This recap contains spoilers for the Zombie Land Saga Revenge episode “The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth.”
“The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth” marks a turning point for Zombie Land Saga Revenge.
The actual plot is fairly straightforward. Franchouchou are booked to open for the legendary Iron Frill. But a problem arises, one that should be fairly obvious to longtime fans of the series. Iron Frill is Ai’s former group.
Even for as brazen as Franchouchou have been, their manager draws a line here. Franchouchou will have to perform as the opening act for the biggest pop group in Japan without one of their members. Everyone fears a repeat of the concert that puts them in debt, but the manager is insistent that they perform even without Ai. He lets his regional pride show through here; the concert is at an opening for a new arena in Saga itself. He balks at the idea of “Tokyo Idols” being the inaugural performers.
Making matters even more complicated is what Ai is up to during all of this. She’s given solo jobs in the lead-up to the concert. It is a fine idea in theory, but it quickly creates a public perception that she’s trying to go solo. Iron Frill themselves complicates matters even further. Shiori, their ambitious center, is dead set on blowing any competition out of the water. Meanwhile, the detective who first showed up in the final episode of the original Zombie Land Saga briefly returns here. The scene feels like foreshadowing. For the still-recovering Franchouchou, the possible dominoes of disaster are well lined up.
Eights and Aughts
But the actual plot beats are only half the story in “The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth.” This is a character episode, and there are two characters, in particular, we should pay attention to here. Ai herself is the first. Ai’s solo ventures throughout the episode demonstrate that perhaps more than the rest of Franchouchou, she’s very much capable of standing on her own two feet. How she actually feels about this is another matter. Early in “The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth,” she spends some time studying other idol groups on Youtube. She seems rather frustrated that the amount of coordination they have, particularly regarding the choreography, feels beyond Franchouchou’s reach.
Junko, meanwhile, is frustrated for a similar reason. With Ai out of the picture, for the time being, she’s the most experienced idol among the group. As such, it ends up falling to her to help coordinate Franchouchou’s routines for the performance, something that, as a product of the ’80s age of mostly-solo idols, she feels unequipped to do. There’s a very pretty scene late in “The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth” that gives the episode its title wherein she strums an acoustic guitar and sings a ballad to herself to calm herself down, but her anxiety doesn’t stay contained for very long.
“The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth” ends with something that Zombie Land Saga Revenge has been a little light on so far; fairly high dramatic stakes. Sakura and Junko end up seeking out Ai for advice, and by coincidence, she’s confronted by Shiori at the same time. Shiori offers her a position in Iron Frill. Saying that she “knows” a group like Franchouchou can’t fulfill Ai’s ambitions. The episode actually ends here, giving us the rare straight-up cliffhanger from Zombie Land Saga. The final scene of “The Acoustic SAGA of Love and Youth” is Ai staring daggers into the back of Shiori’s head for implying Franchouchou are somehow lesser than her group.
It seems quite unlikely that Ai would actually accept (or even be tempted to accept) Shiori’s offer. But for the lurking-nearby Sakura and Junko, who don’t have the full context of the conversation, the prospect must seem terrifyingly plausible.
As for what will actually happen? It’s hard to say. That’s a question to be answered next time, anime fans.
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