Zombie Land Saga
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Zombie Land Saga ?
After several weeks of her costars hogging the spotlight, Sakura once again takes over main character duties as Zombie Land Saga prepares to wrap up. Not gonna lie, I'm a little disappointed that we're probably not going to get a full episode about Yugiri or Tae, but I'm also hoping at this point that the show performs well enough to justify a second season. I never expected this anime to have such a consistent hit rate for its jokey concept, and if they can make one season work so well, why not another? But I'm getting ahead of myself. This episode doesn't have the level of surprising delight I got out of Lily's and Saki's stories, but it still makes for another funny installment of their zombie saga.
Shifting the focus back to Sakura also means shifting the storyline back to the more traditional idol beats. The central conflict is all too familiar; Sakura is so excited about their upcoming concert that she devotes herself entirely to practice at the expense of both her well-being and relationship with the other members. Of course, this being Zombie Land Saga, there are some curveballs thrown to spice up this well-trodden premise. Sakura's excitement is not solely a consequence of her desire to be a good idol, but more deeply rooted in her search for meaning in the absence of her memories. Their new venue is the same place she saw Ai perform back when they were both alive, and that fragment of a memory sticks in her mind and gives her hope that this performance might be the key to unlocking her past. This also ties back into her insecurities. Most of the other girls have renewed some kind of connection to who they used to be, so naturally Sakura feels left out. The problem's all in her egg-shaped head, but it's enough to drive a wedge between her and the rest of Franchouchou as they prepare for their big concert.
Kotaro continues to be a shockingly perceptive manager, immediately picking up on Sakura's zealous energy. Unfortunately, he's also a huge idiot, so instead of sitting her down to talk about her problems, he sends the girls into the mountains as part of his scheme to teach Sakura about the importance of teamwork. There are plenty of less obtuse and dangerous to teach this lesson, but I doubt they involve Mamoru Miyano yodeling, so I can't fault Zombie Land Saga for going this route. Surprise survival situations are a staple of sitcoms, so this definitely fits the show's bill of mining comedy in ways that your typical idol show would not. Much of my enjoyment this week came from watching Tae's antics in the background, which include freezing into a solid block of ice almost immediately, building a miniature Tower of Babel out of snow and pinecones, and worshiping a giant snow statue of Romero. The crew's survival skills are surprisingly good for a bunch of the walking dead, although not having to worry about freezing to death or starving probably take a lot of stress out of the equation. Ai hunts with a bow-and-arrow, Junko fishes, Lily uses her Girl Scout skills, Yugiri gathers mushrooms, and Saki struts around in her sports bra. The situation sucks, but everyone is doing their best to make it work—everyone except Sakura.
Most shows would illustrate Sakura's disconnect from her friends by having her suddenly realize how well everyone is working together without her, and we do eventually get such a scene. But in the mountains, this is illustrated by a giant boar biting her head off and whipping her body into a tree. Afterwards, Kotaro hikes up to the squad, brimming with confidence that his gambit succeeded in teaching Sakura her lesson, only to get chewed out by her drool-doused and disembodied head. Everything works out by the end of the episode, but I'm glad we get some time to revel in Kotaro's failure. The icing on the cake is that, when Sakura does finally learn her lesson, Kotaro walks in and explains what he was trying to do (including the beautifully dumb line “climb the mountain inside yourself!”), and she still doesn't understand. Maybe he should stick to putting makeup on zombies and ease up on trying to communicate life lessons through abstract metaphors.
Even though this isn't the focus episode Yugiri deserves, she still gets some great moments along the way. Since she has at least a century on her fellow Franchouchou members, she seems to have embraced her role as team mom—kind, chill, and eager to resolve conflict as it arises. She's the one who initially tells Sakura not to worry about practicing so much. She also throws out one of this episode's great zingers when she tells Sakura to play dead to throw off the boar. However, her biggest scene is her conversation with Kotaro, which takes place in an aesthetically fitting izakaya while she slowly does a traditional dance. She's really perceptive about both Sakura's troubles and Kotaro's feelings, but her eagerness to resolve conflict frequently gets away from her, and she slaps Kotaro for not having faith in Sakura right as he begins to admit that he does believe in her. Then again, it's fair to say that Kotaro deserves to be slapped for many reasons, so no harm no foul.
As Sakura beams with renewed confidence, it seems like the perfect time to hit her with a truck again. Things are going to get pretty hairy going into the show's final arc, and we'll probably be confronting Sakura's amnesia and Kotaro's motivations directly. Or maybe we won't be! There's no telling what Zombie Land Saga is going to do next, and that's part of its charm. This installment doesn't reach the absurd comedic heights or heartening depths of the show's best moments, but it's still brimming with Zombie Land Saga's perpetually unique twist on idol conventions.
Zombie Land Saga is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is an anime-reviewing zombie who can be found making bad posts about anime on Twitter.
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