This is one seriously weird show. I’m hard-pressed to think of another series that feels so much at odds with itself and has so many discordant tones and moods perpetually at war. And as ever, I’m struck by how each character feels as if they came from a different series and were thrown together her in a random dogpile to let themselves sort it out. And also as ever, it’s still working, because I’m much rather feel weirded out and confounded by a show than feel nothing at all.
I feel like we can say with some certainty that Chihiro’s Grandfather is intimately connected to the zombie lifestyle, as witness this reaction when Chihiro said that Babu had come back to life. My original thinking was that he was a zombie himself with that green coloring, but he let it slip that he’d “invented a resurrection pill”. He’s a senile old man so I don’t think anything he says can be taken at face value, but one way or another he knows an awful lot about raising the dead. And there’s still the matter of “Sada”, whoever that is – a young girl who became a zombie? A figment of his fevered imagination? I’m guessing the old man isn’t as crazy as he acts, so I doubt it’s the latter.
There was a strong feeling of creeping unease all through the episode, though not all that much happened for most of it. Those early scenes in Chihiro’s bedroom had an overwhelming sense of wrongness – I kept thinking “all of this is a really bad idea” as Chihiro struggled with Rea’s almost lifeless body. His reaction seems so strange to me, whether it’s because he’s a teenaged boy or because he’s a very weird teenaged boy I don’t know. There’s no sense that he gets the seriousness of all this – he speaks of keeping Rea’s body from rotting as if he were worried about a good hiding place for a porn collection, then goes about his business after hiding her in his closet. It seems hard to believe that the notion wouldn’t even have occurred to him – the so-called zombie expert that mixed the potion that brought her (and Babu) back to life – that more of what was in that potion might be what she needs. The hydrangea solution is so obvious to us, and it’s never even crossed his mind?
Elevating the ep to an even greater level of creepy weirdness is Wanko. The way she’s immediately turned into an object of non-stop fanservice is borderline obsessive. I mean, it’s not as if there’s all that much service apart from her, even with Rea – yet in every scene Wanko is in it’s immediate and non-stop. Don’t get me wrong, she’s obviously a looker – but I cant help but wonder if there’s a point that’s being made here, because it just seems so odd. Again, it’s as if she’s in a different show than everyone else. But in Sankarea she definitely is, because her world and Rea’s collide in a big way. It’s Wanko who has the most disturbingly erotic scene of the season with Rea while looking for a zombie DVD in Chihiro’s room, and a bizarre moment it is. Scary too, as Rea is behaving in an extremely alien way (obviously driven nearly mad by hunger) and culminating with Rea ripping Wanko’s shirt off and licking her breasts (a weird echo of Grandpa licking Chihiro’s face earlier, I might add).
I get the point of this – Wanko crawled through some hydrangea leaves, Rea smelled it on her and licked it off. But damn, it was outlandish – and things didn’t get any better when Chihiro responded to Wanko’s scream and entered the room. Rea never utters an intelligible word for the entire episode but she grunts plenty, and here she aggressively attacks Chihiro’s face in what I cant really call a kiss, but almost – and then wraps him up with superhuman strength hard enough to seemingly break his ribs (it never occurred to you to help him, Wanko?). I don’t think Rea has gone full “consume the flesh of the living here”, but rather been reduced to a kind of animal instinct – if anything, Babu seems to be acting like a completely normal cat this week, after eating a lot of hydrangea. But it’s still difficult to see Rea that way, after everything we’ve witnessed her put through in the first four episodes.
It must be said that Sankarea is benefitting from an awfully strong performance by its cast, pretty much top to bottom. It’s a solid group of actors starting with Kimura Ryouhei and Uchida Mayya in the lead roles, but the contributions by the supporting cast have been invaluable as well – this is difficult and challenging material, and the seiyuu have been vital in grounding it with some authenticity. Even Fukuen Misato as Babu has been great, but lately I’m especially impressed with Iguchi Yuuka as Mero (even if she does sound almost exactly like Chihara Minori’s Chiaki from Mianmi-ke). Mero is as strange as anyone in this cast and she’s great for comic relief, but there’s a strange, earthy sensibility to Mero that acts as a sort of antidote for the creepy and schizoid nature of the rest of the show.