| The black short-haired zombie with flower ornaments.
The immovable leader of Idol Frill, the idol unit that was at the top during the 21st-century idol war. While she's good at singing, she is confident in her ability to dance. She is determined and is not afraid to speak her mind out. Extremely skeptical of Kotaro's schemes.
On a side note: the flowers on her head increased when she's in idol form.
Mizuno Ai (水野 愛) was a popular idol in the early 2000s from the idol group called Iron Frill. She died in 2008 when she was struck by lightning during a concert.
She is titled as the Legendary Heisei Idol (伝説の平成アイドル Densetsu no Heisei aidoru)
Ai has short, dark, slate blue hair with two yellow flower clips. Her bangs are bunched together, and she has light red eyes. Like the other zombies, her skin is a greyish-blue and most of her body is covered in bandages some what like a mummy.
Her casual outfit consists of an Idol-like school outfit: a navy-blue jacket over a pale yellow top with a blue plaid skirt and bow. She also wears dark grey socks and light brown school-shoes. As a Idol, Ai has a light sky-blue shirt with "3" written on it, wears a turquoise skirt, and has more flowers in her hair.
When alive, Ai demonstrated a cheerful and determined personality, but after becoming a Zombie she became rather skeptical and suspicious. As she gradually begins to warm up to her group, she begins to act like her old self again. She has shown a supportive side and great patience when aiding the other members with her idol experience. Because of how she died, she was afraid of lightning. When she got stuck by lighting again and comes out unharmed, along with a successful performance with Franchouchou at Saga Rock, she appears to have overcome her trauma.
At the beginning of the episode, Ai appears on Sakura's TV screen with her idol group, Iron Frill. She later appears as a zombie laying in the room that a now amnesiac Sakura escapes to while running away from Tae. Zombie Ai along with the other girls tries to attack Sakura, only for her to stab Ai in the head with a fire iron. The next day when Kotaro formally introduces Sakura to the other zombies, Ai is faintly familiar to her even though she seems to remember nothing else from her old life; but she can't quite place why Ai feels that way to her. After their mostly successful performance in a death metal festival, all of the zombie girls regain their senses. She wakes up along with Junko and Lily but was frightened upon seeing Tae.
Finding Kōtarō Tatsumi's idea of a zombie idol group ridiculous; She, Sakura and Junko try to escape and head for Tokyo only to strike fear into hearts of 3 rappers and a Policeman, after which they run back to the mansion in low spirits. Later, Sakura and Saki get into a heated rap battle that eventually turns to Sakura deriding both Ai and Junko for their hesitation about the band in spite of being the "celebrity pair".
Ai remains in abysmal spirits through much of the episode, vehemently turning down Sakura's recommendation that she become band leader and only begrudgingly participating in rehearsal for a brief time before Lily trips which convinces Ai again that the newly named "Franchouchou" is doomed to fail. She later replies to Junko's belief that the band should give up by saying she, herself, believes the other girls' performance will still be appreciated if their efforts are sincere, but continues to be skeptical of that sincerity. Come time for the performance, she and Junko sit the act out but are shown to be observing the others hopefully. The performance goes poorly but at the last moment when Sakura forgets her lyrics, Ai steps in to salvage the song with a bright, idol-like smile and together with Junko manages to get the show back on track to its finish. After the performance, Sakura is deeply grateful for the pairs' help and after everyone else leaves the room, Ai smiles to herself, seemingly at last ready to commit to her new band.
A month after the events of Episode 3, Franchouchou goes on a hopeful business venture into the city where they are left alone by Kotaro for several hours. By majority vote, the band decides to use this first outdoor experience they've had in a month as a chance to have fun in the city rather than practice. Ai does not vocally offer her opinion on the rest of the group's decision but is shown following the band around at a distance sighing to herself at nearly every stop, indicating that although she didn't speak up to stop the girls from having some fun, she would personally much rather they be practicing. The group stops at a foot-bath where the conversation turns largely to her and her opinion on the chance of the band succeeding. She hesitates to reply but smiles multiple times at hearing Sakura remind the others that they do need to practice and again when Sakura solemnly affirms her commitment to making the band a success. Afterward, she is shown enjoying a successful performance with the others on-stage. The final scene of the episode shows her even sharing a laugh with the band at Tae's accident with Saganship Z.
