Sankarea – 06

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Excellence all-around on Sankarea this week.

This show never stopped being really good, and I think I should say that up front.  I’ve commented often on it’s weirdly discordant nature, which is one of the best things about it.  But what Sankarea did this week was recapture something of the first few episodes that had been lost in the last couple.  I think there was an element of sadness this week, and warmth too – qualities I felt the show had even in its weirdest moments early on, but which seems to get buried under the massive amounts of wrongness and creepiness lately.  I never stopped being totally fascinated, but I didn’t love it quite so much as I did – and the way I did this week.

There’s much that could be said about this episode, and where it seems to be taking the series.  I can’t help but contrast this series with Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, another manga adaptation by a former SHAFT director (Oonuma Shin).  One thing I think is clear is that Hatakeyama Mamoru is quite simply proving himself to be a better director – this is certainly the better show – but most tellingly, where Shin seems to be merely aping the Shinbou style and indeed subsuming the essence of the story beneath it (which is the biggest danger with Shinbou himself) Hatakeyama-sensei is evolving the style and moving past it.  It’s not even relevant that this is a DEEN show anymore, because it doesn’t look great for DEEN – it looks great, period.  Hatakeyama is incorporating some of Shinbou’s camera moves and framing of shots, but he’s letting Sankarea be itself – it’s as if he’s taking the best of the SHAFT method, and Shin is simply co-opting it’s most intrusive elements.

For me, the moment when Rea crawled into the temple gyoen and started munching hydrangea was a welcome relief.  I don’t know whether this was manga-faithful or a rare misstep by Hatakeyama, but the scenes with Rea losing herself went on too long and took on an air of grotesquerie.  They were creepy and disturbing by design, no complaints – but it was enough.  Fittingly it was Babu who showed her the way when the normally clever Chihiro never could make the connection – “lesser” animals always seem to have better instincts than people.  This allowed to series to at last move back onto more solid ground, where the intentionally disparate tones seem more in balance.  I think the quieter interaction between Chihiro and his family is an underrated strength of Sankarea, and we finally got to see some more of that.  And it was certainly welcome to see Rea behaving like “herself” again, whatever self that might be – at least until the very end of the episode.

One aspect I really enjoyed this week was watching Furuya-san, Mero and Wanko react to Rea’s presence in their own ways, filtered through the lens of what it made them think about Chihiro.  I can only assume that Furuya-san thought the obvious when Chihiro told him Rea couldn’t go home because of her “situation”, and that he needed to “be responsible for her”.  No father could be happy to think that his son had gotten a girl in that kind of trouble, but his reaction was not anger or judgment – perhaps this is a time when having a Buddhist Priest for a father is a good thing.  He even seemed pleased to see Chihiro taking responsibility, as he clearly views him as a somewhat frivolous boy (and who could blame him?)  For the girls it’s very different.  Mero acts like the older sister in many ways, and it’s obvious that she worries about her brother’s weirdness and that she loves him dearly.  Her take on Rea’s presence seems to be that it’s refreshingly “normal” for Chihiro, but also a sure sign that he’s growing away from her at last, and that their shared childhood is coming to an end.  I really like Mero and I really like Iguchi Yuka’s performance – I wish she was a little more prominent in the eps themselves and not just the previews.

For Wanko, it seems hardest of all to accept what’s happened – and not only because she’s the only one besides senile Jogarou-san that knows the truth.  She wears her feelings for Chihiro so much on her sleeve that even he’s clearly aware of them, and their relationship is an odd mix of awkwardness and familiarity because of it (and seemingly will be in focus next week).  She can be violent and highly irritating, but she does seem to have a good heart – she’s keeping Chihiro’s secret and helping out with small things like clothes (but drawing the line at undies).  It’s a shame she clocked Jogarou with the flower pot just as he was about to deliver some very important information, though.  The old fellow was cogent long enough to deliver some ominous tidbits – namely, that the potion doesn’t prevent decay, only delays it.  Exercise, hydrangea and cool temperature can help – but only so much.

That sets us up for a return to the mode that’s closest to Sankarea’s true heart, I think – tragedy.  It’s been so many things in six episodes, but fundamentally the series is about what Chihiro said himself while watching Babu and Rea munch hydrangea – “Looking at them makes me kind of sad.”  Me too, Kid.  Rea is a sweet girl who’s life was made hell by a sick and controlling father, and sought out death as her only escape from him.  That sadness permeated everything in the early eps of the series, and it’s never totally gone away.  Babu is still adorable and Rea still has a sense of herself, but what’s happened to them isn’t natural, and it can’t be permanent – it feels more like a chance to say a long goodbye for both of them, and a chance for her to at least briefly understand the feelings of life with a warm and loving family.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with her ominous blood-licking, or with her lunatic father, still observing her – but in the end I don’t think the story will be about that.  I think rather than violent or horrible, it will go in the direction of wistful and plaintive – and that even in death, Rea will at least be free of the weight of her father’s domineering presence and rise above herself, literally or figuratively.  Sankarea never stops being strange but it can also be beautiful, and that’s what I hope to see in the end.

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15 comments

  1. s

    Tasogare Otome x Amnesia has nothing on this show at the moment (minus Eri Kitamura), although the former may be more popular simply because the female lead is such a cock tease…more interesting character interactions please.

