「けれどゾンビメンタル SAGA」 (Keredo Zombie Mental Saga)
“But It`s Zombiemental Saga”
Leading up to their slated performance for Saga Rock, there is tension in the band with Junko and Ai needing to work out their own personal issues before the band can progress forward. While Junko has to contend with waking up from the Showa era to experience the struggles of the contemporary idol scene, Ai’s ambition to exceed beyond her legacy as something more than an idol that was struck by lightning on-stage. It was an engaging episode that walks through the struggles that both idols have been experiencing since they were brought back as zombies, how the other bandmates react to them, and what Kotarou is getting out of running Franchouchou.
Although Ai is seen as the talent of the group that is compelled to hold everyone’s performance together, her micromanaging of the group comes at the cost of not focusing on herself. Her bandmates have been alright with the set-up, even if Ai finds herself frustrated by their care-free approach, but Saki knows fully well that there is something wrong on the surface after their previous conversation in the rain. As the episode progresses, it becomes apparent that she is still experiencing trauma connected to thunder and lightning as she catastrophizes being a part of a thunderstorm when the weather is overcast. The band tries to acknowledge that she’s doing too much to hold herself together with the strain she puts on herself causing her body parts to collapse, but it isn’t until the thunder settles in during their concert when they see the full extent of her fears. When she has a panic attack on-stage in the middle of their thunderstruck performance, her solitary efforts to be the ringleader are put to the test as she wasn’t able to brave through the performance without Junko coming in to help her. Even if Ai still has regrets about not being able to see her idol career through right when it was starting to take off, it does give Ai more to work with to have her fight through her performance from that point onward with the confidence that her new friends can help her achieve.
Junko also had quite a bit to resolve with the culture shock she received from experiencing the impersonal nature of the idol/fan relationship. She did shut herself away from the group two weeks after her fallout with Ai, but at that point, she was able to pinpoint why exactly she can’t see herself in the modern idol scene. But when Kotarou shows a more enlightened side to himself to Junko, he finds a way to draw comparisons to the idols of the 80’s and the idols of today. While it was an oversight on Kotarou’s behalf to have girls from differing time periods together, he can easily find the common linkage between the past and present of pop idols by tying the fact that both eras focused on the happiness of their fans. Even with the modern age of pop idols being up-close and personal with their fans, using the fact that their public persona is also an act based on an endearing quirk they can embody the easiest does make it quicker to process for Junko. Kotarou emphasizes that Junko can still be herself and distinguish herself as being against the public act, but now that she’s a pop idol in the 21st century, she can play it off as being a part of her character as the shy type. It reminds me of the research I’ve done on AKB48 when I learned the ins-and-outs of idol fandom, and how public interaction with fans has paved the way for giving their public persona an image, a flavor, and a spirit. Where certain girls were defined by an individual trait that helps each of them stand out: Feisty, sophisticated, youthful, sisterly, motherly, funny, shy, anxious, demure, sexy, cute, sloppy, composed, and others. If there was a type of girl you liked, an idol group would try to make sure they had a wide array of personalities within their band to cater towards your tastes. Junko herself has quite a few of these traits under her belt, and her perseverance and individualism was tapped into with the motivation she received to get her back into being excited about being able to be herself without compromising her ideals or the band’s abilities.
In the process, there are also plenty of new revelations that happened throughout the episode as Sakura keeps getting flashes of memory from her past life. One particular detail is the déjà vu she felt when Kotarou gleefully ran over Junko in the exact same way that killed Sakura. The show is dropping hints towards the possibility of Kotarou playing a role in Sakura’s untimely demise as it resembled her death a little too closely. There are also new details surfacing as the journalists investigate the girls at the concert, witnessing how a lightning bolt that hit them did cause them to sing in autotune and start a laser light show with their bodies. There was even evidence of Yamada Tae slowly developing human-like behavior as she responded a couple times in slurred Japanese to the staff at Saga Rock. The build-up towards answering some of the more illusive mysteries is intriguing, but the episode’s resolution of Junko and Ai’s struggles as well as the comedy being as great as always and the CGI slightly improving was also highly enjoyable in this week’s episode.