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“Zombie Land Saga:” the Ouran High School Host Club of the 2010s

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The girls

I can’t believe I haven’t written about Zombie Land Saga yet. It’s one of my favorite current anime, and with the recent announcement of a second season, I figured it was time. 

I mean how can you not love a show about a group of girls brought back to life as zombies for the sole purpose of revitalizing the Saga prefecture as an idol group?

It’s such a ridiculous premise. And it would be easy just to make chock-full gags, with little plot and character development. Or it could have literally been just a pure way of driving tourists to Saga. Somehow, and I have no idea exactly how, the show manages to be hilarious, heartfelt, coherent, respectful and an excellent way of encouraging people to visit Saga.

(I really want to try Drive-In Tori. After watching that episode, I immediately looked it up and was so happy it was real.

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A commercial for Drive In Tori

And it helps that all the songs are pretty good. There isn’t really a bad one in the bunch. If you’re going to make a show parodying the idol genre and industry, the songs still need to be good. Now, I’m not familiar with idol shows, but like any good parody, Zombieland Saga is funny for those who don’t know it and even better for those who do.

The series’ opening scene is where this really shines. The main character, Sakura Minamoto, is dancing to a music video in her bedroom. She talks about how much she wants to be an idol. So, holding her audition tape, she puts on her shoes and runs out the door.

And is promptly hit by a truck.

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Truck-kun!

The metal theme song starts to play, with some of the most ridiculous visuals. 

The series proper takes place about a decade later. A man named Kotaro Tatsumi — awoke her and six other girls, former idols Ai and Junko, the former captain of an all girls’ biker gang Saki, child actress prodigy Lily, the long-dead famous oiran Yugiri, and the LEGENDARY Tae Yamada, who has fully awakened from her zombie-ness…It’s a very odd group.

They all lived and died at different times and have totally different experiences when it comes to the entertainment industry. It does take a long time for them to learn to get along with each other, but their personalities work with each other nicely.

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Even with their manager!

And the series basically handwaves all the logic associated with the situation. We’re purposely told to ignore it, so I wonder if the topic will be properly addressed. I do think it will be talked about at some point, though. Maybe next season.

What I love about the show, is that it takes its characters seriously. The show recognizes they’re people, not just props to throw things at without struggles or feelings. I can picture most of them as…real live people. You know…aside for the whole zombie thing.

Perhaps the best example of this is Lily Hoshikawa. For a few episodes, we get to see this 12-year-old as the classic kawaii kid. She speaks in third person and is obsessed with all things girly and cute. But she’s still smart and savvy; she knows exactly how to keep a crowd entertained. Then in the eighth episode (Go Go Neverland Saga), it’s revealed Lily is a trans girl.

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While a couple of the girls are a bit shocked, and maybe a little confused, they all end up accepting her. And manager Kotaro, knew the whole time, and literally doesn’t care. He treats her the same as the other zombies (which isn’t great) and also helps her write a song for her estranged father.

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There aren’t a lot of actual trans people in anime. And even fewer who get treated with the same respect as Lily. And I think the reveal works, because it is Lily who decides to reveal it, and because we got to know her as a person in the past several episodes.

She’s one of my favorite characters. For whatever reason, I really like Yugiri. I hope we learn more about her in future episodes since we don’t know much about her or Tae.

And that can be hard, in a comedy series, to make your characters more than one dimensional punching bags. Because a lot of time, the humor can be cruel. And at times, the humor can be on the darker side, but it really works. Especially in the death scenes. Most of them would be too gruesome to show seriously.

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The show is basically to idol anime is to what Ouran High School Host Club is to harem anime. And like Host Club, the show has a huge emphasis on being yourself, and using your strengths to succeed. And 

It has an acute understanding of its tropes and rather than just sticking them in a show, weaves a cohesive and emotional narrative around that. And it’s very knowledgeable about the industry itself, most evident in Ai and Junko’s clashing relationship.

It shows a lot of passion. And I respect that. I love this show and recommend it to everyone. 

And that’s the scoop.

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Score: 9/10

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Year of release: 2018

Length: 12 episodes

Director: Munehisa Sakai

Writer: Shigeru Murakoshi

Music by: Yasuharu Takanashi  

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Manga by Megumu Soramichi

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If you liked this read: “The Promised Neverland” is the most promising anime of the year so far.

 

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