Sankarea First Impressions – Cats, zombies and crazy grandparents
April 10, 2012 Leave a comment
It appears that anime’s fetishization of zombies and all things supernatural has continued this season, with a significant number of series involving zombies and ghosts. Adapted from the manga of the same name, Sankarea tells the story of Furuya Chihiro, who openly admits to being in love with zombies, so in love that he can only see himself having a zombie girlfriend. Quite a unique take on life really, and does somewhat limit him in terms of potential girlfriends and possible wives for the future of course. Now, I have read the manga and thoroughly it – it is not exactly unique or a work of genius, however the characters are likeable and the story is quite an interesting one.
The anime adds to my enjoyment of the manga, fleshing out characters in terms of emotions and a physicality that was missing in certain parts of the manga. Again, the story is not exactly unique – take away all the ideas to do with zombies and the undead and you have a high school boy is partly a loner, with a beautiful childhood friend (who also happens to be his cousin). His encounter with the beautiful yet troubled Sanka Rea leads to a life changing experience in which he gains a stronger connection to the human world that in a sense Chihiro appears to ignore or forget. But more than this, Sankarea does all this with poise and confidence, blending strange fantasies, normal high school lives along with disturbing pasts seamlessly.
The characters have not yet been fully explored, although their brief introductions did bring up some interesting and fascinating points. Chihiro is quite a refreshing character really, he is pretty open about his desire for a spot of necrophilia, and doesn’t appear to care who knows. But more than that, he has a strong connection with his family, being there to support his younger sister when their cat Babu gets run over. And while his father and grandfather are there, it appears that his mother died when he was young, potentially adding to his desire to help and protect his family.
Sanka Rea on the other hand is a deeply troubled individual, one who lacks of semblance of a normal family life and must constantly put up the front of being a perfect ‘ojou-sama’. Her back story will come as quite a shock to anyone who has yet to glance at the manga, and one that I hope will be further explored in later episodes. The idea of her father measuring her growth each year by taking nude photos is sickening and perverse – and it is perfectly clear that she feels unable to escape from her father. That her father is the chairman of the high school, which she attends, further compounds the issue.
It was interesting to see how quickly Sanka and Chihiro formed some sort of bond, one that allowed them to talk relatively openly to each other. There is a sense that they may be kindred spirits of some sort, and yet Chihiro clearly loves life far more than Sanka. Perhaps this is partly what Sankarea is about, a girl who hates life learning to live again from a boy who loves life and yet is obsessed with death. These two characters seem to balance each other out, and yet the story is under no illusions as to why Sanka is going to die, and what her family background is.
The other characters are relatively interesting, although the ones of note have to be Saouji Ranko, Chihiro’s cousin and someone who shares his love of zombies, along with potentially harbouring a secret crush on him if her facial expressions and way of interacting with Chihiro are anything to go by. We also have Furuya Mero, Chihiro’s younger sister, and someone who also has a strong relationship with her brother; in fact this sibling relationship looks to be a strong and interesting one for the entire series. And finally there is Furuya Jogorou, their grandfather, someone who appears to be slightly senile and has some of the best facial expressions that I have seen in a while – he also drinks sake like it was water. The other characters are of the bland, side character type, and I have yet to really notice them.
Hopefully having such a small number of characters will mean that there is plenty of progression as the series unfolds. Although the central relationship between Sanka, Chihiro and Ranko is one that I will be most interested in as it should provide the best drama. Seeing a manga that you have read animated can be a curious experience, and one that is usually positive. The first episode delivered an interesting start to the series, and while there were some very dramatic moments such as learning about Sanka’s family life.
There was quit a bit of fanservice, which didn’t take anything away from the story as a whole actually, and if you consider that the original manga is written and drawn by Hattori Mitsuru, the same person behind Otogi no Machi no Rena and Umisho then that should come as any real surprise. The final few seconds of Sankarea’s premier gave us a glimpse of what is to come, and the ending theme further emphasised the ideas of loneliness and abandonment that our title character Sanka Rea has been subject to. And on the subject of ending themes, it was a great ending sequence with a nice ballad, and an animation sequence that further underlines key parts of the story. The Opening sequence is also good with some good music, but it feels a little out of touch with the zombie element of the series, although it does emphasise the relationships that will form as the plot progresses. Overall a positive start to this series, and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.