Sankarea: Undying Love Review (Anime)

Poor Sankarea. Not only does the show revolve around Rea Sanka’s death, she now has to spend her days in this fan-service ridden story that stubbornly refuses to not be constantly prominent.
I went in expecting a romantic comedy and whilst it has both romance and comedy, I could never fully engross myself in either due to the abundance of unwanted fan-service that so tactlessly forced itself to be prominent in every single episode. If it isn’t main character with a zombie fetish, Chihiro Furuya, being hit on by his busty cousin Ranko Saoji, it’s Rea Sanka’s father dressing up his daughter in revealing clothing and insisting that it’s okay, and that it’s normal. The latter doesn’t bother me so much as it’s not glorified but, and this may have become apparent in previous reviews, I hate when cousin love is forced into creative works especially when it doesn’t serve any purpose other than to create an off-putting weird love triangle.
So anyway, there I am watching a show which starts on a good foot but by the next step it takes, it’s apparent that its other foot is attached to a decomposing leg because boy, does it drop in quality real quickly. What could’ve been a great show manages to be anything but, with a somewhat budding, undeveloped, romance between Rea and Chihiro hardly being touched on and humour that falls flat more often than not, although the zombie movie references were well-implemented and it’s a shame there weren’t more of them. I actually like most of the characters and feel that they could have been handled really well but instead they feel like a plot device for fan-service and forced drama.

Having watched all thirteen episodes after struggling to finish the series at all, I’m left hugely disappointed and the fact that there isn’t a season two screams volumes about how bad season one was. I’m not entirely sure what Sankarea wanted to be as it rarely touches on romance, isn’t a full-on comedy and never builds up any of the drama that seemingly appears out of nowhere. Considering these thirteen episodes only covered two or so of the manga, it’s a shame that it still manages to feel like it’s covered absolutely nothing at all – the story feels bare of any real plot and character development. There’re even filler episodes! It’s thirteen episodes! It struggles from poor direction which taints the entire show and has definitely put me off of buying the manga, something I was considering to do once but those hopes are dead and I wish for the author to not try and revive them.
The little plot that is there revolves around Rea Sanka, newly dead, and preventing her body from decomposing otherwise she’ll, uh, die. Her overly-touchy father is obviously not pleased that his daughter is now one of the undead but is even less pleased that she’s hanging around with a male figure that isn’t him, and so he plots to get her back under his ‘care’ – his behaviour is explained in a short backstory later in the series but it’s really quite poor and did nothing to make me feel empathy towards him, and it does nothing to justify his child-molestation actions. Chihiro loves the undead and takes care of Rea at his own home where his family accept her, but her father and Chihiro’s cousin Ranko sadly are present for much of the shows plot, even though the latter seems to only be present due to the author’s inability of creating any actual good drama.
The story might shamble more than a zombie but I’d struggle to fault the animation. I thought the show was visually appealing and had good art direction, almost to the point that the art is done an injustice by being given this poor plot to work with. It’s bright, colourful and features decent character design that, despite being a DVD only release in the UK, look great in SD. The visuals reflect the shows faint message of making the most of life, even if you’re dead, and to stop everything from being a bit too colourful there seems to be a filter than makes many scenes look a bit misty – you’ve never seen a crisp and clear zombie film, have you?

If I enjoyed it more then I think it would make for a very good blu-ray release but we’re not going to see that come to UK shores, regardless of how much one may enjoy it. As with most MVM releases, Sankarea has been in good hands and it’s nice to see the special thirteenth episode included in the set, even if we don’t have the two OVA episodes. There’re minimal extras with textless OP’s and ED’s, a trailer and some episode commentary but at this point I’ve made peace (read: eternally upset), with the fact that UK releases are mostly derived of extras and, usually, if we want them then they’ll be included in a more expensive collector’s edition. I’m sure it all comes down to licensing and we’re lucky to get the shows as it is, so I’m pleased that MVM are bringing these shows over regardless and that they’re not rush jobs.
The voice-acting is solid too and quickly grew on me, proving to be one of the highlights of the show. If the dub option is there then I’ll be choosing it but you can watch it in Japanese too with English subtitles if you’d prefer. Giving it a quick check to see how it compares, I can’t fault the Japanese voices either! The OST follows up strong with an amazing OP and ED with some catchy tunes during the show. The most recognisable name to me, Monica Rial, voices the cat which spends the show only saying it’s name (because it’s a cat) and whilst I didn’t recognise most of the other voice-actors and actresses, I’d be happy to hear more of them in future dubs.

Sankarea is entirely below average in every genre that it attempts to tackle, all of which have been implemented better in a wide range of shows that require very little effort to find. It might make for an okay filler anime before your next big undertaking but I’d have a hard time recommending this to anybody, and this certainly wasn’t worth bringing back from the dead.

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