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Sankarea Complete Series Broadcast Edit Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Dying is just the first step towards a true romance.

What They Say:
Zombie-obsessed Furuya is making a potion to reanimate his dead cat when he meets Rea. She’s about as miserable as a girl can get, thanks to her creepy, domineering father. When the pain becomes too much, she tries to commit suicide with a sip of Furuya’s weird elixir. The potion doesn’t kill her but it does turn her into a zombie after she falls from a cliff.

Now that Rea s undead and ready to finally live, she hides out with Furuya, who’s always dreamed of having a zombie girlfriend. Their one-of-a-kind relationship comes with some challenges, like the fact that Rea is decomposing. Even worse, her freak-show dad is dangerously determined to get her back under his control. As Furuya fights to keep his ghoulfriend safe, Rea finds the secret to resurrecting her happiness: Live like you re dying even if you’re already dead.

This sku contains the TV14 (Edited) material.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release gets a standard FUNimation approach in that we get the original Japanese language in stereo and the English language dub in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is pretty much a dialogue driven piece for the most part but it has a few bigger moments, not necessarily action, that stands out as working the forward soundstage more than normal. When it comes to these scenes, they certainly stand out a bit more simply because the rest of the show is fairly tame and it works to drive up the moment well. When it comes to the rest of the show, the dialogue drives it well with some placement and depth but also some good background and incidental music that helps to build the mood properly without coming across too strong. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Studio Deen, the series has a gorgeous look about it as there’s a real vibrancy to the designs and backgrounds, which isn’t always clear in the earliest of episodes. The series is one that plays in darkness a fair bit in the beginning but it has some beautiful flashes to it that justs grow more and more as it progresses. The show has a good bit of actual movement to it with its animation, but it also knows how to build some striking scenes when it comes to more still shots and simple dialogue moments which just gives it a very strong quality feeling. The overall look of the show is very good and the transfer captures the soruce material well, making it stand out in a great way.

Please note: Our copy for this review is of the broadcast edition of the series which was recalled, but still available from several places.

The packaging for this limited edition version of the release is quite good as we get a great heavy chipboard box that works with a white background that definitely lets the character artwork stand out all the more. Surrounded by a few flower petals here and there, we get the image of Rea across the front in a red dress as her black hair flows around her. It’s almost an entire full length shot, but it also gets done on the back side with just the lower half of her body. It’s a little unusual but with the colors used and the general design, it works well and is kind of appealing. Inside the box we get the two Blu-ray cases where each of the covers have gorgeous full color wraparound illustrations of Rea that lets the different sides of her personality come through well. tHey’re large and dominate each of the fronts which works really nicely. The back covers are a bit more fanservice oriented in a way since all we get is her legs and a really good look at her bottom, but I’m hard pressed to really complain. Add in the discs by format and what episodes they have by title and it all comes together very well. Each cover has artwork on the reverse side that does pretty much the same thing but with Aria taking center stage, first from her maid days and then with her more upper class form that we know in the present. No show related inserts are included with this release.

The menus for this release are pretty cute in a simple way as it tries to tie into things with the theme a bit. It’s like most FUNimation releases in that most of it is just a series of clips from the show, but what they do here is put it through a grainy black and white filter which makes the action a bit more interesting to watch. The navigation strip along the bottom works the pink approach for its color, though it does it with a bit more red to it, while having some hydrangea flowers along the edges and the usual standard menu navigation itself. Submenus load quickly and it’s easy to get around while also being able to change languages on the fly during playback.

The extras for this set work a standard flavor when there’s little available as we get the clean versions of the opening and closings as the expected piece but also a couple of English language commentary tracks by the team behind it talking about their experiences on it and what went into it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Mitsuru Hattori that debuted back in 2009, this anime adaptation is set for thirteen episodes and comes from studio Deen, which gives it a pretty good look based on the original designs and feel of the manga. The series deals with an interesting character as its lead, a young man named Chihiro who as we see right off has an affection for zombie films and shows. Where that stems from is what would be interesting to see really dealt with, but the way his life has gone you can certainly account for some of it on the loss of his mother and then the more recent loss of a cat that they family had. The loss of the cat really gets to him, so much so that he uses an old work that he had in which he believes it would reveal to him how to reanimate something.

