Sankarea – 06 Review
Sankarea 06 – Zombie Girlfriends Aren’t All Fun and Games
Alright, I’m back in action with this latest episode of Sankarea! In this review, I’m skipping the summary/synopsis and I’m just going to give the highlights of what I loved most… And then…
The all important issue: fan-service.
Read on to see what I have to say about the increased amount of boobs, cleavage, pants-less-ness, and nakedness in sankarea!
By far, the best part of this episode is the sad and serious tone that prevails throughout. Even when things take a turn for the silly and fan-service-y, it comes back to the seriousness – like when Chihiro is videotaping Rea he goes chibi-goofy-happy for a while, only for the excitement to wear off a bit later. What’s so important here is that Chihiro is really coming to grips with the fact that having a “zombie girlfriend” isn’t that great.
The way Chihiro’s childish zombie-fetish is dealt with in this episode is fantastic. The scene near the beginning of his recurring zombie-girlfriend dream, when it switches to Rea as the zombie and she says something to the effect of, “This is the situation you’ve always dreamed of,” – the music, the sound effects, and the story so far make it seem more like a nightmare instead of a dream.
That scene is characteristic of Sankarea’s particular form of brilliance. What should be just a generic harem-ecchi-rom-com is being developed into so much more, something that is truly worth watching. Rea is a beauty, a princess, she’s every dorky high-school boy’s dream, but she is simultaneously grotesque, repulsive, and completely in denial of her situation.
For now at least, Sankarea is taking the genre and turning it upside down. This show is all about typical adolescent-wish-fulfillment, transformed into a nightmare.
What’s keeping me hooked is the character development that Rea and Chihiro are going through. Although not by her own conscious choice, Rea has pulled a 180 on her previous self (and many thanks to Nekoknight for articulating that so specifically in the comments on my Ep 04 review!). Whether she’s aware of it or not, she’s changed from being a cute, sweet, shy, and reserved girl into a creepy, maniacal, and lustful *zombie* with shocking physical strength. She’s kind of scary now. She’s running around with no pants on, ripping Ranko’s clothes off, and doing all sorts of things she doesn’t remember.
But it’s sad and pathetic too… I was really struck by the scene in which she pulls Chihiro out of the road to save him from being hit by a car. It’s still Rea and her characteristic sweetness, but as a zombie her strength is out of control and unfamiliar to herself. She ends up accidentally throwing him (hard!) against a tree and injuring him. The scene was kind of heart breaking – Rea is so shocked and apologetic for her behavior, and Chihiro is too nice to complain. And then there’s the whole matter of her licking his wound in such a foreboding way…
And Chihiro? He’s changed a lot too over the course of the series. Not as much as Rea has, but his affection for her has caused him to be much more serious than before. The portrayals of Chihiro’s family and friends really make him come across as a “normal” kid – sure he’s a weirdo, he’s immature, he unsuccessful at dating real girls and therefore fantasizes about zombie girls, he’s probably got some issues from his mom’s death or whatever – but he’s just a kid. And with each passing episode, he seems less and less like a child and more like an adult.
His various internal-monologue lines throughout the episode are so expressive. He’s a teenage boy with apparently limited social skills, so of course he’s in a delicate situation. Rea is *hot* and that hasn’t changed – she’s always been super cute, dead or alive. But the fact of the matter is that she is *dead* and that’s a deal-breaker for most, if nothing else it’s a massive consideration when it comes to qualities one seeks in a romantic partner… But the only person who seems to care is Chihiro… Rea obviously doesn’t.
Chihiro’s actions, expressions, and his constant redirecting of conversation to the practical matters at hand show us a lot about his true character. He’s attracted to Rea, he’s always thought he wanted to be with a zombie girl, but his ultimate response to the situation is repulsion, grief, and regret. Chihiro’s actions and expressions constantly say, “Hey! This isn’t cute, this isn’t fun, this isn’t working for me, you, or anybody else,” but he’s actually a super nice guy who wants to take responsibility for what he believes to be his own mistake, so he is doing the best he can to figure out how to preserve Rea’s body.
So, those are my main thoughts about the episode… Now on to the very important question…
Is This Fan-Service?
Alright folks, that’s the question. I’m bringing it up and I’m going to state my own opinions, but I’d really like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
So, fan-service. Yup, it’s there… Sort of.
