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Tear Jerker / Zombie Land Saga

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Per wiki policy, Spoilers Off applies here and all spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned.
Sometimes even zombies could do with a hug.
It's not easy, being green... or grayish blue, as the case may be in Zombie Land Saga.
In General
  • The ending theme, "Hikari e" ("Into the Light"), is a moving ballad sung by the girls from the perspective of dying and departing for the afterlife. For a series filled with so much goofiness, it's a very melancholy note to end each episode on. As a testament to how sad it is, the album cover showcases all seven girls holding each other on the verge of tears.

Episode 1

  • There's a moment where Sakura realizes she's a zombie, and just... freezes. She gets shot, feels the hole in her chest, and unnervingly collapses to the ground, staring up into the rain with dead eyes. Given all the emotion she's gone through so far, it's a pretty bleak point for her.

Episode 2

  • Ai and Junko's realization in the second episode that, no, there isn't a place for them in society anymore. The way they turn in on themselves and shut down for the rest of the episode just makes you want to give them a hug.

Episode 3

  • Ai and Junko's Heroic BSoD continues through most of this episode. It certainly doesn't help matters when Kotaro, of all people, points out how the others are trying their hardest to be idols despite having no experience. He even leaves them in the van without a word.

Episode 6

  • Ai and Junko's argument over Idol styles in the sixth episode is heart-wrenching, given how much respect they've had for each other prior, and how much it tears the group apart to see them fighting. It isn't even resolved properly by the episode's end.
  • Junko's inability to interact with her fans stems from the belief that idols should be perfect, an ideal she worked toward her whole life. She can't understand how anybody would follow a celebrity that was not an absolute ideal, and thinks her inability to adapt means she must leave the group for its own good.
    • If you really think about it, Junko's fears in regards to getting up and close with fans and wanting clear boundaries are completely justified. Nowadays, Japanese idols are commercialized, objectified, sexualized, and made to be something fans feel they can own. Idols aren't expected to really have agency or humanity, and are prohibited from doing things like get into romantic relationships for the sake of being pure and keeping up an illusion of purity. Just look at all the news stories where idols get harassed by fans for daring to do things normal people do, like get a boyfriend. The current idol industry tends to exploit young girls for profit to project an image of sanctity and fulfill an abstract demand of being available for everyone. If Junko really did get to live to be an old lady, it'd be safe to say she would NOT be happy with how the idol industry evolved over the next few decades.
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  • When Sakura finds Junko on the beach and asks about her being from an older generation of idols, Junko replies that she should be "an old lady" by now. It's a small detail that drives home that all of the zombie idols died very young, and makes you wonder what sort of lives they'd have had if they'd lived.
  • Ai's death was this in universe. Watching a beloved idol suddenly be struck dead on stage in the middle of a concert was so traumatic that it's still sadly remembered by fans and her old group ten years later. It's even more saddening to see Ai's reaction to the news as she realizes that the joy she brought her fans in life—the one thing she wanted to be remembered for—was vastly overshadowed by her sudden and brutal death.
    Saki: Holy crap, girl... [Your death was] actually legendary.
    Ai: That's really not the kind of legend I wanted.
    • It gets so much worse if you work out the details of her death mechanically to avoid leaning on Artistic License – Physics. One of the articles she pulled up online indicated that she did not die instantly on stage, but on the way to the hospital. Lightning bolts can reach temperatures five times that of the sun's surface but still are often survivable and can even be minor depending on period and path of exposure. Ai appears to have been hit by "high-current lightning", also known as "hot lightning"; a sustained arc known in reality to be able to utterly carbonize large objects. Given the degree of exposure she sustained, even if she wasn't killed outright, she would, no question about it, have been instantly rendered unconscious at a speed she could not have perceived and consequently, would not have had presence of mind to develop her reflexive phobia; she would not have known to. The only way she could have acquired it is if the poor girl, knocked out instantly and nearly carbonized, somehow held on to life hard enough to regain consciousness in the ambulance where she would have laid helplessly in absolutely unthinkable agony while watching the paramedics simply going through the motions for whatever period of time it took for her to finally let go, all knowing she couldn't be saved. So far in the show, all the other girls appear to have at least had quick and relatively painless deaths, but Ai would have suffered horribly.
    • Ai is caught in a storm, and her perfectly justified fear of lightning has her curled up and unable to move in the middle of a road. Even after Saki finds her and gets her inside some playground equipment, she's still visibly terrified.

