In 2008, high school student Sakura Minamoto is on her way to audition for an idol group when she is killed in a traffic accident. 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 the all-zombie idol group Franchouchou.
Doesn't it feel like in today’s world, there’s way too many horror media that does same things over and over again? I’m not solely talking about anime alone but the horror genre has gotten to a point where it feels like we’ve seen just about anything. One of the most iconic type of horror is the dead coming back to life. In this case, I’m referring to zombies. Franchises like Resident Evil and The Walking Dead are among just a few well-known ones that comes to mind. But what if I told you that Zombieland Saga manages to revitalize a bit of the horror genre
instead of falling to common cliches?
To be honest, Zombieland Saga isn’t really a horror show at all although the first episode’s opening suggests so with a cliché setting and a young girl facing a crisis between life and death. It manages to trick viewers through its opening and does a 180 degree turn after revealing the series’ real concept – a horror comedy that satirze Japanese idols with an absurd character cast. As a collaboration project by Cygames and Avex pictures (with studio MAPPA), they managed to keep this show a secret from the start.
Now that we got that out of the way, it’s time to realize what Zombieland Saga really offers. I watched plenty of zombie shows in the past and most of it attempts to do the same things over and over again – evoke a sense of fear. Zombieland Saga does the opposite and creates a sensation of genuine entertainment with its comedy elements. In fact, I’d say the show is self-aware enough to satirize the idol industry. In the first few episodes, protagonist Sakura Minamoto ends up dead after being hit a trick. But rather than awakening in some fantasy world, she is reborn as a zombie. It doesn’t take long for her to join a group with other zombie girls together. This group collectively is formed by a man named Kotaro Tatsumi with the purpose to save the Saga Prefecture. Say hello to Franchoucou.
Ideally, a show like this sounds like it took a big risk as it sounds like a dumb joke of itself. Watching Zombieland Saga does feel like the show plays with itself a bit too much but it didn’t take long for me to accept and grow attached to the main characters. That’s because each of them have a life of their own with colorful personalities. As an inspiring idol, Sakura’s dream became a reality when she steps onto the stage. Sakura’s friendly personality enables her to easily get along with everyone. That’s the opposite of delinquent yankee, Saki Nikaido. Unlike Sakura, she is difficult to get along with because of her tough personality. Deep down though, Saki isn’t a malevolent character and in fact manages to develop some deeper bonds with her idol comrades. We also meet Ai Mizuno, a girl who desire to make the best of her current life. Junko Konno, Lily Hoshikawa, and Tae Yamada make up the rest of the group after being reborn. Despite dying under different circumstances, they all serve the same purpose and that’s to make their group into a sensation.
You’re probably asking yourself if Franchoucou really is a sensation in their world. They didn’t start out with popularity and instead had to work their way up. Through hard work and motivation, the group does gain popularity as Sakura leads them to stardom. My interest for the show grew more and more as I wanted to see this group succeed. It also helped that the show constantly got me feel attached to the characters through effective storytelling. We learn of their past, their motivations, and what they hope to accomplish in the present. There are also some episodes that throws in some surprising plot twists and bittersweet ending moments. I’m not going to spoil it but it manages to become even emotional at times so prepare for some tissues.
As a horror/idol comedy, the show contains countless amount of humorous gags. Most of the humor revolves around the concept of zombies. Characters retain personalities from their past lives but sometimes finds themselves surprised by unnatural events. This often includes body parts coming off unintentionally that’s played with absurdity. The guiltiest member of the group that people will point fingers at would be Tae Yamada, the legendary title-less girl. Unlike the rest, she has yet to regain her personality and behaves like a zombie. She has an unhealthy appetite that seems to have a personality of a kid stuck in an adult’s body. The show constantly pokes fun at her character by showing what zombies can do. It’s the type of satirical humor that is aware of its intentions and seeks to make the audience laugh. And to be honest, it works.
So now what? Is this just a show of humor nonsense or is there something bigger that meets the eye? It honestly depends on how you approach this show. The more I watched Zombieland Saga, the more I felt compelled to see how different this anime is compared to other genres of similar nature. In fact, I’d say that Zombieland Saga offers an experience that is refreshing by mixing in comedy with musical themes. It’s not often you get to see these two mixed together in today’s world. The project creators managed to effectively create a fakeout of the show from the first episode while ultimately making this into a parody. Don’t get me wrong though. You’ll still occasionally see some “horror” content pop up but it satirizes to make it absurd as possible.
