Zombieland Saga – 02 – Headless Hip-Hop

A show in which Sakura was solely responsible for babysitting six brainless zombies while a manic Miyano Mamoru yelled at her would probably get old fast (though one should never underestimate Miyano’s ability to entertain with his flexible voice). So it’s good to see all of the young women, save Yamada Tae, “awaken”, since it means they now have personalities. And not all of them are fine simply going along with Tatsumi’s plan for them.

In fact, the two famous idols Konno Junko and Mizuno Ai head for the exit almost immediately, wanting not part of the Saga revitalizaiton plan (also, Tae bites and the zombie dog is scary). But like Sakura, they learn that as soon as a living human sees them, they freak out.

In the case of the local policeman, he shoots wildly at the girls, while the three rappers who were cruising for chicks wig out when they see them in the light. Tatsumi is right: if they’re going to live something like normal lives, they have to hide what they truly are. There’s no place in the world for zombies.

While the idols tried to passively avoid their duties, and Yuugiri and Lily are mostly neutral, biker boss Nikaidou Saki is more actively against the whole enterprise, and doesn’t like how readily Sakura takes Tatsumi’s commands while practicing.

Saki thinks that as zombies they should try to take over the country (even though there are a lot of ways to kill them humans are very familiar with). She, like most of the others, think it’s ludicrous to believe they’ll be able to function as an idol group, and don’t much care about the fate of Saga.

That attitude changes somewhat when Tatsumi works his Hollywood makeup magic, returning all of the young women to their “living” looks, much to their surprise and delight. For the next gig he’s also changed the name of their group to “Green Face.” Once again, they take the stage with very little in the way of a plan.

Sakura starts out, but Tae derails things and ends up losing her head, which the crowd takes to be some kind of magic trick. When Sakura and Saki start fighting over whether Tae’s head should be put back on her shoulders, they erupt into a lively rap battle, with Tatsumi providing the beatboxing, Yuugiri strumming her shamisen, and Lily getting the crowd involved.

It’s another instance of making something fun and entertaining out of nothing, and yet again legitimizes Tatsumi’s grand plans as less cockamamie as originally believed. But the two idols still seem awfully hesitant to involve themselves, while Yae and her biting pose a constant threat to their audience. On the plus side, they seem to have gained a couple of groupies!

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Zombieland Saga – 01 (First Impressions) – A Little Biting Never Hurt Anybody

Minamoto Sakura is your typical upbeat girl (and aspiring idol) starting her first day of high school. She’s so excited, in fact, she doesn’t look both ways before running into the street, and gets absolutely pulverized by a passing Hijet in a shocking needle scratch.

Just when I was thinking to myself this girl…is a bit much, the show immediately flips the script. Her flight through the sky in slo-mo as the bloodstained, death metal opening credits run definitely hint at a show with some Attitude, as well as one with surprises and a black sense of humor to boot.

Sakura wakes up in, a haunted-ass mansion in the middle of a rainstorm, and almost immediately comes afoul of not one but many zombies. Just as the show proved deft at setting a bubbly optimistic atmosphere that it then tore to shreds inside its first ninety seconds, it proves just as deft at setting a classic horror mood.

Dark and tingly and tense, it slowly reveals the monsters that dwell in that mansion and totally freak Sakura the fuck out. There’s no explanation as to what’s going on; we’re just along for the hell-ride, as she is.

Deciding the best plan is to run away as fast as she can, she encounters a partroling policeman, who pulls a gun on her when he gets a good look at her face. Turns out the rain washed off makeup that only made her look alive.

Her “benefactor”, the effortlessly eccentric Tatsumi Koutarou, saves her from the trigger-happy cop and brings her back to the mansion, where all is explained: Sakura died ten years ago, and he brought her and five other young women back in order to make the ultimate idol group, in hopes of saving Saga, the culturally declined city in which he resides.

