This Week in Anime
Zombie Land Saga Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

by Steve Jones & Monique Thomas,

Our favorite undead idol group is back and they're still kicking it with a pitch-perfect sequel. Steve and Nicky check in on Franchouchou to see how they're handling crippling debt, the trials of being a local idol group, and you know, undeath.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Steve
Nicky, I come to you today bearing some very serious news.

We haven't talked about Zombie Land Saga yet this season.
Nicky
That's a pretty dire mistake on our part! If we keep going like this we're gonna have to shut down the whole column due to our severe incompetence. But before that, we're gonna do our best to redeem ourselves for our dear readers by actually talking about the surprise comeback of our favorite undead idol group.
This is Zombie Land Saga Revenge!!
I do love that they revealed the "Revenge" subtitle like over a year ago, prompting some speculation: what could it possibly mean? What could they want revenge on? Well, turns out it's extremely funny.

I mean I love the girls, and I feel bad for them, but also lmaoooo
After a great amount of success for a "local" idol group in the first season, their manager completely jumped the gun and booked them in a huge venue they never had any chance of filling, tanking their careers and saddling them all with huge amounts of debt and plenty of humiliation to boot. Things aren't looking so hot for the members of Franchouchou (and potentially the entire prefecture of Saga).
Don't worry, though. I have it on good authority that the girls have concocted a foolproof plan to lift themselves out of this debt blackhole. Let's hear what you've got, Ai.

Oh. Oh no.
I guess, yet again, the real lesson of Zombie Land Saga is that not even the ravages of death are enough to free yourself from capitalism's iron claws.
I guess as long as you have some (resemblance of) meat you can still try working yourself down to the bone! We're re-introduced to the girls working their new jobs a month after they made fools of themselves at the "EFS" venue. They've taken a hiatus from performances, they owe almost 20 million yen for their colossal flop (about 180 grand USD), and their manager has spiraled into a drunk depression. They're in a total slump that would (metaphorically) kill most performers but it's gonna take more than getting pushed in the dirt to stop these zombies' crawl to the top.

Except they really need their manager to do their make-up for them.

Kotaro's too busy spending most of the premiere feeling sorry for himself and looking oddly sexy while doing so, unfortunately, Or fortunately, depending on who you ask.
Bonus: He's still absolutely one of my favorite Mamoru Miyano "performances." Just an absolute mad lad, that Miyano.
Really just the perfect complement to ZLS' overall madness, which of course sees the premiere end with Franchouchou putting on a happy-go-lucky performance while their fans beat the shit out of the heavy metal crowd booing them. That's what zombie idols are all about.
The first episode is a really good return to form about everything that made me fall in love with this oddball idol show. I'm not actually a big fan of idols, idol music, or the idol genre of the animesphere, but there's just something so endearing about Zombie Land Saga. Whether that lies in its humor or its still beating heart. It also helps that the songs are catchy.

But with the return of their one-man movie make-up crew, the gang is ready to take on the world once again! (While still working day jobs!)

Yeah, maybe the best thing I can say about Revenge is that it feels like a direct continuation of the first season, which I enjoyed quite a bit. For me, it straddles that line between idol parody and quirky idol sincerity. The result is that no other show feels quite the same as ZLS. So far, I think this sequel season might actually be more consistent than the first. There's a lot of very good and wacky stuff.
Even though you'd think it'd be easy to slap a more stock narrative with a zombie-motif on top, one of the things that made season one so charming was that it didn't just recycle the beats of its genre. Instead, it used its episodic structure to focus on fleshing out the people of Saga and the past lives of the girls. Even beyond the absurdity of the premise, ZLS has a good handle on fleshing out everyday people as performers, without being just about trying to market yourself. We see this firsthand when rough-'n-tough Saki encounters her favorite local singer and radio host now years past his prime.
It's a no-brainer move, first off, to throw a Saki episode at the audience, because I'm pretty sure she's the fan-favorite. But ZLS goes a step beyond development and backstory to further contextualize her as a delinquent misfit who first felt "seen" by an old greaser who loves to speak in nonsensical aphorisms, and who apparently learned how to ride in a car from Akio Ohtori.

The episode gently pokes fun at him (and fun fact, he is indeed based on a real Saga celebrity), but it's also completely sincere about his importance to Saki. It's all strangely heartwarming.

I'm also always blindsided when ZLS digs into the pathos of their zombification. Like, usually it's all slapstick and disembodied heads, but sometimes it wallops you with Feelings.

