plot references for those with sharp eyes and good memory
- I find the CGI in the live performances very off-putting, especially with its weird transitions.
Zombie Land Saga impressed me in many ways and I highly believe that if you are someone who is looking for genuine entertainment and quality comedy elements in combination with a well thought out and intriguing story, then you should definitely check it out.
Zombie Land Saga
Fall 2018 | Anime Info | Simulcast