Sankarea – 01 Review
Sankarea – Episode 01
This was the most entertaining anime first-episode I have seen in ages! I didn’t have very high hopes for this series, but I was more than glad to be proven wrong. I’m not sure how the rest of the season will pan out, but this was a great episode and it’s definitely worth watching.
First we are introduced to the protagonist, Furuya Chihiro, a high school freshman with an intense zombie obsession. It’s not just that he loves zombies, but more like he wants to be *in love* with a zombie. Strange (not only to me, his friends think so too). Chihiro also sports a perfectly symmetrical pair of cowlicks that look strikingly like cat ears.
Chihiro lives at an old temple with his father (the head priest), his little sister Mero (who is cute and seemingly quite clever), his grandfather (who is drunk, belligerent, and probably also senile), and Babu the adorable little cat. We also learn that Chihiro and Meru’s mother died when they were little, but they all manage a happy family life despite.
Suddenly, Babu (the cat) gets hit by a car and dies. Overcome by grief, Chihiro digs out a very old looking notebook from his closet which conveniently seems to contain instructions for resurrecting the dead. Armed with the notebook, a lantern, and a cooler full of ice, he then exhumes the cat’s body and heads over to the nearest creepy-as-hell abandoned bowling alley (at least I think it’s a bowling alley). Declaring that his undying love for zombies will extend unto his soon to be zombie-fied cat, he goes night after night back to the bowling alley to work on the magical resurrection potion.
Some other stuff happens – his sister catches him hauling off a bucket of ice which she finds very suspicious, and Chihiro seems to be exceedingly tired all of the time (from staying up all night playing voodoo priest, obviously). Some of his pervy friends are introduced – typical idiotic anime dudes who will probably get lots of nosebleeds later on in the show. His friends would like nothing more than to get to know some of the chicks from the elite all-girls school which is conveniently situated directly across the river from their exceedingly dull all-boys school (and of course, it seems to be a prerequisite for admission to Sanka High that all of the girls be not only pretty but also rich). There’s one particular girl that the pervy boys have their eye on – Sanka Rea, the daughter of the school’s headmaster. Chihiro’s cousin, Wanko, is also introduced – she’s a fun, spunky, busty blonde who seems to also have a penchant for zombies, and it’s quite clear that she wants to get frisky with Chihiro.
While he works at grinding up poisonous herbs and being generally creepy (with the dead cat in the cooler beside him), a super cute girl comes to the bowling alley each night and screams her heart out into a really creepy old well. It just so happens (obviously) that this girl is the aforementioned Sanka Rea. Chihiro doesn’t seem to be overly interested in her situation, until she screams out something about her father taking naked pictures of her. Startled, Chihiro gives away his presence, and Rea finds him and begs him not to tell anyone, going so far as to (apparently) offer him sexual favors in order to keep his lips sealed. Out of some sort of sympathy, Chihiro reveals his master plan of turning his cat into one of the ranks of the un-dead.
Rea seems to be a bit soft in the head, and thinks turning a cat into a zombie is a wonderful idea, and tries to convince Chihiro that his moral objections (however small) to what he’s doing to the cat are utterly misplaced, and that obviously the best thing to do is proceed. She offers to help to the best of her ability, and at this point seems to be falling for Chihiro. Unfortunately for her, he informs her that he’s only interested in un-dead girls. Rea then suggests that she will become a zombie so that Chihiro will date her… And it’s clearer than ever that both of these teenagers have some serious issues.
Alright. Sankarea (at least this episode) is awesome. I was massively entertained the entire time. I’m obviously a big fan of anime, but I don’t usually enjoy shows this much, especially first episodes. So, what was so great about it? Let me try to break it all down.
The characters are cliché enough… I mean, how many zillions of anime have a cute but dorky main-chara that’s in high school and lives in an old temple with a cute sister, a hot cousin/childhood friend, a dead mom, and happens to go to an all-boys school and has pervy friends who want to hijack the nearby all-girls school? And how often does it happen that circumstances just so align that this unlikely guy manages to get into a situation with the hottest girl in town? Well, it happens all the time – there’s zillions of animes like this. Nothing original about that all.
What’s original about it is the details. Zombie-romance-fetish anyone? And I really appreciate that Chihiro’s nose isn’t spewing blood at the slightest sight of Rea’s cleavage (although I’m not saying this won’t happen at some point in the future). Rea is an idiot, but at least she has some problems beyond simply being super rich and pretty. I’ve got no idea if the series will delve into her home life much, and it wasn’t really clear whether or not her father taking nudey-pics of her is supposed to be simply weird or if it’s actually sexual abuse or mistreatment… Point is, there’s already enough info about Rea to flesh her out beyond just being another run-of-the-mill harem girl.
The pacing was great – not too fast or too slow. I like how the show jumped straight into the plot only a few minutes in and spread the inevitable character introductions out over the course of the episode. The humor’s good too… Watching Chihiro longingly sigh at zombie girls on TV was cute. And, of course, when Chihiro turns all Dr. Frankenstein on Rea and tells her to drink the poisonous resurrection potion – simply hilarious. And gramps had me rolling on the floor with his cabbage/bok choy freak outs.
The sound is great. Nice voice acting – Chihiro is done by the same seiyuu as Takizawa from Eden of the East (one of my fav roles), and everyone else did a great job. The BGM is superb – a mix between bouncy anime-music and this excellent lighthearted-but-creepy music that’s reminiscent of a Tim Burton flick. The OP and ED songs are waaaay above average. The OP is by nano.RIPE, of whom I’ve been a fan since I heard their OP/ED for Hanasaku Iroha. The animation is great too. Nice lighting, nice character designs, great backgrounds. Oooooh…. and hydrangeas. Nothing in anime really does it for me like hydrangeas do.
I could probably go on and on, but suffice to say, I haven’t been this entertained in a long time. Unfortunately though, I’ve heard speculation that this anime may amount to nothing more than a generic trope-filled fan-service-heavy adolescent-wish-fulfillment pile of crap. Geez, I sure hope not. At this point, I can really see Sankarea going down a similar road as Welcome to the NHK – a brilliant love story about two bizarre people in a slightly messed up world. If nothing else, there’s always the promise of seeing cute little Rea staggering around with her guts hanging out next week, and that’s bound to be enjoyable. Who knows what will happen over the course of the season, but this is a fantastic first episode and I highly recommend it!