Sankarea 10 and the demons of the past
June 11, 2012 Leave a comment
There is a central tragedy to the story of Sankarea; it is not about Rea’s death, but about her family and the tragic and emotionally destructive elements that helped to create her current way of life. While the majority of the series is about the relationship between Rea and Chihiro, there is a lot more surrounding their meeting and of course Rea’s death. In this episode we see the tragic, and emotional nature of her family life, along with the elements that are central to the destructive nature of Danichirou’s love and Rea’s emotionally starved character.
One of the most interesting, but sadly underused characters in this entire series is Aria Sanka, the stepmother of Rea, and what appears to be a decadent alcoholic. At first she appears to be an uncaring mother, but through this episode flashback we see that her situation is significantly more complex. Her part in the tragedy that is Rea’s death cannot be underestimated, since her uncaring attitude, along with her apparent ignorance of the emotional abuse that Rea is subjected to by Danichirou play a significant part in Rea’s emotional state. More importantly, her attitude is not one of complete indifference, but instead appears to have more in common with the idea that her actions have little meaning. Rather than merely let Danichirou monopolise and keep Rea away from everyone else, it is as if Aria has come to realise that anything she says or does is useless.
At first we see the relationship between Danichirou and Rea as unnatural, which of course it is, with Danichirou monopolising Rea, and effectively not allowing her a normal life. The numerous pictures that he has, and continues to take of Rea (at least until her death and resurrection) are both creepy, but also appear to hold an element of love in them. It is quite clear that Danichirou loves Rea, and however unnatural this love is, it cannot be denied that such a feeling exists. The problem is that his love has been twisted, changing into something terrible, with other feelings akin to jealousy and rage at the merest thought of someone other than another girl touching or being friendly with her. He controlled her life as if he were a god or deity from Greek Mythology, or perhaps from Shinto belief, having absolute control over all parts of her life.
This life was stifling Rea, with little room for any form of emotion in her daily life, thus forcing her to secretly go to the abandoned hotel and scream down the old well. This well is effectively a black hole, something that can swallow up all her anger, fear and frustration, a place where all the negative emotions and feelings in her life can disappear. There is nowhere in the Sanka household for Rea to turn, with the maids and butler all following Danichirou’s orders, along with Aria turning a blind eye to whatever goes on. In such an environment it is no wonder that Rea does eventually contemplate, and even attempt suicide, only to fail, but of course die soon afterwards.
What is fascinating however is learning the reasons for this stifling, obtrusive and destructive lifestyle that Danichirou, Aria, and Rea have, along with the emotional and psychological horrors of the Sanka household. To learn that Aria is the second wife of Danichirou is one thing, but to find out the reasons for her marriage, along with the traditions of the Sanka household help to put the current state of affairs into perspective. The Sanka household is itself a destructive place, one of tradition and heritage, with numerous maids chosen from good backgrounds, with excellent educations and manners in order to be prospective wives for those who would take over as the head. Aria was one such maid, someone who was (and still is) beautiful and ambitious, attempting to win Danichirou’s favour through various means, although failing miserably.
There is the implication that Danichirou’s surroundings had an impact on his attitude towards women, along with those who surround him. It may have been a stifling childhood, with everyone expecting him to succeed as the house head, with excellent grades and bright future. His attitude and personality in his childhood and adolescence seems to be one of withdrawn emotions, unwilling, or perhaps incapable of expressing what he truly thinks. Aria’s inability to seduce him may therefore not have anything to do with her charms being ineffective, but with Danichirou knowing full well what the maids of the household were there for. In essence his childhood appears to be very similar (although not as extreme) as the one he subjects Rea too; one with no chance to make your own decisions, or fall in love with whom he wants to.
The central tragedy of his past is when he falls in love with Rea’s mother and proposes to her, only for her to die immediately after giving birth to Rea. What is interesting about Rea’s mother and the effect that she had on Danichirou is that she may have been the first and only person to see him for who he truly was. She sees him as a hard-working man, someone who dislikes the rules and regulations of the Sanka family, but who is nevertheless bound by them. The effect that this fifteen-year-old has on Danichirou is profound, making go against the Sanka family in order to marry her, something that may have been, and still is unthinkable.