His undead dream team consists of a former biker boss, Showa idol, courtesan, child actress prodigy, Heisei idol, Sakura…and Yamada Tae, who he calls “legendary” like the others, but does not explain why she’s legendary. But since Sakura is also far from legendary herself, she doesn’t have much room to complain, now does she?

The others haven’t “awakened” yet as Sakura has, so he decides to put them on stage as quickly as possible in order to “stimulate” them into doing so. He uses makeup methods he learned in Hollywood to make them look alive and ushers them into a packed death metal venue.

He gives Sakura your typical heartfelt pep talk…but Sakura still doesn’t think she can do it, because she has no idea what she’s supposed to do on stage with five zombies and no other direction, besides “trust her instincts.”

And at first, it is indeed extremely rough on that stage, as the impatient crowd awaits the music. Finally, it comes over the loudspeakers, and one by one the zombies start to scream and headbang in a way you only could if your neck was broken.

The assembled metalheads like this very much, especially the fact that the girls initially looked like an idol group ready to insult their beloved genre. It all goes swimmingly until the zombies start to bite the crowds, and the show is presumably shut down. But they certainly made an impression, which is what Tatsumi was surely after. You know, the impression of teeth into flesh!

The next day, more of the zombies have awakened, though Yamada Tae is still a mindless biter. It’s no longer only Sakura’s show, as there will be other lucid zombie characters in the second ep. But this was a great and wonderfully irreverent introduction to what looks to be a very bizarre—and funny—new Fall title.

Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 02 – Born to Run

I’m glad there’s an anime that shares the irreverence and absurdity of Hinamatsuri to dig into this Summer. Miyamo Chio is an ideal lens through which to provide all kinds of social commentary, while her insistence she is “below average” in society couldn’t be more wrong.

Consider when she comes afoul of a bike gang member fresh off a ride. She and a salaryman (a grunt she incorrectly pegs for a section chief) must slide through the narrow space between the bike and the wall, and she gets burned by the exhaust. The biker takes offense, grabs Chio by the scruff…and gets knocked out by a lucky Chio elbow.

Chio appeals to her better self by attempting to move the bike out of the way lest others get burned, but ends up knocking it over. Feeling she’s toast either way, she decides to draw from her badass video game world and talk a hell of good game.

Standing over the bike imperiously like it’s trash, “Bloody Butterfly” urges the biker to give up the life, lest she cease “going easy” on him. And he gives in! He only asks that she accompany him on one last ride, which ends up being a schoool run; Chio manages to sufficiently disguise herself from her peers.

As MEH as Chio might consider herself, her actions with the biker were anything but. But while she can fake being a badass, there’s no denying she and her friend Manana have zero romantic experience; though there is an absurd impressiveness to Chio’s diagram of the ideal below-average high school life, which happens to match up perfectly with a diagram of the tastiest part of the tuna!

Chio and Manana scornfully watch couples walk past them left and right, but they become enamored with Hosokawa and the basketball captain as they dart into an alley. Expecting “sexy times” to be afoot, they are surprised to learn the guy only sought a safe place to ask Hosokawa out. She respectfully declines (she’s focusing on running) and they continue being friends like nothing happened.

Chio and Manana are all caught spying, but pretend to be making out while hiding their faces until the other couple leaves. Thus the two love noobs come millimeters from sharing their first kiss…with each other.

The next day, Chio finds Manana already with Hosokawa, both waiting for her. Suddenly Chio finds herself in the perfect society of three, picturing herself as King, Manana as pauper, and Hosokawa as butler. Only Manana only used Chio as a stepping stone to climb the social ladder with Hosokawa. In any relationship between two people on a lower rung, the temptation will always be there for such stone-stepping.

Of course, Manana promptly recieves her comeuppance when she learns Hosokawa will friendily chat up anyone, including a “company president” she met while on a run, and has been informally coaching ever since. She and the old dude leave Manana in the dust, just feet from where she left Chio in the dust.