It should also be said that the voicing cast of this show deserves recognition for their talent. In particular, voice actress veteran Kotono Mitsuishi plays her role as Tae Yamada flawlessly. She’s able to step into the shoes of her character with the mindset of a zombie. Others such as Asami Tano is able to take on their character role as a yankee and her accent proves it. As a show about idols, you should also expect tons of catchy songs. While most of them relates to J-pop, there are occasional times when the show throws in a surprise or two such as a battle rap in one particular episode. The bottom line is, this is so much more than just a horror-idol comedy as it also manages to embrace its music culture.
Studio MAPPA did it again. They managed to create a show that not only surprised me but also give the zombie concept a breath of fresh air. Zombieland Saga manages to reinvent itself by stepping out of the comfort zone. It satirizes the idol industry by combining its self-aware humor and absurd character cast. Yet, it manages to deliver effective storytelling that is important for the overall direction of the show. As I learned more and more about the characters, it felt hard to let them to go when everything concluded. By accomplishing such a feat, this anime is definitely a sensation to take attention to. The secret is out now and it’s easy to say that I need more anime like Zombieland Saga in my life.
Zombieland Saga is unironically the best anime of the season.
Let me tell you a little story. Once Upon a Time, I got hooked on the idol genre, and descended into what is commonly referred to as idol hell. However, contrary to popular belief, I was able to snap out of my zombie like trance and escape from idol hell, and I can happily say that I’ve been clean for over two years. No longer having an interest in idol anime, I had no inclination to watch Zombieland Saga, and had planned on skipping it. What a sad, misguided fool the me of three or
so months ago was…anyway, I eventually got around to watching it thanks to my weak mind being influenced by Youtube videos that told me to give this anime a shot. In this review, I’ll explain to you why Zombieland Saga isn’t just great for it’s drop-dead hilarity and entertainment value, but for its unexpected complexity that you might just miss out on if you just skim the surface of this surprisingly great anime.
That’s right, this is actually going to be a somewhat intricate review since Zombieland Saga is totally worth analyzing. So if you don’t have much time and have to Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!, here’s a little tl;dr for you: I came for the quirky idol shenanigans + zombies combo, stayed for the amazing comedy, and left absolutely loving the diverse and both figuratively and literally fleshed out characters (Get it? Cuz they’re zombies?)
This anime really hits like a truck in how quickly it transitions from a seemingly typical idol anime opening sequence what with our heroine Sakura’s upbeat and energetic disposition to an intense and hilarious death scene backed by heavy metal music after like 30 seconds into the first episode. I was instantly hooked after this unique beginning, and the anime just got better from there.
It’s no spoiler to say that our protagonist is as dead as someone who, well, died. However, she is revived via necromancy by a sunglasses wearing manager dude named Koutarou who also brought back six other SUPER LEGENDARY girls from the dead all for the purpose of them forming an idol group with the monumental goal of saving a declining Saga.
If that sentence long synopsis doesn’t get you to tingle with excitement in anticipation to see where the heck this anime goes, then I don’t know what will.
It’s no secret to say that I didn’t watch this anime hoping to find something with a compelling narrative and developed characters and was instead looking for something that would make me smile in amusement. And I can happily say that Zombieland Saga made me die of laughter (Don’t worry about me though, I was brought back to life…Though sadly not as a LEGENDARY zombie idol) This is the funniest anime that I’ve seen all year, even beating out good comedy anime like Grand Blue and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord. Each episode contains a plethora of comedic moments, and there was always something new and creative so it never felt like I was watching the same routine with each passing episode. Now if the good comedy was all Zombieland Saga had, I would have been perfectly content with the anime and left satisfied. However, there is so much more to this anime than that, and its greatest strengths revolve around the cast.
You really can’t go wrong when your characters are a bunch of LEGENDARY girls in an idol group called FranChouChou. Outside of Sakura, who suffers from memory loss, a typical anime trope that Zombieland Saga actually executes better than literally every other anime that utilizes memory loss, our girls include my personal favorite, the LEGENDARY Saki Nikaidou, a fiery, outgoing girl whose voice and character design are so hot that they make me catch on fire. Plus she’s a rapping biker girl who likes chicken and goes down in a blaze of glory TWICE. I guess the perfect girl does exist. We also have Ai Mizuno, a girl who was a successful idol in life who had a simply LEGENDARY death after giving one last electrifying performance. Let’s not forget the soft spoken yet powerhouse vocalist Junko Konno, whose LEGENDARY rise to stardom may have been cut short by an unexpected crash and burn, but she lives on in our hearts…and as a zombie. Lily Hoshikawa is a kawaii girl who was a LEGENDARY child actress who unfortunately ended up in a hairy situation that her little heart just couldn’t take. Still, she’s a true star, and her cuteness is infectious. Next, we have the ever enticing and LEGENDARY Yuugiri, who is the most experienced of the girls in more ways then one.
