Sankarea 11 – Misunderstandings and Reinterpretations
June 25, 2012 Leave a comment
One of the central premises of Sankarea has been the ever-controlling presence of Danichirou, a person who cannot, and will not let Rea live a normal life. At first there is the implication, albeit a small one of incestuous feelings for his daughter, however, over the course of this series we have gradually learnt that this is not the case. To Danichirou, his love for Rea is not incestuous, and yet it is not entirely natural, as if he is mixing up his feelings and desires. Many may consider him to be a sick and twisted individual, and in some respects he is, but at the same time, Danichirou is a tragic character, a product of a deeply damaging family. His love for Rea is a product of his deep love for her mother, the first, and perhaps only person who ever showed real emotions around him, ignoring his family background and treating him like a human.
By losing is wife at such a young age, Danichirou is in a sense lost, with no idea what he should do, and he even loses the will to live. Only through the care and attention of Aria is he able to come back from the brink and live again. But, his new life is a subtly twisted version of his old life; haunted, or perhaps chasing the ghost of his wife, we see Danichirou become a devoted father. His devotion to Rea is that of a father, but at the same time there is something more, something deeper, and perhaps darker at work. Because she looks so much like her mother, there is the distinct implication that Danichirou is in some way attempting to grab a hold of the woman that he lost. His only connection to her is in their daughter, and so his fatherly devotion becomes twisted, taking nude pictures on her birthday (well, semi nude, since there are always props and other items covering her up, although this hardly makes a big difference).
His devotion to Rea becomes creepy, and once you add in his overprotective attitude we suddenly have this domineering presence, which controls Rea’s every move. She is incapable of doing anything, going anywhere, or even having friends. The trudged here is that Danichirou truly believes that he is doing what is best for Rea, protecting her form the outside world, and the germs that took his beloved wife from him. He is recreating the environment and the family life that has already twisted him, forcing her to be a particular kind of person, and controlling her life down to the smallest detail. The central irony of this is that originally Danichirou was fed up, annoyed, and in some respects angry at his family life and how he could not choose his path in life. That his family specifically arranged for maids of good ‘stock’, who were beautiful, well educated and trained in the ‘bridal arts’ to follow his every move so that one would be chosen as his wife exemplifies the stifling world that he lived in.
And yet, by losing Rea’s mother, Danichirou retreats into his shell of the Sanka family, becoming the family head and giving Rea the same sort of family life that he hated. Rea is shut off from the outside world, incapable of seeing people, unable to make any true friends, and in a sense isolated from humanity. Danichirou is therefore repeating the same mistakes as his entire family, but in this case he takes it one step further. By making sure that no boys go near his precious Rea, along with taking commemorative pictures on her birthday there is the implication that he is attempting to recreate that purity that he saw in her mother.
What is so painful about this is that his entire family does not feature in his life. Rea has her life controlled by her father, she is incapable of doing anything for herself, and as such is a naïve oujo-sama, not because she cannot do things, but because she is not allowed to. Furthermore, her stepmother Aria is an alcoholic, and perhaps the most tragic character in the entire series. She truly loves Danichirou, but because he cannot see anyone but his first wife, she is left out, abandoned by the person who she arguably still loves. Her resentment for Rea is born out of frustration and anguish at the knowledge that no matter what she does and how much she loves him, Danichirou will never return it. To him, she is nothing more than a convenient woman, someone who can be his wife and Rea’s mother, so that, at least on paper, and the public eye, the Sanka family is seen as being good and proper.
He discards a family who at one point loved him, and arguably still does in their own way in his fruitless search for that same feeling that Rea’s mother gave him. By chasing after the past, Danichirou is blind to the present and indeed the future as well, this hurting those around him, and being incapable of seeing what has always been there. He is a selfish and callous man, someone who tramples over other peoples feelings in order to maintain his own. Chihiro tells him this, saying that he has never truly allowed others to live their lives, and has been blinded by his own search for inner peace. His belief that he can protect Rea has given him blinkers, and in reality, he has only been allowing Rea to live the life that he wants, rather than the life that she wants to live. Rea does not want to be this perfect, pure girl, someone who free of worldly corruption. Rather, she wants to live the life of a normal girl, someone who can go shopping with her friends, stay out late and joke with other people.