Zombie Land Saga is trying to make me cry so much that I'm gonna look like a zombie!!

Sakura is so emotional that she's literally falling apart at any kind of attempt to be empathetic and it's wonderful.
God I love the constant zombie visual gags. No matter how serious an episode gets, I know I can always count on a silly drawing of Tae to be somewhere.

And I actually think ZLS' refusal to take itself too seriously is what lets it get away with schmaltzy stuff that might have weighed it down otherwise.
Leaning into any of these elements too heavily could turn people off pretty hard, but it's one of the few anime to really make me belly laugh, cry, or feel excited. It wouldn't work if it wasn't trying to juggle all those different tonal moments. It does all of this while keeping a veneer of no-brain zombie-stupid (in the best way). Even the more idol-focused plots about helping a local chicken restaurant still work! Also, we get to see Kotaro put on his best drill sergeant impression.

Again, I was really laughing out loud! Most of the time I just stare blank-faced at my computer screen whenever I watch stuff regardless of how I'm actually feeling.
Need to stress here that Kotaro accentuates his drill sergeant impression with a super soaker.

Beyond that, though, this evolves into a surprisingly strong arc about the girls learning not to lean on Ai's idol expertise so much, while Junko also has to wrestle with the possibility of getting NTR'd by Ai's old idol buddies. There's a lot going on.
We also got two really good performances by Junko, one of them entirely in 4:3 ratio and grainy like you're watching old footage. And another one that is literally guitar-smashing.
There are actually too many good scenes in this story to choose a favorite. But I gotta go with Kotaro's amped-up motivational speech punctuated by obnoxious guitar shredding. Just reinforcing that the only way he knows how to be helpful is by being as loud as possible.

And with that it makes the actual song performance just sweet icing. It's hard to talk about songs in a text format like ours but considering season one had some great variety but also reused a lot of the same songs initially, I've been pleasantly surprised season two has had mostly new ones! Avex Picture's YouTube has even been kind enough to post them so I can share Tae's drum solo in all its glory.
That concert in particular is the most hype moment of the season so far, for sure. Even the top Franchouchou fans agree.
The really nice thing about the second season is that all the fans from season one make little cameos and it helps make Saga feel like a very lived-in community. I might cry every time I see Lily's dad sticking out in the crowd because he's so goddamn tall.
It's very heartwarming and it also consistently makes me chuckle. The dude is literally twice as big as everyone else. Meanwhile, Lily is so short she can only use the bottom half of the chalkboard.
I don't know what it is, but I feel called out for some reason. [A short person]
On the bright side, you don't need to be tall to deliver rakugo punchlines.

That's right, this season has Lily perform rakugo, because this season kicks ass.
It's also a pretty good pun because her stage name is "Number Six" aka "Roku-go."

Lily had a pretty standout episode in season one that also somehow lead to her visage terrorizing the members of U.K parliament. She's a precious little zombified-bean and I would do anything for her. Though, maybe I wouldn't flop like a mudskipper in front of a live studio audience.

That was just Kotaro dealing with the embarrassment of Lily upstaging his usual morning meeting shenanigans with her own plans. And by "dealing with" I mean he doesn't deal with it at all lmao.

Also that rakugo pun isn't even close to the dumbest joke in Lily's episode.

Behold, a Death Note reference in 2021.
This show is too on-the-nose for its own good.

Anyway, Lily enters a talent competition where this child star tries to use it as his own publicity stunt by being a big fish making a splash in a small pond. He tries to be all smiles at first but underneath he's a real Boss Baby.

He can act as tough and juggle as many balls as he wants—he's got nothing on Lily's two secret weapons: scat singing and dabbing on the haters.
Lily's improvised performance is great! It's another way the show utilizes different genres of music well. But I was more touched by how she was able to graciously take the L afterwards, even after he was totally a shit to her, telling her the harsh truth about how the world treats child stars once they stop being "cute". She's still able to sympathize with his ambition and anxieties. Despite being stuck as a child forever, she displays a lot of maturity!
Like Saki and her new radio show, Lily also finds her "niche" when her improv turns out to be a hit with kids. She might have lost the contest, but she still brings Franchouchou (and Saga) closer to the big spotlight. Which is, ostensibly, what the whole zombie thing is about.

And this leads into the slice of fanservice we've all been waiting so patiently for: an entire episode about Tae running errands.

Even if the group is starting to redeem themselves in the public eye, it doesn't really bring them closure to getting over the elephant-in-the-room that is THEIR DEBT. That requires someone LEGENDARY, aka Tae.