Finally, we have THE LEGENDARY TAE YAMADA, and thanks to her inclusion as the star of the show, I was practically mandated by the animu gods to bump up my score for this anime by a full point. So yeah, the girls in this anime are pretty…Illustrious.
You’ll notice that the girls all lived in different eras, so they obviously were exposed to different cultures based on the times that they lived in. A lesser anime would have glazed over this fact, but not Zombieland Saga, and this was the point that I realized that this anime was something special. Junko and Ai were to first to go through compelling character arcs, and their stories were pretty engaging, and set the stage for the upcoming character arcs. The episode dedicated to Lily was, to put it bluntly, LEGENDARY. Zombieland Saga had done it. It became the first anime I’ve ever seen to make me laugh hysterically AND be brought to the verge of tears thanks to an incredibly well produced character driven episode. I didn’t think anything could top the epicness of the rap battle, but the emotions I felt thanks to Lily’s story certainly did. I was trapped in a sea of emotions throughout the entire episode, and I could probably write an entire review just dedicated to that episode alone. Seriously though, I have never seen an anime handle Lily’s character type nearly as well as Zombieland Saga did, and at the end of the day, Lily is Lily.
And of course, it goes without saying that Saki’s episode was pure greatness. Saki is just that good.
A strong demonstration of camaraderie between characters is something that I rarely see sufficiently executed in anime. So imagine my shock when I realized that Zombieland Saga of all things was able to pull it off. The bonds that these characters have with each other grew from constant arguments and not being on the same page in the first few episodes into an in sync family who would do anything to help each other out. This is demonstrated the clearest near the end of the anime. I won’t spoil exactly what, but something happens to Sakura that causes a rift between her and her fellow zombies. The way that all of the girls try to get her back to her old self is extremely heartwarming, and it really goes to show how far these girls have come. And thanks to their positive relationship with one other, they’re able to put on some spectacular performances. And now we get to the other great part about this anime.
Its music is hella good.
For the past several weeks I’ve been listening to the opening theme song, Adabana Necromancy, constantly. I play it when I eat. I play it when I sleep. I’m playing it as I’m writing this review. It’s a pretty damn good song. And you know what else is good? Literally every insert song in this anime. I’ve already mentioned the rap battle, which was pretty off the chain. Lily’s song and Saki’s song are two personal favorites of mine, and every musical number in this show is just really catchy. If FranChouChou ever put on a show irl, you better believe I’d buy tickets to go and see them, and I would be screaming and crying at the awesomeness alongside those two heavy metal guys who’ve attended every show that the girls have put on. Seriously though, those two guys really are the unsung MVPs of this anime.
When it comes to the voice acting, as Phil from Hercules would say, I’ve got three words for ya: My Man Miyano Mamoru! This boi is my favorite male seiyuu, and his performance as Koutarou is simply LEGENDARY. Some of the best comedy from this anime comes from the combination of Koutarou’s absurd lines plus Mamoru’s expert delivery of them. And of course, the ladies voicing our lovely zombie idols do an exceptional job. And they even got the LEGENDARY voice actress of Usagi from Sailor Moon to voice the LEGENDARY Tae Yamada. I didn't expect anything less.
Visually speaking, this anime is animated quite well. I love the character designs, and the fluidity of their movements during scenes like the rap battle and Lily’s song is very impressive. But there’s one glaring issue with the visuals, and I’m sure you know exactly what I’m referring to. You guessed it, I’m talking about none other than the CGI.
Which is an acronym that I made for Cute Girl Idols.
That’s right, as I said before, these cute girl idols are drawn to look pretty attractive, but they’re, you know, rotting corpses, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not into necrophilia. Yet the girls’ cutesy designs have consistently tempted me throughout the anime’s run time, which has been problematic since it’s called into question my morality and…Oh wait, you thought by CGI I meant the Computer Generated Imagery that this anime scarcely deploys? The CGI implemented during some of the dance sequences that is literally used for less then ten minutes of the entire anime’s run time and doesn’t look nearly as bad as people make it out to be? Well personally, I have absolutely no qualms with the CGI. There’s definitely worse out there, trust me.
Zombieland Saga impressed me. It put a fun twist on the idol genre that not only made it incredibly entertaining to watch, but also allowed it to develop some truly great and unique characters. I haven’t enjoyed watching an anime this much in a long time. And if you haven’t watched this anime yet, you really should Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! and watch it as soon as possible. It just isn’t right to miss out on such a LEGENDARY anime.
