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Warning: Spoilers for episode 8 of Zombie Land Saga follows.
Trans women just received representation from an unexpected source: a comedy anime about zombie idol girls. Cygames’ Zombie Land Saga revealed that idol Lily Hoshikawa is a young transgender girl, and the series’ trans fans are ecstatic.
For the uninitiated, Zombie Land Saga follows a zombie idol group called Franchouchou. Its members come from various walks of life across Japanese history, from courtesans to biker gangs, and they’re all zombies. That’s right, they’re all undead. That includes a young child actress named Lily Hoshikawa, who passed away when she was 12 years old.
In the series’ eighth episode, Lily reveals that she was previously assigned male at birth under her deadname, “Masao Go.” She passed away after noticing her first black whisker on her face, causing her to die from sheer anguish.
Of course, being a zombie is a blessing for Lily; now that she’s undead, she won’t go through puberty. She proceeds to come out to her fellow idols, who struggle with her trans identity at first, but ultimately accept her as a fellow girl.
“I’m still Lily, and that’s who I’m always going to be,” she says in the episode. Later on, she stresses “I am not Masao anymore! My name is Lily!”
A family can be just a girl and a professional wrestler. pic.twitter.com/ynlKX9RIhK— Zombie Land Saga (@SagaZombieLand) November 25, 2018
It didn’t take long for fans to confirm that Lily is a trans girl. The series’ creators treat her as a girl, gender her as such online, and previous episodes hint to her trans identity. In short, Lily’s character arc is a trans one—and it’s pretty obvious.
As Japanese myself, I did double check character Lily from Zombieland Saga. The truth is that the character IS trans in Japanese too!— 幸兔雪(Yukito Yuki) (@xingtuxue) November 24, 2018
People who spreads lies that “English subtitles are mistranslated” are the ugliest thing. It is NOT a lie, she’s really a trans girl.
Like...during previous episodes, some small hints about her being trans was dropped.— 幸兔雪(Yukito Yuki) (@xingtuxue) November 24, 2018
She did rig off from her boyish speaking style.
don’t like to be called with by her old name.
She freaked out from puberty and died due to that
And you still trying to deny that she’s trans?
I shared this earlier, but the Animate interview for #ZombieLandSaga episode 8 also confirms Lily as a trans girl.https://t.co/1FzxevJjsC— 律「Gay Lesbian」 (@andrearitsu) November 25, 2018
1. Tanaka Minami states Lily is no longer Masao.
2. She also states the show is about "friendship between girls"
Lily from zombieland is a trans girl— Demonic Science Bun ☪️ (@Viviamano) November 25, 2018
the official twitter specially tweeted out HER not "him"
The anime itself says SHE is LILY
there is a difference between a trans person and a "trap"
yet, you weebs keep using "trap" on her, proving its a trans slur
For trans Twitter users, Lily is an easy character to love. She isn’t just petite and adorable, she literally dies from gender dysphoria. That’s way too relatable. She’s more than ready to stand up for herself, too, and assert her gender identity. She’s the perfect trans girl role model.
Lily Hoshikawa is a trans girl!!! pic.twitter.com/5cvfPy5AKB— meghan (@mahiruhanayo) November 22, 2018
SHES MY PFP NOW WE STAN A ZOMBIE TRANS GIRL AND HER NAME IS LILY HOSHIKAWA pic.twitter.com/Y80BbXgUQ3— ❄Ariana❄ (@takamakii) November 23, 2018
LILY HOSHIKAWA IS TRANS AND YOU CAN EAT MY ENTIRE FUCKING ASS IF YOU DISAGREE THANKS— Keibou (@godoka) November 23, 2018
Honestly, the fact that Lily is a trans girl should have been obvious due to her pretending to be a magical girl.— 律「Gay Lesbian」 (@andrearitsu) November 25, 2018
That's such a trans girl thing.
Lily fanart is also taking over Twitter, as artists drape her in the trans flag’s colors.
i never watched this show, but lily is very important (and trans) pic.twitter.com/yW8kaX09Ur— alex (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ (@heckblenberr) November 25, 2018
Heard the news and binge-watched zombieland saga, that show was SO GOOD AND MUCH BETTER THAN I EXPECTED for more reasons than just the trans rep!!!— Lazuli (@deepseaghost) November 24, 2018
anyways here's trans icon lily!!!! pic.twitter.com/uVfY8SoqHz
The girls and their manager, Kotaro Tatsumi, make for pretty great allies to boot.
It goes without saying that trans fans received plenty of pushback over Lily. Some anime viewers keep calling her a “trap,” a derogatory term used against trans women that conflates trans girls with crossdressers. Lily’s fans have since hit back, pointing out how the show pretty explicitly treats Lily as transgender and criticizes anyone who says otherwise.
Incels: Lily isn't trans!!!! Shes a cis girl!!!— ❄Ariana❄ (@takamakii) November 23, 2018
Incels are apparently Jared, 19....they never fuckin learned how to read pic.twitter.com/k5gp7BkF8d
You guys do know the studio making Zombieland Saga, right? It’s MAPPA. They’re NOTORIOUS for adding LGBT characters to their series. Even ignoring their anime with focus on gay characters, like Banana Fish and Yuri on Ice, Lily is not even the first trans character they’ve had. pic.twitter.com/ou4ykTle7h— frog enthusiast (@usadapyo) November 24, 2018
So ppl are once again lying about CR b/c, why ever make a valid complaint? It's being said that the translators "made" Lily trans, when in fact she's MORE explicitly trans in Japanese, literally the opposite. This line more closely translates 2 "the name I abandoned/got rid of" pic.twitter.com/0HR46jPOCO— ThePedanticRomantic @ New Home (@PedanticRomantc) November 24, 2018
me seeing brainless anitwit losers scramble trying to find reasons to argue lily isn’t a trans girl after they get shut down by people who actually know japanese and LGBT issues in japan pic.twitter.com/ZsdYKnOzax— housemeat (@leechkiss) November 24, 2018
And then theres the weebs who try and claim that "tr*p" isnt a slur— Birbsgiving (@purblebirb) November 24, 2018
Trans.— Retroranger Review Show | R.I.P Stan 'The Man' Lee (@Retroranger18) November 23, 2018
I don't watch Zombieland Saga but I'm pissed at ppl I see calling Lily a "Trap" or by her deadname. I was happy a pretty mainstream anime wasn't afraid to have a trans character. Then here come the transphobes & ppl who think they're being funny... pic.twitter.com/nDhVCnN9R5
Last but not least, if the studio intended for “Masao Gou” to be her “real” name, it's likely they would have written that in the credits. But the credits list “Lily Hoshikawa”, and not out of laziness (the credits sequence was even unique this episode). [Zombieland spoilers] pic.twitter.com/YjegYUqcaH— Allie☆Fiasco (@tropicalesque) November 24, 2018
- What it means to be transgender
- How big is the transgender population, really?
- Trans and nonbinary people explain what gender dysphoria feels like
This isn’t the first time an anime series became a flashpoint for trans issues. Last December, a reveal trailer for Catherine: Full Body’s upcoming character Rin received criticism in light of the original game’s transphobia. Meanwhile, Doki Doki Literature Club creator Dan Salvato vocally criticized fans who were calling one of its characters a “trap.”
While trans anime fans face an uphill battle with combating transphobia across fandoms, it’s refreshing to know there’s at least one character that has their backs—even if she’s undead.
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.