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.

girl problems! am I right?

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.   

Zombieland Saga - 01 - Large 33
definitely not more!

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.

ombieland screams
the zombie comedy doesn’t hurt

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.

want to say that this is still my favourite scene but there have been so many good ones

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!


13 thoughts

  1. Zombieland Saga is a Cygames anime (meaning produced by the company), and as far as I know there’s no game so far that it could promote. I really respect Cygames as an anime producer. They put themselves on the map with Rage of Bahamut. Their other franchises: Granblue Fantasy (the anime is no more than okay) and Uma Musume. But beyond that, they seem to be actually interested in expanding into anime (as Zombieland Saga shows). They’ve made their own studie, Cygame Pictures, which so far has only one OVA under its belt (as far as I know): a Bladerunner tie in. Next season, the studios going to make Marinara Friends, which is part of the Rage of Bahamut franchise, but seems to be a school slice-of-life in that setting (? – you never know with Cygames; the anime was announced for 2016, disappeared, and came back a little… changed?). They also invest in other anime they don’t directly initiate, and they seem to have good hand picking projects, for example Made in Abyss or In this Corner of the World.

    Who would have thought that one of most enthusiastic forces in anime today is a producer of mainly mobile games? I tip my metaphorical hat to them (it has to be a metaphorical one, because I don’t wear hats).

  2. “Zombieland Saga is weird. It’s the wasabi vanilla ice cream breakfast sandwich of anime.” That’s a really good description of “weird!” Though now I kinda want to try it…

    “No one had any expectations of this show and in fact, a lot of people dropped it very early on without a second thought.”

    I’ve seen that, too, and I don’t get it. I think this post of yours should be required reading, because folks apparently don’t know what they’re missing!

    Heck, after reading it, I came away with a renewed respect for the show! And I already like it a lot!

    “I am also extremely happy to have somebody to discuss the series with as it’s happening.”

    Me, too! I’m glad we were able to collaborate!

  3. I was really unsure going into this, but it had zombies which was enough for me to check it out. Admittedly, I’m only five episodes in but it keeps getting weirder and weirder and funnier and funnier. I was really not expecting to have this much fun with an idol show.

  4. “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.”

    Sheesh… And people say i’m harsh. XD Jokes.

    But uh… When you talk about how dense ZLS can be I find myself in disagreement. Not because I don’t see what you mean but because I don’t necessarily buy it. You broadly present thematic ideas like the “price of entertainment” and “quality of life” as if it… Matters. Not that it doesn’t but it seems like you’re pulling something grandiose out of not a lot of concrete information. And even if you could say that what you’re saying is true; I think there’s room to argue that other anime talk about the same things or ‘some’ of the same things and do it better. Because, at the end of the day, I feel like most of the intrigue ZLS has seems to be relegated into being the butt end of a joke or just not considered after a certain point.

    For example, Tae Yamada you think would have a lot more impact in the show, y’know? That the rest of the group would have to choreograph their dancing around the fact that they have this erratic anomaly in their ranks and find difficulty in performing alongside her. This ends up not being a factor. At all. She does exactly what they need her to do, she moves and dances in her exact spot with seemingly perfect timing. It’s as if she’s been awake this whole time or something.

    1. Im not sure if you’ve been following our episode discussions but the concrete examples for Zombieland are there. I was using it as a figurehead for my personal experience with the medium in general.

          1. Yeah yeah but there’s obviously information i’m lacking so don’t mind it in regards to your own. I’ll eventually make my own video or post (whichever) on ZLS anyways.

  5. Zombieland Saga is one show that, while very much flavor of the week, was a tasteful, entertaining, and really, REALLY, charming show that I will always recommend as a stress reliever.

    Also, Sakura’s arc so far is hitting me hard, I relate too much.

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