Anime

Irina and Crow in Zombieland (Saga) ep12: We’re All Zombies and We’ve All Died

It’s Crow’s World of Anime’s turn again to host the Zombieland Saga collaboration review! If you missed the last episode’s review, you can read Irina and Crow in Zombieland (Saga) ep11: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn on Irina’s site I Drink and Watch Anime! This week, we review episode 12, “Good Morning Again SAGA.” I’ll be regular type and Irina will be in bold.

YES I was born to be bold, baby!

I’m bummed. This is the last episode (as far as we know -- see below!), and this series has grown on me. I’m going to be sad to see it end. Same with the collaboration!

I won’t lie, as soon as it ended I looked up whether it was maybe a 13 episode series. It’s still in m queue -- you know... just in case...

I’m so going to steal that idea...

But at least we got plenty of Tae, Yuugiri, and… Well, before we get started, any initial thoughts or impressions, Irina?

Without giving anything away, I legit surprised myself crying. Tears rolling down my cheeks as I look baffled like - where the heck did those come from….

My manly pride is pushing me to say “Not me!” But I’m afraid my honesty is pushing a different interpretation!

Zombieland Saga has always been about Sakura's quest to become an idol. And at the start of this episode, she was not feelin' it! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

If you push aside the delightful secondary characters, and if you look beyond the comedic antics, Zombieland Saga has always been about one thing: Sakura pursing her dream of becoming an idol. The story started with her dashing excitedly in the street, application in hand, only to be struck by a truck. Episode 10 ended with Sakura getting struck again, only this time, the impact healed her before-death amnesia but robbed her of her life after death memories. It was crushing to watch her deal with the depression and despair she felt as she remembered the failures in her life -- without remembering the successes she’d shared with her fellow zombie idols.

I didn’t get some of the hate I saw some folks throw at that episode. I can’t remember where I saw the comment, but one stood out as epitomizing the reaction: Local egg head ruins everything (or something like that). Given that Sakura was always the series’ main character, I don’t get that perspective.

What do you think, Irina?

Ambition and optimism has a price. I understand that anime is escapist by nature and some prefer to view a world without downsides, but you know, life can get hard. Big dreams are heavy to shoulder. Sometimes it’s bound to get you down. As difficult as it has been ro see Sakura go from a genki cute girl to a fragile complex individual, riddled with insecurities, flaws and strengths which are not always compatible with those around her, I personally found it deeply comforting.

Sakura's depression didn't just impact her. It hurt her friends like Tae, too. In her heart, I think Sakura saw that, and it only made her feel worse. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

It may be weird to say but I’ve always hated the odd stigma that you have to be happy. Granted a lot of it has to do with my particular experience with communism and some gender expectations, but I like it when media shows us that you can be down sometimes. Even rock bottom down, and that’s still o.k. You can get out of it. Not every moment is going to be the best. I know it’s taboo to deconstruct your main character that way, but I really respect Zombieland for treating Sakura like a real person and trusting me to do the same.

Yet another reason I love your character insights!

This episode starts with Sakura  firmly in the grip of her despair. The show did its usual great job presenting her state with a mix of humor and pathos. One shot in particular crystalized that approach: At their morning meeting, Koutarou point blank told Sakura that she was going on stage no matter what, and poor Tae seemed almost distraught at the tension!

Again, the show was ruthless in it’s refusal to have Sakura give in to hope. In a way, it made Sakura a stronger character. She was unyielding in her defeat. You don't see that very often.

And even though this was the classic Koutarou morning screaming session, it worked. Somehow it fit with the desperation of the story. It was amazing that in this last episode, they managed to take by far the worst aspect of the show, and reinvent it as something completely different. Koutarou isn’t merely a tone deaf off mark unfunny punchline. He’s a distraught and helpless man trying to grasp at anything possible but completely out of ideas. So he screams. Maybe if he’s loud enough, he’s voice will finally get heard.

Koutarou was out of ideas -- but he was not about to give up on Sakura. Even if it meant he could only scream at her! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Coupled with a quick scene later on (more on that in a moment), that insight is particularly poignant.

Tae played a big role in this episode -- she took point in the effort to bring Sakura back into the fold. First, she used her rooster imitation she learned back in episode 5 (and as an aside, doesn’t Irina come up with the best titles for her posts?) to get Sakura’s attention. Then she launched into zombie-speak in an attempt to convince Sakura to practice with the rest. Didn’t work. Undeterred, Tae tried again, this time trying visual aids like a magazine article showing the reaction to their laser performance. Still didn’t work.

