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Zombie Land Saga

Entry updated 22 October 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2018). MAPPA. Written by Shigeru Murakoshi. Directed by Munehisa Sakai. Voice cast includes Kaede Hondo, Maki Kawase, Rika Kinugawa, Kotono Mitsuishi, Mamoru Miyano, Minami Tanaka, Risa Tanedaand, Asami Tano. 24 24-minute episodes to date. Colour.

Her heart bursting with joy and optimism, schoolgirl Sakura Minamoto (Hondo) rushes out onto the street and is run over by a truck. She wakes with Amnesia in an old house, surrounded by female Zombies. A man, Kotaro Tatsumi (Miyano), explains she died ten years ago and is a zombie too. Next day all but the fanged Tae Yamada (Mitsuishi) are fully conscious. Kotaro declares he will make them "ultimate idol legends!" (most of his statements require several exclamation points) so as to restore the run-down prefecture of Saga, though he is evasive about how legendary idol status would achieve this. He also has a zombie dog, called Romero.

Like Sakura and Tae, the remaining zombies (with one exception) were born between 1964 and 1999: Yugiri (Kinugawa), a nineteenth-century courtesan with a scar round her neck suggesting execution; Saki Nikaido (Tano), ex-ladies biker gang member; Junko Konno (Kawase), a 1980s idol star whose body has clearly been sewn back together; Ai Mizuno (Taneda), an idol star of the early 2000s; and Lily Hoshikawa (Tanaka), who is delighted that her zombie state means she is permanently twelve. All but Lily and Tae (29) died in their late teens. Deliberating on their group's name (Saki's suggestion being Wicked Rage Void Slackers), they eventually settle on "Franchouchou", based on Tae's sneeze. Franchouchou performs several times during the season, building a respectable following.

Though cosmetics make them look normal when performing, without them there is a difference of Perception: they appear only slightly zombified to each other, but are terrifying to any of the public who see them. Body parts are liable to drop off, but are easily reattached – such as Sakura's head when bitten off by giant boar during survivalist training in the mountains ("We're supposed to be showered in cheers, not drool"). This Anime nonetheless has some touching moments: Lily's traumatized father appears, believing her to be a lookalike; this is handled sensitively, as is Lily being Transgender (aside perhaps for learning she dropped dead on discovering her first facial hair).

By the end of season one many questions are left unanswered: what are Kotaro's real plans? How were the girls reanimated – as Ai observes "I thought bodies were cremated in Japan"? Why is Tae taking so long to awaken properly? Why are the girls fighting Monsters in the opening credits? Additionally, a bartender friend of Kotaro, who knew Yugiri back in the nineteenth century, appears to be the historical Xu Fu, instructed in 219 BCE by the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi to find the elixir of Immortality. Zombieland Saga has three main themes: Zombies, satirizing the idol genre and being an idol show: the first two are very entertaining and the third is efficiently done.

A second series, called Zombie Land Saga Revenge, followed in 2021. The first seven episodes focus on the group's tribulations and are followed by two set in the nineteenth century, covering Yugiri's life story and the history of the Saga Prefecture at that time. The final three episodes return to the present day: we learn that Kotaro formed the group to help prevent the Prefecture being wiped out by a Disaster – this seems to refer to a great storm that now arrives, the group triumphantly performing to unite and uplift everyone's spirits – but shortly after, in the final episode's last few seconds, a UFO arrives and seemingly destroys the Saga Prefecture. [SP]

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