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Heartwarming / Zombie Land Saga

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And watching these dancing corpses, you'll be smiling too.

Just because the zombies' hearts stopped beating doesn't mean they can't bring a flutter to yours.

Episode 1
  • Even though it doesn't exactly work, Kotaro's Rousing Speech for a clearly doubtful Sakura before her first ever performance is especially poignant for any new artist who's ever struggled to get their foot in the door.
    Kotaro: Nobody in that crowd is expecting a damn thing from you all. That goes for me, too. Not even a little bit.
    Sakura: Then—
    Kotaro: AND THAT'S WHY! That's why you have to blow their expectations away! You will all turn Saga... No, you'll turn the entire world on its head!
  • A subtle one is Sakura's treatment of the other zombies after she is returned to the mansion. Sure, they scared her and are still shambling corpses that make her distinctly uncomfortable, but she goes from just cringing around them to actively trying to calm them down with squid when they spaz out before a show, and even attempts to introduce them all and keep them from getting into trouble. It continues into the second episode where she's seen laying out blankets, attempting to keep Ai and Junko safe, and raising Tae's hand in an attempt at a cheer.

Episode 2

  • Lily and Yugiri genuinely compliment each other's appearances after Kotaro is done with their makeup. There's a sisterly feeling about the whole thing.
  • The sight of the elderly man cheerfully giving dried squid to the detached head of Tae Yamada, unfazed by the fact that he is holding a zombie head, despite all the other elders being shocked at the sight.
  • By their second stage performance, it appears that the zombie girls already earned their dedicated fans - the two death metal fans who even decide to watch them inside a room full of old folks. Even if they stand out from the rest, it doesn't matter to them as long as they can watch their idols.

Episode 3

  • The zombie girls' guerrilla performance could have been a complete disaster after Lily accidentally slipped, causing the onlookers to stop watching them. But as it later turns out, one young girl kept on watching and even dances along until the end.
    • Ai and Junko finally recovering from their Heroic BSoD and jumping in to save the performance after Sakura forgets the lyrics.
    • At the end, Saki thanks the girl for watching and promised to work hard and do better next time. She's really warmed up to the idea of being an idol.
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  • The episode ends with Sakura genuinely thanking Ai and Junko, her speech backed by a montage of the others contemplating and preparing for the future (and Tae playing with Romero). It's a quiet moment, but it's enough to get Junko to admit she liked performing with a group and Ai to actually consider starting over.

Episode 4

  • The conversation after the girls' trip out, where they acknowledge that they would never have met if it weren't for Kotaro's insane plan. Also where they all put their talents and skills out there and agree to work together to become the best idol group they can be.
  • In the hot springs, Saki leaps to the presumed defense of Junko. Admittedly it turns out it was just a cloth in the water, but she was quick to try.
    • The three of them reflect on how well the day went. It's just a moment of realization that, yes, they can do what they set out to do. Shame that the sponsor came down and accidentally ruined the moment.

Episode 5

  • Saki's obsession with the Drive-in Tori restaurant might be played for laughs, but consider: This is something she loved in her past life, and it's still around. Seeing her so happy for something so simple, one can't help but think of their own nostalgias.

Episode 6

  • Lily takes a moment to make sure Yugiri is keeping up with all the modern tech talk. It's a small thing, but it shows that she recognizes the difficulties Yugiri must be having, and the bond they've been making in the background.
    • Yugiri returns the concern later, comforting Lily after Ai runs off and very pointedly making sure Saki goes after the former idol. There's a reason they call her Big Sis, and it isn't just her age.
  • Ai and Junko, independently of each other, reminisce about their prior careers. Apparently, despite their tragic endings, they were both very happy entertaining the masses. And by all accounts, they were adored by their fans; Ai's death in particular had people mourning for a long time.
  • Sakura goes after Junko, even risking her makeup (and therefore safety) to catch the girl's sunhat. Their conversation on the beach has Sakura hiding her now openly undead face underneath said hat, but she doesn't leave Junko alone.
    • Junko comes to the conclusion that she has to leave Franchouchou, for the sake of the group. It is very tragic, but she makes it clear she's doing it for the others since her time has come and gone.
    • Who goes after Ai? Saki—that's right, Japanese Delinquent Saki, not only going after the girl but helping her into a shelter from the rain. She doesn't even make fun of Ai's fear of lightning, only expressing mild surprise and holding her close while she explains how she died to a bolt.
    • Sakura and Saki meet up in the middle of the night, both of them expressing worry over the group. Saki admits that if this was her old group, she'd just line them up and yell them into line—but she also admits it isn't her old group and that's not going to work. All you've got is your guts and your crew indeed...

