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IN BRIEF: Saga prefecture is struggling, economically and culturally. Ostensibly, this is why seven girls who died in Saga, or who came from Saga, wake up to a second "life" in an abandoned house... the man waking them has decided that they will become idols and bring Saga back to greatness. Sakura, the heart of the group, may have had terrible luck while she was alive - but now she's got a second chance at reaching her dream of fame. Can she convince the others to put in their best efforts?
MY THOUGHTS: Prior to this, I had watched and enjoyed exactly one idol show: Idolish7. Now I have two that I think of fondly (plus, each one has seven idols, so there's definitely a built-in premise for a comedic crossover fanfic). Both shows stand out from the pack. For "Zombieland Saga", the mix of excellent comedy and deft characterizations is key. The show does very well with a variety of comedic tropes (ex. running gags, Gilligan cuts, ironic reversals, and so on). Over the course of a dozen episodes, the viewer really comes to care about the girls in the group, and about their struggles prior to their deaths. Their triumphs are well-earned, and delightfully unexpected - who would have predicted that death metal and rap would be the first two genres they tried to perform in public? The show gets bonus points from me for a sympathetic portrayal of Lily, the youngest in the group, as a transgirl who finds a way to reconnect with her father (who blamed himself for creating the stress that led to Lily's breakdown and heart attack).
Possibly the only fly in the ointment is the manager, who has adopted the extremely Tough Love approach of verbally tearing the girls up every day. Later episodes imply heavily that he's changed his name, and pursued learning the crafts of zombification and stage makeup (he's good enough at the latter to completely hide the rotting nature of the girls) primarily to bring his high school crush Sakura back to life; it's not confirmed, but if true would make the Saga prefecture revival a mere excuse. On the other hand, he does do some nice things for the girls, and his judgment is probably clouded by unprocessed grief.
My reviewing system for films and shows that are NOT anime: 1-5: I hated it. I also don't think it has redeeming qualities, so you shouldn't watch it either. 6: I didn't like it. It's not my thing, I didn't like the execution, I don't want to see it again. However, I don't think it is a BAD film or show - it has qualities that will recommend it to those who like that kind of thing. 7: It was fine. I didn't love it, and I don't need to see it again. I won't be sad if I never see it again. 8: I liked it. I didn't love it, and while I'd like to see it again, I wouldn't want to see it often. 9: I loved it. I would be sad if I never saw it again. I might want to see it every few years. 10: I loved it beyond description. I wouldn't mind re-watching it every year.
Clarifying my Anime rating system: My number key below is an attempt to parse the small differences between 5 and 6, 7 and 8, & 9 and 10. When I rate, I consider my own enjoyment, the characterization and the plot, the appearance of the animation, and occasionally the soundtrack - in roughly that order. An anime will lose at least 1 point for presence of deal-breaker tropes (for example, comedic pedophilia), and more if the trope(s) ruined my enjoyment. On the other hand, it will gain at least 1 point for artistry in animation or sound.
Never Recommend: 1-4, inclusive. Further clarification: I don't expect to rate anything 1-4, as I would probably never finish watching something in this range of rating. It's likely to have bad plotting, subpar animation, bland characterizations, silly and/or irritating tropes, etc.; I would consider it to be pure excrement.
Cautious Recommending: 5: In this case, it started out with a higher score and slipped over time... because I normally don't watch anything that I would score below 6, except for movies (small time commitment). 6: I may or may not have watched the whole show, but I recognize deal-breaker issues in it, and I'm unlikely to rewatch. It just wasn't enjoyable enough for me to forgive its flaws. There would be huge caveats to any recommendation.
Likely to Recommend: 7: Not my thing, but usually I at least respect it. Generally, I didn't like it enough to think I would rewatch it, but also didn't see huge problems in the plot, characterizations, etc. and thought it was worth finishing. I might suggest it to someone if I know they like the specific sub-genre or other work by the studio. 8: I had a good time watching it, but it didn't move me the way a 9 or a 10 does; it's possible that over time I would upgrade it if I liked it more on reflection. I would be willing to rewatch it. I'd recommend it with the occasional caveat.
Highly Recommend: 9: I enjoyed it very much. It may have had one or two issues, but not enough to diminish enjoyment. It's possible that over time I would downgrade it to an 8 (changing tastes) or upgrade to a 10 (realize it's never left my mind). I'm likely to rewatch, and likely to buy the DVDs. I'd recommend it to most audiences. 10: Virtually flawless. I'd definitely rewatch, and definitely want to buy DVDs. I would shill this to anyone.
EDIT: for 2021, I'm participating in the MAL Anime Challenge. Any anime in the Completed section with a * in the note was watched for the challenge.
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