Saga sinks! Kind of! After a shockingly seafaring introduction, the girls of Franchouchou find themselves and the rest of Saga mired in the wake of the freak overnight typhoon. This evocation of real natural disasters heralds a predominantly sentimental installment of Zombie Land Saga, taking a hard look at loss and forcefully grabbing the thread of hope that lies beyond it. I like the result a whole lot. Here, we see the fruits of their zombie idol labor over the past two seasons on display on the humblest stage imaginable, but no less powerful for it. While I don’t know what entails saving Saga, I do know what helping Saga looks like, and it looks a lot like this episode.
At this point, it’s not surprising to see Zombie Land Saga work outside of its usual comedic framework. It is, nevertheless, a little disquieting to see the episode pull from a persistent cultural memory of post-tsunami imagery, with flotsam floating past half-hidden cars and orange-vested relief workers. The show avoids cheap melodrama, though, by exploring the pangs of loss from our heroines. Their entire house floating out to sea is a deliberately absurd image, but its subsequent collapse is met with firmly grounded pain. While zombies don’t have to fear death, the girls still have plenty to lose, including the many memories and attachments they had to that weird mansion. It was, in spite of everything, their home. And now it’s gone.
The other citizens of Saga express similar sadness as they corral themselves towards the nearest shelter. However, the faces and words of these people also communicate a hardened resilience in defiance of the disaster, stemming from the solidarity they have between themselves. Before the girls even have a chance to fully process the loss of their home, one of Ai’s coworkers finds and guides them to the shelter. It’s tough, and maybe even foolhardy to put on a strong face when the situation is so grim, but it’s this attitude that spurs everyone on Team Zombie into action. And that wholesome and heartwarming shift of perspective defines this episode and its sentimentality. Franchouchou might not be able to do much, but they refuse to back down from doing what they can.
The callbacks to everyone’s day jobs from the season premiere remind us that Franchouchou aren’t just Saga’s purported saviors—they are citizens, neighbors, coworkers, and friends to Saga. Lily brings back her scat-singing to cheer up some understandably scared kids, which also reminds the rest of the gang why they’re idols in the first place. It’s kind of beautifully ironic that they become the best, most important idols they can be not on the grand platform of the EFS, but on a small poorly-lit stage in a shopping mall. “Saving” Saga was never about popularity; it was about touching the hearts of ordinary people with song and dance, providing a modicum of comfort in topsy-turvy times. It’s also a very silly thing, yet Franchouchou are willing to risk revealing their identities in order to keep providing that silliness. Additionally, their pure-hearted ambition sways Ookoba over to their side, solving that particular plot kink. That’s convenient, but I think it’s consistent with Zombie Land Saga‘s take on idols: industry exploitation is bad, but the idols themselves are very good.
On the subject of management, while the girls lift Saga’s spirts, Kotaro literally treads water. His scenes are tongue-in-cheek in a way that somewhat clashes with the rest of the episode’s more somber tone, but I don’t think it’s a total misstep or anything. I actually think his insert song is one of the best pieces of deadpan humor in the whole show—it’s played so straight, and I absolutely believe that Kotaro would sing a song with that exact tone in that exact moment with that exact montage. Regardless, he has a considerably more genuine moment with Sakura at the end of the episode, lest we forget that he used to be one of her classmates and only sought out the services of an immortal bartender after her freak encounter with Truck-kun. There are a number of terrible ways Zombie Land Saga could have approached their relationship (and, technically, they could still screw it up), but I’m glad Kotaro’s passions are restricted to helping Franchouchou become the biggest and best idol group they can be. This episode proves they don’t need that much fame to help people, but it’s nice to see him have a satisfying character beat, even if he’s shouting directly into Sakura’s face when he does so.
In short, this isn’t a particularly funny episode, but it’s a lot more cohesive than last week’s. Both the narrative tightening and the grander emotional gestures give me hope that Zombie Land Saga would be able to stick its landing next week. The plot and its details aren’t important, but I want Franchouchou to have as stupendous and strange a sendoff as possible. I want the finale to respect the heart-on-sleeve meditations we saw this week, and I also want it to lean into the ridiculously cartoony heights of the series’ most memorable moments. That’s a tall order, I know, but I have confidence in Zombie Land Saga‘s consistent ability to surprise me.
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.