Blu-Ray Review: Zombie Land Saga – Season 1

What zombies make good idols? That’s a question you usually wouldn’t ask yourself but courtesy of Manga Entertainment’s Blu-Ray release of Zombie Land Saga that question has been answered. Comical story points aside what can expect from Manga Enterainment’s Blu-Ray release of Zombie Land Saga – Season 1? Let’s take a listen and find out!

Synopsis:

Sakura Minamoto is dead. The good kind of dead where she can still head-bang to heavy metal. She and six other long-lost celebs were sprung from the grave to form an idol group that will put their tiny town on the map!

But when the crowd comes begging for more, can Sakura and her zom squad put on a show that will knock ‘em dead?

Our View:

Animated by studio MAPPA, the same animation studio behind titles such as Terror in Resonance, Rage of Bahamut, Punch and Yuri on Ice, comes the bright and vibrant anime series Zombie Land Saga; a story which sees the undead brought to life in order to resurrect Saga from the brink of unpopular. Colourful, Crazy and full of mediocre comedy that knows exactly what it wants to be and doesn’t strive away from its objective; that being an idol anime series.

Imagine Love Live: School idol Project or Bang Dream but the main cast of characters being Zombies and then that’s exactly what Zombie Land Saga has to offer; but alas I am getting slightly ahead of myself. Zombie Land Saga follows the ‘epic idol journey’ of Sakura Minamoto who after being killed in a hut and run accident finds herself resurrected and – seemingly – put in charge of an undead idol group at the behest of Kotaro Tatsumi; the producer of the group and the person who resurrected them.

Their first gig, an indie heavy metal rock show, goes down exceptionally well despite Sakura being the only member of the group who has ‘awoken’ from her zombie-life-state; but shortly after which the remaining group members find their sanity and become resurrected with human memories and personalities; but bodies of a zombie. This eases the burden for Sakura as, when the group begin to know each other – of which is explored through numerous episodes – a true team leader is selected and the group then begin to take their idol responsibilities seriously; to some extent at least.

This first season of Zombie Land Saga acts as a long-winded-introduction to a longer story; but what exactly that is remains a mystery. Kotaro’s objective seems to be the revival of the Saga prefecture in Japan, of which has lost its popularity in recent years, but we also have subtle hints of Kotaro being familiar with Sakura of when she was alive. Additionally notable characters that make up the idol group, later named as Franchouchou, seem to draw the attention of investigators; however despite these subtle plot points being outlined as part of the story they never get explored.

As a result Zombie Land Saga suffers to being a ‘abnormal’ idol anime series; with the focus being the difficulties of being an idol group. It is a tried and tested story but thankfully the exploration of each characters origins helps overshadow the repetitive story of becoming an idol. For instance leader of the group Saki Nikaido helps establish her former bike gangs reputation by helping out the current leader, Ai Mizuno overcomes her fear of lighting which caused her death all those years prior while Junko Konno overcomes her reservations about ‘current’ idol methods.

Each character storyline is interesting, and a little fascinating but non as much as Sakura’s own story. Sakura’s own personal story is explored throughout the most of this first season, mostly because she has no memory of what has happened prior to awakening as a zombie; but upon discovering her past she learns that she was dealt lots of bad luck and – as a result of it – suffered greatly with her death. It’s quite a sentimental storyline but with the efforts of the group she finds her way back to her new determined self of wanting to be an idol; of which the story adruptly ends with a second season being teased.

Zombie Land Saga is far from perfect, as it features all of the usual tropes from idol anime series including the clashing character personalities; but what it does differently makes up for the mediocre experiences. The animation quality by MAPPA, as good as it is during standard anime sequences, is subpar and is ‘of expected’ quality when it comes to the CGI moments; but they remain consistent with the quality experienced in similar series such as Love Live!

One special praise has to be given to the English Dub cast who not only take ownership of the characters but even sing the songs in translated form; love it or loathe it adds to the immersive experience that English dub of Love Live – and most other music based anime series – tend to ignore.

Extras:

When it comes to supplementary content then Zombie Land Saga – Season 1 is barebones with an English Cast Commentary for Episode 2 being included on the first Blu-Ray discs and textless opening and closings songs being included on the second Blu-Ray disc.

Considering how much effort went into the English Dub production of the series, with the songs being localised and sung by the English cast for the English dub, it is surprising that the Blu-Ray discs does not feature any more behind the scenes content or interviews with the cast. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part; but the supplementary content here is nothing to be excited about.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50, BD 25
Region: B
Running Time: 3:34:50 (Disc 1), 1:11:06 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DolbyTrue HD 5.1 (English) & DolbyTrue HD  2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Zombie Land Saga – Season 1 brings the colourful and vibrant lifestyle of idols and mixes it with the zombie life style; and all it starts with Sakura Minamoto who wakes up after being killed. Upon ‘awakening’ from her zombie state Sakura and her newfound zombie friends are thrust into the idol lifestyle under the pretence of being popular so that she, and her unnamed group, can revive the Saga prefecture in Japan.  It’s a comical pretence for a story line and the way Kotaro Tatsumi interacts with the group is borderline psychotic; which makes sense considering both his objective and way of achieving it.

Regardless Zombie Land Saga – Season 1 fills that ‘Idol’ void with each episode focusing on a new type of performance and the cast of characters coming together in order to achieve their goal; even if they do not want it. Alongside this overshadowed story of saving saga we explore each characters own personalities, past lifestyles and objectives – each of which deliver that variety you would usually expect from an idol anime series; but also delivery some shockers in the form of how they died. Sakura meanwhile is oblivious to the her past and she attempts to find out her true self; a story which sparks both the death and rebirth of the group.

As a series I found Zombie Land Saga to be mediocre at best as while it tries to be exceptionally different from other idol series that I have watched it is also oddly familiar. It’s not great, nor is it bad; it’s simply OK with an ending that feels rushed and unfinished – but at least a second season is on the way. Story content aside special praise and attention has to be given to the English Dub which, love it or loathe it, provides a sense of immersion that other idol styled anime series tend to ignore for the sake of integrity.

The English dub is not only consistently strong but most (if not all) songs are sung in English by the English Voice cast to keep up that immersion and the adaptive scrip writers have done an exceptional job of keepining it in line with the original Japanese version. Naturally those wanting the authentic experience can do so with the inclusion of Japanese and English subtitles; but everyone who owns this set should at least check out the English dub.

Overall I found Zombie Land Saga – Season 1 to be an OK series that caters to the idol fandom while offering slightly different but the story its trying to tell, and how it goes on to do it, leaves much to be desired. If you like idol anime series then Zombie Land Saga – Season 1 is definitely worth checking out; but the hype it received during its initial broadcast doesn’t resonate with the experience i had – and the same can also be said for this Blu-Ray release as while it is presented in a consistent manner , both from a visual and audible perspective, it is a barebones release.

Score: review-stars-3

Zombie Land Saga – Season 1 is now available on Blu-Ray via Manga Entertainment UK.

About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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