Irina and Crow in Zombieland (Saga) ep8: Lily and the Man in her Life

November 26, 2018

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) ep7: One More Time with Feeling on Irina’s site I Drink and Watch Anime! This week, we review episode 8, “Go Go Neverland SAGA.” I’ll be regular type and Irina will be in bold.

Last week, I wondered if the plot would ever return to some of the mysteries the show has setup. For example, the reporter seems like he recognized Junko. What happens then? How would the reporter process that information?

Zombieland Saga has defied convention before, and danged if it didn’t do it again. At the beginning of the episode, I was afraid we were going to see a story about the darker side of the world of idols, based solely on a stereotypical expectation. By the end…

About the only thing I correctly predicted about this episode is that Manager would be Manager -- at both extremes of the scale! Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

Well, first things first. Before we dive into the episode and its secrets, do you have any opening thoughts, Irina?

I’ve been pretty consistent in stating that Zombieland Saga would be pretty disappointing for me if i turned into a standard idol show yet I find myself impressed at the emotional depths the series manages to reach. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, (I do miss the heavy metal though.)

You and me both!

At the beginning of the episode, we meet Go-san, an enormous bald man with a scar across his face. I’m thinking, “What’s a Yakuza doing in Zombieland Saga?” His co-workers (I first thought partners in crime) are ordering lunch, but he leaves. One of the co-workers says he hates TV, so he goes off somewhere to eat on his own.

You notice what I did there? I immediately thought Go-san was shady solely because of how he looked. I based my opinion on a stereotype! Not having learned my lesson, I watched the next scene where Go-san was eating lunch and reading a book (a book I thought just had to be about horse racing!). He sees a girl playing in the park, and she smiles at him. Her mom immediately takes her away. So you can guess what I’m thinking!

See I immediately thought he was a father. Maybe it’s because my own dad was a bodybuilder (true story) but the super bara design actually made me instantly trust him and feel comforted by his presence. I probably shouldn’t be left alone with kids….

The lesson here? Don't be like me! Be like Irina and correctly interpret this man's role! Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

So, it was just me! Or maybe just anyone without a bodybuilder father… And having a father who was a bodybuilder is really cool, but the way...

It’s not a horse-racing book, because he sees the story about the Franchouchou -- and he gets all intense like. So I’m thinking, “A Yakuza stalker! This is bad for our heroes!”

Irina, was I the only one making assumptions right and left by this point?

I jumped the gun. I got over excited as always. Go san did in fact remind me of my own dad a lot so I am 100% biased here. The character had my heart from the first second and I just really wanted him to be happy.

The scene switches to the usual morning meeting with Koutarou, but this time, he’s faux playing a conch shell (and badly, too!). When he asks Sakura if she’s enjoying their new popularity, she’s wary based on her previous experiences, so she says she’s afraid he’s going to tell her not to get carried away. At which point he screams in her face that it’s okay to get carried away because she was in a magazine.

Routine stuff for Zombieland Saga, isn’t it?

I’m sure absolutely everyone agreed that hysteric drill sergeant Koutarou is by far the weakest part of this show. I like that they are giving him other facets and slowly showing this part of him less and less. Still wish the girls would have hit him though.

And then we get the key to understanding the entire episode, but I didn’t recognize it! The manager asks Lily if she’s enjoying the ride -- and if the star she wears in her headband if “gonna start growing?” Angrily, she covers it up and says, “No!”

Seriously. That’s the key to the episode right there!

It was actually decent foreshadowing and it’s wrapped up in many layers, which we will get to later. For now, let’s just say, manager continues to mix infuriating with weirdly gentle and tactful. He does clearly care for his little zombie idols.

Foreshadowing in plain sight is cool. Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

The manager launches his plan to capitalize on their growing popularity. We’re treated to a montage of them playing concerts and special events. In the last scene, we see the enormous man watching them -- ominously, I thought.

Montage is a little grand. It’s a series of stills. Perhaps we’re seeing some purse string tightening here, not that the show has ever struck me as particularly extravagant but it has been pretty consistent up until now.

Okay, “montage-like series of stills!” Accuracy is important! 

The show taught me a another tough lesson about making assumptions at the meet and greet -- if I were only smart enough to realize it! At first, I was relieved that Saki thought Go-san was Yakuza, too! She assumed (because the more assumptions, the better!) their manager had taken out a loan and the large man was here to collect. Huge man stood in Lily’s line, and when it was his turn, he had this incredulous look on his face. He gently placed both hands on Lily’s shoulders. Saki launched herself from across the room and drop-kicked the man into the wall -- but something was off.

