Zombie Land Saga is the unlikely tale of a group of undead idols resurrected by a promoter to bring attention to Saga Prefecture. The girls in the idol group attempt to resurrect their lives as idols as they work through the traumas and unresolved issues from their short lives. The show became an unexpected hit for all the people involved and made a viral sensation out of a wrap battle between two clashing characters. We had the chance to sit down with seiyuu’s Tano and Hondo as well as CEO of MAPPA Manabu Otsuka and ask them about themselves and Zombie Land Saga..
Asami Tano, Kade Hondo and MAPPA CEO Manabu Otsuka
Honey's Anime Exclusive Interview with Asami Tano, Kade Hondo and MAPPA CEO Manabu Otsuka
How much did you enjoy recording the rap battle between Saki and Sakura?
Kade Hondo: To prepare for the rap battle, I watched a lot of footage of cipher battles, a cipher is a kind of aggressive rap. I would do it in the studio right before recording. The recording itself was kind of fun, but it also came from a place of rage because a lot happens to my character, she gets hit by a car and has a lot of anger about that. So, I used that as a place to draw the intensity from.
Asami Tano: I practiced a lot at home but would go to the director for advice on where Saki was coming from emotionally. The director however just threw me to the wolves and just left me in the studio. I didn’t know at the time but he did that to preserve the characters sense of surprise and how she Saki didn’t want to lose to Sakura and I didn’t want to lose to Hondo-san.
With the plethora of idol anime on the market did you expect Zombie Land Saga to break through such a crowded field?
Kade Hondo: I was really surprised at first but when you think about the show you shouldn’t be. The show packs a lot into each episode. I’m very happy that everyone enjoyed the story. I didn’t want to set expectations because of how fast the story goes.
Asami Tano: I was very surprised and very happy that everyone enjoyed it because without their support we all wouldn’t be here. I am very grateful and hope to carry that energy into a second season.
Manabu Otsuka: I really didn’t have expectations when we were in production. I didn’t feel the popularity rise in real-time either because of all the other project I was working on. So, I was surprised when I was told it was popular.
We think that for many people that they didn’t know that Zombie Land Saga was an idol show when they began to watch and became idol fans. Did you think that it would create so many new idol fans?
Asami Tano: A friend of mine who was not an idol fan watched Zombie Land Saga became a fan and we agreed that it was because the story presented.
Kade Hondo: We are seeing a trend in idol anime to present deeper stories not just stories about cute girls doing cute things. I think that is what made me a fan is these deeper stories that just hook you in.
Manabu Otsuka: I’m not an idol genre fan. So, I didn’t quite know how to approach the story. I think that helped me make it an unconventional idol story with a lot of focus on character.
The actor that plays the producer Koutarou Tatsumi, Mamoru Miyano, reportedly did a lot of ad libbing. Was it hard to work with someone who was skilled at going off script?
Asami Tano: A lot of the adlibbing came in during the driving scenes. Miyano really was acting his heart out and over the top. I had to change my breathing patterns so I could match my reactions to his performance. Miyano-san is so respected in the voice acting industry it was an honor to work opposite of him. I think a lot of his acting is infectious and you want to join in, and you want to scream along.
Kade Hondo: I did most of my ad libbing with Miyano-san during the boar hunt. I ended up ad libbing most of that scene and the director decided to keep it.
What do you think makes your characters so loveable especially considering that they’re zombies?
Kade Hondo: I find my favorite part is when Sakura panics and she’s like, “Help me! What am I doing? I’m just ahead. What can I do?”. But, also between all of the girls, there is a gentle and caring relationship, especially between Tae and Lily. You see Lily taking care of Tae the best that she can. I do like that as time goes on, we do see some of the negative aspects of the characters. I especially like that because it rounds you out as a character.
Asami Tano: The yankii (yankee) archetype has become pretty big in Japanese anime as the troublemaker, the rebel, getting on loud bikes zooming around and messing stuff up. Saki is a yankii through and through, however, she is also really kind in a very surprising way, for example raising an egg in her Tamagotchi. Saki didn’t really want to join the group at first but at the end decided that she really did want to just be with everybody.
Manabu Otsuka: I was going for archetypes when we were designing the characters, you have the yankee, the good girl, the teacher’s pet, the one that just wants to eat everything. You can watch the series and easily tell who everyone is by the archetype, however, their emotions are very pure and that is how they approach their experiences. The girls are very emotionally strong and that is what I wanted to show off the most in the show.
What did you learn from your experience producing Zombie Land Saga that you will carry through to the next season?
Asami Tano: I learned a lot including how to do a rap battle, in terms of who goes first, how you feed off of each other and how you go back and forth. I was also able to learn the adlibbing skills from Miyano-san and the actress that played Tae, Kotono Mitsuishi-san is a veteran in the industry whose credits include Misato from Neon Genesis Evangelion and she taught me a lot and helped me grow professionally.
Kade Hondo: Sakura has had a very big influence on me. You have a tragic story of a girl that is really able to hang in there. She is constantly being challenged and then she dies and comes back as a zombie. I think is basically a story of challenges and how one overcomes them. I feel that message was very important to me and hope others watching will feel the same way.
Did any of you like zombies before Zombie Land Saga?
Asami Tano: No. No, no, no. I’m am really bad with scary things. So, when I opened the script, I was wondering what I was getting into. I was relieved to find a lot of tender scenes and funny scenes throughout. I think that’s why this show can attract a lot of non-horror fans.
Kade Hondo: I love scary stuff. I’m not scared by a whole lot. When I looked at the script, I thought it was great with the comedic stuff spread throughout. But, for a fan of horror, there are some genuine thrills.