I pretty much said what I wanted to see about Sankarea and how sadly underappreciated it is in the Episode 14 post, but this was certainly a fine episode in its own right. It’s become something of a tradition for series to do OVA episodes about their cat characters, it seems – and as was the case with Ao no Exorcist, it’s yields excellent results. This one completely slipped under my radar when it was released, so thanks very much to Pearl, who notified me of its existence in the Episode 14 comments.
Everything that I enjoy about Sankarea is present in this episode, but it’s especially notable in that it gives Fukuen Misato a chance to really shine as Babu. I always always like her in whatever series she’s in, whether I like the series itself or not – she brings a combination of warmth and humor to nearly every performance that I find extremely winning. It’s hard for seiyuu to find much that’s really new in cat roles, but Fukuen’s work here is some of the best – I especially loved her vocalizations of Babu’s approval when he got a look at the girl cat in the car that almost hit him, but here she’s given a chance to give Babu human speech. It’s an interesting tack, a way to give the audience a little more background in what’s really happening to the characters (such as the removal of the “limiter” on their muscles being the reason zombies are so strong). Of course it also allows director Omata Shinichi to explore the feelings attached to a zombie’s fate in a way he can’t with Sanka, because Babu is far more introspective in this OVA than Sanka ever was.
I’m beginning to suspect that Sankarea may in fact be better suited to the OVA format than the series format, in fact. This was a series where the gap between the best episodes and the worst was wider than most, and I think it really benefits from being forced to focus on what really makes the show special. There’s always a real sense of tragedy to Sankarea that’s expressed in a lovely fashion in this episode, a feeling that’s perfectly matched by the lovely but melancholy visual imagery. Absent the trip-wires that often sent the series tumbling, it exists in its pure form here – a wistful look at the cruelties of fate through the lens of flawed but good people helpless to resist them, laced with a bit of humor and a dose of mystery.
As it always seems to, Sankarea manages to ask more questions here than it answers. Who is the woman who’s flying into Narita as the OVA ends, whose owl snatches a bit of Babu’s fur? A bit of research tells us that she’s Darin Arnschent Kurumiya (Kusumi Aiko) a zombie researcher – though you’d never know that from the episode, and her connection to the rest of the cast is unexplained. It’s frustrating, of course, to see a series which so brazenly admits to being incomplete yet offers no promises of a return – but I sort of admire the way DEEN stubbornly refuses to sugarcoat the manga or rewrite it for the limitations of the format. An incomplete story the Sankarea anime may be, but it’s a very good one – full of genuine emotion, relatable characters and truly lovely visuals. It will certainly never be popular, but I hope it will ultimately be recognized for the hidden gem it is.