Lily wasn’t scared.

Because he was Lily’s dad.

Irina, what did you think of that reveal?

It was completely obvious to me and as I said above, seemed very natural too. This said, although I was longing to see Lily and Go reunited, I did appreciate how Saki jumped to the rescue when she thought Lily was in danger.

Sweet Saki is best Saki, but Combat Saki has a certain appeal, too! Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

Even though I quite like Saki, I don’t think the narrative has been able to find a comfortable spot for her yet. However, in the past few weeks, since the chicken episode at least, they seem to be making her into an unlikely team mom and I for one, am all about it!

Saki is always enthusiastic about their work, she rallies them together, keeps them from straying and even offers comfort. What’s more, she’s pretty good at it. When did that happen?

Like you said before, sweet Saki is best Saki!

Now, in most shows, a reveal that huge would have been enough for a week. But this is Zombieland Saga, folks, and as we’ve learned, convention is only a starting point for this show. Lily goes off into the yard where Sakura finds her. We learn how her mom had died and her dad tried to raise her as best he could. They’d always watch television together, and the two of them were as happy a family as you could hope to find.

To make her dad happy, she signed up with a talent agency, and he quit his job to become her manager. Then the show decided to drop its second bomb. Lily had found a hair growing on her leg, and she didn’t want to perform -- and she thought her dad only cared about her because she performed, so she was distraught. In the middle of their argument, she looked in the mirror and found a hair growing on her chin -- and the shock, plus all of the stress and the exhaustion from all of her performances, gave her a fatal heart attack.

Lily was starting puberty, where it’s normal for young boys to begin growing a beard. Lily had been born Masao, Go-san’s son.

Sakura was shocked -- just like me!

What did you think of how the writers handled this reveal, Irina?

This episode did such a great job of capturing a father's emotional anguish. Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

I don’t know - I mean I do but I also can’t quite explain it. I’m a sucker for dad characters. I’m a sucker for parent and child stories. Masao was a sweet kid who lost his mom very young and did the best of a difficult situation with a dad who clearly loved him.

Seeing their relationship, the ups and downs. The growing pains, sacrifices and adjustments… well that had sort of taken over my entire mind. I was in tears, I admit it. It hit home that all these young girls had left devastated parents behind. That Go-san had lost his wife then his only child and had been wandering through life in a daze since. That he had been blaming himself and had loved and missed his child, every single minute.

That Lily herself had been carrying the burden of her own guilt and the weight of confusion, together with that fear of not fitting in, of being branded a liar or a fake. Those are a lot of realizations to take in at once when you’re just sitting on the floor of your living room on a Friday night with a glass of wine, quietly sniveling into your dog’s fur…

In short, I thought they handed it pretty.

What a great description! 

The other idols were quiet when Sakura and Lily told the story -- all except Saki, who thought “Dying over some whiskers… that’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard… Now, that’s legendary!” She then went on to comment on the macho-ness of both Lily’s birth name and her father’s name. We can always count on Saki to be subtle and polite!

Saki found the situation hilarious and didn't try to hide it. Was she being rude? No. She was showing this was just another day in the "life" of a zombie! Lily as still Lily -- or Shrimpy! Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

It all made sense. Go-san hated television because he felt like he’d driven Lily to her death trying to be a popular performer. Lily hated the idea of growing because when she was alive, it meant she couldn’t fulfill her vision of herself. And the show, bless its heart!, tried to warn me about making assumptions.

Later, as Lily slept, Ai seemed a little disappointed that in spite of how close they’d been, none of them had known Lily’s secret. Saki laid it out: “Ah, who cares? Doesn’t matter what kinda junk she’s got.”

This brings me back to Saki as team mom. Of course she’d normalize the situation. No point in pretending they didn’t hear the story. The sentence of "We’re all Zombies anyways" really brought it home for me. I think their reaction, more than the reveal itself, was were the show could have gone very wrong, and in my opinion they handled it well.

OK, so Lily may have died from shock due to dysphoria so making fun of that could be considered insensitive; but it also diffused the situation. It made it *o.k*. Most of the girls were fine with it as well. No one got angry, no one felt betrayed. I really liked that. 

Even Koutarou who clearly knew made it plain that it simply didn’t matter in any way. That was a classy move. Damn you Koutarou, why can’t you be either consistently good or a plain old jacka*s?