I mean, no doubt about it, there is fan-service here. After all, Rea hasn’t worn any pants (or skirt or whatever) since Ep 02. WTF? You turn into a zombie and can’t wear pants anymore??? If nothing else, there’s the practical considerations… Forgive me for noticing, but I’m also a seamstress and costume-designer, so anyways… She’s got her guts stitched back in place, and since she’s a zombie the wound will never properly heal. You would think she would want more support for that seam besides just a towel or a man’s shirt with nothing underneath. And what is up with that towel anyways? Did they super glue it into place so she could run all over Japan and back without it falling down once until the exact moment it’s called for in the script?
But here’s the thing – I’m inclined to think that the fan-service in Sankarea is better than average. It works. Why? Because I think the fan-service does much more than what fan-service usually does – in Sankarea I feel like the fan-service is ultimately a tool to advance and portray the themes/plot rather than just a hook for idiot viewers seeking fap-worthy material.
That’s a somewhat complicated statement, since the source material (manga) really doesn’t seem like much more than generic ecchi-rom-com-fan-service crap with a zombie plot hook. But the difference between it and the anime has become crystal clear with these last two episodes. While staying true to the manga, the anime put a lot of effort into going beyond it – mostly by adding detailed facial expressions and “scary” music during those scenes.
And that’s my point. The fan-service in the anime is sad, pathetic, and scary. When Rea jumps Ranko, it’s not sexy even when she is licking between her breasts. It’s scary. The way the scene is set up (mostly the music is to thank), the viewer can tell that something isn’t right, that something is actually horribly wrong. The boob-shot of Rea as she is sitting and munching hydrangeas with Babu is sad. She has no idea what she is doing, where she is, or why she is dressed so inappropriately in that situation. Considering her character, I feel like including that scene is intended more to show how awful the reality of her being a zombie is and the unfortunate impact it has on her personality rather than to lure in viewers with her cleavage.
There’s the issue of Ranko, of course. She’s got boobs as big as Mount Everest, she wears inconceivably short shorts, and she’s always getting herself into flirty and compromising situations. But she’s alive. She’s cute, she’s spunky, she’s vital. She’s totally into Chihiro (God only knows why), and she’s a young girl so it makes sense that she would want to flirt and be cute around the boy she likes. Compared to Rea, Ranko’s come-ons seems harmless and completely natural.
Rea is scary. There’s nothing cute about a zombie girl violently kissing you (or trying to eat your brains?) when you’re totally freaked out about it, like Chihiro was. Not cool. No matter how cute a girl is, she becomes a lot less cute when her intestines are hanging out and you’re sweating how to make sure she doesn’t start rotting in your bedroom. Chihiro already seems more than uncomfortable in this situation with Rea, and I can only imagine that things will get worse if what Gramps says is true – that no matter what, her body will eventually decay.
Hmmmm… It makes me remember something I read a long time ago in a Buddhist text (maybe the Bodhisattvacharyavatara?). It was about overcoming lust, which is something I normally am not interested in (I generally think lust is wonderful, positive, and life-affirming), but something about what I read really struck me. It was basically advising people who are being besieged by lust to imagine their sexual partner as a rotting corpse in order to nip those desires in the bud. And there’s something to it, really. I always thought about it when trying to figure out if I was in lust or love – I would think to myself, “Would I still want to knock boots with this person when they’re old, ugly, drowning in wrinkles, stretch-marks, and can barely even get it up any more?”
But that’s me, and I’m no typical bodhisattva… But the point is that everybody is gonna die, and they’re gonna rot, and they’re gonna stink and be full of maggots when it happens. And that, uhhhh, ain’t sexy. That’s what I think is going on with Chihiro. He’s attracted to Rea (or at least he was when she was alive), but he’s all too aware of the fact that she is dead and decaying, which obviously kills his desire a bit. What I find most compelling about the fan-service-y aspects of Sankarea is how Chihiro’s desire for Rea (based on honest attraction and immature fantasies) is pitted against his repulsion for her (since she is dead and he has the unfortunate task of keeping her from rotting).
So, what do you guys think about the fan-service in Sankarea?
I’ve got no idea where things are going from here. The anime is already starting to diverge from the manga, and I’m thinking that the manga won’t be finished in time for the last anime episode, so it will probably be an anime-original ending. Considering all that, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the second half of the series will go. I will say though that I’m still greatly enjoying Sankarea. What a surprise! I never thought I would like this series, and it’s succeeded in blowing me away. Props.