Episode 7

  • Ai reveals that she died just when her group's CD became a bestseller, feeling like she died just when her career was taking off. Echoing Junko's words last episode, that she just became the idol she wanted to be when she died. It really shows how Ai and Junko died far too young.
  • Ai, who was until recently the most resistant to the idea of performing with Franchouchou, suddenly becomes the most driven of the whole group to make the Saga Rock performance succeed. Why? Her reading on the internet all but spelled out that her death was a deep nail in the coffin for the popularity of idols in her era. In essence, to her, the end result of her career was the death of the hopes and dreams idols represented in her time, the furthest thing from what she ever wanted. Mark her line from the previous episode "That's really not the kind of legend I wanted" and you can easily conclude that her newfound zeal is directed at turning the result of her tragedy around.
  • When Iron Frill performs, we get a flashback of Ai with Iron Frill and it seems like none of the members from Ai's time are still with the group (proven in a CD booklet that named both sets of members). It's a good show of how much time has passed.
    • While it's probably because real-life idol groups tend to cycle out members as they age out, it's also possible that they never moved on from Ai's death. Those girls were more than her teammates but her friends and the thought of continuing singing without Ai was too much to bear.
  • Just as Franchouchou has to perform, it starts to rain. Ai is shaking with fear and desperately tries to sing as lightning starts to hit.

Episode 8

  • The whole tragedy between Lily and her father, Takeo Go, centered around the misunderstanding of why she started her television career and how he chose to support her. Even years later, both are clearly torn by what happened and unable to move on. Is it worse for Lily, for whom her death was essentially a few months ago and still very fresh, or for her father, who has lived with the thought that his less than sensitive last words to her might have caused her death for the last seven years?
    • What happened was upon Lily going into showbiz when she was still alive, Takeo quit his job and became her manager. Takeo was too focused on her career to the point that Lily thought he didn't care about her, and tried to forget about him after she was resurrected. Takeo did still care about her, however, but couldn't tell her, and following Lily's untimely heart-breaking death after an argument, his regret overwhelmed him. Based on Takeo's flashback, he was so ashamed about letting her down in life after she died that it drove him to reject watching TV.
    • To elaborate how heartbreaking his flashback scene was, when Takeo Go watches TV alone, he suddenly hears the voice of his child calling him, just like when they watched TV together. When Takeo turns to find out that he was actually alone in the sofa, he breaks up in tears, later exploding in rage because of his inability to forgive himself for what happened to Lily.
    • Then there's why Lily wanted to become a TV star - because Takeo was a big TV fan, and she wanted to make him happy from inside the TV. Instead, becoming a star ended up wrecking their relationship, and they never got the chance to fix it before she died, leaving her dad with regretful memories of the things he'd loved.
  • At the present time, Takeo happens to see an article about Franchouchou's performance at Saga Rock and decides to check it out, under the impression Lily's actually an Identical Stranger, but gets mistaken as a stalker due to his oversized body and him touching Lily's shoulders (which isn't allowed) during the meet and greet session. He then turns up a second time to apologize for the first, during which he unintentionally reveals he really did love her and was crushed by her death, and finishes by telling her he won't be coming again.
    • It's very clear that Lily remembers her father, knowing his shirt size and almost letting slip her pet name for him before quickly correcting herself when her father visits for the second time. The fact that she has to hide who she is, to his face, while he is clearly still in mourning, leaves her quite distraught.
    • Later on, once the group decides Lily needs a break, Sakura and Lily have a chat. Distraught by the above, Lily suggests it might have been better if she came back like Sakura, with no memory of her past life. Sakura disagrees, since it's because Lily and her dad both remember each other that Lily finally understands his true feelings for her. Lily agrees, bursting into tears while Sakura comforts her.
  • The group comes together to write a song specifically for Lily to sing to her father. They go to the effort of inviting him with a cute letter... and, initially, he leaves it to a co-worker to throw away. Lily is left staring into the crowd, wondering if he will come... and he shows up running at just the last moment.
    • Of course Lily can't reveal her identity directly, so the song she sings hints that she also loved him and regretted having to leave him. At the end, both father and daughter are smiling, almost certainly at each other. He gets over his hatred of television afterwards as a sign he's moving on with his life.

Episode 9

  • The oft-mourned tamogatchi of Saki's? She handed it off to Reiko, her best friend, moments before performing the daring act that killed her. More than two decades later, it's still a Tragic Keepsake held next to the key to Reiko's old motorcycle.
  • Saki remembers her old friend well enough to recognize her eyes in her daughter Maria. Throughout the episode she takes the time to give Maria warnings not to get into things she can't handle, something that Saki knows from a very brutal experience.
    • Kotaro warns Saki that violence is not an option for her, since it will reflect poorly on Franchouchou. Later that very night, though, Saki remembers that Maria is going to be facing the rival gang, and nearly rushes out before Kotaro catches her. Thankfully, she comes up with an alternative plan.
  • Poor Reiko is put through the wringer in this one. It's bad enough that she's lost her daughter's respect, bad enough that she can't stop Maria's pathetic attempts to intimidate a legitimately dangerous group, bad enough that she can't even get talk to the girl without being shot down. But then, one night, she finds a letter daring her daughter to go to the exact same place her best friend died, for the exact same reason...
    • She doesn't even bother trying to get Maria to back down. She knows her daughter won't listen to her. Instead she debases herself by begging the rival gang member to stop the madness, only earning her daughter's ire.
    • When Saki shows up, there's a moment, a brief moment, where Reiko recognizes her and calls her by name. Saki has to take a bit to come up with a reply, pretending to be confused at her reaction.
    • She gets to see somebody who looks exactly like her dead friend perform exactly the same stunt and cause exactly the same explosion that killed her. It's clear from her first few hesitant steps that she does not want to believe that it all happened again.
  • In a way, the destruction of Reiko's motorcycle could qualify. She might have put that part of her life behind her, but it was clearly a well loved and respected machine. Having it blown up in a plan to save her daughter's life and mend their relationship is something of a poetic tragedy.