Did Koutarou know about Lily's secret? Yes. And it didn't make any difference. Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

Intent matters a lot, doesn’t it? As both Saki and Koutarou just showed.

As a dad myself, the scenes of Go-san mourning his daughter’s death were really kinda knife-in-the-heart effective. Nothing melodramatic or over the top; that’d be easy to push aside in a manly way! No, these were a man with a broken heart blaming himself for his daughter’s death. In a fit of rage, he destroyed his television -- which set up the first scene where he couldn’t watch TV.

Don’t even get me started, where or the tissues...and the buddy….

The rest of the show was surprisingly conventional -- probably because they knew we couldn’t take any more shocks! Go-san visits a photo op one more time and ordered an extra small Tee-Shirt, telling Lily that he once had a daughter about her age and how he’d been a bad father. Lily realized he’d really cared for her, and she still loved him dearly, so the manager and other idols hatched a plan to invite him to a concert so Lily could sing a song especially for him. It was absolutely beautiful.

And no, I didn’t tear up. In the words of Bart Simpson, “I Didn't Do It, Nobody Saw Me Do It, There's No Way You Can Prove Anything!”

Irina, how’d you think the concert worked?

The lyrics felt rushed and amateurish -- and were absolutely perfect for the scene. The very amateurish-ness lent a sense of authenticity that a more professional rendition would have ruined. Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

You know how I feel about idol pop. Neutral!!! (I like putting a lot of exclamation points after the word neutral). This said, I really appreciated that this was a new song, new outfits and a new choreography. In fact, I actually quite liked this song. I’m not sure if it’s a trend to make pop songs sound almost like spoken word by making the verse very quick and long, but I’m liking it. I enjoyed the performance itself.

Everything around it, the stoic reunion between Lily and her dad. Go-san’s reluctance to accept the impossible mixed with his desperate desire to see his only child again...all of that is what makes me think that this show is way more than you would think from the get go.

What struck me about this episode was how well it addressed the core issue. I’m sure you’ve read tons of opinions from people with various political agendas who pontificate about people born one gender who later identify as another. The vocabulary has become so agenda-specific that real communication is impossible. Worse, the conversation has become designed not to share understanding, but to drive a wedge. So, as an artist, how do you get your message across in this environment?

You do what this episode did. You present the characters, you share their motivations, and you show their interactions. Before the agenda can insert itself, you present a lovable character and encourage the viewer to form a relationship. At that point, the character has become so humanized that when the gender issues comes up, you react to it not as a dehumanized symbol of tribal allegiance, but a trait of someone you’ve come to love.

Lily is Lily.

Look at how sweet and innocent she is. This is the magic of fiction: to make clear an issue that circumstance has made opaque. In this, fiction offers hope for the future. Capture from the Crunchyroll steam.

“Go go Neverland SAGA” showed us a masterfully crafted plot with characters I found it impossible not to root for. And it’s a frickin’ comedy! But you know, there’s something about a comedy: it gets you to drop your emotional shields, and while you’re busy laughing at the jokes, it sometimes does what Zombieland just did -- land an emotional punch in part because we weren’t expecting it!

What do you think, Irina?

I completely agree, as much as I want to get back to the zombie stuff, these simple very human moments, which Zombieland handles surprisingly deftly, are too good to miss. So far every time we’ve explored the girls’ pasts, it’s been quite rewarding, I can’t wait for what comes next.

I just noticed something about the OP. Sakura’s not with the other idols! She’s literally in the clutches of the monster they’re attacking, apparently to rescue her! Sakura was also the first one to wake up. More hints! I really hope the show doesn’t leave us hanging. I’m sad to say there are only four more episodes left…

And here’s a completely random thing I noticed at the meet and greet, and a bit in the concert, the girl fans seem to have disappeared. In previous episodes, the fan base was pretty mixed but not this time. I don’t think it actually means anything, but since I’m constantly looking for that little girl from their street concert, I couldn’t help but notice… Are all cute girls becoming zombies?

That’s a chilling thought! Zombie idols -- and zombie fans? Yikes! But I wouldn’t put is past this show…

Eight down, four more to go. I’m looking forward to next week’s episode not doing what I expect it to!

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  • irina says:

    This episode was such a ride!

    • tcrow says:

      Wasn’t it, though?

      And sorry for the delay getting your comment posted! WordPress thought it was spam for some crazy reason!

  • Dewbond says:

    I’m not watching this show (i should change that) but I am glad people are talking about this without trying to score “points” for their side.