But this is Tae we’re talking about, and she wasn’t about to give up. When Sakura tried to lock herself in a room to get away from everyone, Tae beat against the door until she realized she couldn’t break it down. Then a few drops of moisture fell from face, and even the other zombie idols thought she was crying! What’d you think at this point, Irina?

You know, I’ve been extremely curious about Tae, especially since Dawnstorm left those fascinating hypothesis in the comments. That guy’s amazing. So I’ve been trying extra hard to figure out Tae but to me, she’s a pet. I mean that as a compliment. An unknowable, incomprehensible yet deeply lovable presence you just want to take care of for no obvious reason. Seeing Tae so distraught was possibly the most visceral moment for me.

At first, I thought Tae was crying. But no, she was drooling. I had to agree with Saki when she said, "This... seems bad, right?" Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Fortunately for my heart (Lily crying last episode was more than enough emotional pain for me, thanks), Tae wasn’t crying. She was drooling. Unable to think of any other way to convince Sakura, she went into full zombie mode, crashed through the transom, grabbed Sakura in her teeth, and forcibly dragged her to the practice room.

Now remember, this is Zombieland Saga, and they often use zombie humor to setup cool emotional moments. After throwing Sakura onto the floor, Tae pantomimed the same routine that Sakura had used before to teach Tae her dance moves.

Tae couldn’t speak, but she managed to communicate better than any of them. That gave the rest of the zombie idols a moment to reflect on how much Sakura had supported and encouraged them. Nice, sweet idol moment, complete with violin-based sappy music, right?

Nah. Sakura tried to beg off, saying she didn’t remember doing any of that stuff and she was going to leave, so Yuugiri made a command decision. Yep -- the slap threatened in the previous episode materialized and left Sakura on the ground! Yuugiri then proceeded to give Sakura a stern mom-level talking to. Her best line was “If the alternative is having a successful show without you, Sakura-han, we would rather go on stage and fail with you.”

It was only a matter of time before Yuugiri struck! I love Saki's reaction in the background. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Sappy or effective, Irina?

Ok, so three things. First Tea mimicking Sakura’s lessons back to her was just plain beautiful! The simple innocence of that action was so powerful and pure. I somewhat forgot everything else that was happening. One of my favourite moments of the season really.

I was sure that this was when Sakura would finally snap out of it. But she Did NOT. Sakura’s cold and biting reply send chills down my spine.

As for Yuguri, well she’s true to herself and that’s awesome too. That slap may have pacified Sakura a bit, from pure fear if nothing else, but again, it didn't cure her. Recovery is slow and difficult and can sometimes backslide. How is it that Zombieland Saga of all shows is what is bringing some light to this harsh truth?

The others did their part, too, especially Ai, whose words reminded Sakura of the television special she’d seen about Iron Frill. But you’re right -- healing takes time.

Zombieland Saga setup this conflict in the first moments of the first episode. They set the stakes the our heroes, they put obstacles in front of Franchouchou, and they let us share in the minor triumphs as they overcame. Now, armed with the necessary emotional tools, we shared in the experience of them coming together and helping Sakura get her head back on straight (literally!).

That’s good drama!

Irina, what do you think?

I like that Sakura’s literal idol worship of Ai was used in a practical way n the story. With this many characters and this few episodes, it’s difficult for everyone to find their place and this was a nice way to keep Ai relevant.

Ai, and Sakura's memories of Ai's interview while she was alive and in Iron Frill, played a big part in Sakura's recovery. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I also really liked that Sakura went to sit on the shore when she was trying to get herself together, in the same spot that Junko did when she was going through something similar. There’s these little visual call backs throughout the show that are really impressive to me.

Thematically both were going through the same thing. Essentially isolation. Junko felt the need to surround herself with figurative walls as part of the price of her success while Sakura thinks she must push everyone away due to her failures. I like parallels...

This show has been so effortlessly intricate and affecting -- I can’t believe it’s not more recognized!

