ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:42 - 20th July 2015, by NEO Staff

Sankarea: Undying Love

Chihiro Furuya has one morbid interest in his life – zombies! Zombie movies, zombie figures, even his clothing seems to have an undead theme to it. He’s also outspoken about that fact that the only kind of girl he can imagine seeing himself with is one of the legion of the living dead, much to the worries of his friends and family.

While attempting to secretly revive his beloved cat, a chance meeting in an abandoned hotel introduces Chihiro to the beautiful but troubled Rea Sanka, who is seeking solitude from her dysfunctional family. Together, they work on revivifying the household pet with an untested resurrection potion, and in the process, Chihiro provides Rea with the two things she’s always been denied from her abusive father – freedom, and a friend. However, when a tragic turn of events causes Rea to turn into a zombie herself, Chihiro has to contend with the troubles of trying to keep his newly-undead ward safe, happy – and free from decomposition!

Although the premise sounds like a fairly standard romantic-comedy type affair (albeit one with zombies), it has a surprisingly high quality in its production values and its writing. The script, especially in the English dub, is snappy and filled with self-aware dialogue that keeps the scenes flowing.

Sankarea’s artistic direction has obviously benefited from a lot of care, and the lively and varied character designs mesh well with the picturesque settings of the small mountain town that the series takes place in. The animation too feels fluid and uninhibited, with none of the frame-saving techniques which are often used in series with less ambitious art departments.

Short series such as this one are usually quickly paced, but Sankarea definitely takes its own time moving the story forward – it takes several episodes before the main points of the plot are set in motion. This should provide ample opportunity for character development, but the series doesn’t seem to have enough confidence in its story or characters, instead giving a lot of time over to played-out fanservice tropes in an attempt to keep the viewer engaged. Coupled with the slow pace of the series, this feels a little frustrating at times, and gives the feeling that the show’s overarching plot is being artificially lengthened to fill more episodes than it requires. This is especially apparent by the close of the series, which ends very abruptly, leaving the viewer with more questions than were ever answered. The story is continued in the original manga, but as of yet, there is no news of a second season of the animated adaptation, which might be disappointing to fans of the series.

Sankarea walks a tightrope between the tones of ‘bittersweet romance’ and ‘daft dark comedy’, and it succeeds in juggling the two fairly reasonably. When it’s trying to tug at your heart, it can be quite effective – and the art is well-suited to this endeavour, with a good mix of lingering melancholy and bright, lively scenes that reflect the temperaments of the characters.

Comedy-wise, though the script does feel well-written and the dialogue is sharp, it doesn’t quite deliver on the humour that it promises. Instead it relies upon the aforementioned fanservice and generic gags that unfortunately don’t give the characters a chance to set themselves apart from those in similar – and funnier – series of the genre.

Ultimately, Sankarea feels like it could have been a quick and charming series, but it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. It definitely has its moments, but they’re stretched a little thin between all-too common scenes for the genre, that can make it feel repetitive or unnecessary. However, if, like the series’ protagonist, you’ve got a diehard love of the walking dead, you’ll probably find a few hours to sink your teeth into here.

This teen zom-com definitely takes some steps in the right direction, but doesn’t get too far before bits start dropping off.
SCORE: 3/5
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