But, this sudden meeting, along with the sudden change had a negative impact on Danichirou once she died. The tremendous emotion shock that losing the first, and perhaps only women that he has ever loved appears to have affected Danichirou immensely. Only through the loving care and attention of Aria was he able to come back from the brink of death and live again. While Aria may have originally been after the wealth of the Sanka family, her dedication to Danichirou suggests something deeper here, perhaps showing a genuine love for this man. However, her love was never returned, with Danichirou seemingly treating Aria as a convenient mother for Rea, someone who he can marry in order to provide Rea with a full family.
There is no doubt that Danichirou loves Rea, however, due to her striking resemblance to her mother, there is the implication that he is almost attempting to bring back the only woman he has ever loved. He doted on Rea, while at the same time shunning Aria, and as she suggests they never let her feel as if she were a part of a family. Aria, someone who appears to truly and deeply cares for Danichirou was shunned through his attempts to almost reproduce the woman he loved through their daughter. Her attitude in the first few episodes is therefore now one of utter hatred, but is a combination of being left along for all these years, while still loving Danichirou deeply. It is implied therefore, that her attitude towards Rea is not one of hatred, but of jealousy, and also perhaps sadness at the notion that she will never get the same care or attention from Danichirou that Rea does.
The truly horrifying moment for Aria is when she is shown Danichirou’s ‘hobby’ of taking part nude pictures of Rea. This is the moment when she truly understands that all her hard work and love have been for nothing, and that she will never have a place in his heart. The different facial expressions, along with the constant tears show how deeply this has hurt Aria, showing her that she is part of the Sanka house only for appearances sake. Aria, rather than Rea, is perhaps the most tragic character in the entire series, being someone who has no place in the house that she is as much chained to as Danichirou, and in a way Rea is. It is sad to see how she has been twisted as well, turned into an alcoholic who now hates Rea for taking away her chance at happiness.
There is a wonderful picture from possibly the only family holiday that they ever had, showing all Danichirou, Aria and Rea together like a true family. Hearing the young Rea call Aria ‘mother’ is a wonderful moment that is only made tragic through our knowledge as the audience that Aria wished to have some private time with Danichirou, but he is incapable of seeing her as a ‘woman’. In essence we can see the tragedy of Rea’s life start before she was born with the attitudes and rules of the Sanka family itself. One of the central tragedies of Rea’s life is that she lives a life that is more strictly controlled than that which Danichirou lived. It is clear that he disliked such a life, but through the pain that he has felt, along with his inability to recover from losing the only person who saw him for who he was has twisted and changed him.
Sankarea is therefore a story about tragedy and loss, and how such things can change to way you view the world. Danichirou, far from being the disgusting person that many may see him has, is in a sense a tragic character, someone who has been deeply scarred and twisted by his past. His attachment to Rea is quite clearly unnatural, but the reasons behind it make such an attachment that much more worrying and also sad. Aria is a character that is in effect still a child chasing after the one she loves, trying to catch his attention and hoping for some affection. Her cold attitude towards Rea is not inherent, but rather a culmination of all those years without any form of love. The sad thing about her life is that she in effect has no place in the Sanka household, and is more of a ghost in her own house, rather than the wife of the house head. This is a tragic existence, and this episode helped to show Aria in a new light, demonstrating that she is a significantly better character than we are first meant to believe.
Rea’s life is a combination of these factors, and is as tragic, if not more so than that of her father. Whole Danichirou may love her; the implication is that, it is, at least in part, a way in which he can find the woman he loved once again. Rather than a true daughter, we see Rea representing the woman that he lost and can never forget; his attachment to her is in effect partly due to his inability to let go of the past. This makes her meeting with Chihiro and current life in the Furuya household that much more important, demonstrating that she can have a life of a relatively normal high school girl.
But at the same time, much like Danichirou’s and Aria’s pasts have effected how the act in the present, it appears that Rea’s childhood, along with the emotional and psychological trauma caused by her father’s unnatural attachment to her has effected the way with which Rea approaches her current life. What this episode helped to demonstrate is how Rea’s attitude and current lifestyle is not something that happened by chance, but is in fact a culmination of the events and her family lifestyle from before. But at the same time, we see how the Sanka household is itself a destructive and terrible place, one that seems to twist and distort all it touches.