All that’s left is for them to put on a good show, right? Well, kinda. An enormous snow storm (“biggest on record”) pounds the city, and the weather reports tell everyone to stay home. Amazingly, all of our old friends ignored that advice and showed up -- the “delinquents” from Saki’s back story, the reporters, the policeman, the death metal fans (still my favorites!), and even Lily’s dad! Sounds like the setting for a picture-perfect ending, doesn’t it?

If only… The snow’s piled up so much that as soon as they start singing, a support breaks behind the stage and glass showers Franchouchou -- pretty much confirming Sakura’s worst fear that she could never escape her bad luck. Not even in death. But before, in her life, Sakura was alone. Now, she has friends, and Saki immediately picked the song back up. Franchouchou continued singing as the more and more bits of the building crashed onto the stage. Until the stage itself crashed.

When the first support gave way, Saki was the first to recover, her determination to continue overcoming her fear (or common sense!). But even she couldn't sing through the stage going out from under them. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Talk about a great way to dramatize bad luck!

Did you expect it to go that far, Irina?

You know, for the past two weeks Zombieland Saga has been holding my heart hostage so I haven’t even tried predicting stuff. I guess the answer is no. I certainly did not expect that. In fact, I haven’t expected anything since like episode 5...

As the shocked audience stared at the stage, and as Sakura felt the despair envelop her once more, Koutarou started a slow clap. I know I’ve spoken ill of him before. I take it all back now. Things were about as dark as they could get -- our heroes were already dead, for heaven’s sake, and now they were buried under the debris that had been the stage ! -- and the manager still wouldn’t give up on them. Ai was the first to rise from the rubble and continue the song; then Saki and the others, until everyone but Sakura was singing a cappella. Then the group paused, waiting for Sakura to sing her part, and the stunned audience, one by one, began to take up Koutarou’s slow clap.

As cynical as I am, I thought that was an amazing moment. Sakura’s almost angrily determined face as she rose to sing her part put the perfect cap on it!

Remember all of that grim determination Sakura showed when she tried to deny her dreams? Well, in this moment, she applied that same strength in a different direction. She seemed absolutely fierce. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Remember that image of Iron Frill performing on the same stage? The moment that Sakura has been recalling randomly since the beginning of the series? She remembered it again. Except this time, she was on the stage, with her friends, in front of an appreciative audience. She was the one generating memories in her fans. The series focused on that growth from start to finish, and the payoff was emotionally on the money.

Irina, your thoughts on the concert?

I think that one of us doesn’t know what cynical means…

I keep my cynicism well hidden, thank you very much! I even created an anime review site to camouflage it! But please, go on!

It was glorious. Except for the CG which was terrifying as usual.

I didn't particularly like that end song but hearing it like that, acapella, with Koutarou’s precise metronome applause in the background, it was just magnificent. In fact, this was when I suddenly realized I was crying without knowing when I started.

I quickly understood that we were not going to be tying up all the loose ends on this one but heck, with a climax like that, it’s ok. I sort of wish their makeup had gotten smudged and they would finally be singing as Zombies in front of everyone. That’s the only thing I can think to change but it was glorious as is.

I seriously expected at least a few of them to have lost limbs in the wreck of the stage! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

That’s a good point -- I was half expected some of them to be missing limbs as they climbed out of the rubble!

We not only didn’t get all of the answers, we even got more questions! Turns out Koutarou was a student with Sakura, and he’d tried to give her an Iron Frill CD called “Fantastic Lovers.” She thanked him and called him “Unui-kun.” Dropping a bomb on us like that in episode 12 -- what the hell, Zombieland Saga?

He did take his sunglasses off for a second but again, we didn’t see anything.

I know, right?

And the reporters have linked earlier photographs of Lily, Ai, and Junko with their current selves -- they’ve pretty much proven that Franchouchou has some supernatural stuff going on. That was the last shot of the episode! Is that really the end of the series?

Argh!

Well, Anime New Network recently published an article saying that there might be some future for our beloved zombie idols. Google’s translation of the Tweet from the show’s official account says, “The idol girls in zombies should still be active.” So I’m going to take that to mean they’re not done yet.

The reporter isn't the only one to suspect something's going on. Looks like Iron Frill has recognized their now dead lead singer -- singing on stage again! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I know I’d love a second season. What do you think, Irina?

I don’t know...Don’t get me wrong YES there’s a lot of story left to explore and yes I want to see more but at the same time, Zombieland is such a fragile balance, it seems risky to take a second pass.

