Some of you may know that I’m currently watching Zombieland Saga with my friend Crow. I’ve been doing collaborative episodic posts for a few seasons now with Matt as well and the format is really one of my favourites. If you guys have the chance to do that sort of project, I warmly recommend it.
However, Zombieland Saga is also a bit special in that it’s reminded me about the peculiar place anime has in my life and why I still cherish it so.
In a word, Zombieland Saga is weird. It’s the wasabi vanilla ice cream breakfast sandwich of anime. Every single part of it is wrong. It’s kinda sloppy and probably very unhealthy but it’s also just works. Ok maybe it works best when you’re hungover…
Zombieland Saga is an idol show. I generally love those when they’re so stupid they become hilarious but otherwise, I tend to get bored quickly. It’s simply not a premise I connect with very well. It’s also a cute girl show which is very hit or miss in my experience. It’s a slice of life comedy that tackles surprisingly important and dramatic themes, any one of which can immediately plunge the series into barely tolerable melodramatics or annoyingly ill-conceived preaching.
On paper, the series is essentially a collection of red flags. Even the character designs and voice actors are iffy and not likely to appeal to everyone. Especially not to me! I really only checked it out on Crow’s recommendation and because the zombie idol gimmick was unusual enough to warrant a look. I figured it would be amusing for an episode, maybe an episode and a half.
What I discovered throughout the season was a delicious and unexpected surprise that reminded me of something very important. Anime is weird. And I love it very much. As I watched the weekly episodes, the fluffy odd collection of themes, tropes and genres slowly melded together to form a series that honestly and earnestly asked some very poignant questions of its audience.
What is the price of entertainment? How do you quantify a life? What will you leave behind once it’s all said and done, and what will you take with you? These are softly murmured under frantic slapstick zombie comedy and glittery idol performances. Without ever saying it out loud, Zombieland is redefining the concept of family and what we owe to each other.
It doesn’t have to. This isn’t what the series is sold on. They could have crammed more cuteness and overt fanservice and called it a day. No one had any expectations of this show and in fact, a lot of people dropped it very early on without a second thought. This isn’t a prestige project or a blockbuster and yet, the effort and care put into the show are visible. For a person like me that is also an odd mix of blind, almost reckless optimism and jaded skepticism, this was an unexpected present that revitalized my faith in the medium.
Last year, I told you how Natsume’s Book of Friends had done a very similar thing for me. It reminded me of the quiet beauty of slice of life anime and how those gentle lessons help bring balance and peace of mind to my life. It sounds so important when I say it that way, that it’s almost ridiculous. But for those who love Natsume like I do, and there are quite a few, it’s a familiar notion. This said, Natsume is a surprisingly popular anime and a lot has been invested in it. It’s not totally unexpected that it would carry a certain weight.
Zombieland Saga on the other hand is mostly likely going to become a quickly forgotten single season offering. That’s a shame. Still, I think that’s also what everyone involved with the series expected all along. This was never going to be anyone’s epic. It was a light distraction, the likes of which rain down on us by the dozens every 3 months or so.
And it’s still trying to say something meaningful. In a way that I have not seen elsewhere. Packaging a simple and relatable story, that explores fundamental principles we all deal with every day, in so much mirth, zaniness and color that can only exist in an animated format.
Handling heavy subject matter with extremely light-hearted storytelling is a hallmark of anime. One that I happen to enjoy a lot. It reminds me that important things don’t have to be serious. For that, I am so happy I happen to have discovered Zombieland Saga this season, and I hope to find it’s equivalent in winter 2019.
I am also extremely happy to have somebody to discuss the series with as it’s happening. It only makes the experience the sweeter. So for Matt and Crow that put up with me each week, and all the wonderful bloggers that have accepted to collaborate with me in the past, thank you so much for your time, and presence. You made an experience I already love, better!