It’s pretty clear that in today’s society, anime seems to be churned out in droves. You bear witness to the regurgitation of carbon copies, causing the medium you hold dear to fade into the bleakest grey...
And then Zombieland Saga busts in through the fucking window in a speeding minivan going 156 mph, shouting “FUCK YOU; GET IN” before flooring it faster than you can say “The Legendary TAE YAMADA!” It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s loud as all hell, and most importantly, it’s as vivid as a sunset. Sure, your weeaboo mancave of a room is busted and your waifu collection is in pieces, but we
all know you’ll replace that with a shrine dedicated to a bunch of zombie idols in no time. You’ll get used to it anyway.
We should probably get the most colorful, charming parts of this show out of the way. These visuals pop. The colors strike like God’s lightning, especially in both the opening and ending. These character designs are as bombastic as the personalities of the girls when they’re off doing weird hijinks. Their facial expressions and clothes are so glorious that it’s easy to forget that you only give a shit about like half the characters until their pasts get revealed. Sure, there are some fugly CGI idol models in a couple of dance sequences early on, but then we get oil paintings for menus and real-life footage. Studio MAPPA poured their blood, sweat, and tears into injecting nothing but style into this show.
Speaking of hijinks, there’s a ton of variety in these spectacles. Horror movie/game parodying, playing hot potato with Tae’s severed head, fucking chicken performances and rap battles?! How can anyone object to this?! This is a perfect venue for vibrant character chemistry, as evidenced by the two best characters in the show, Saki and The Legendary Tae Yamada! These two embody the best aspects of the show, with them getting a majority of the best gags. Saki’s loud and abrasive personality makes for perfect chemistry fodder with the rest of the cast, and the inner machinations of Tae Yamada’s mind are an enigma. She is a joy to witness.
The rest of the characters took a while to become even remotely interesting, and this is for a few reasons. For one, several of the main characters are often more drama focused. While this isn’t a bad thing on its own, not only are the personalities of characters such as Junko and Ai not very interesting, but given the limited time spent on drama in comparison to everything else in the first 4 episodes, the drama often feels like a detour. Admittedly, very few of these characters are that great when they aren’t dealing with absurd scenarios, but some are especially dull early on. The latter half thankfully has episodes designed around fleshing out the characters and giving them an emotional arc, but not every character gets this luxury. Granted, none of the main 7 idols are as grating as their manager Kotaro (cuz that guy can get fucked by a cactus more than half the time) but the show still has a hard time giving everyone the spotlight. Thankfully some of the side characters introduced in some of these character-centric mini-stories are written and explored efficiently. Without them, the drama-centered focus of the second half would have felt like an agonizing shift considering how lackluster the more serious portions of the show felt beforehand.
The only thing left to touch on is the music. The background tracks are catchy, with neat jingles to compliment the lighthearted and comedic moments. However, the real meat comes in the form of the songs by everyone in this idol group: Franchouchou. The OP "Adabana Necromancy” is as vivid as the visuals that it plays over, and the watercolor visuals really help sell the emotional ED "Hikari e”. As for the insert idol tracks, several of them are pretty nice to listen to as well, with the only real exception being the ear-piercing Vocaloid-esque song that plays at the end of the 7th episode. It would be rather ghastly if these performances sounded dead, so thank the maker this ain’t the case.
It’s refreshing to have an anime run you over, screaming. It calms down, and there are some growing pains, but I’m happy to see some life here. There’s a vivid pulse to this one, a wild and unique expression so charming and sincere that I nearly overlook how uneven and easy to break this show can be. With this performance now over, it’s your turn to take part in the saga. What are you waiting for? Do it while you’re still alive!
Also, Tae Yamada dabs in episode 7, so that’s an Easter egg to look out for.
“Another idol Anime!” A lot of eye rolling and sighs going into this series, though the fact that it was an original, I was intrigued enough to give it a chance. The first episode makes a loud statement on what it’s about, taking only a few minutes to set up its “first day of school” cliché before crashing the premise of the show which is under the guise of everyone’s favourite automobile in “Truck-kun,” into our main heroine in Sakura Minamoto, and the audience. It’s so unexpected, it’s so shocking and the timing couldn’t be any better, it immediately has you in a fit of
The story doesn’t end there, luckily, exactly ten years later, the mysterious music producer Koutaro Tatsumi decides he's going to put together a legendary idol group called, Franchouchou. Thanks to some behind-the-curtain methods, he can assemble the world's seven greatest singers and dancers—who are dead in order to inject some liveliness into Japan’s Saga prefecture. Which is how Sakura finds herself terrified and confused in a house full of dead girls. If you couldn’t tell at this point, Zombieland Saga is an imitation on the popular sub-genres of idols and zombies with a twist to create many bizarre, strange, amusing, hilarious and unexpected moments. It uses exaggeration, inversion and trivialization effortlessly—zombie addicts will be surprised to find that it’s not your typical “survive the zombie apocalypse” archetype but uses the trope of zombies to establish a unique stage for an idol series.