    I definitely like Mero and her VA too. A thought occurred to me: that crazy father and the butler might try to "rescue" Rea back by going after Chihiro's family. That would actually be the easiest way, since Rea would never want to get his family involved. Perhaps Mero would be their first target…

    By the way, does Chihiro actually know how messed up Rea's life is? Has she explained how twisted her father is, or does he still only know that he takes nude pictures of her?

  2. If he knows all the details, we haven't been made privy to it. I think he knows the bare bones, but also that it was bad enough to make her want to kill herself. Plus, he overheard their conversation before she fell, presumably.

  3. A

    I'm not really positive that Chihiro knows the details about Rea's father, and besides, that's something not easy to ask about casually.

  4. A

    i don't think chihiro heard the conversation between rea and her dad before her fall (he was at the bottom of the cliff after all), though he definitely saw the exchange between them which is fairly indicative of their strained relationship.

  5. d

    Rea crawling was manga faithful.
    What is not manga faithful is how slow this is getting adapted. Amnesia pace is slow, this is even slower. Although, Amnesia's main story should start next ep. Both by the title of the next ep and that it is the cultural festival.

    As for Sankarea… this is really SLOW!! 1 and a half to 1 chapter per episode is too much!!

  6. A

    Seriously I'm glad others agree about the pace, definitely an epic face palm moment when Chihiro finally realizes the hydrangea leaves..

    As GE said "the scenes with Rea losing herself went on too long and took on an air of grotesquerie" it really was cringe-worthy how slow paced it was.

    P.S. Anyone else get the feeling that his dad thinks he got Rea pregnant unless I misread that situation lol.

  7. I think I made it pretty clear in my post that I thought his Dad got that impression, yeah.

  8. A

    It's strange. As Mangas I prefer Tasogare Otome x Amnesia over Sankarea, but as Anime I find Sankarea clearly Superior. I really love the pace of the Series and how they can change the atmosphere from heartwarming to disturbing without making it look strange. From the pace of the Series, I don't think they will reach the point where I discontinued reading the manga. They will probably just finish the first arc or go with a anime original ending. I really hope that the series is doing well in Japan and that they will make a second season.

  9. d

    Must set Chrome as default browser…

    Agree that Amnesia manga > Rea manga. The reason for Amnesia anime failure is after so many episodes no plot movement. Some hints at something darker (the other shadow) but it stays as hints. Amnesia manga by now would have intro many other arcs about Yuuko's past. (Imagine Hyouka staying episodic; the mysteries are not as interesting as UN-GO for it to do so. Requires a constantly evolving story.)

    Rea on the other hand has some development although slow development. As we learn more and more about the zombification process and Rea's family background.

    Fortnately, next Amnesia episode seems to be heading in the right (plot) direction.

    Just hope these 2 series can end properly. Looking at the number of episodes left and there being no "final" or "mid-level" boss… (maybe Rea's dad??) i am not sure how it would go.

  10. b

    Well , the anime has the manga author as part of the staff, specifically supervising and writing the script, and he said it himself that he wants to stick to the original feel of the manga while changing it to be better.
    But part of the credit still goes to the directors I guess. Mamoru's doing much better in handling this adaptation as opposed to Oonuma's Tasogare.
    Tasogare is just skipping a lot of chapters and development for reasons I don't even know. But I still like Yuuko more than Rea.

    tl;dr
    Sankarea anime > Tasogare anime (in terms of adaptation)
    Yuuko >= Rea (my preference)

  11. I'm going to assume Silver Link isn't doing justice to Yuuko, because the anime version is coming off as more annoying than anything for me. Kirie is what's keeping me watching the show.

  12. b

    I'd say they got Yuuko's character mostly. She's very flirty and affectionate to Niiya. It's just that we needed some of the other chapters to relate more to Yuuko. The other mysteries like that cursed rock relates to Yuuko and how she's doing stuff in the school.
    Well flirty Yuuko is okay with me and hopefully the next episode gets focused more on the mystery. (clearly I'm biased with my judgment coz I really like Yuuko so yeah)

    Offtopic sorry about that.
    I'll point out something in this episode of Sankarea then.
    Rea was suppose to bite Chihiro in that kiss but I think it turned to that blood licking in the last part. And the outdoor walk was new and added to get to that 'take care of my body' part by Rea, which I think is very brilliant. Really makes it clear that Chihiro has a really big responsibility with Rea's condition.

  13. A

    Amnesia is one of my very favorite mangas, while I merely follow Sankarea. They do fanservice very differently: very much there in Amnesia but somehow less in-your-face than in the Sankarea manga. But on the other hand, the animes have that reversed: Amnesia's fanservice is the facepalm-inducing sort that makes you look over your shoulder to see if anyone is watching you.

    Its overall mediocrity made me drop the Amnesia anime. Something about the casting (except for Kitamura Eri, who is a perfect fit for Kirie) just bugs me, and the atmosphere just felt a little too silly compared to the manga.

  14. M

    It's funny you came up with a Sankarea-Tasogare comparison, which is a topic I've been wanting to bring up for some time.

    The two manga don't have much in common besides both portraying the relationship of a guy and a dead-yet-not-dead girl, but somehow they very often ended up being compared to each other. It was easy to find posts recommending one if you liked the other, and even polls pitting them against each other. Personally, I've always thought they were of similar quality. Yet there is no doubt which adaptation is superior. It's a pity, they both could have turned out so well.

  15. S

    I'm surprised at how easily Chihiro was let off the hook. Can a Buddhist Priest actually be that zen? lol
    I'm probably one of the few Wanko fans out there so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing next week's episode 😉

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