2012 was a very good year for anime, and it seems as if Sankarea was very much lost in the shuffle – a good series in a year full of excellent ones (and airing in the superb Spring season to boot). More than that, it seems to have generally been received in mediocre fashion, both by manga readers and not – BD/DVD sales were mediocre, and the tenor of most of the commentary wasn’t especially positive. There are undeniably issues with the show, but I’m a bit baffled that it doesn’t get more affection.
In the first place, in terms of combining animation quality and style, this is one of the finest series DEEN has ever produced. Director Omata Shinichi (who used the alias Hatakeyama Mamoru here for some reason) is a SHAFT alumnus but his style is sort of post-SHAFT here, incorporating some of Shinbou’s bag of tricks but in a subtler fashion than we’re used to seeing. It’s a great-looking show period, not just a great-looking DEEN show, and Omata stamps himself as a director to watch. The OP is very good, the ED fantastic, the cast uniformly excellent. There were certainly inconsistencies in the overall narrative, and the series didn’t come remotely close to giving us an ending – plus the Wanko character was the most cliché element in the series and far too much in focus late. But on the whole it was an interesting and often emotionally powerful series, full of mood swings and surprises, and it deserves a better fate than what it’s received.
Like the first OVA, this one teases us with some of the questions the series left unanswered, yet stubbornly refuses to answer them. Is DEEN fishing for a second season here? Perhaps – and I certainly would like to see it – yet it’s undeniably frustrating not to receive a little more exposition than the series is willing to give. This time around the plot surrounds a mysterious girl who Mero finds sleeping under the temple. She doesn’t speak, and appears to have gossamer wings – but seemingly only when Rea is looking at her. She’s a strange girl from the outset, and before long it’s clear she has a special grudge against Rea. This manifests in the destruction of the temple’s hydrangea plants, a push down the stairs, and numerous attempts to kiss (at the least) Chihiro in the middle of the night.
I’m not precisely sure what we’re to make of the way the episode was resolved. It might have all been a dream by Rea’s mother – who we know is insanely jealous of her daughter and desperately for physical companionship with a man, preferably Chihiro. But it appears that Rea and Chihiro has the same dream, which significance I cannot begin to guess. It almost doesn’t matter, because the atmosphere is – as usual – terrific (almost no Wanko doesn’t hurt) – and the episode is full of the striking visual moments and dark emotions that the anime supplied on a regular basis. As a bridge to a possible season, this OVA works very well – as a series finale, not so much. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Sankarea, because there’s a lot of things I’d really like to have explained.