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Zombie Land Saga Season 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
Funimation’s release hits a good sweet spot with its limited edition release but at its core, it delivers its best with the show itself.
Zombieland Saga Season 1 LE Cover

Sometimes a zombie girl’s gotta dance.

What They Say:
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?

ZOMBIE LAND SAGA Season 1 contains episodes 1-12 of the anime directed by Munehisa Sakai, 20-page soft cover artbook with rainbow holographic cover, 3 holographic art cards, and a chibi magnet sheet – all housed in a holographic rigid chipboard box.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track along with the English language dub, which gets the 5.1 boost. Both tracks are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec, giving us a solidly clean mix. The show has a strong balance between action/musical numbers and dialogue so that as it moves about there’s a lot to like with it. The musical sequences have a good bit of variety and resonate well as performances with a good bit of directionality. The music enhances it a lot as well with some big and brash scenes that gives it a lot more impact, as does the 5.1 mix with its bass boost. The dialogue works similarly in that the bigger moments carry across the forward soundstage well and we get a lot of good quieter moments and movement around that. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by MAPPA, the show once gives us a very strong look with great detail to the backgrounds and character designs and some very fluid action sequences throughout. The project doesn’t go for the same look as some of their other projects but is very appropriate here with the right kind of neat details and fluidity to deliver itl. Colors are rich and vibrant throughout and the details hold up very well with a lot to be seen here. There are a lot of dark sequences in this show as well and that’s an area that holds up wonderfully solid. It’s a good visual experience throughout that definitely comes through wonderfully with this encoding.

Packaging:
The limited-edition packaging for this release goes for a nice and compact approach as we get a heavy chipboard box that looks great. It’s very busy but in all the right ways as it features our leading ladies in both forms with two separate sections that blend together well. The zombie side is a bit darker and murkier, especially in contrast to the look of them under the lights of a performance and all dressed up for that. The back of the box carries the genera theme around with the background images of the multicolored splats but it balances it with some good character headshots across it. The onsert that’s glued onto it (which removes easily) shows the full package and what comes inside, which is filled with lots of good stuff. The art cards look great with the characters from the key visuals, there’s a beautiful 20-page art book that shows off some really great material with the character designs and individual episodes that has a shiny look to it, and a selection of adorable chibi magnets.

The case within the box is done in a fun way where it’s done up as a negative image with headshots of most of the cast but it does it with a pink and green approach. The logo is kept in the middle with block lettering with yellow borders that just adds to the weirdness of it. This carries around to the back of the case nicely but without the logo piece used. The four discs are held in place with hinges for all of them and there are no show related inserts. We do get a nice piece of up-close character artwork of Sakura on the reverse side which again is done with the odd color design.

Menu:
The menu design for this release keeps things simple as it goes for the clip approach with a range of scenes playing out across the entire screen. It mixes things well so there’s a decent bit of variety to it and it certainly captures your attention. The selections are kept to a “splat” kind of design along the lower left which doubles as the pop-up menu during playback and it works well to get you to the selections you need. Submenus load quickly and easily and with little here beyond the show it’s easy to get around and setup for languages is quick and easy.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as an English audio commentary for the second episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original project created by MAPPA and Cygames that landed in the fall 2018 season, Zombie Land Saga is a twelve-episode series that marries zombies and idols in some creative ways. While the big push for zombie shows has died out for a while there’s always some interest in them so coming up with something that stands out amid all the other shows when there’s not much out there is definitely smartly done. This series saw Munehisa Sakai directing and with the power and name of MAPPA behind it there was a lot of interest in it with the kind of obscure marketing they did for it prior to its original debut. There weren’t a lot of promos for it so people got to experience it pretty freshly at the time. It did well enough that a sequel series is on the way as well.

The premise is straightforward enough in a way that works for anime where we meet second year high school student Sakura Minamoto. She’s intent on having a great new school year and doing everything right to live her best and brightest life. One of those things is turning in her application for an idol contest where she wants to really shine. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in way too many anime series, she’s dead within the first couple of minutes of the series thanks to an unforeseen truck. That all happened back in 2008 and now in 2018 she’s been revived as a zombie by Kotaro Tatsumi. Kotaro has a big plan in motion where, for reasons that you have to wonder how a mind works, he wants to put together an all-zombie idol group. That group will be known as Franchouchou.

Such is what zombie-Sakura now has to deal with, though at first she doesn’t remember much of anything of her past life. She, along with the other girls, all have a great sallow and dead look about them as Kotaro keeps them rounded up together until it’s time for them to perform. The other girls are from different time periods as Kotaro’s plan is just as weird as him, so we get people that are from the 19th century to more recent, such as the 80s or early 2010s even. They’re all like Sakura in that they look as dead as they are but they’re nowhere near as conversational as her at first. What becomes interesting is that with a little Hollywood makeup magic that makes them look alive, the girls actually start coming back to life in a big way when the music starts, which is at times pretty hard and agressive headbanging material. That’s something that they respond to as zombies at first but it looks like it serves to shake their brains and brings memories back to the surface.

Thus events are set into motion where the more music they play the more they remember parts of who they are, regain personalities, and touch upon their past lives. With the firm knowledge of their deaths and all that was involved there, that makes for some character moments along the way that are fairly standard and not all that surprising. The show definitely caught a lot of people offguard when it revealed that its youngest member, Lily, is actually a transgender character and they went for something unique there in how she died. It’s interesting to see who gravitates more toward being a zombie in order to achieve the dreams of being in an idol group here while also seeing how some of those from decades – or centuries – past engage in the modern world now that they’re becoming more human and aware. It’s not a surprise for Sakura, for example, the things with modern medicine. But for Yugiri who died in the 19th century? She’s continually fascinated by the things that help and how weird they can be.

The series has to balance things pretty well in that it’s a fairly standard show about an idol group working to become popular with Kotaro doing everything he can to help. There’s a group dynamic that’s familiar to the genre and the show leans into it well. It just messes with it by giving them very different histories because of when they died and then focusing on how they interact as they become friends through this new shared journey. The internal logic of the show is it’s own, however, as how else would you justify a hot spring at night episode with zombies that should otherwise be losing fhesh? These aren’t traditional skin falling off zombies for the most part, though they all have their quicks, so it’s nice to see how the show deals with some of this amid all the usual gags, bonding moments, and musical performances. The music itself is definitely good with this show as there are some real talents involved in it and that makes those experiences all the more exciting. But it also knows how to lean into general school material and unexpected zombie moments in hilarious ways. It’s not a show where you come away scared – some characters within certainly are for obvious reasons – but it’s very much a teenage musical group series overall.

In Summary:
With the series working a lot of concerts and working toward a big show as its finale, there’s a standard kind of progression here that’s easy to see. The structure of the series isn’t going to shock or surprise anyone but the trappings are what sells it. It’s wonderfully animated with a good sense of style and design about it and it manages the zombie material in a creative way that delivers good laughs and great musical performances. There are a lot of neat little quirks to discover with each of the characters (and Kotaro) as it progresses and that makes for a good way to remain fully engaged with it as it doesn’t really try to coast at any point. It manages some of the cliches a bit better than others but overall it’s a very solid show that delivers big in quality. Funimation’s release hits a good sweet spot with its limited edition release but at its core, it delivers its best with the show itself.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Episode 2 Commentary

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 7th, 2020
MSRP: $84.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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