This is such a good show and you should watch it, I love these precious girls and their found family dynamic.
If I had to pick the single best portrayal of a trans character in any anime I’ve seen… it would have to be this kid: Lily Hoshikawa from Zombie Land Saga, the show that dared to ask the question: what if zombies were also pop idols?
When viewed from one angle, Lily’s backstory isn’t really about her being trans: it’s about a father who loved his daughter but stopped listening to her. From another angle, it’s absolutely about her being trans because she effectively died of dysphoria. Her cause of death – mental shock upon realizing she was growing facial hair – is presented in a fascinating way. The scene is simultaneously tragic and comic in a manner reminiscent of a lot of the dark humor shared among trans people; the kind of jokes you have to remind yourself not to tell cis people because they’ll be weirded out.
Of course, it wasn’t just the shock of puberty that killed Lily: the hectic schedule of her acting career had driven her to exhaustion, and she was overwhelmed by stress about going through puberty while her father, while not hostile towards her identity, clearly didn’t understand what she was going through. In this context, a single facial hair was simply the final straw.
Seven years later, Lily is back from the dead. Her father was completely broken by her death and how he contributed to it, while she is trying hard not to think about the whole thing. I really appreciate how the show gives her space to have complicated feelings about her father. She loves him, but his inattentiveness had consequences. They ultimately both achieve some measure of closure, but things can never truly go back to the way they were.
Honestly though, the reaction of Lily’s bandmates to the news that she’s trans is what really elevates this portrayal to the best of the best. It’s Saki, former biker boss and delinquent, who’s the most vocal upon hearing the news, and her response is laughter – not at Lily being trans, but at the weird nature of her death, and Lily’s absurdly, incongruously macho deadname. Lily doesn’t share her amusement, of course, but letting the crude, direct Saki be the one to react punctures the tension of the moment. Saki gives voice to the things that otherwise might not be said, because Saki has no filter. And shortly afterwards, it’s Saki who opines that it “doesn’t matter what kind of junk she’s got”.
And Lily being trans is never mentioned again. Lily’s status as part of this close-knit group of girls is never in question. She is never treated differently to the others.
There’s a particular moment late in the series that speaks to this. When main character Sakura has a severe bout of depression, her bandmates rally around to help her feel valued. At one point, we see all six of them sleeping next to her, with Lily right beside her. It’s a small detail, the kind of inclusion that’s simultaneously unremarkable and absolutely remarkable. And it really gets to the heart of why Zombie Land Saga’s portrayal of Lily is so masterful. Other shows have given trans characters more focus, but I can’t think of any that have handled them with more finesse – all while making it look easy.