The band undertakes a self-advertising campaign by participating in a commercial for Drive-In Tori, a famous restaurant, as well as the Gatalympics, a popular series of mud-sporting activities. Junko expresses misgivings about the way they are being dressed for the commercial but Ai points out that as ridiculous as they look, there is merit to doing it as it will help them to dress properly in the future, perhaps marking the first time Ai agrees with anything Kotaro has planned. The commercial requires several takes as Tae continuously acts out and ruins the performance, but Ai is able to pinpoint a change that can be made to the harmony of the song to get Tae to perform correctly, indicating advanced skill at musical arrangement. Later at the Gatalympics, the group collectively performs poorly on the bicycle track and only a few perform well at the Tarzan swing, Ai not being one of them due to slipping from the rope almost immediately in spite of Sakura's confidence in her.
Junko has locked herself away for two weeks and the remainder of the band hesitates to continue without her leaving Ai to rehearse largely on her own and to plan to cover the duet she was supposed to sing with Junko by herself. The group grows concerned about her new-found drive as it grows from simply drive into an unhealthy zeal to overcome both her past and her fear of what may come at Saga Rock. She is shown absent from her bed at night and is indicated to have rehearsed almost non-stop during the two weeks since Episode 6, causing her body to literally fall apart at one point while giving her hallucinations of thunderstorms at another. Junko eventually rejoins for the performance and the two are shown on speaking terms once again as the band watches the new incarnation of Iron Frill perform from a distance. Ai does her best to bury her fear as storm clouds begin to gather just as Franchouchou is about to take stage while the rest look on in obvious worry. The song "Atsuku Nare" begins and Ai fights her hardest to sing both her part and Junko's but the repeated thunderclaps prove too much; causing her voice to crack throughout the entire intro. At last, she collapses, but Junko rushes to her aid and picks up where Ai left off, extending a hand to help her back to her feet with words of comfort. Ai regains both her feet and her voice but remains unable to smile like the others for the remainder of the song. As it ends, a massive lightning bolts crashes down upon the band, seemingly affirming Ai's fear, but due to their strange zombie physiology, the lightning is not only harmless to them. but auto-tunes their voices, gives them a radiating outline and allows them to direct currents of light out of their fingertips. The crowd is initially stunned but eventually goes wild at the spectacle before them as the group performs "Mezame Returner" with Ai smiling from ear to ear the entire time. The performance a huge success, Ai and Junko comfort Sakura who is overcome with tears of joy at their breakthrough and the group goes on to become the highlight of the event.
The Saga Rock performance has become essentially the group's true debut and is now receiving quite a bit of press, a fact Ai mentions will come with both good reviews and bad. After Lily has an encounter with her biological father Takeo Go, Ai mentions that being recognized out in the open like that could possibly happen to any of the band, especially herself and Junko. As Sakura ponders on this thought, another flashback appears in her mind causing her to stare briefly at Ai, who notices but doesn't pursue the subject. Lily comes out to the band as a trans girl later that night and Ai sighs at Saki's fit of laughter over the ironically masculine names that run in Lily's family. Further, she then is the first to question the implications that this transgender revelation might have in terms of whether or not their manager Kotaro knew about this and what it could mean if he didn't. The worry is fast laid to rest, however, as Kotaro both knew and is highly supportive. As the group gathers around Lily in adoration, Ai muses on how it is that they never noticed in spite of how close they all were, but along with everyone, agrees with Saki's statement of acceptance. When the band grows displeased over simply allowing Lily's situation with her father to go unresolved, Ai states that the answer to what they can do for her should be pretty clear, and along with Junko, suggests writing a new song from Lilyto Takeo and advises conscripting Kotaro for the project. Ai is shown training Lily directly for her lead role in "To My Dearest" before the show, which ultimately goes off without a hitch.
