「だってセンチメンタル SAGA」 (Datte Sentimental Saga)
“Because It`s Sentimental Saga”
Turmoil is building up with our latest episode of Zombieland Saga as we get deeper into the backstories of Ai and Junko. With our first major rift in Franchouchou being between the two most experienced idols in the group, it gives the anime a chance to provide a juxtaposition between the pop idols of the 1980’s and the idol groups that surfaced around the time AKB48 became massive. It also gives their other bandmates an opportunity to learn a little more about the idol industry, reflect on their newfound fanbase, and try to make sure that they can help the two make amends.
One of the questions I’ve been waiting to be answered is whether they will bring up Junko’s career in a way that reflects back on how much idols have changed within the past three decades. Especially with the resurgence of the City Pop genre on YouTube, seeing from the perspective of a pop idol from that time period is a topic of fascination for those of us who caught on. This episode doesn’t disappoint as Junko reaches her breaking point with a lot of the contemporary trappings of idol work with her horror in being involved with fan interaction events. Much of the appeal of idols in her day were through the lack of accessibility fans had with idols as celebrities, rendering them as a symbol of making your dreams come true. Junko’s obsession with both carving out her own path and making sure that her fans can look up to her as the perfect idol, just as she looked up to her idols who inspired her to be a performer, is reflected in her immediate revulsion of meeting fans and her feelings on her past life. Right when she was just starting to reach the same level as her heroes, she was caught in a plane crash over Saga. As such, Junko’s mentality reached its status because she worked so hard to become her ideal self that now that she’s woken up in a timeline where all of her efforts would be in vain, there would be a lingering resentment over the idea that she worked this hard to reach perfection only for her successors decades later to reinvent the genre to encourage a diamond-in-the-rough image that puts their flaws front and center to appeal to fans who can see idol group members as accessible and obtainable.
But sadly, Ai and Junko are on the opposite sides of this episode’s dilemma as her background contrasts sharply as a newer idol from the late 2000’s who was able to achieve success through the new model of being more approachable to fans. By performing on the stage and going out of her way to meet with fans and relate to them, Ai has a personal investment to contemporary idol trappings like meet-and-greets and photo ops where she is able to hang out with fans, give out merch, and build a deeper relationship with her fanbase regardless if her image is meant to capitalize on her status as a passionate rookie. Her dedication to the grind as a newer idol also gives her authority on how the band should persevere through conventional idol activities if they are going to make it as a band, but her lack of empathy towards the other girls who come from different eras and periods ends up blowing up in her face now that Junko is fearful and repulsed by the idea of showing up in front of fans as an unpolished novice. Although they’re at odds with each other, they should have been able to be on the same wavelength as successful pop stars struck down at their prime. Ai also refuses to believe that her dream ended so soon when she was struck by lightning at the height of her very short career, which is extremely rough given how public and brutal her demise was.
This episode’s developments are highly optimistic of how far the show is willing to go with its narrative. Rather than getting too comfortable with the girls reacting comically to idol work, this episode bears both Ai and Junko’s souls as we learn about what makes them tick, why they are passionate and defensive about what they do, and why their untimely end contributes to how they feel about being resurrected as idols. It sets precedence for how the rest of the series will take form with the possibility of the other girls being able to come into their own as Ai and Junko have. More specifically, their conflict has shown the nuance that Saki brings to the show with her ability to level with people giving her the opportunity to talk with and comfort Ai as she faces a thunderstorm. Additionally, the girls are starting to get flashes of their memory back together with the flash of a camera sending Ai into a state of shock and Sakura slowly remembering her own memory of Ai back when she performed for Iron Frill. The next ep is looking to have the girls take part in the Saga Rock festival, which should prove to be a challenge as the girls are still reeling from what they know of Ai and Junko’s life and rebirth.