Zombie Land Saga Revenge
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Zombie Land Saga Revenge ?
Zombie Land Saga caps its quest for Revenge with a finale that uses its extended length to let Franchouchou run a cute fanservice-laden victory lap, crossing the finish line with a climactic concert and a promise fulfilled. And then it shotgun-blasts the audience straight in the face. I've already seen much ado being made about the final 10 seconds of this episode—justifiably so—but as tempting as it is to dive into the controversy immediately, there is first the rest of the runtime to talk about. It's a pretty nice sendoff! The first season established Zombie Land Saga's weird synthesis of idol absurdity, comedy, and sincerity, and for the most part, the second season improved on that formula. Thus, it follows that this second season finale is an amped up iteration of the first one: bigger, longer, and with more explicit references to Freddie Mercury.
The story wastes no time before embracing the ridiculousness of an idol concert in these conditions. We just have to accept that Kotaro can crash an emergency meeting and convince Saga's governor that the show must go on. I mean, it's an anime about zombie idols, so why stop suspending our disbelief now? This deadpan can-do attitude defines the first half of the episode, with the girls espousing plenty of familiar idol platitudes about hard work and solidarity. There's a veneer of irony to the whole affair, but as is typical for Zombie Land Saga, a sincere heart beats under the surface. After all, this forced cheesiness is kind of the whole point of idol kayfabe. It's meant to be foolishly optimistic and impossibly inspiring. The Love Live! franchise, to name an example, works for me because it fully commits to school idols being the single most important and powerful force in existence. Zombie Land Saga just follows that idea to its logical conclusion. If idols can save a school, why not an entire prefecture? Why not the world? Why not the universe?
A big sendoff means a big concert, and Franchouchou get three entire uninterrupted songs with which to dazzle their audience members both cartoon and real. I'll be the first to admit I'm indifferent when it comes to either the franchise's songs or the in-show performances. With a few exceptions, idol music just isn't my scene. But it makes total sense for a show about music to devote the biggest slice of its final episode to its music. The songs are bright, the lyrics are uplifting, the camera-work is dynamic, and the 3D models have come a long way since the series' beginning. It's a crowd-pleasing move for a crowd-pleasing episode. And if you don't care for the music either, the finale throws in all the cameos you could ask for, populating the concert crowd with familiar episodic character faces from both seasons. And while I can't confirm or deny it (he appears to be unlisted in the credits), I want to believe that Saga's current governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi voices himself in his scenes. It's not much of a stretch, considering he definitely approves of the series.
Despite my indifference to the concert as a whole, Tae steals the show and delivers my favorite scene of the episode halfway through their performance. The Legend herself commands the crowd's attention and echoes one of the most legendary call-and-responses as once delivered by fellow legend Freddie Mercury. It's an ephemeral and impromptu moment that beautifully embodies both Tae's appeal and Franchouchou's spirit. Tae can't speak intelligible words, but of course that doesn't stop her from being able to communicate with her friends and fans. And not every idol group is going to go up on stage and pitch a homage to Queen in the middle of their set, but that's why Franchouchou aren't your typical idol group.
These zombie girls have come a long way, and nobody realizes the extent of their journey more than Kotaro. Shockingly, the series lets him carry the heart of the finale on his shoulders, and even more shockingly, it totally works. He's a grown-ass man, and he's allowed to cry. Although his methods may have been blasphemous, and his management style more than a little abrasive, he still helped Franchouchou climb this high. In fact, they've climbed so high they don't need him “motivating” them anymore. They've touched the hearts of Saga, and Saga has in turn touched their hearts. That's been the long arc of the second season, and now they have all the determination they need to keep going, ever farther and ever louder, into an unknown eternity. And so, like a proud papa, Kotaro cries.
In fact, helping the girls realize their own idol independence might have been Kotaro's plan all along, because it looks like his own time is running short. We don't know what kind of Faustian bargain he had to make to resurrect seven zombies, but there's probably a good reason why more Saga citizens haven't done it, and it probably has to do with that blood on the carpet. I just want to add: it's extremely rude for Zombie Land Saga to suddenly decide to make Kotaro a sympathetic and tragic figure, especially in the middle of its ostensible grand finale. However, I suppose it's not quite as rude as that final stinger.
What is there to say about the final 10 seconds of the episode, besides a baffled exhalation of laughter? Is this the true curse? Has Saga been vaporized? Was Roland Emmerich filming that day? Are we getting another season? A movie? Are Franchouchou going to live up to the promise of the first season's OP and fight aliens for real? We just don't know. The scene is too short to be taken any more seriously than as a final irreverent reminder that we should never get too comfortable with Zombie Land Saga. For better or worse, it's impossible to predict what the anime will do next. I think that's for the better, though. If they truly aren't finished with the franchise, then they should go ahead and get even more bonkers. They've done the idol thing, they've done it their own way, and they've done it damn well. This episode stands as proof of that. Now let's see some zombies in space.
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.
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