Sankarea is impressive on the merits of its story alone and that makes it a good series overall. It is shame that though that the “good” could have been “great”, if it only tried a little harder to hold it all together.
Series Name: Sankarea (Translated as – Sankarea: Undying Love)
Studio: Studio Deen
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
In 2012, there were two anime series that dealt with the supernatural and occult: the ghostly tale of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and the zombie-obsessed Sankarea. I would be re-missed if I also didn’t mention Bakemonogatari, but that is another matter all together. While Dusk Maiden of Amnesia won out for having a better story in my opinion, Sankarea was no slouch itself in that department and turned out better than I anticipated. It could have been so much better if the story was smoother in execution during its later episodes, but again, it is far from being unimpressive.
The story for Sankarea is a simple affair, but turns complicated in a good way once the male main lead, Chihiro Furuya (who has a strange zombie fetish) makes a revival potion that actually works when it revives the female lead, Rea Sanaka after her accidental death. Sankarea pegs itself as another romantic-comedy, but when comes to actually get into the blood and guts (no pun intended) of the plot, it surprisingly handles it with more decorum and skill than originality convinced like a true drama. Chihiro comes is tasked with the objective of trying to find out how to best preserve Rea’s body, make her life akin to that of an ordinary girl, and more importantly – keep her out of the reaches of her creepy father whose paternal love is way too loving. Of course, Sankarea always take some time out to enjoy itself with the usual tropes of the romantic-comedy genre such as: the typical love triangle that made between Rea, Chihiro, and Chihiro’s sexy cousin, Ranko; which ensues abit of ecchi/fan service moments, and to top it all off, a few jokes – especially one that concerns Chihiro’s grandfather and his obsession with having no veggies in his soup – or something to that effect. I said the story was okay, but the rest of the elements vary.
Oddly enough, all of these quirks mix together make Sankarea progress at an enjoy pace until the second half that begins with 8th episode and continues with the last 3 that lead up to Chihiro and Rea’s showdown with her father. Between it all, we get some weird moments like Rea dressed in an attractive rabbit costume, an intense heart-to-heart with Rea’s father and Chihiro, Rea’s emotionally detached mother’s back story, and some other events that give pause for a sigh. Most of it is unneeded singing and dancing that really does not add anything core to the story that begins to lose its luster and actually kills the story execution. The filler that is the 9th episode is okay by comparison, but also kills any excitement leading up to the aforementioned events and actually boring itself. Thankfully, with all the bizarre happenings – the ending makes more sense and eventually sets up a prompt for a second season in a mysterious way. There is no word or news of it and a hard prospect to buy into, but an interesting one to entertain after the whirlwind of a story that has been told. Who knows, it might happen after with the OVA’s that add bit into the core story like how Chihiro learn how to revive the dead and about his mother. So, it is not too unlikely, but seems that way.
The animation for the series is very nice, but by the same token dull and inconsistent. The earlier episodes actually show the animation at work very well as it mixes bright hues and vivid colors to create a feast for the senses. One scene where Rea is amongst a field of deep blue hydrangea’s covered in blood is quite cinematic and well-done. This begins to run its course as the series progresses with weird facial expressions and the animation actually toning itself down, but for the most part, it is impressive and beautiful. The soundtrack is another element that does not stand out that well; mostly due to the piano pieces being used constantly as to add tension to some otherwise drama charged scenes, yet are not needed and become repetitive. The opening and ending themes are actually the better part of the soundtrack and fit in perfectly.
2012 was a year filled with a lot of great series, and Sankarea was so very close to being one. It is definitely not terrible, and actually good with respects to its narrative and story; yet messes it up with a weak second half that reeks of bad pacing and execution. Regardless, Sankarea makes for a nice series to add your anime library of experiences and definitely worth your time watching. It falls short, but if you can be satisfied with a title that is good enough, you having nothing to fear from this zombie rom-com.
Pros: Great story, excellent first half, unique execution for the genre, interesting characters.
Cons: story’s second half slows down, dull and repetitive soundtrack.