DVD REVIEW: SANKAREA: UNDYING LOVE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MAMORU HATAKEYAMA / SCREENPLAY: NOBORU TAKAGI / STARRING: TIA BALLARD, AARON DISMUKE, JAMIE MARCHI, MIKE MCFARLAND, FELECIA ANGELLE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Sankarea: Undying Love is an unconventional coming of age story that poses as a high school romantic comedy but ends up being so much more. Released in its uncut, uncensored format with all the ecchi elements, it would have been a far stronger show without the fan service.
Based on Mitsuru Hattori’s brilliantly written manga, the story follows high school student and zombie otaku Chihiro Furuya. He’s an engaging character who’s strikingly different to the usual archetypal protagonist; he’s selfish while simultaneously endearing; charming but other times goofy. Zombie obsessed since childhood, Furuya bides his time watching zombie movies and magazines, and fantasising about a living dead lover, much to the chagrin of his cousin, whom has loved him since they met as kids.
Series opener Once I... Become... a Zombie gets the audience on Furuya’s side when his pet cat Babu is hit by a car. In his subsequent depression, he decides to bring the moggy back from the dead, using an old manuscript. In the long process of bringing Babu back from beyond, Furaya befriends Rea, the privileged daughter of an abusive father. She swipes some of the resurrection potion and, after being severely punished by her dad, drinks it to kill herself. Instead of killing her outright, it brings her back from the dead when she falls from a cliff and tears her stomach open. Rea is a complex character, striving for a normal life, one away from her father’s abuse and money. She soon finds life as a zombie liberating, while Furuya starts taking responsibility and becomes a deeper, more mature character in the process.
The show even gives many of its lesser characters plenty of room to shine, especially Furuya’s 12-year-old sister Mero in episode 9, Mother's... Hand..., with a charming side story that could have been a separate series in its own right. Included is one of the three OVA’s, which is narrated from Babu’s point of view, telling of life as a zombie. It’s an enjoyable addition, but mostly a retrospect of the 12-episode story arc that came before.
Sankarea is a bold and often confrontational story that’s wrapped up in the obsession of adolescence, where everything is black and white and at extremes. It really captures teenagers in a believable, relatable way. The animation is vividly rendered, with an art direction and soundtrack that, at its strongest, could rival even the Monogatari series in style, ambition and flair.
Special Features: Audio commentary / Openings / Trailer