「愛と青春のアコースティック SAGA」 (Ai to Seishun no Akosutikku SAGA)
“The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth”
This week’s Zombie Land Saga Revenge offers several different spins on what “Revenge” means as an overall theme. Part of it leans on their current struggle to regain relevance as an idol band to promote Saga and give each of the girls retribution after their big mishap. Another part of it is unrelated to Franchouchou itself as Iron Frill’s current leader Shiori aims to recruit Ai into their group, and by proxy, giving Ai her old position in the band back.
This episode aimed to give Ai a larger dilemma on her plate as Franchouchou is tasked with opening for her old band Iron Frill. With people already catching onto Ai’s uncomfortable resemblance to a certain deceased member of Iron Frill, Kotaro made it an imperative to make sure she was thrown on the sidelines as a solo representative for the group and is promptly forbidden to perform with the group for this reason alone.
The next episode should have more of Ai’s perspective, but the first half gave us a glimpse at the struggle she has to unify Franchouchou even with her prowess as a member of a famous idol group. It highlights the main weak spot Kotaro had with his plan where Ai and Junko are the only two members with any kind of professional experience as an idol. Lily was a child star with more acting under her belt, Sakura had only gotten an invite to start her career, Yugiri was a jack-of-all-trades entertainer, and Franchouchou is Saki’s only brush with stardom as an idol.
Because of that, Ai has a lot more on her plate to coordinate girls who all vary in certain skill levels over others. On top of that, because the idol scene hadn’t dramatically changed by the time Ai kicked the bucket, she’s the only frame of reference the girls have towards what they should be doing as idols.
This wouldn’t be nearly as hard for Ai if she also ended up being the most competent idol in the group given her familiarity with what the industry expects of an idol. As a result, it paints a large target on her back when people like Shiori follow the group and notice a drastic difference between how she and the other girls carry themselves.
By the end of the episode, her issue of keeping her identity a secret is made even more difficult when she’s shaken by Shiori’s blunt invitation to leave Franchouchou for Iron Frill. On top of the macabre twist of Ai possibly returning to the position that she previously left vacant after her own death, there’s also the morbid reality of Shiori filling in that vacant spot with a professional idol that vaguely looks like her old bandmate. And that’s made even worse when the girl she’s searching for actually is her old bandmate and the other members of Iron Frill are not only performing with a girl that reminds them of their friend’s untimely demise but is the reanimated corpse of their friend who they saw get struck by lightning.
On a different note, this was also an important episode for Junko as Ai’s absence forced her into the role of being the band’s leader as the second most successful idol in the group. The only problem is that she was a solo artist from the 1980s. That means she is both inexperienced with dealing with a group of performers like herself and unfamiliar with music that isn’t just part of her own personal artistry. But while someone like Ai would be able to handle everyone bombarding her for advice, Junko dreads the idea that her inexperience might cause the band to be completely overshadowed, further driving the band into obscurity.
These insecurities of being a solo idol are cemented with her method of coping by playing her debut single on a rooftop, reflecting on her glory days when she’d play her guitar and sing to her heart’s content. As someone who is big into 80’s music and Japanese city pop, Junko was a character I was fascinated with due to the differences between pop music then and now. For Junko’s performance of her debut hit, there is a fun creative decision to narrow down the aspect ratio and add a faded filter to mimic a music video playing on a TV set that would exist during the height of Junko’s career.
Sakura’s motivation keeps her out of her funk by letting her realize she can always rely on the others to help lift her up as well, but Shiori’s thoughts on Franchouchou and Ai’s possible future in Iron Frill seem to make matters worse for her. Ai likely won’t easily be wavered by the potential of playing with her old bandmates, but I can see the next episode tackle her difficult decision as Junko tries her hardest to keep herself composed.
ED: Yume o Te ni, Modoreru Basho mo Nai Hibi o 「夢を手に, 戻れる場所もない日々を」 by Franchouchou