***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Zombie Land Saga Revenge. Reader discretion is advised.***
Having been riding a wave of success and growth, the up and coming – secretly zombie-filled – idol group Franchouchou just suffered a massive setback.
Following a colossal live concert failure, the group is not sure what their next move should be. But one thing is certain. Even if continuing might be scary, none of the girls intend to give up. They want their second chance at life to mean something special.
Thus, the girls of Franchouchou…
- Sakura Minamoto (voiced by Kaede Hondo)
- Saki Nikaido (voiced by Asami Tano)
- Ai Mizuno (voiced by Risa Taneda)
- Junko Konno (voiced by Maki Kawase)
- Yugiri (voiced by Rika Kinugawa)
- Lily Hoshikawa (voiced by Minami Tanaka)
- Tae Yamada (voiced by Kotono Mitsuishi)
…will stop at nothing to reclaim their stride. With the help of their loud and brazen manager, Kotaro Tatsumi (voiced by Mamoru Miyano), the group’s success could bring glory back to their hometown.
When the first Zombie Land Saga released, I said something along the lines of, “This is the best idol anime I have ever seen.” Although I made the point in the season one review, I feel it is necessary to clarify what such a statement entails.
First, when I use the word “best,” I genuinely do mean “best.” I won’t pretend I am the biggest fan of idol anime, but I won’t act as if I hate the genre either. While many such shows fail to leave any mark on my memory, some examples are well worth a look. The original Love Live is a staple of the genre, the IDOLiSH7 series has proved entertaining, and 2020’s Oshi ga Budokan Ittekuretara Shinu was a lot of fun.
As such, Zombie Land Saga wasn’t the best because it was up against garbage. No, it had qualities that allowed it to rise and become the gold standard of idol anime.
Second, Zombie Land Saga, as a series regardless of genre, was excellent. This site named the show the 12th best anime of 2018 during the Inaugural Anime Hajime Highlights.
So, yeah, Zombie Land Saga was pretty damn good.
Now, why did I bother with so many words just to explain one? Simple, Zombie Land Saga Revenge (Revenge) was even better than its original.
An element that helped season one shine as bright as it did was the show’s introduction and establishment of its characters. While there were a few lingering questions, which season two addressed, overall, we got a complete idea of who the members of Franchouchou were. We learned what motivated them, what held them back, and, most critically of all, how their deaths and subsequent revivals affected their desire to become top idols.
Since season one did this so well, Revenge was free to focus on a more – and I hesitate to phrase it like this – familiar idol anime plot. Specifically, Franchouchou faced a much far more crucial do-or-die moment than in the previous installment. The resulting change in focus had less to do with the girls coming together and more to do with the six of them becoming nationally known figures.
And unlike other idol anime, the stakes really did feel real.
I can think of several shows where the starring group didn’t win. This has usually come in the form of last-place tournament finishes, stage fright, or, in the case of Love Live Sunshine, actually failing to save the school. However, in all the idol anime I’ve seen, never has an idol group bombed. And Franchouchou, at the start of Revenge, bombed hard.
If I am getting my numbers correct, the group only sold about 300 tickets to a venue that seated 25,000. So, not only was Franchouchou’s name and reputation in the mud, but they were also drowning in debt. Essentially, they had to rebuild every ounce of credit they had gained in season one. Plus, unlike the last installment, Revenge heavily emphasized that the entire Zombie Land Project had a much bigger goal, one that could ill afford setbacks.
The first episode of this series was a phenomenal welcome-back because, in twenty-ish minutes, it established the predicament the girls were in and their determination to push past their failure. Also, can you tell me of another idol anime that includes a free-for-all brawl in an underground metal-band venue?
That’s the thing about Zombie Land Saga, and especially Revenge. This season knew how to be silly, comedic, and absurd without sacrificing any gravity. There was a great scene where the girls’ human disguises failed them in front of a crowd of fans. Instead of an over-dramatic oh-woe-is-me response, the girls quickly huddled up and started panic-whispering to one another (I’m paraphrasing) “What the f@#$ do we do now.”
