Anyone who knows me well knows that I will often become interested in something new to the point of infatuation, often spending hours reading up on it, playing it or browsing the internet for anything related. These obsessions can range from anywhere between temporary, perhaps lasting as little as a day, to a life-long interest, lasting, well, a lifetime (in case you hadn’t figured out what that meant).
That being said, I figured it might be a neat idea to share with the world the occasional “obsession of the moment” in a new segment I will simply call Latest Obsession, which should hopefully be the first of several new segments I hope to start rolling out in the next few weeks. The hope with this particular category is that perhaps I can introduce new things to people or perhaps shed new light on them with my perspective. At the very least, I’m documenting a particular interest of mine at a specific moment in time to see how long-term the interest is.
So without further ado, let me introduce my first obsession of the moment: Sankarea.
Sankarea is an anime based on the manga of the same name that just started airing this past week on Japanese television (air date April 5, 2012). Based on the promo artwork and the intriguing premise, this show was already the one I was most looking forward to this season – which isn’t saying a lot, mind you, since my expectations have been incredibly low for this season’s rather lackluster slate of shows. Thus far I have only watched the first episode, but I can safely say that it has lived up to my expectations as the show I am most interested in so far. Granted, anime can frequently be hit-or-miss, while first episodes can often be deceiving and do not always serve as a barometer for how good the show will continue to be, so Sankarea could end up being my next Guilty Crown by seriously and continuously dropping the ball to the point where it has squandered all of its potential and taken over the mantle of most disappointing series of the season. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, let’s discuss the show’s finer points so that perhaps we can understand why I am so intrigued by this show at the moment. Let’s start with the premise.
Sankarea follows Chihiro Furuya, a high school boy who is obsessed with all things zombies, even going so far as to develop a morbid zombie girl fetish, which yes, is exactly what you think: Chihiro has developed romantic inclinations towards zombies, wanting nothing more than to date or kiss a cute zombie girl. When his cat, Babu, is hit by a car and killed, Chihiro uses an old manuscript he found years ago while cleaning out the library in his family’s temple in an attempt to resurrect his cat from the dead. Unfortunately, one page in particular is partially unreadable, so he spends the better part of a week at an old abandoned building trying to mix the proper concoction through trail and error. It is here that he meets Rea Sanka, the popular, noble and refined daughter of the principal at the all-girl’s high school she attends. However, beneath the surface, Rea’s life is not as perfect and rosy as it seems, and Rea comes to the abandoned lot on a nightly basis to scream her frustrations with her sheltered and micro-managed life into an old well. When she realizes that Chihiro has been overhearing her the last several nights, she begs him to keep her secret, and in the process becomes intrigued by his “zombie” potion, given that she stated previously that she wished she could die and become someone new in order to escape her over-bearing father and become free to live her own life. Chihiro jokes that she should become his guinea pig and test his resurrection potion before he uses it on his cat, while she in return hints that were she to become a zombie, since he has confessed to have a romantic fetish for such a thing, he should be sure to take care of her since he will have found precisely what he is looking for. With that she leaves, promising to return the next night, having formed a bond with Chihiro and wishing to help him bring his cat back from the dead. She does return, only much to his surprise, shambling towards him with her intestines hanging out, as though she has indeed become a zombie…
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room first; you know, that whole necrophilia aspect. This part is my one gripe about the show, given that it is a rather disturbing concept. But then again, the whole plot would be moot without it, so it is rather important. I guess what will really define how awkward this romance gets is how the plot deals with Rea’s inevitable decay. We as an audience are used to seeing zombies as these foul shuffling corpses with gouges, bite marks, missing limbs and flesh rotting and sloughing off, but technically when you think about it, vampires are also just as dead as zombies – or undead to be precise. The only difference is that their mythology has them remain immortal with impeccable skin (and often abs) and the ability to heal and regenerate, whereas zombies stay more true to reality in that their bodies decompose just like a dead body actually would (or as realistic as you can get when you’re talking reanimated corpses). But neither supernatural creature has a beating heart, flowing blood or the ability to breathe. Yet for some reason vampires have a working metabolism that zombies lack.