Also she's stalked by the reporter from season one the whole time so he can be equally baffled by her shenanigans.

Pretty much the whole episode is beautiful Looney Tunes stuff, but I do like the occasional nods to Tae's rather successful career. Turns out there are a lot of people besides us who understand how legendary she truly is.

After all, maybe the best idol is the person who doesn't try to be an idol. Or maybe the best idol is the one who loves dried squid the most. Either way, the answer is still Tae.
I also really liked that this more laid-back episode means we got to check-in on returning characters. This time we got to revisit the delinquents from Saki's episode where they've now cleaned up their act and are trying (and failing) to become a dance group. The former biker-girls help Tae for most of this episode.
It seems like everyone in Saga is eager to help Tae out. Sure, they might get their hair chewed on a bit, but that's a small price to pay to lend a hand to the legend herself.
She's so legendary, she manages to win a dance competition against a chicken costume, get dragged to the boat races by a shitty cop, and then sneezes out the exact winning numbers that gives her the JACKPOT, magically resolving all of the gang's debt.

What I'm saying is that I think Tae should be replaced as the new manager from now on.
Not that it's difficult to be more competent than Kotaro, but Tae clearly deserves a promotion. She's got a good brain hiding in that usually detached skull of hers.
TBH I think I have a good case after Kotaro both landed them in severe debt and then immediately the next episode almost accidentally causes a scandal.
Oh yeah, if this is how your manager acts when he finds a dead body, then you gotta reconsider the terms of your contract.

Love the Jeb Bush energy there, Kotaro.
It's VERY DARK and also VERY FUNNY. I think it's probably one of the darkest and weirdest ways to introduce an episode plot even for THIS show. They even go out of their way to entirely recreate the iconic Truck-kun opening credits sequence with a totally random new character except, instead of Truck-kun, it's a bar of soap.
Totally agree. Hearing Mamoru Miyano try to contain his hysterics and do a piss poor job of not sounding like a serial killer while explaining himself to the girls is some of the funniest material in either season.
And then it gets even more complicated when we find out that poor Maimai here isn't EVEN DEAD, and now she knows they're all zombies.

Don't worry, she's cool.
Yugiri is out for BLOOD
I SAID SHE'S COOL, YUGIRI

Whew.

Still excited for Yugiri's upcoming episode where I'm definitely gonna see someone get murdered.
Oh yeah, after waiting so long, I'm hype as hell to see the Saga of yore and find out what Yugiri was up to in her non-undead days. Which, yes, probably involved murder.
And not just the weird and humorous accidental kind! Anyways, let's bring it back to Maimai. She's overall pretty average, she's actually a big fan of Franchouchou, and they come to agreement that she can become their new member in order to keep their secret safe (and prevent lawsuits).
It's a strange episode, even by ZLS standards, but it gets a lot of mileage out of contrasting Maimai's loud can-do attitude (brought to life by Kana Hanazawa, who's always nice to see) with her superhuman clumsiness.

It's also a bit about the nature of the relationship between idols and their fans, and what being a "zombie" means in a more metaphorical sense. But it's also about Kotaro doing this a lot.
For something so tonally strange even for ZLS, it still ends up being a good episode to reestablish just what the goal here is and we get some great focus on Sakura, who was also a fan and now living the dream. It shows us that the members of Franchouchou just can't be anyone, even beyond having any sort of talent or support. The defining feature of our main characters is their continual determination even when they have nothing else to live on.
After all, not just any musical group can fail to fill 2% of a huge stadium and still find the drive to keep chipping their way towards success.

That's why we love these dumb zombies.
Maimai doesn't end up being a permanent feature but she decides she wants to continue trying to live her best life first. Also, hearing this particular graduation song straight-up right after re-watching Eva Rebuild 2.22 is uhh...something...

Overall, I'd say ZLS is a lot like Franchouchou. It's by no means the most amazing out there but there's always something a little fun and hopeful about it. Definitely an odd bunch, but adorable.
It's an unpredictable anime, even midway through its second season, but I'm still enjoying the heck out of it myself. Never would have guessed a story about zombie idols would have so many comedic and dramatic legs. Happy to keep being surprised each week tho! Bring on the Yugiri two-parter.
Sometimes you never expect the weird ones to keep up the momentum but at least I can count on these Zombidols to always put on just a good enough show that makes me want shout big and loud "ENCORE!"

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