Chihiro’s attempts at reviving his cat Babu don’t exactly go well over the couple of days he attempts it at an abandoned building nearby. It’s an interesting and moody piece when you get down to it and he does admit along the way that there’s only so long he can do this before he has to bury the cat as things would just go from bad to worse. In the middle of these days of attempts, we get introduced to his school life and some of those that have interactions with him, but there’s little that stands out as it’s a plethora of archetypes more than anything else, from the flirty girl that’s a friend to the guys that are pretty normal if a bit overactive.

What’s different, and the main attraction here, is that while he’s at the building going through his ritual, there’s an attractive young woman named Rea who has been yelling down a well nearby. What makes things awkward is that she yells down something about being photographed naked to showcase her growth for the family, which is what Chihiro hears. And that makes for an awkward couple of moments before the two find that they can keep each others secrets, which leads to them talking quite a lot. Chihiro does have a good bit of fun with her along the way, which is pretty much expected considering his character and the kinds of films he enjoys, but there’s some relevance to it as well since he knows plainly that Rea wants to die and get out of this life.

The two spend their time together well early on as Chihiro does his research and ends up stumbling into an actual result, thanks to a little help from his grandfather that he didn’t think would actually work. That helps him bring Babu back to life, who goes through a lot of his stages of adapting behind the scenes. The problem comes in that Rea ends up taking some of the medication as well, but they have no clue that it actually worked for awhile. How can you tell if it works? Sadly, you have to die. And that’s where the series really got interesting for me as Rea ends up taking a tumble off a cliff, lands on a jagged spike sticking out of it, and ends up pretty much dead on arrival. But at first, Chihiro has no clue that she ingested the medication, nor that it really would work on a person, and the anguish is really nicely done, which leads well into him bringing her home with him and doing his best to get her back on track and cope with all of the changes.

While the series does it well, it does play to some more standard and expected elements as it progresses from here, especially after Rea makes her first round recovery and they discover how to manage her zombie condition. His instincts are all over the map at this point since it’s a dream come true, but there’s a whole lot of uncertainty as well. It’s engaging to watch the two of them figure out what works and what doesn’t and how Chihiro manages to get her to stay with him for the time being, convincing his family in a way that makes sense but leaves you a little uncertain. Though the relationship is certainly awkward, particularly since Rea is just enjoying being free, there’s also a good bit of innocent charm about it all that’s very welcome. She may have some good fanservice style moments, but Chihiro does his best to be respectful to her throughout and is more concerned about her bodily state overall.

The drama that exists with them two of them dominates the series, with some well placed humor, but it’s the expansion on it that drew me in more as it went along. A lot of Rea’s issues are because of her father, Dan’ichiro, who comes across as a complete and utter creep to say the least when we first understand the story. But as it progresses, we get more and more of who he really is, what his experiences are and an understanding of why he’s done what he’s done to Rea. It doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t excuse it, but it at least explains it and makes him a lot more sympathetic as a man who simply broke after a tragic event. Similarly, as we see her mother, Aria, her story becomes even more convoluted and tragic as it progresses and you really feel for her as well because of the isolation she faced and the walls that were put up that she could not overcome, which impacted everyone. We even get an episode dedicated to Chihiro’s younger sister at one point which delves into her relationship with him and their parents, which is complicated enough on top of everything else. She’s not central to things, but fleshing her role out here definitely added some welcome touches, especially on top of all the other more serious material with Rea’s parents.

In Summary:
When I first watched Sankarea in simulcast form, I made it through the first episode or two but didn’t feel compelled to continue. While it has the same mode overall for the first three or four episodes, once it shifts gears into what it really wants to tell, Sankarea becomes a pretty compelling series. You have to suspend disbelief for certain obvious things of course, but the series does some good things along the way with a lot of style and some beautiful designs and animation. The story of love with a zombie girl could be just a simple comedy with little else to it, but Sankarea delves a bit deeper with its cast, and especially with Rea, but also with those that have formed into the person that she is. I definitely enjoyed this show a lot more than I thought I would have, but I also wish they had been able to get the two OVA episodes as well to make it truly complete.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentaries, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 1st, 2013
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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