“Let’s make an anime about zombie girls forming a death metal idol group so they can raise money to save their prefecture. Also, throw in a zombie dog.”
– Someone with the best idea ever
This is a gleefully fun anime. It has everything you could ever want: adorable moe, every hair colour of the rainbow, and a tried and trusted fish-out-of-water setting. Like Is the Order a Rabbit? but with undead metal kids that make throat singing look like Enya.
Like most animes with a curveball to throw (School Days, I’m looking at you), Zombieland Saga starts off innocuous: Sakura, a teenage girl whose name means ‘cherry blossom’, is getting ready for school; she literally skips out the door whereupon she is brutally mown down by a truck, killed instantly. We know this because we are treated to the startling, bone-crunching, neck-snapping gore in slow-mo and from 4-5 different angles.
A few scenes later, Sakura realises that, not only is she a zombie, but that her fatal accident was 10 years ago. She crosses paths with Kotaro, a music producer who explains that he has raised her and other former famous idols from the dead in order to form a supergroup of musical zombies. To up the creepy-kawaii factor, he even keeps a zombie teacup dog, which is the cutest abomination to exist this side of that teddy bear from that show with the rapey vampire bastards.
What makes it more entertaining are the little details: Kotaro is a make-up artist able to completely disguise the undead’s mottled skin, and dried shrimp is a satiety for the zombies (including the dog). Most of the episode is tasked with setting up the rest of its lore, but when it doesn’t, it leans on its unpredictability: who are these characters? Can they talk to each other? Will they function as an idol group – especially a death metal one?
And from that also comes its humour: two die-hard metal-stans in the audience scoff at the girly quintet in disbelief (much like anyone who’s only seen pictures of Babymetal). When the not-quite-awake zombies begin their characteristic screams and groans, they’re soon eating their words, even when the primal undead lunging is mistaken for an opening mosh.
If nothing else, there’s a wry joke in plain sight in the idea of zombies purveying death metal. But this show is so much more than that.