Although Franchouchou was in a serious pinch, it was a really funny scene. And then, the group turned around a gave one of their most heartfelt performances.
Speaking of performances, of all the things that have impressed me about the Zombie Land Saga series, I am still astonished by Franchouchou’s live concerts. In nearly any other idol anime, when the leading group gets on stage and sings, I mentally check out until it’s over. There is no nice way to put this, but these moments hardly ever fill me with interest.
Some series have gotten around this by turning these scenes into highly produced, well-animated spectacles, a technique often utilized by the Love Live franchise. Zombie Land Saga’s strategy differed in two ways.
First, I, no joke, like Franchouchou’s sound. Granted, it is hard to find a more subjective topic than music, so I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this point. Still, if I came across a Zombie Land Saga soundtrack, I wouldn’t mind picking it up.
Second, whenever Franchouchou went on stage, there was meaning behind it. Success was never a foregone conclusion. Keep in mind; these girls were a small idol group from Saga. Their performances always needed to be better than their last. And not that I doubt any of my readers’ geographical prowess, but how many of you can easily find Saga on a map?
Since they had to leave a mark, Franchouchou had to have stage presence. Here was where being zombies worked in the girls’ favor. Aside from having well-choreographed dance moves and a robust song-list, Franchouchou could employ certain special effects that would – well – kill any other idol group.
And that brings me to my final point as to why Zombie Land Saga and Revenge worked so well.
There is a word we could use to describe this franchise – gimmicky. Think about it; an idol group made up of zombie girls. That is pretty much the exact definition of a gimmick. But while this might be true, it isn’t bad. On the contrary, I wish more idol anime employed a gimmick or two.
How many school-idol anime are out there? How many of these shows take place in live-in recording studios? How many times do we have to watch the same formula play out in shows that only throw their weight into animation and not memorable stories or characters?
Yes, Zombie Land Saga is insane and weird and – you better believe it – gimmicky. Nevertheless, it has also delivered a fun story, characters worth remembering, music that rocks, comedy that is hilarious, meaningful moments, and much, much more – TWICE.
It is a good thing the live concerts in Revenge relied on power and meaning, and not animation. This series didn’t have poor visuals, and outside the performances, everything looked fine. However, when Franchouchou went on stage, the character models reverted to bubbly CGI, the kind which we can find in most other idol anime.
What I am getting at is, it is disappointing that even in 2021, anime hasn’t been able to move past this relic from the last decade.
Additionally, Revenge ran into a problem I should have seen coming. This season had to explain what the Zombie Land Project was.
To start, this installment didn’t give us the full scope of the end goal. The show only left it as a vague save-Saga-from-obscurity plot point. For everything Revenge was trying to do, that was enough information to work with, but it’s hard not to want more.
Plus, we finally got a background story for Yugiri, who died back at the end of the 19th century. It turns out she was much more involved with the Zombie Land Project than this series first let on. But though it was great to learn more about this character, how Revenge went about it was a bit jarring.
This show decided to switch genres on us and it felt out of place. Although this segment was critical for our overall understanding of the story, I think the series could have implemented it better.
Lastly, what in the hell was that quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tease during the final few seconds of this season?
I definitely won’t say what happened because I’m not sure you would believe me even if I did. And yet, the only thing this little twist succeeded in doing was planting a tiny seed of doubt into my head.
If a season three never comes, then this ending will leave Revenge with an odd aftertaste. But should a third installment arrive, I am worried this franchise is dangerously close to jumping the shark. There needs to be a little more (a.k.a., a lot more) information to explain what happened.
Slight concerns for the future aside, this season was outstanding.
Building on the tremendous success of its predecessor, this sequel brings another massive win; thus, cementing this franchise’s hold of best of its genre.
From a fun story to enjoyable characters to fantastic music, this series started as a surprise and has continued to be one in the best possible way.
Zombie Land Saga Revenge has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Zombie Land Saga Revenge? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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