Ai does not feature prominently in this episode. Franchouchou begins taking steps to improve their image to the considerably large elderly populace of Saga, to which Ai admits having never heard of an idol group with a significant elderly fan-base but appears happy to get involved with them, especially after one particular group's dancing proves unexpectedly refined. During the trip back, she appears somewhat annoyed by Lily and Tae's roughhousing in the van and reacts in shock to Saki jumping out of the moving vehicle. During Saki's solo song at the end of the episode, Ai is shown sporting an extremely bright smile.
Ai continues to be in charge of the band's rehearsal and after finishing a number, proudly exclaims that the group performed well. She, Saki and Lily share a short conversation where Saki indicates that Lily gives Ai the most trouble (likely true given that she was shown to struggle with footwork in earlier episodes), but the conversation stays friendly and lighthearted. In Sakura's inner monologue, she says that Ai (as well as Junko) has tensed down greatly since Saga Rock and goes on to reminisce about her lost memories which pulls up yet another brief flashback to Ai and Iron Frill. The group then learns that the will be putting on their first solo show with roughly 500 in attendance, something which surprises the others but Ai says she thinks the band is ready and on time for. The location of their performance is revealed to be Arpino, the location at which Ai performed in Saga for the first time as well as a location that feels familiar to Sakura. The two don't discuss it, but their recollections overlap, indicating that Arpino is the setting Sakura's faint memory of Ai is from. The connection to her memories as well as the hope for a successful show gets Sakura too worked up which concerns both Ai and Kotaro, who watches their conversation. Kotaro sends the group into the mountains, hoping to teach Sakura a lesson about teamwork. While on the mountain, Ai proves to have significantly sharper eyes and ears than the other zombies as well as being unexpectedly resourceful and skilled at hunting. She manages to craft a fully-functioning bow and arrow without any tools and proves a nearly pin-point shot with it, though partly on account of Sakura's interruption, never succeeds in shooting the baby boar she set her sights on. After the group returns to the mansion, Ai again has to stop the rehearsal when Sakura is still mismatching her timing leading to Sakura getting upset with the band, incorrectly perceiving that it was the rest of the band who was sloppy. Ai leads the girls in reviewing their choreography for the upcoming show at Arpino and appears quite happy that the others are now contributing good ideas of their own, as opposed to when she was doing it all by herself in Episode 6. After Sakura witnesses the bands teamwork, she at last synchs up with them. Thrilled by the progress, she wakes for an early morning run the next day, to which Ai warns her to be careful for traffic. Sakura ends up hit by a truck again anyway and regains all her memories from life, including several of admiringly watching Ai perform, but at the cost of all her memories as a zombie.
Sakura wakes inside the mansion with no memories of Franchouchou and panics at the sight of each of the girls in the bedroom. Thunder can be heard in the background which seems to indicate that Ai's fear of lightning has been put to rest, but as Sakura picks up the same iron poker that she throw into Ai's head in the first episode, Ai reflexively recoils in trauma, indicating that she somehow remembers the event. The girls struggle to comprehend Sakura's frightful reaction to them, but just before Yugiri slaps her, Ai works out what could have happened to her. Sakura drops the poker and utters words of defeat before passing out, waking up later to find Ai sitting next to her in full make up. Sakura finds a moment of joy amid her despair at waking up next to the idol she admired so immensely but the moment is cut short as Ai urgently explains everything she can about their situation to her. Ai returns along with Sakura to the others and explains to the rest what has happened but a rift forms within the band as Sakura, who turns out to have been severely depressed before she died, says the band should continue without her. Ai is visibly troubled by Sakura's defeatism but continues to assure the others that she believes Sakura will come around on her own and is the only member of the band to not attempt to force a one-on-one conversation with her. The other's repeated efforts cause Sakura to flee the mansion where she thinks back on her memories from life. It is revealed that Sakura struggled with unfortunate coincidences that robbed her of success repeatedly throughout her entire life which eventually left her in a state of pure hopelessness. One day however, by chance, she happened to see a televised interview with Ai whose attitude and raw determination re-lit the spark inside her. She became an enormous admirer of Ai and used her message as inspiration to recollect herself and try once more to find success as an idol; unfortunately only to die in an accident on her way to audition. She repeats Ai's message to herself in the present, but finds herself simply too defeated to care, even if continuing would mean getting to be in a band with her personal hero.