Episode 7

  • Even though everyone is understandably worried about Junko, Saki takes a moment to ask Ai how she's doing. She cares about all members of her crew, especially after hearing what happened to her in the past.
  • Kotaro, of all people, sits down with Junko and explains how things have changed, and how she can still be who and what she wants to be. It's one of the rare moments where he puts away his usual hamtastic persona to actually help out the girls.
    • He also reveals that he knew of them using his computer without his permission. Considering that Ai mentions she has successfully done this many times in the previous episode, it is easy to believe that Kotaro decided to let them get away with it.
  • Junko emerges at the final moment, hopping over the mansion's iron gate and getting smashed by the van. After standing up after all that to declare she is an idol, what do the girls do? Welcome her back with a group hug.
  • Tae spends a bit mimicking Saki, adorably enough. The other girls note that Saki really is becoming a true leader.
    • For that matter, the fact that, slowly but surely, Tae's acting more and more human.
  • Six little words: "Don't worry, I'll back you up." And both times they're said, it's clear all is forgiven and the show will go on.
  • The smile that steadily grows on Ai's face over the course of the performance as her fears and doubts about her death and new life are resolved.
  • Kotaro looks on with genuine pride at the girls after their crowd-winning performance.
  • At the very end of the episode, Franchouchou has achieved exactly what they've all hoped they would: becoming the hottest musical sensation in Saga. The one most overwhelmed by it all is Sakura, whose lost memories don't detract from the fact that she is finally living the dream she always wanted, and breaks down into Tears of Joy once their performance is done. Ai and Junko both lend her their shoulders with smiles and words of support.

Episode 8

  • Sakura has learned not to cheer too quickly in their usual meetings. Kotaro, however, immediately tells her to get carried away, because they've earned their current fame. It's a fascinating inversion of their usual interactions and a nice way to show how they're coming to understand each other.
  • Kotaro provides signed glamour shots of Junko instead of forcing her to go through a photoshoot. He's clearly remembered her discomfort from before and the two have figured out a compromise.
  • Lily is seemingly threatened by a giant man... and the girls immediately take precautions and actions against him. Even Tae ends up in a protective pose, growling like a dog while they interrogate him. It turns out to be entirely unnecessary, but the group ensures that she is safe and that she can recover quickly should she need to. All you've got is your guts and your crew indeed.
  • The giant man who at first seems to be a stalker towards Lily actually turns out to be her real father. Though they can't reveal her identity to him, she finds out that he loved her dearly and deeply regretted the argument they had just before her untimely death. The group later performs a new song sung mostly by Lily: an apology to her father stating that she also loved him as well, giving him some closure so he could move on with his life, knowing his daughter didn't truly hate him.
  • How the girls react to discovering that Lily is Transgender after getting over the initial surprise. Saki sums it up: "It doesn't matter what kind of junk [Lily]'s got". It's rare for such a heartwarming sentiment to come out of such a foul mouth. In fact, even Kotaro sounded like he was defending Lily when he yelled at the girls after they questioned him if he knew about it, asking if this was them wanting to kick her out.
    • Junko died in the 1980s, when transgender identity wasn't talked about publicly, let alone looked upon favorably. She is visibly shocked by the reveal, and feels very awkward about Saki's blunt statement... but, while it does take her time to process things, she actually takes the time to quietly process the revelation. By the time that Lily needs help figuring out how to apologize to her father, she is as on-board and smiling as the rest of the crew. It's a subtle thing, but after her poor reaction to how the idol industry changed in the last two episodes, it shows how much she's come to accept this new era.
  • The girls confront Kotaro as a group twice, both times in support of Lily. The first time it's clear they want to make sure he knew she was transgender and, by implication, ensure he wouldn't treat her harshly if it came out. He almost seems legitimately annoyed at the implication and just throws them out. The second time, though, they want his help making a song that would serve as an apology to her father...and he respects their request, helping them out without any of his usual melodrama.