But I suppose that the long-winded point I’m trying to make is that if we can rationalize that there is nothing amiss with people wanting to enjoy a sex romp with a frigid vampire, then so long as a zombie remains in good physical condition, it would be somewhat hypocritical to theoretically approve of one and not the other.
But in the end this is a romantic comedy cartoon and zombies are (so far) non-existent, so dwelling on the clearly fictional premise too much is a rather fruitless endeavor.
Even so, the story hasn’t seemed to shy away from the darker or more serious elements present, such as the whole necrophilia aspect. Also, as mentioned before, Rea seems to harbor something of a death-wish due to her oppressive home life, and in fact, one of the things she screams in frustration about, which really sets the tone for her father’s true nature, is the fact that her father takes a picture of her in the nude every year on her birthday under the pretense that it’s to document her growth over the years. Already in the first episode we are seeing signs of repressed incest and pedophilia, and make no mistake, while I am in no way supportive of such things, it does serve to make Rea’s plight and desire for freedom from her life far more understandable and less gimmicky or convenient to the plot. This bodes well for how future elements will be handled, even if familiar anime trademarks drive the main story and premise.
The characters themselves are thus far incredibly likable. Chihiro, while of slightly odd design in contrast to the other characters, what with his hair that resembles cat ears and his feline facial features, seems far from being the typical weak-willed anime male lead. Chihiro knows what he likes and what he wants, and while
some most of us might not agree with his tastes, he is quite decisive and he stands by his interests. He also seems to be a very family-oriented individual, being very close to his father, sister and dementia-addled but jolly grandfather. He even considers the stray cat they took in years ago to be part of the family, which is in fact his prime motivation for wanting to resurrect the ill-fated pet. Chihiro’s mother died when he was quite young, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that her death plays a large psychological role in his obsession with zombies. Think of it as an extremely morbid Oedipus Complex. The partial photo we’ve seen of her is also very reminiscent of Rea’s appearance, which is no doubt intentional as well.
Chihiro’s 12-year-old sister, Mero, appears to be quite responsible and more devoted to the family shrine than he is. She also seems to be more emotionally guarded, but gets on well with Chihiro, so it doesn’t look like we’ll have any sibling rivalry or nonsensical altercations between them. She’s also quite cute and very likable from the get-go, so I look forward to more of her.
Saoji Ranko, known as Wanko by Chihiro, plays the role of childhood friend/cousin/rival love interest, and thus far the blonde hasn’t proven to be much more than that as of yet, but she’s attractive and spirited, as well as sharing in his love of zombies (though I imagine she draws the line well north of the waist), so she seem like she’ll be fun even if she does feel a bit like a cliche at the moment.
And then of course there is Rea Sanka herself. While she exemplifies the typical popular, refined and polished girl we’ve come to expect in most anime, her darker family life and inner turmoil clearly set her apart from other anime heroines. As stated before, I really respect the grittiness of the background she has been given, as it makes her plight more credible, while also giving her father a dark and creepy agenda without making it too sinister; he is clearly not a decent human being, but he’s not completely detestable or vilified beyond redemption either. It is also quite notable that the free “life” she wants to live can only be attained through “death,” so bonus points to the writer for clearly making that a major theme in the story. From what we’ve seen of Rea so far, we can clearly see that she is something of a sheltered and shy girl, prone to blushing and excited by the prospect of the things she was never allowed due to her family circumstances, such as pets or even talking to boys. It is her naive and sincere kindness that really endeared her to me, as I’m sure it likewise did for Chihiro. Much as Chihiro claims to have no interest in living girls, preferring only zombie girls, I get the distinct impression that he was a bit taken with her despite her current “living” status.
And my, she sure is pretty. Her design is that of simple elegance, with dark hair and attainable cuteness, like so:
The direction and pacing of the first episode are off to a good start. The visuals are very eye-catching, with a lot of lighting contrast and expressive angles. The artwork is top-notch as well, even being a step above the original source material. So far so good. I eagerly await the next episode and can only hope that it maintains at least a fraction of the first episode’s strong points. In the meantime, I’m certain that I will be checking out the manga.
If you haven’t watched the first episode of Sankarea yet, I highly recommend you check it out.
I’ll leave you with some pretty artwork from the series I’ve managed to unearth so far. Enjoy!