Sakura Minamoto is a talented high school student with dreams of becoming an idol. She's cheery, dedicated, and ready to live the life she's always wanted. There's just one problem: She's dead.
Zombie Land Saga introduces us to Sakura in quite the unconventional way. We learn a bit about her as she finishes viewing a performance from one of her favorite idol groups and heads out to go to school, a packet in hand with her audition to join the band. As she skips out of her door and into the world, she's suddenly blindsided by a car, sent hurtling through the air, and killed.
That isn't the end of her story, though. Not by a long shot. Zombie Land Saga is about zombies, as the title makes clear, but not in the way you might be expecting. There's no Saviors to contend with or any Negan to worry about pummeling your friends and family to shreds in this show, but there are plenty of zombies, alright – they're just in the form of young women from different eras of Japanese history. It's all about adorable idol performances by way of shows like Love Live! or The Idolmaster, crossed with a hefty dose of your favorite flesh-eating monsters. In short, it's an absolute must-watch for fans of either genre.
You see, eventually, Sakura wakes up, albeit ten years after her original death, in a strange house she's never seen before. A bizarre man named Kotaro Tatsumi greets her with the revelation that she is, in fact, a newly-minted member of the undead. Not only has she returned to the land of the living, but she's been resurrected to form an all-girl idol group in a bid to "save" Saga Prefecture in Japan.
Sure, it makes little sense, making an entire prefecture relative again by way of a home-grown idol group, but that's the idea the erratic Kotaro's come up with. What else does Sakura have to do other than follow his directions? Clad in a snappy outfit and dark sunglasses, Kotaro goads Sakura into practicing with her fellow members of the undead to get out there and be the best group they can possibly be.
Sakura retains no memories of her life before becoming a zombie, so she has no real choice but to settle into her new role. Luckily, she isn't alone. She's got Saki Nikaido, Ai Mizuno, Junko Konno, Yugiri, Lily Hoshikawa, and Tae Yamada by her side. All these girls are idols (or something close to it) in their own right, whether they were the leader of an all-female biker gang like Saki, or a courtesan who lived during the 19th century, like Yugiri. They aren't just any random flesh-eating shamblers, either. All the girls (save for Tae Yamada) are sentient, just like when they were alive. Tae? Well, Tae likes to nibble on things and wander around in a daze. There's no telling when she's going to "awaken," as Kotaro calls it.
Together, the girls form the idol team "Franchouchou," inspired by Tae's sneezing (formerly Green Face, and formerly Death Musume.) Each girl takes up a number such as "Zombie 1" or "Zombie 2" to protect their anonymity (seeing as two of them were actual idols when they were alive) and goes out in public caked in make-up to hide their sickly green skin and rotting corpses they call bodies. Each episode finds them tackling new challenges in the idol arena, whether it's learning to perform in public, recording a TV commercial for the local chicken joint, or promoting products for a pharmaceutical company seeking a partnership.
It's business as usual for Franchouchou, as they do things just about any other idol group would do...except sometimes their heads fall off. They go to pieces – literally. Their arms and legs can just be pulled off of their bodies. Some of the girls are covered in bandages. Some are clearly sewn together. Lily's heart is now on the outside of her body. It's deliciously creepy, especially if you're a horror fan, to see the occasional gore and scariness the anime is tinged with.
The series is an absolute joy to behold, and while it certainly doesn't seem as though it would work so well, it's a tour de force of comedic and horrific elements that fit together seamlessly. From Kotaro's manic energy and harebrained schemes to Saki Nikaido's biker girl attitude, there's a laugh to be found in just about every scene. But there's also a tenderness and heartwarming hopefulness to be found in Zombie Land Saga that's hard to find when it comes to far-out premises like this one. One moment you're laughing your head off at the antics on-screen, and the next, you're dabbing some tears away at how well these girls, who would have never met each other had they lived and died without being resurrected.
Zombie Land Saga is currently airing and is subbed via Crunchyroll, with a simuldub airing via Funimation. It's a fairly recent anime, which hit Japanese TV in October 2018, so it's not too late to get started on this magical yet totally bizarre ride. If you like zombie stories, cute anime idols, and hilarious vignettes, this is one show you're not going to want to miss. Trust me on this.