Episode 9

  • Saki's oft lamented lost tamagotchi? Reiko, the friend Saki entrusted it to just before her death, still holds onto it as a treasured memento 21 years later.
    • Reiko also still has a picture of her and Saki, which she keeps behind a framed photo of her and her daughter.
  • Saki's Odd Friendship with Sakura Makes Sense In Context after we meet Reiko. It seems Saki just gets along best with maternal types who can show guts. She's gotta have someone to look out for her brand of crazy, after all.
  • Saki clearly feels some sort of vicarious maternal instinct toward Maria. Not only does she step in repeatedly to save the girl, she never talks down to her and explains exactly why she is doing what she is doing. She can even tell that Maria has her mother's eyes.
  • Meeting more then two decades later, it's clear that Saki and Reiko still care deeply for each other. Even if they can't actually acknowledge who the other is, Reiko's Anger Born of Worry is genuine, and Saki takes steps to mend her relationship with her daughter.
  • Minor one, but during the credits song we get a quick glimpse of Ai, bouncing up and down with a wide smile. It's clear how much she loves being able to perform on stage.

Episode 10

  • Sakura has a moment near the beginning where she reflects on how everyone has become happier in the past while. Saki seems more energetic now that her old friend and her family are attending their concerts, Lily is clearly happy her father is still coming by regularly, and Ai and Junko have finally eased into their new lives and are happily moving forward. Every last one of them has smiles on their faces.
  • A quiet but actually monumental moment occurs toward the middle. Yugiri finds Kotaro sullen over his perceived failure to make a Stealth Mentor point to Sakura (a moment unlike any other he's had to date) and indicates that she perceives him to be especially fond of the pink-haired zombie. She ultimately goes on to mistake Kotaro's hopeful words (like she did Sakura), but as she storms off, he makes it a point to say that he really was saying he believes in the girl.
  • The girls have all come so far both individually as idols and as a team. Toward the end of the episode, they all (sans Sakura) go over plans for a new song together, each contributing ideas to Ai who not four episodes ago was still coordinating everything by herself. For her part, she happily recognizes their ideas as legitimately good and furthermore, takes care to include errant Sakura. It's melting to watch the once extremely dour girl grow so proud of the team who once admitted to having zero idea what they were doing.
  • As she watches the above scene from afar, Sakura does actually manage to come to the realization that she's been focusing on herself to the detriment of the team and apologizes for it, promising to work closer with them in the future. She even takes Kotaro's bizarre metaphor in stride, and she's just as happy as she was in the very first scene of the series...then she gets hit by a truck, forgetting Franchouchou entirely.
  • When Sakura goes for a walk, she takes Romero with her—no longer terrified as she was when he first chomped down on squid in her presence. He walks alongside her happily, growls at the man who hit her with his truck, and does not leave her side for even a moment, clearly worried about her when she expresses confusion about her current location.
  • In this episode, Junko goes from referring to Sakura as "Minamoto-san" (as well as being the only one who routinely used last names), to calling her "Sakura-san," showing how much Junko has opened up to the others.

Episode 11

  • Tae starts the episode jumping Sakura, much like in Episode 1 - only here, instead of biting at her, she’s gripping Sakura’s shoulders and groaning at her as if to express happiness that she’s awake again without the aid of language.
    • Tae is dressed in her house clothes, not her prison uniform pajamas. That indicates she never went to sleep with the others and stayed up all day and night waiting for Sakura to recover.
  • Sakura passes out in despair after giving up a seeming fight for her life when she found herself in a strange house surrounded by zombies. She wakes up in the midst of this to find herself greeted by Ai Mizuno, and even with her spirits as low as they are at that moment, the puppy dog look she gives her heroine when she sees her is adorable.
  • The girls are all awake in the middle of the night, worrying about Sakura. One by one, each of them comes up with an excuse to go talk to her, trying to break her out of her funk in their own ways. None of them work, but they all care enough to try.
    • For that matter, the girls' actions after their failures to cheer Sakura up; Saki angrily curses herself, while Junko and Lily cry themselves to sleep. It's abundantly clear how much it bothers them that they're unable to help their friend when she needs it the most.
  • Sakura's prior failures, tragic though they might be, were surrounded by warm hearts and caring friends, who tried their best to encourage her no matter what happened.
    • One of her memories is how she kept running into old ladies that needed help and helped every single one of them. Even before she died, she showed how much she cared.
    • Even when she became depressed and cynical, she still had another classmate praising her academic and athletic abilities. It's good to know that others still acknowledge her skills.
  • Ai's message to her fans in life about how mistakes and failures are nothing to be ashamed of. As Sakura shows, at least one fan heard it and was going to use it to change her life.
    • The imagery and words of Sakura's internal monologue as she reflected on how much Ai inspired her, "I want to be like Ai-chan. I want to be strong like her. I wonder if I'll be able to smile as dazzlingly as that?"
  • At the end of the episode, Kotaro yells at Sakura that he'll never abandon her because he has enough of what it takes to keep her going. It comes across much like the famous "Believe in the me that believes in you!"