Chio and Manana may know jack about romance, but they can be keen observers of human behavior. To whit, they realize well before the kind, pure Hosokawa that the old guy obviously exaggerated his importance due to being flustered by a cute girl suddenly approaching him with running advice.

They’re right—they guy is just a grunt and lied about everything—except his love of running. And that’s why Hosokawa immediately forgives him; after all, even she sometimes acts like she’s not feeling well at meets. What’s important is the run. With that, the quartet frolick all the way to school, so joyfully that their joyless teacher can’t bear to stop them…though he does wonder who the hell the old guy is!

GOD EATER – 07

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In a welcome surprise, Lindow doesn’t simply lead Lenka and Alisa back to Fenrir; they take a detour into a forest—the sight of which amazes the two new-types—within which lies something even more unthinkable: a civilian settlement for those who Fenrir turned away…including the little girl in pink Lenka saved. The show packed a punch when it sent her off, but I’m glad the show didn’t carelessly discard the character for good. She is, among other things, the embodiment of the future Fenrir is fighting for.

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The reason the village is able to survive and even thrive is that the trees of the forest are really Aragami the people have raised as a protective barrier. Even so, large Aragami like Vajra can still force their way through. When a Vajra does just that, Alisa is soaking in a bathtub to try to clam her nerves and steady her hands, and failing at both. She knocks over the tub and crawls into a closet to hide. I like that the show has the guts to keep one of its strongest characters out of commission for the entirety of the crisis, upping the difficulty level for those able to fight.

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Lindow also peaces out for what reason we don’t know (though testing Lenka by risking all the people he worked so hard to protect doesn’t sound like a logical one). He sends Lenka to deal with the Vajra and protect the people by himself. Lenka is not to let anyone die, especially himself, and Lindow urges him to trust in his God Arc, even though we saw how ineffective it was last time Lenka tried to use it.

During this crisis, GOD EATER once again exposes its difficulty with pacing in such situations. As soon as Lenka returns to the village, the Vajra has already done a ton of damage, and you’d think he’d already killed a good number of settlers, but time seems to grind to a very noticeable crawl to halt as Lenka slowly figures out who and what he has to work with and what the plan should be. Honestly, it’s like the show presses “pause” on the Vajra attack.

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Fortunately, despite of Alisa’s emotional incapacitation, the episode is not bereft of proper Girl Power, as the unlikeliest (or most predictable, depending on how you look at it) person volunteers to help grab some ampules from the warehouse for Lenka to draw the Vajra away: the little girl in pink. She puts the lion in civilion (if civilan were spelled that way, of course), acting with uncommon courage and determination, and not only comes through for Lenka, but saves his life in the process.

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Also fortunately, the screeching halt of the action picks up nicely during the entirety of Lenka’s final gambit, squaring off with the Vajra David & Goliath style with his crossbow of ampules. When the Vajra halts its retreat and prepares to skewer him, Lenka finally figures out what Lindow meant by trusting in his God Arc by pumping an ampule into it, brining it back to life so he can use it to push the Vajra into the river. The other civvies finish the job by opening the damn, and good ol’ mass and gravity finish the job.

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It’s a great moral-boosting side-victory for Lenka; a performance that inspires the girl in pink, impressed Lindow, who knew he had it in  him, and worries Alisa, who is not happy that she’s been so useless of late, but has no idea how to fix it. Sure, she could get drugged back up in Fenrir, but the drugs can’t fix her underlying crippling fear of the Aragami, and she can’t be sure the drugs will always be around.

Alisa’s continued struggles continue to make her the one of the more interesting characters, and while I realize that’s not saying much on this show, her retreat from heroism absent courage-endowing drugs nicely mirrors the girl in pink’s progress absent exceptional strength or ability. It’s a dynamic that keeps me emotionally invested, though I’m also hoping Alisa doesn’t remain a defenseless damsel for too long.

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