Chihiro says that he is not protecting her, but rather allowing her to live, giving her a family and giving her the freedom that she has craved for so long. All Danichirou has ever done is lock her up in the cage called the Sanka Family, and while it may be a beautifully decorated and rather large cage, it is still a cage. He has forced his values and his beliefs on her, disregarding everything else in his search for purity and peace, discarding those who he sees as being unfit to be near Rea. In a sense, the central tragedy is that Danichirou has learned nothing, and never truly understood what Rea’s mother said to him on the day they met. This is exemplified in his belief that a fencing match can be the only way to decide who is truly capable of protecting Rea.
He has once again completely rejected the notion that Rea can make up her own mind, and that it is not about protecting her from the world, but allowing Rea to make her own choices and decisions, no matter what the consequences. Chihiro fully understands the position that he is in, he knows that his potion has turned Rea into a zombie, and while he may be happy at seeing her again, along with having a zombie girlfriend, Chihiro is under no illusions as to the gravity of the situation. He knows that only be perfecting his resurrection drug can he truly save Rea, but at the same time even that is uncertain. But more than this, Chihiro understands Rea in a way that Danichirou never has, allowing her to live the life of a relatively normal girl, and giving her the kind of family that she has always wished for.
For her part, Rea has already come to terms with her predicament, but rather than being afraid of death, has accepted it and moved on. Danichirou truly believes that he can save her, and that by taking Rea away to American, by spending money funding research by experts he can save her and bring her back from the dead. But in doing so, he will rip up her roots that have finally been allowed to grow and spread throughout the town, and once again isolate her from society and from life. Rea has accepted that her life as a zombie may be a limited one, and that she may only have a short period of time left, but at the same time, she truly wishes to spend it with Chihiro. To her, as long as she can live a (relatively) normal life with Chihiro and his family it is worth the risks.
Furthermore, we are seeing a more forceful Rea, someone who can and will give orders to maids who until recently were simply an extension of her fathers power. While they do not listen to her, and instead effectively imprison and abuse her (well, random cosplay and photos), we are seeing a Rea who will not stand for this. At the beginning of the series she is someone who would have simply stayed quiet and allowed it to happen, but now she very forcefully, and quite literally, breaks free of her bonds in her attempt to rescue Chihiro. Not only that, but she finally stands up to her father, breaking the tip off of his sabre, and literally driving a sword between their relationship. In this single act Rea is physically and symbolically breaking free of her fathers grasp.
There is forgiveness here as well, with Chihiro acknowledging his own weaknesses, and asking Danichirou for help. We also see Rea finally a true and honest smile, as if the weights that he had kept her anchored in place had been finally lifted. This was followed by Danichirou flying to America in search of a cure for Rea, but we see him along in his plane, so in some respects he has learned nothing from this ordeal. He has left Aria behind, effectively abandoning her in order to continue to chase Rea, thus demonstrating that while he has partly acknowledged Rea’s self-determination, he has learned nothing and will in effect repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
By returning to the Furuya household there is a sense of coming home, as if the Sanka house was never a place to live but to merely exist. Seeing Rea worrying over Chihiro’s body while dressed in a nurse outfit shows how much she cares for him, while also demonstrating her naivety. The appearance of Ranko is a final interesting aspect to this series, with Rea finally recognising that she is not the only one who truly cares for Chihiro. But at the same time, this small moment shows how much her life has changed since meeting Chihiro. She can now freely fall in love with someone, and more than that, have a rival in love – this may seem to be a small, and perhaps clichéd element to the series, but helps to demonstrate the startling difference between the cage that Danichirou created, and the chaos that is the Furuya household.