    I dunno, anime has always made stuff like this really easy to digest, probably because a lot of those themes and ideas are so ingrained in the DNA of it. That’s my take though, I wonder what others think.

    • tcrow says:

      “I dunno, anime has always made stuff like this really easy to digest, probably because a lot of those themes and ideas are so ingrained in the DNA of it.”

      I loved how this episode wasn’t a soap box. It was a story about Lily, her dad, and her friends.

      I think you’re right. Anime has presented this and all kinds of other themes for years! It’s one of the things I like about this medium!

      • Dewbond says:

        I fully agree. While other entertainment avenues suffer blowback from introducing “political themes” in their work, (see also: females in lead roles) Anime tends to get away with it a lot more.

        When I heard that this Lily character was apparently trans (I don’t know enough of the story to make a call on that) my reaction was “Yeah..well it’s anime, so that checks out”

        I don’t think a single other entertainment form has that sort of acceptance. Yeah there were some people making a fuss, but most people were just cool with it. That’s an advantage this fandom has that others probably salivate over.

  • […] episode is a perfect example of just that. Crow and I had quite the time trying to analyze it. If you have a second, please read it here and let us have your thoughts. I’m actually really curious to know what other people thought of […]

  • Dawnstorm says:

    One can recognise a good episode, by how much you guys have to say about it.

    Anyway: My history with Go is somewhere between you two. At the very beginning, when it was a group picture, I was cautious (very likely because of Go), but when they started talking things normalised, and Go stopped feeling like a threat. I don’t know when I caught on to the fact that he was Lily’s father. Probably not during the park scene. By the time he showed up at the event, I was sure he knew her (probably had a hunch ever since he looked at the picture), and I definitely was almost certain he was her father before Lily revealed it. I don’t think to much while watching the show, so when I catch on it’s often unconsciously. There was no defining moment, just some process of concretisation of a vague idea.

    I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Lily’s death, but considering the rest of the episode it’s probably fine.

    ***

    One thing I noticed is that we started with Tae looking in the mirror. You know that unconscious process I outlined above. Something like that’s been going on over the last couple of episodes with Tae, and now that I caught her looking in the mirror I have a hint of what direction I’m thinking in: she’s a lot like a really small child, isn’t she? She starts out putting everything in her mouth. Then, eventually, she starts picking up social cues and imitating others. It appears she’s now at the stage where she recognises herself in the mirror. What’s going on here? Degenerative neversous disease that eventually killed her? She’s awakened, but was pretty much a vegetable before death? Starting from scratch? What?

    • tcrow says:

      Your powers of observation are a little scary, aren’t they? 🙂

      “I don’t think to much while watching the show, so when I catch on it’s often unconsciously.”

      Despite how my writing might sound, that’s my preferred way of watching, too. I like turning the writer part of my brain off so I can enjoy a show as a viewer and not as a writer.

      “It appears she’s now at the stage where she recognises herself in the mirror. What’s going on here? Degenerative neversous disease that eventually killed her? She’s awakened, but was pretty much a vegetable before death? Starting from scratch? What?”

      Interesting! I read a theory from someone (and apologies to whoever posted it for not remembering the name!) who said that legends never die, so maybe Tae never died. Have you ever heard of the Greek myth of Tithonus? Granted immortality, but not youth? Wouldn’t it be something if Tae was in that situation, and the situation you described is her form of zombiefication — which is actually restoring her lost abilities?

      And yes, I’m reaching on that one! But I really like your idea of her progression!

    • irina says:

      I can always count on you for the amazing comments. I can see what you mean now that you laid it out but it’s dark… I mean I’m pretty sure Lily was suicide that they decided to gloss over because it would have changed the tone o the show drastically so I don’t know it they will actually go with brain damage but it would be interesting, and gutsy!

      • tcrow says:

        “I mean I’m pretty sure Lily was suicide that they decided to gloss over because it would have changed the tone o the show drastically”

        Mind… blown…

        I’m glad they didn’t take that route. The show was emotionally powerful as it was!

      • Dawnstorm says:

        I didn’t consider suicide, but it makes complete sense. (I did feel the diagnosis was delivered a little oddly, but I put it down because the cause is… unusual. But diagnoses like that are actually one of the big reasons why official suicide statistics can’t be easily compared internationally, so…)

  • Fred Heiser says:

    This is undoubtedly the best tag team review you have ever done Irina. It makes me want to rush out and binge! (Without the purge.)

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