October means a lot of different things to different people. Scarves, the ability to finally break out flannel, the carving of pumpkins, deciding on a Halloween costume, the start of the fall anime season, the happy accident when your multiple moods collide.
Every quarter of the year also marks the beginning of a new anime season. In the months leading up to the first week of premiers, the community is usually buzzing with the season’s most anticipated shows. This fall, everyone’s top picks included the final season of Fairy Tail and Sword Art Online: Alicization. But there’s also any season’s breakout anime to consider, a show that almost nobody had heard of until it aired and received rave reviews from the community. This season, that might just be Zombie Land Saga, which premiered on October 8, 2018.
Anime Ajay, a YouTuber I follow for animation breakdowns, described the show on Twitter as “11/10 levels of hilarious and it’s stupidly well animated.” Others from the anime community have been posting about it as well, and the chatter was enough to for me to sit down and give it a try.
The show follows the story of Sakura Minamoto, a teenage girl with high hopes of becoming an idol. Unfortunately for her, she is killed within the first two minutes of the show and wakes up 10 years later as a zombie. Her manager, Koutarou Tatsumi, announces that she has been resurrected in order to save Saga—Saga Prefecture, that is—and take over Japan as an idol. “Zombies are no longer accepted in modern society!” he laments.
Sakura is utterly confused. When she asks how she became a zombie, her manager says, “Come on, haven’t you seen a zombie movie before?” She responds that she has, in fact. “Well, there you go, then.” And that is the only explanation given to Sakura. Fortunately for her, she is not the only person revived for the expressed reason of becoming a pop idol. There’s a woman from the Edo period, a biker-gang leader, actual Japanese idols from the ’80s, and a few more. Their quirky manager books gigs for them and just expects them to “figure it out” along the way.
His mismanagement leads to scenes that are beyond wacky. In one situation, the girls are expected to perform at a heavy-metal venue, and the next performance turns into a rap battle. None of the characters remember much from their previous lives, but in true anime fashion, they decide to grab hold of their second chance. They will become idols!
Zombie Land Saga is being animated by Studio MAPPA, a fairly new animation company whose breakout title was Yuri!!! on Ice. The animation is excellent, and the art style is fun to boot. The opening’s aesthetic immediately reminded me of Samurai Champloo’s, which is probably my all-time favorite anime opening. The character designs are varied, and nobody looks boring. The only spot of animation I wasn’t too keen on was when the studio switched to 3D models for a dance number. 3D models almost always stick out in 2D animation and usually take away from the scene’s impact. After seeing such wonderful character acting, the 3D models felt like several steps backward.
I was surprised to learn the soundtrack was composed by industry giant Yasuharu Takanashi (Naruto Shippuden, Fairy Tail). He is my favorite anime composer, and I’m excited to see how he’ll inject his signature style into this show.
Only four episodes of Zombie Land Saga have been released so far, so it’s too early to tell whether the show will stay consistent throughout its entire 12-episode run, but I’ve been going ahead and recommending it my friends. As I’ve said to more than one of them, it’s an anime you’ve got to experience to understand. If you’re looking for a lighthearted show that compliments your October mood, this might be it.