Episode 10

  • Sakura's eagerness to perform turns into frustration with the rest of the girls, to a point where she can't get in sync with them and fails to realize she's the issue. The trip to the mountain is just filled with the other girls trying to get through to her, with Junko's talk about fishing and contemplation and Saki's talk about survival first just flying over her head.
    • There's a scene where Kotaro is drinking at some bar, and Yugiri comes in to talk with him about their trip to the mountain. She confirms that the whole point was to teach Sakura a lesson... and Kotaro feels a little let down that she didn't pick up on it. Perhaps more than a little, given that he's in a bar.
    • Fortunately, Sakura does realize her issue and apologizes, promising to work with the rest of the group more closely... just in time to run out and get hit by a truck again. On the plus side, she regains her memories of her past life, like she's wanted the whole series, but she's forgotten all her memories of Franchouchou and has no idea where she is. And the big show is only a week away...
    • From what we see from the glimpses of her memories, fate had always failed Sakura. When she was in grade school, she got the main role for the class drama. She trained hard, only to get sick at the day of the performance. In her middle school, she studied for an exam only to be late because she helped an old lady on her way. She grew depressed for her repeated failures, but Iron Frill brought her spirit up and inspired her to be an idol. She died before she could even send off her audition paperwork.

Episode 11

  • When Sakura is terrified of all of the other zombies, a particularly hard-hitting moment comes when she drops her weapon in defeat and says that even trying to fight is pointless. She's returned to her depression to the point that even trying to defend her own life isn't something she's willing to do.
  • Sakura's amnesia hits the other girls hard, with most of them aside from Yugiri not taking it well - not even Tae, who sits in a Corner of Woe.
    • Lily in particular is saddened that Sakura doesn't remember her. Sakura does try to be gentle with her, both immediately after coming to and during Lily's attempt to cheer her up, but her blinding depression eventually causes her to snap at the girl, leaving her in tears.
  • It turns out Sakura had too many memories of her past that led her into self-deprecation before she became a zombie, and all of them can be summarized as either being due to insane bad luck, or like a person being a Cosmic Plaything by not getting what you deserve despite the amount of hard-work and effort and time you've put through from even just preparing for your goals. As such, it hits close to home for achievers, athletes or academics who failed to accomplish some of their dreams.
    • Sakura was chosen to be the lead in a "Snow White" play in third grade, but because she got sick on the day of the show, she missed her chance.
    • She got leg cramps every time she joined the relay / marathons in her school despite having trained assiduously to the point where she had the best lap time in the school.
    • She decided to aim for the best high school in the prefecture, giving up all of her extracurricular priorities to focus on her academic ones, even staying up late reviewing for the exams. She did get the best score on the mock exams, but during the actual entrance exams, she chose to help numerous elderly women on the road. Having managed to make it just in the nick of time, she started panicking and making mistakes, eventually Giving Up the Ghost, and of course, she failed to make it into her preferred school.
    • Just as she'd finally set her sights clear on becoming an idol ten years ago, a certain truck came by... And the rest is history.
    • What makes these scenes even more relatable is Ai's life advice in the TV interview during Sakura's flashbacks, stating that "mistakes and failures are not bad things"... which is a pretty realistic message coming from a Horror Comedy anime.
  • Sakura mopes in the playground without any makeup on and has yet another run-in with Policeman A, who tries to shoot her upon seeing what she looked like. Only this time Sakura is so depressed that she isn't even fearful of her own safety, telling him to go ahead and do it. Anyone knows that when you're depressed you can also be suicidal, meaning Sakura could be contemplating suicide upon being unable to go on with her (un)life.

Episode 12

  • Tae has rare moments where it's easy to sympathize with her. She tries to lift Sakura's spirits by showing her their successes as a band, only to get yelled at to get lost and rejected each time. Another noticeable case is when she tries to get her attention in the attic, and the girls immediately notice she's actually feeling sad before it turns into anger.
  • We finally see a glimpse of Kotaro's past: he was once someone a then-living Sakura knew at the time, and gave her an Iron Frill CD. If you look at her birthday, she died less than 5 days after turning 17, meaning that Iron Frill CD was the last birthday gift Kotaro gave her before her untimely death.

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