Episode 12

  • Tae spends most of the episode doing her damnedest to raise Sakura's spirits. From doing the chicken call from Episode 5, to trying to show her the magazine covering Episode 7's Saga Rock, to literally carrying Sakura off to the dance studio and trying to teach her the same dance moves Sakura was so patient in teaching her earlier. As the other girls comment, Tae thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Sakura and the others and desperately wants her friend back.
  • While Franchouchou is handing out flyers, Sakura is cheered on by a pair of fans, who particularly comment on how much they love her singing and dancing. Not only is it touching that Sakura's efforts to achieve greatness are finally paying off, but even in the depths of her depression, Sakura manages to smile back at the two girls. It's clear how much she loves entertaining people.
  • All of the girls acknowledging that Sakura was the one to tie them together and cheer them up when they were down, and now it's their turn to do the same for her. Most notably, Yugiri comments to Sakura that, if they have a choice between bombing the show due to Sakura's bad luck or succeeding without her, all of them would unquestionably prefer to fail together.
  • All of the girls sleeping together in a row in their continuing effort to show Sakura how much they care about her.
  • The Reveal that Kotaro is in fact one of Sakura's old classmates, meaning that at least part of his motivation to manage Franchouchou is to give Sakura a second shot at her aspiration to become an idol.
  • Among the audience, you can hear somebody cheering for Zero-san. Tae's got dedicated fans, too.
  • There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment; when it's obvious that the stage won't hold, Ai, in the middle of her choreography, subtly motions to the audience nearest to the stage to step back in case the debris flies far. While Franchouchou could take the stage collapsing under them, the fact that they know the audience might not survive it shows a great deal of conscious concern toward their fans.
    • Just moments before this in an even briefer moment, the stage violently quakes and everyone stumbles around. Lily almost falls face first, but Ai and Junko, who are the nearest to her, immediately catch her. They pick her back up to her feet and she looks up at Ai, too scared to fully smile but with obvious appreciation. Ai, in turn, responds with a bright, reassuring smile as they continue pressing on. Afterward, while the older girls have the resolute face of a performer, Lily's is very obviously afraid but she doesn't flee or stutter her part. All for the sake of the show.
  • Pretty much all of their fans from previous episodes showing up at the concert, despite record snowfalls stopping buses and other transportation. The recurring death metal fan duo, Lily's father from Episode 8, Reiko, Maria (with her two friends), and Misa and her gang from Episode 9, the Drive-In Tori owner, the "Newsies" who have been investigating them while seemingly becoming fans, Sakura's fangirls from earlier in the episode, and even the little girl and her mother from the guerilla show in Episode 3 are all in attendance showing their enthusiastic support.
    • The stage has fallen. The girls are obscured. There is total silence... and then, a clap. A single repeating clap from Kotaro... which is picked up, slowly but steadily, by the rest of the crowd. That's enough to motivate the girls to get back up, and that is enough for Sakura to shake off her depression and rise in one epic moment of return.
  • After their first performance, Sakura talks with the girls backstage, confirming she has regained her memories and apologizing for her selfishness during the prior few days. The girls instantly accept the apology, and are happy to have Sakura back.
    • The fans cry for an encore after the girls' miraculous recovery. Kotaro approaches and hams it up with a Kotaro-typical Jerkass Rousing Speech, but for the very first time the group unanimously (yes, even Ai) reacts to his barking with wide, agreeing smiles.


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