Sankarea 12 – The ending and the beginning
July 2, 2012 Leave a comment
Sankarea has been a fascinating series, one that has had excellent episodes and story arcs, while also unfortunately having a few places where the plot as meandered and not gone very far. As a series it has largely focussed on the private family life that Rea has tried to escape from, and how her father has attempted to control everything about her life from the moment she was born. As a story it is as much about loss as it is about discovering new things and living through new and exciting experiences. The central irony of the story is that Rea must become the most unnatural girl possible in order to live the life of a normal girl. Her family life and the constant presence of her father have shut her off from the outside world, isolating her from everything that could be considered to be normal. While the boys at Chihiro’s school may talk about her as being the perfect ‘oujo-sama’, that is little more than an a mask, something that was in part created by her everyday existence as a Sanka.
The story partly revolves around her relationship with her father Danichirou, and his constant attitude that Rea is a truly pure existence. At first, Danichirou’s attitude towards Rea is something almost obscene, and it is very easy to make links between his wish to monopolise her, along with taking ‘commemorative’ semi-naked pictures and feelings of incest. And perhaps the story wishes to portray him as such, however, it becomes clear that Danichirou is a far more complicated character than he first appears. He truly loves Rea, and wishes to protect her from the outside world, one that he views as corrupting and dirty. Rea’s existence is too important to Danichirou since she remains the only link he has to her mother, the first and perhaps only person who does not only see his families name.
His over protective nature and often quite disturbing ideas to do with purity and pollution are born from a deeply troubled and destructive family life along with losing the one person who he truly loved. Danichirou is therefore less of a an evil man with incestuous feelings for his daughter, and more of a tragic character, someone who is desperately trying to grasp hold of the remnants of his past happiness. This does not, however, mean that his actions are good and can be forgiven, he still remains a deeply troubled, dangerous and quite destructive individual. Rather than seeing Rea as an individual, he instead partly sees her as the purity that existed in his wife. She remains his link to her, and someone who he can raise and keep safe, as if by doing so he will be able to continue living with the woman he loved through their daughter.
In effect, he loves Rea, but also does not love her for who she truly is; his demands and overbearing attitudes towards who she can be with and what she can do only adds to the pain that exists in the Sanka household. Ultimately he is a character who has been incapable of growing or changing, he is stuck in the past without and hope of moving on and recognising that this is not what his wife wanted. His attitudes towards his dead wife thus alienated not only Rea, the object of his devotion, but also Aria, a woman who does truly love Danichirou and who may still be the only person who can save him from himself. Danichirou’s showdown with Chihiro demonstrates to us how little he truly understands about Rea, Aria and also Rea’s mother. We see someone who is trapped by his past, recreating the same sort of family life that he detested and wished to escape from.
Rea as a character is someone who is naïve of the wider world, but is also utterly fascinated by everything she sees. Because of her time in the Sanka house we see a girl who cannot truly express herself, someone who has to come to an abandoned hotel and scream into a well in order to vent or anger, frustration, pain and fear. Arguably both Rea and Chihiro fall in love before Rea becomes a zombie, and seeing their relationship grow is as fascinating as it is frustrating. Seeing her innocence and ability to accept almost anything, even when confronted with the idea that she is now dead can be both painful, while also quite disturbing. What is fascinating however, is seeing how she grows and changes as a person over the course of the series, resulting in her ability to talk to the Sanka maids as their master, along with confronting her step mother Aria.
We have been told and shown on multiple occasions how Rea is effectively on the clock, and that the resurrection drug which brought her back to life is not perfect. At first we see both Chihiro and Rea seemingly dismissing this, and getting on with their daily lives as if nothing had happened. Chihiro’s obsession with zombies is something that makes me start taking detailed notes and even video of Rea as if he were studying some sort of weird and wonderful creature. But he has come to realise the importance to Rea of having the life of a normal girl. Rather than eating her Hydrangea leaves away from prying eyes, we see her sitting down to eat with the Furuya family, as if she were truly one of them. This is the first time we have ever seen her as part of a ‘normal’ family, living with people who care for each other and do their best to allow to fit in.
