Sankarea – Dislocation and flashbacks
June 4, 2012 1 Comment
Sankarea is a fascinating series that explores ideas surrounding what it means to be happy, along with notions of family life and living a ‘normal’ life. The characters all have their own problems and ways that they cope with changing surroundings. However, there is still a central problem with this series, and that is the dislocation of the story, with numerous changes of pace, tone and mood. Having a series that changes its pace and tone is not a bad thing as such, and used correctly it can help to produce a fascinating story that uses such change to its advantage. Of course the opposite can also happen, with a series feeling rushed and choppy, where there is no central flow to the plot and particular elements come across as forced or used incorrectly.
Sankarea is a series that has good and bad pacing, with certain elements working incredibly well to create a fascinating and atmospheric, while at the same time points where the story feels like it forgets where it was going. As a series it handles these changes in pace and mood excellently, helping to create a story that is both incredibly serious, while at the same time funny and light hearted. The way in which Sankarea deals with the change of tone is brilliant, moving from light hearted comedy to more black comedy, and even serious and potentially deadly all within the same episode.
Similarly, the characterisation of Rea in particular produces this notion that regardless of her naïve and innocent exterior, there is something far darker and more deadly lurking beneath the surface. This central character is the major draw, and one of the most important aspects of this series. There is the suggestion of controlled anger and repressed pain and anguish lurking beneath the surface, waiting for the opportunity to jump out at unsuspecting passers-by. When we watch Rea move from incredibly caring individual, worrying about wounds that Chihiro acquires, to some sort of create clearly savouring the taste of blood, we as an audience are shown the fine line that Chihiro in particular is treading.
The series goes out of its way to show how Rea lived what was a repressed and terrible life through both overt use of her father’s obsession with her, along with more subtle touches. It is clear that her family and home life were immensely damaging to Rea’s emotional and social development, effectively keeping as a child in some respects. We see Rea with a childish personality, clinging on to small things that clearly make her happy, almost as if to let go of them would cause irreparable psychological damage. In particular, Sankarea demonstrates how important Chihiro’s presence is to Rea as an individual. He is portrayed as being her saviour, the person who brought her from the darkness and showed her how wonderful the world truly is.
But, like with so many other elements of this series, we are also shown the darker side to this view. It is implied that Rea is perhaps as obsessed with Chihiro as Danichirou is with her – Chihiro is her saviour, and there is the implied notion that she wishes to monopolise him. We constantly see the darker side to this series, even while it is showing us a relatively normal, happy scene with the Furuya family sitting down to breakfast. It is abundantly clear that in saving Rea, Chihiro has created something immensely dangerous, and he may be the only one capable of truly controlling Rea, possibly at the cost of his life. It is this change of pace and tone that make it such a fascinating series to watch.
However, there are also problems with its pacing, which are most clear in the ‘filler’ episodes that seek to flesh out the characterisations of Ranko, and in this case Mero. In many series such episodes are used to further add to particular characters, adding more depth to the current story and showing how they fit in. Such episodes are therefore immensely important, however, they can, and often are, misused, being placed at the wrong time or wrong place. In the case of Sankarea, we have had both episodes placed just after significantly atmospheric and important cliff-hangers, effectively ruining any form of tension that the final scenes created.
These scenes happen in the manga and are excellent at demonstrating the importance of all these characters to the story as a whole. It is clear that Mero has a significant and important place within the Furuya family, along with the relationship that she develops with Rea for example. This episode helped to demonstrate the loneliness in Mero’s life, and also her attachment to her brother Chihiro. While she is almost monosyllabic at times, there is a clear sense of intense emotions lying beneath her usually calm exterior. The lack of a mother in the family, along with her place as the one in charge of domestic chores (largely because of the incompetence of the men in the family) are things that have had a clear impact upon her character until now.
We are shown a particularly interesting, and incredibly important flashback in this weeks episode that gives some indication as to what Chihiro’s and Mero’s mother was like. There is the implication that she was a zombie herself, which appears to relate to Jogorou looking for a way to bring people back to life. That Mero’s memories of her mother are limited to knowledge that her hands were extremely cold and always covered with bandages further strengthens this particular idea. The implications of this are profound, suggesting that rather than dead, their mother may be alive somewhere, although what condition she is in (assuming she is alive) remains to be revealed, if it is at all.
Furthermore, this particular revelation feeds into Mero’s attitude towards Rea, along with Rea’s place within the Furuya family as a whole. There is a clear sense of loneliness with Mero, especially when we see Chihiro becoming utterly obsessed with Rea. Her sudden reaction to Rea is fascinating to watch, especially when those hazy, faded memories of her mother begin to reappear and overlap with the reality that is in front of her. To Mero then, Rea is a mother figure, someone who she can look up to, and someone who will help her and in a way look after her. It is a wonderful moment, which helps to demonstrate that regardless of what darkness lies in store for Rea and Chihiro, she has finally found her place in life. Ironic then that she had to die in order to find it, which once again adds to the tragedy of Rea’s life, but also the joy that she now feels while living with Chihiro, Mero, and the entire Furuya family.
All of this is excellent, and as an episode, this one helped to further progress the story, fleshing out the characters (figuratively speaking) by adding more elements to their place within the plot. As a single episode then it works wonderfully, but it feels out of place, being sandwiched between what looks to be two very tense episodes centred on the relationship that Rea has with her family and with Chihiro. It makes the series fell disjointed, and while it does fit the way with which this series has consistently and without warning shifted tone from light to dark and then back to light, in this case, it feels out of place. And that is one of the central problems with the series, while the change in tone can be great, there are times when it is jarring and happens at the wrong time, thus ruining all form of tension that had been built up with previous episodes.