If at first you don’t succeed, just do the exact same thing again but with a modicum of extra thought put into it. That appears to be the rationale Kotaro adopts this week as he declares the time and place of Franchouchou’s long-vaunted Revenge: an encore performance at the EFS, one year to the day after their miniature idol Armageddon. Although the narrative bills the new concert as a comeback for our team of zombies, this episode-long prelude feels more perfunctory than passionate, splitting its attention between a mostly redundant flashback and a scant tease of the encroaching climax. “Lifeless” is, ironically, a word I would seldom use in conjunction with Zombie Land Saga, but this is the least kinetic part of the second season so far.
The unnecessary flashback really weighs this week’s episode down. We just didn’t need an additional ten minutes of background context. I like that the premiere threw us in media res into the gang’s debt hole, and the sight of the cavernously empty stadium was both funny and painful enough on its own to fill in any plot blanks. And sure enough, there aren’t any bombshells to be found when the show does turn back the clock. Turns out, it pretty much went the exact way we expected: Kotaro got loud and overconfident, the girls went along with his scheme, and their luck finally ran out. The one semi-interesting thread is the reminder/confirmation that this was the same venue where Ai became a lightning-fried idol, but it doesn’t go anywhere here. Presumably, it’ll become relevant during their revenge performance.
I do, however, respect the anime’s dedication to making their EFS performance feel as painful as possible. Arguably, this is the one place where the time dedicated to the flashback justifies its length, because I feel like I’m squirming in place alongside the audience—this is obviously a disaster, and nobody wants to be here, but nobody wants to be the first to leave either. Kotaro is right; it is hell, just with the fire and brimstone swapped out for wincing and cringing.
The post-concert recollection also fares a little better thanks to its focus on the girls talking themselves out of their slump. After a lot of character-focused pieces, this turns into a great opportunity to explore the group dynamic again, with each idol’s distinct personality and voice sounding as strong as ever. Naturally, my favorite part is learning that Tae was the one to snap the girls into action, purely because she got some squid-hunger and slapped on Joker makeup to run to the grocers. Sakura also steals the scene when she states that their biggest mistake was trusting Kotaro. She’s dead serious when she says it too, which makes it all the funnier. Under no circumstances do you have to hand it to him. Jokes aside, though, this calls out the disparity in the relationship between Franchouchou and their manager throughout the first season. The girls have had comparably more agency in the second season, and it now makes sense that this was an intentional choice.
Unfortunately, Zombie Land Saga can’t really have its silly idol cake and eat it too. The second half of the episode takes a dramatic turn when Ookoba confronts Kotaro with the fruits of his investigation into the undead. Asked for his motivation, Ookoba replies that he wants to stop Kotaro from exploiting the dead for profit, and you know, that’s very reasonable! It’s possible to interpret Zombie Land Saga as a metaphor for the way the idol industry (and the entertainment industry at large) frequently squeezes its workers for everything they’ve got, even after their death. The first season prompted me to write about that facet in a couple of my reviews, but the second season’s goofier tone and wilder cul-de-sacs haven’t been too concerned with mining that vein of commentary. Consequently, it’s weird for the show to suddenly care about those implications again, and it feels like a cheap ploy for drama rather than a genuine interrogation of idol labor. Maybe the rest of the final act will do a better job of contextualizing and exploring this question.
At least we get some slightly more definitive answers from the bartender. Their “deadline” was the beginning of the Reiwa era, hence Kotaro’s haste at the start of 2019, and their foe is a prophecy foretelling an awful cataclysm that will wipe Saga away from everything, including memory. Right now, it appears to be a very bad typhoon. It’ll probably get worse. This curse is also apparently responsible for the girls’ deaths, as it seeks to snuff out anybody who would have helped ensure Saga’s longevity. That’s a lot to take in, but it lends some credence to the idea that these ragtag idols are indeed the right people to save Saga, if they were important enough to do a cosmic hit job on. I have to say, too, that if the prophecy foretold a paradigm-shifting natural disaster that was going to hit in early 2020, then there’s a pretty darn awful real-world analogue that fits the bill. It’s probably for the best, however, that Zombie Land Saga sticks to the realm of fantasy in this case.
“[The world of man] will be shaped by men and zombies.” Right before disaster hits, Kotaro says this with a completely straight face, and this is the caliber of deadpan humor I wish the whole episode had. It’s not terrible, and I still laughed at some bits, but it does a poor job of sustaining the second season’s energy and bridging us into the big climax. However, this is also the first real “miss” I think the series has had all season, so that in itself is pretty impressive. I just hope this doesn’t portend a clumsily-written final act, and that our undead heroines can instead sing their Saga-saving swan song as loudly as possible in the coming weeks.
Steve is hungry for anime and on the prowl for Revenge this season. Learn about this and more (i.e. bad anime livetweets) by following him on Twitter.