I just said something stupid.

Forget timid Irina, she’s probably drunk. Of course season 2. This was a great season, nothing’s ever going to change and if there’s a chance another one could be just as charming then go for it. Besides, we need Yuguri’s backstory!

I get what you’re saying. The writers navigated a dangerous minefield and came out alive. It’s daunting to think of the odds of them doing it a second time! Maybe it’s best to leave this as is…

But like you said, if we could get Yuugiri’s back story...

And on a random note, Crunchyroll posted an article that showed how the series used real-life locations for many of their shots.

I love those articles so much. Anime traveling is the best!

So that’s it for our Zombieland Saga coverage! The show started with a starry-eyed girl’s dreams of becoming an idol and showed us how she, her friends, and her (apparently) dedicated boyfriend (of at least strong friend) were able to realize her dream. Even if it cost her her life to achieve it! And along the way, we got to meet some memorable characters like Tae, Saki, Sakura, and heck.. All of them!

Zombieland Saga delivered way more than it should have been able to. Its portrayal of friendship and family is just exemplary. And check out Saki's smile! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I’ve written a bit about Zombieland Saga on my own blog lately but let me repeat myself here. There’s a wide eyed good natured goofy weirdness about Zombieland Saga that has made it an unexpected delight this season. The series isn’t perfect, but it’s mostly fun and shows impressive sensitivity and deftness when handling serious subject matter. If you dismissed it before giving it a chance, I urge you to try it. You might be surprised.

For my part, this entire venture and collab was utterly delightful and I’m thrilled I got to be a part of it!

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6 thoughts on “Irina and Crow in Zombieland (Saga) ep12: We’re All Zombies and We’ve All Died

  1. The final episode had bad reactions? Why? It was pretty much everything I expected it to be, plus some tidbits thrown in should they persue a second season (if it comes, I’m definitely watching).

    The girls were never more zombie-like than in CGI performances. There’s a stiltedness and scriptedness about the motions I just don’t like (on the other hand, if you wanted to make a game…).

    Tae happily chewing Sakura’s head in the final scene was such a fun picture. (It’s the season for affectionate head-chewing: watch Jingai-san no Yome, which is a series of 5-min what-the-f-kery, and totally adorable. And to go off on a tangent on a tangent, the cat-ear boy-love anime short was adorable, too.)

    Not my favourite show of the season, but certainly in the top 5:

    1. Run With the Wind
    2. Bloom into You (tops the list some of the days)
    3. Zombieland Saga (there you go)
    4. Merc Storia (biggest riser this season)
    5. Slime

    1. “The final episode had bad reactions? Why?”

      That’s a good question. I get that it might not be someone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. What I don’t get are the folks who seem _really_ ticked off at the show!

      Anime News Network seemed to like it well enough…

      “The girls were never more zombie-like than in CGI performances.”

      I wonder if that’s why they chose to use it? I wouldn’t put it past them. That being said, I never minded the CGI. I thought it gave them a way to have more complex dances within their budget. Then again, I like shows like BBK/BRNK and Arpeggio of Blue Steel…

      Your top 5 reminds me that I need to watch numbers 1, 2, and 4. I’ve really been short on time this season!

      1. I dropped Bubuki Buranki and I enjoyed Arpeggio well enough, but CGI is a serious downside on any anime it’s in and hinders my enjoyment. I don’t think the CGI idol performances were any commentary on anything; it’s a staple in other shows (often in end-credit sequences) and it’s also exactly how they do it in games: with Cygames, who produced ZLS, being primarily a mobile-game-company, it’s more likely that its part of their aesthetic. I refer you to the CGI performances in AKB 0048 (don’t remember the number of zeroes for the show and for the group; I think they were different?).

        If anime goes predominantly CGI, I’ll probably find a new hobby. I already lost in interest in large areas of western animation for that reason. It’s not that you can’t do it well, and it’s not like I can’t still like good shows (I love Shrek), but it takes a lot more to win me over, if it’s not handdrawn. I remember the CGI-dominated Earthgirl Arjuna having hand-drawn concept art in the ending; boy was I sad at the lost potential. Those stills were way more charming than the show.

  2. I’m going to have to binge watch this at some point to finish it. I don’t know that it is for me but I’ve read enough positive posts that I want to at least see how it goes for myself.

Please let me know what you think!

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