Rea’s unease at the situation partly comes from her own acknowledgment that as a zombie she is an unnatural existence, one that could not, and perhaps should not be part of this happy family. Chihiro is also intensely aware of this situation, and we see him doing his best so that she can fit in and do the things she likes during the limited time of her existence as a zombie. He does his best to allow her this fleeting glimpse of what a normal family life would be like, asking his family and friends to bring her in and make her feel at home. Chihiro is therefore acutely aware of his position and his duty as the person who brought Rea back, fully accepting that it is his duty to perfect the resurrection formula and allow Rea a truly happy life.
Rea on the other hand appears to have accepted her impending death and knows that her life in the Furuya household will eventually come to an end. Her reticence in telling Chihiro her true feelings is shown when he mentioned that Ranko had suggested they play with fireworks in the back yard. She has already understood that Ranko loves Chihiro, something that Ranko does not deny, but she is incapable of accepting or admitting to her own feelings. This is perhaps because she feels as if she owes Chihiro so much already and that asking him to accept her love and see her, as someone truly important is not allowed. In a way Rea appears to believe that she is not allowed to love Chihiro, and that because she will eventually decay and die once again, such love would be fleeting and meaningless.
Her attitude towards Ranko is one of giving way and allowing her to express her love for Chihiro and be with him for life. Such an attitude partly comes from upbringing, but also the circumstances that she met and interacted with Chihiro, she feels as duty bound to Chihiro as he does to her. Ranko on the other hand does not agree, seeing her as a true rival, and someone who she is willing to be friends with. It is this attitude of those surrounding Rea that has allowed her to change and become in a strange way, a ‘normal’ girl, and yet she cannot fully accept this and is stuck in the attitude that she does not deserve such kindness.
There is a far darker element to Rea’s personality, one that has occasionally manifested, but is often overlooked as either something to do with her current zombie state, or as part of her character. Rea truly cares for Chihiro and loves him dearly, but cannot admit to this, however, we have seen how these feelings have changed her and made her react in very strange ways in previous episodes. In a way Rea want to monopolise Chihiro as much as her father wanted to monopolise her, she is driven by this desire to keep him for herself, and while she does not show it is truly jealous of the place in Chihiro’s life that Ranko occupies. This has manifested itself along with her zombie instincts, creating something far more dangerous and sinister, with Rea squeezing and attempting to bite Chihiro on a couple of occasions.
By having such a desire mix with her new zombie instincts we have someone who appears to act as if the ultimate form of pleasure and being together is to eat the person who desires. It is a frightening desire born out of love rather than hate, and demonstrating how much of an impact Chihiro has had on Rea’s life. But at the same time we can see how much Rea’s family life and childhood have twisted her ideas of love and to fulfil your desires. The final scene where Rea appears to be controlled by this mixture of zombie instincts along with her desire to monopolise Chihiro comes at the exact moment when he truly understands what kind of relationship they have. He wants to give her a normal family life, but in order to do so they must go through pain and hardships, with Chihiro putting his life on the line to control and to save Rea. In the case of Rea, she is finally free of her father, and yet his influence remains, her love for Chihiro has become as twisted as Danichirou’s love for her, and has turned into something far more deadly and dangerous.
This series has been a fascinating one, and while it is not perfect has nevertheless produced some outstanding pieces of story telling along with an interesting and in-depth look at how something we take for granted such as a family life can have a tremendous and indelible impact on how you approach life and those around you. Unfortunately it has been let down by a less than satisfactory finale, while the episode was fascinating, it was also not complete, finishing as if it were the beginning of a final arc. Apparently there is a thirteenth ‘unaired’ episode included in the first Blu-Ray disc, and it looks as if this will be the true ‘conclusion’ to this series since we have already had the side OVA in episode 00.
This feels like an incredibly underhanded way of selling the Blu-Ray discs since this episode is clearly only part one of the finale arc, and it has to finish off properly. In general, this arc is interesting, but only really marks the beginning of the story-proper in the manga, with the introduction of new characters, along with a deeper look at the zombie instincts of Rea. It was a good series, but once again suffered from the classic problems of a short, 12/13-episode season, with little time for real development, and in this case only really introducing us to the story of Sankarea. A good series, but certainly not a perfect one, and in terms of horror themed anime, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is clearly the far superior title with more development in terms of story and characters, along with a better aesthetic.