Sankarea – 02 Review
Sankarea – Episode 02
Once again, Sankarea manages to deliver some high quality entertainment. This episode was a little slower and darker than last week’s, since the primary focus was on showing a little more of Rea’s difficult past.
The majority of this episode is spent giving some background for Rea, and it’s presented as a series of flashbacks while Chihiro and Rea work on the zombie potion. It’s really well done, and doesn’t have the cheesy or jarring effect that most flashback-sequences have.
Essentially, it’s revealed that Rea has had a messed up life and her dad is a creepy, nasty, scary sleaze-bag. Her dad is violently possessive and has some really messed up notions about fatherly affection. We get to see the story of Rea’s one and only friend – a nice girl with a normal, happy family who innocently becomes Rea’s confidant and advises her to stand up to her father’s inappropriate behaviors – whose family was ultimately sent away by Rea’s terrible dad. Anytime Rea gets close to anyone, her father intervenes and gets rid of them, leaving Rea feeling powerless and frightened. And of course, there’s the whole taking naked pictures of her against her will thing, which is not good. It’s not explicitly stated that he is sexually abusing Rea, but I say that it’s pretty much implied. There’s also a short little bit about Rea’s mother, who is cold and unloving towards her, presumably because she knows about the whole daddy-daughter situation.
Meanwhile, Rea and Chihiro are working on the resurrection potion to turn Babu the cat into a zombie. It’s been 5 days since Babu’s death, and Chihiro is feeling pressured (or perhaps he’s just feeling the rigor mortis) to either succeed or give up trying. When it seems they’ve run out of options, Rea has a sudden inspiration and runs out (and up a cliff) to grab some hydrangea flowers she’d seen earlier. She’s not wearing appropriate footwear for climbing up a cliff, but conveniently, Chihiro manages to prevent her from falling and really busting her ass. Chihiro gives Rea a bit of an earful for being an idiot and almost getting herself killed or injured, and Rea retorts by saying she doesn’t care if she dies and would Chihiro please resurrect her if she does. It’s an interesting scene, and the “resurrection talk” in a lot of ways feels like a DTR conversation as well as a window into the depth of Rea’s unhappiness.
Chihiro prepares the potion with the hydrangeas, and full of anticipation, they pour it down Babu’s throat. And then…. nothing happens. Sadly, Chihiro decides to give up on resurrecting Babu, and the two plan a funeral for Babu the next night. Chihiro gives Rea a lift home on his bike, and Rea sneaks back to her house via a trail in the woods. The bad dad is waiting though, and he catches Rea and presumably beats the ever loving crap out of her.
Chihiro has made it back home, and his cousin Wanko is waiting for him. There’s some Wanko fan-service while she interrogates him about his nightly whereabouts and their relation to the dead cat. Wanko is determined to figure out what’s in Chihiro’s mysterious cooler (actually, Babu’s in there on ice) – and she manages to get past Chihiro and open the lid. Zam! Out jumps Babu, very red-eyed and very un-dead.
Meanwhile, Rea is at home, having a very rough time of it. Her father has forbidden her to ever leave the house again, and with that her depression reaches its max. She proceeds to drink a little of the poisonous hydrangea potion that she had swiped earlier with the intent of killing herself. What a cliffhanger!
Before I really get into the review, let me just reiterate that I think Sankarea is great.
Not everyone seems to agree with me though (ahem, M0rg0th), and when asked why they don’t like it, the haters tend to respond with something about how the manga sucks. Well, I took it upon myself to read the manga (yes, the whole thing) just to see if there was any legitimacy to these claims. Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw any spoilers at you guys, but I will say that the anime is worlds better than the manga so far. I’m not saying that the manga is bad, but it’s kind of one of these trope-happy ecchi-harem-rom-com deals where the main-chara is a total dufus and the main chick is madly in love with him for no apparent reason…. with zombies thrown in for some shits and giggles. The manga is cute and fun and somewhat entertaining, but is sorely lacking in depth and adequate characterization.
That’s not so much the case with the anime. Hardly any of Rea’s background as presented in this episode, was in the manga, and the little that was in the manga didn’t impress me as being very compelling or serious. At first it seemed to me that all this life story stuff was making the show lose some momentum, but after thinking about it a bit I decided that I really appreciate giving Rea some depth. As of this episode, she’s about 1000 times deeper and more interesting than 90% of the generic main-female-charas in most animes. Don’t worry, she’s still cliché in plenty of ways – like being the pretty rich girl who is overly naïve and frail and blushes too much – but by going into detail about how screwed up her family and her life has been, she gains a lot of believability. It seems like in many animes, a character trait like depression is regarded with the same attitude as having any other random trait, like red hair or big boobs. It’s just something that’s there for no reason that, at best, serves as a fast and easy way to communicate a stereotype or conveniently advance the plot. I’ve never really seen things like depression, physical and/or sexual abuse, and suicidal thoughts explored in an anime without a lot of humor and silliness involved, if they’re even explored at all.
I’m not sure how the show will continue from here. I have my doubts, because the source material really isn’t all that promising of anything other than a mildly fun time, but so far the anime has done a superb job. It’s almost like it’s an entirely different story. Well, it’s the same story, but the approach in the anime is so much more polished, subtle, and mature… They’ve essentially taken this manga which was full of comedic and ecchi material suitable for horny pre-teen boys and transformed it into something that adults with brains would enjoy. I’m impressed, but I’m hesitant to make any predictions about the future quality of the series.
I’m really digging all the technical aspects of the show. The animation is awesome, with tons of great lighting, little details, and well-placed vibrant colors. I’m a fan of SHAFT (who isn’t?) and I’m appreciating the SHAFT-esque visuals and direction. The BGM is also outstanding – it’s tasteful and it enhances the story. For example, the creepy/sad music playing throughout the bad-dad sequences really helps convey Rea’s emotional suffering. I don’t usually get too hyped up about BGM in animes… Either it works or it doesn’t – but there was this one little riff when Rea’s only friend is leaving and chewing her out – with a cello and some groovy downtempo beat behind it that was great. I’d buy the album.
I liked seeing Rea and Chihiro interact in this episode – they’re good together. Chihiro picking on Rea is super cute, and Rea watching zombies eating brains is priceless. Sankarea is ultimately a zombie rom-com, so of course there’s a little too much of the cliché and convenient in Rea and Chihiro’s budding romance, but it works. At least we now know enough about Rea to understand why she might like a guy like Chihiro (because she’s a little deranged and so is he?), and although Chihiro is obviously attracted to Rea, he isn’t doing the usual head-over-heels nose-bleed-madness that one might expect from his type of character. The relationship between these two is so much better than say, something like in AnoNatsu, where the main-charas just instantly fell in love forever without ever having spent time together or knowing anything about each other. Rea and Chihiro are good characters, but I do hope we get a little more background on Chihiro beyond (and hopefully explaining) his obsession with zombies.
Aside from all those other good points, Babu is sooo cute! 🙂
I was not expecting to enjoy Sankarea this much. While it’s highly unlikely that this is going to be the anime of the century or anything like that, it’s surprisingly insightful and fun and it’s got great production values. For pure entertainment, Sankarea is one of this season’s top three. I’m curious to see if the series can continue on this level, but two awesome episodes in a row is quite promising. If you aren’t watching Sankarea yet, I encourage you to give it a shot and I assure you that it will exceed your expectations. If you are watching it, leave a comment and tell everyone what you think about it so far. See you next time!