Sakura's despair continues, as does Ai's passive treatment of her; merely asking at one point what she thought of watching the group dance, to which Sakura had several flashbacks but did not verbally reply. The others, especially Tae continue trying to rouse Sakura's spirits or to comfort her but largely succeed only in annoying her, with Ai at one point claiming she knew their efforts to get Sakura to sleep in the middle of all of them was going too far. After Tae and Yugiri begin getting forceful in their efforts to reach Sakura, Ai finally steps forward with a lecture of her own. She points out the mutual nature of their collectively unfortunate lives and caps it off by reaffirming the same words of determination that Sakura valued so much when she was alive. Finally realizing how those words still applied even in this situation, Sakura's fist finally unclenches and her guard drops; replying hesitantly but cooperatively for the first time. All seven of the band rehearse together for the first time since Sakura's memory swap and it goes perfectly, to which Ai attributes muscle memory from extensive training. The mirror cracks, which Sakura, takes as a bad omen, but the others continue to provide support, culminating with a look of determination after Ai reassures her again. A heavy snowfall besets the venue and shortly after the performance starts, the stage begins breaking down. A violent tremor shakes the arena and together with Junko, Ai catches Lily who is about to fall and offers the small girl a reassuring smile as they make toward the front of the stage together. During a part when she is holding an extended high note, Ai seems to already know the stage is in imminent danger of collapsing and appears to signal to a group of girls in the front row to step back from the stage in case of emergency. The girls step back and immediately thereafter, the stage collapses. The audience looks on at the scene frozen in worry, while in the background, a slow clapping begins from Kotaro in an effort to continue the show. Before long, Ai resumes singing and powers herself back to her feet; and one by one, the rest of the band follows suit, stopping at Sakura's part while waiting for her to also get back up. Sakura reflects on the words offered to her by Ai, Yugiri and Kotaro before finally picking herself up and resuming the show in full. Backstage before the encore, Sakura makes up her mind that she truly does want to continue performing with Franchouchou if the others are alright with having her and as she asks, she looks directly at Ai, her hero, who happily accepts. Sakura and Ai share a particularly large number of choreographed segments in both songs of the Arpino performance, giving a meaningful highlight to Sakura's success on her path to becoming an idol. At one point while Ai is singing, the current members of Iron Frill are shown to be watching the performance live on the internet with jaws agape. In the final scene, Okoba quizzically compares photographs of Ai, Junko and Lily as members of Franchouchou to photos of themselves from when they were alive.
- Ai was only 16 years old at the time of her death.
- Ai(愛) means "love" in Japanese. Unlike the purely romantic "koi", "ai" means love in a broad sense, so this kanji is widely used as a traditional female name.
- Mizuno is a habitational name meaning 'water field', from a village so named in Owari (now part of Aichi prefecture). The surname is found mostly along the eastern seaboard and on the island of Okinawa.
- It is also the name of a Japanese sports equipment and sportswear company, founded in Osaka in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno.
- She died in 2008, only 4 months after Sakura was struck and killed by a truck.
- Ai has better kinetic vision and hearing than the other girls in the group.
|Kōtarō Tatsumi • Sakura Minamoto • Saki Nikaidō • Ai Mizuno • Junko Konno • Yūgiri • Tae Yamada • Lily Hoshikawa • Policeman A • Romero|