There are breathing moments as it cleverly takes a step away from the blistering comedy, every now and then to pull back the curtain a bit on the main story for some social commentary on the dark side of the idol industry as well as alluding to some interesting themes that provokes a lot of thought and feelings which was more prevalent in episode six, “Because It’s Sentimental SAGA.” Unfortunately, the latter end of the series, it lingered on this aspect a bit too long when chronicling Sakura’s origins. It upsets the tone too much, taking away the charm and hilarity that gives this anime much of its punch. Luckily, there are characters who prove to be the perfect counter-balance when these tonal shifts occur, like Koutarou, the manager of the girls, an over-the-top type of persona, voiced by the legendary voice actor Mamoru Miyano. He is the perfect casting choice, he makes Koutarou special in a way where every time he appears on screen, you know something special is about to take place, which normally leaves you in hysterics.
Furthermore, there is a colourful cast of characters as well, with a selection of idols who run quite a range of personalities. The interactions and dialogues between them never feel overly sappy or dull, most of the shows best moments come when these personalities are colliding with each other. Each one gets there 1 or 2 episodes of shine time that sheds light into their backstories, their current conflict and then a resolution to said conflict where we can see some character development and chemistry take place. Zombieland Saga is the type of anime that has characters who will happily tear each other apart, both figuratively and literally, and it's nice to see them not hold back. It is absolutely a comedy first, with missing limbs, heads popping off all over the place and some hilarious ways of dying, yes, I am looking at you, Lily! And when it sticks to the winning formula, the show doesn’t feel derivative but, feels refreshingly unique, and all it took was mashing GCDCT and horror elements together.
On the technical side of things, MAPPA has been nothing short of impressive, seeing that this is an original series. Surprisingly enough, they were able to maintain a solid consistency level throughout the show with its art and animation with the occasional drops in production value. Character designs alone tell the personalities of each character, they are somewhat distinctive but when assembled, it’s easier to see that certain features are generic. And for a parody show such as Zombieland Saga, it works. The zombified looks go hand in hand with the slapstick, and as to be expected, along with the facial expressions and the way their limbs were flying around all over the place was very well animated. The colour palette is very bright, vibrant and sometimes has this watercolour paint look to it. The downside here is definitely in several moments when they did their idol performances, the sequences were in cringe CGI and it wasn’t the pretty kind at all. Apart from that, the job they did on performances such as the Babymetal scene in episode 1, the Battle Rap scene in episode 2 and the Fast food commercial scene in episode 5 won me over.
In addition, MAPPA nailed the OP with the perfect song choice and visuals. "Adabana Necromancy" by Fran Chou Chou is a tribute to the music used in anime series openings from the late sixties to late seventies. Especially anime of the genre in action and mecha. The musical arrangements dominated by trumpets, violins, the background lyric chorus and quick tempo. Some of these openings also used sound effects in the action sequences. Its bodacious and balls to the wall seeing these power ranger-like zombie girls throwing shapes. The ED "Hikari e" which is also done by Fran Chou Chou, is sincere and beautiful, full of farewells and gratitude, similar to graduation songs. The soundtrack has a few memorable songs, very catchy and although they are repeatedly played often, it’s never annoying. The idol songs are the type of musical items that you’d get from your typical idol anime. The casting for this show is perfect and it is very hard to imagine each character being replaced.
What’s nice is that each of these girls’ lives was cut short, they have been given a second chance to live out their dreams. The sentimental moments are good in between all the goofs and laughs. It is similar to Asobi Asobase in terms of a good unexpected comedy, it’s absurd yet grounded when it needs to be. Despite a few glaring flaws, it definitely feels as if it achieved what it set out to be and Zombieland Saga deserves its credit for taking the idol show rulebook and rewriting some pages, changing the game in the oversaturated sub-genre that is filled with shows that shy away from taking chances. You'd have to be dead inside not to laugh while watching this. In fact, they're head and shoulders above most comedy anime this year, not giving it a chance would be a grave mistake.