Babu; an adorable zombie kitty with heterochromatic eyes. That alone should be enough to make anyone devote a few hours of their life to watching Sankarea. Chihiro is obsessed with zombies; also, he longs for romantic situations with a zombie girl. When Babu, his pet cat, is hit by a car, Chihiro resurrects him. Rea, a girl unhealthily objectified by her own father, drinks the formula used to revive Babu in a suicide attempt and becomes a zombie. This anime is about the heart-warming relationship between Chihiro and Rea, that can only be described as a weird form of pseudonecrophilia, and her being rescued from the relationship forced upon her by Dan’ichiro, her incestual father.
The anime begins with the death of Chihiro’s cat, Babu, a heartbreaking moment; he subsequently reads into resurrection and carries out experiments so that he can bring Babu back. He meets Rea, a girl depressed by life with her controlling father. She helps Chihiro with his experiments, fond of the idea that he would take responsibility for her if she became a zombie. Rea steals some of the resurrection formula, and drinks it in an attempt at suicide. She awakens to find her attempt a failure and hears her father plan to castrate Chihiro, prompting her to warn him. Rea stands up to her father, taking his attack that is aimed at Babu and is knocked off of the cliff, dying as a result of her stomach being torn open. Due to the formula, she drank earlier, she comes back as a zombie.
Rea begins showing signs of rigour mortis; a worrying sign that, without intervention, her corpse will rot. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of light pseudonecrophilic romance between a boy and a zombie girl, but most would agree that a rotted corpse is taking things too far. Thankfully, Rea follows Babu and discovers that eating hydrangea leaves staves off the rigour mortis. Chihiro manages to convince Rea’s father to allow her to stay with him and begins recording observations of her.
During a trip to the mall, some of Rea’s father’s henchmen attempt to abduct her but are fought off. They change their plans and take Chihiro instead. Chihiro thus meet’s Dan’ichiro’s wife, Rea’s stepmother. She explains that she joined the family as a maid to win the love of Dan’ichiro, but he fell in love with a 15-year-old who died while giving birth to Rea. Although she was eventually able to marry Dan’ichiro, he became obsessed with Rea because of her resemblance to her mother. Rea arrives in order to find Chihiro, and they end up fighting Dan’ichiro both verbally and by fencing. Impressed by Chihiro’s words, he opts to let Rea stay with Chihiro and warns against deflowering her. She nurses him to health and, when his cousin poses as his fiancee, realises she loves him. His cousin confesses to Rea that she also loves Chihiro and wants them to be love rivals. The series ends with Rea entering a trance and jumping on Chihiro to bite him, well, his lip anyway. The Babu-focused OVA, included in the release, takes place after this episode.
The video quality is commendable, even when viewed on a large screen, despite being DVD only. The DVD is NTSC so there are no PAL conversion anomalies throughout the release. If there were compression artefacts, they were minimal to the point of escaping view completely; a sign of a well-authored DVD release. It is unlikely many viewers will have equipment unable to play an NTSC release, so MVM are to be praised for utilising the format for Sankarea. Subtitles consist of white text; the more favourable of the standard colour options for DVD subtitles. The white subtitles contrast well with the somewhat darker scenes throughout.
The soundtrack primarily consists of a gentle, melodic score which, whilst fitting for the anime is arguably too low in the mix. The OP, Figment by nano.RIPE, feels generic but is soothing in execution; the ED, Above Your Hand by Annabel, similarly so. Although not as powerful as the original Japanese language track, the English dub is better than expected for an anime that touches upon some sensitive subject matter. The dub voice actors, in what can only be described as a pleasant change from other recent dubs, manage to accurately portray pain and sadness in their voicing when the scene calls for it.
In terms of extras, this release has more than is usually seen. The first disc includes a commentary track for episode 3 with Tia Ballard and Aaron Dismarke, the English voice actors for Rea and Chihiro respectively. The second disc contains the usual textless opening and ending videos, alongside the English language trailer for Sankarea and another commentary. This second commentary track is for episode 11 and features both the ADR Director and the “Zombie Expert”. The release also includes one, of three, OVAs that exist for the series. Thankfully, the OVA that it does include, episode 13, is the OVA narrated from Babu’s point of view; this is a highlight of the series. The two OVAs that are absent are those that came bundled with the manga in Japan and are not important for enjoyment of the series as a whole.
Sankarea is the perfect combination of romance, comedy, and the supernatural. It loses points primarily due to the incompleteness of the 'Complete Collection', though the blame for this does not lie with MVM. In addition, the sensitive subject matter of incest, being a major plot point, is likely to alienate and deter some from seeing this anime through from start to finish. Despite only being available on DVD, the quality of the anime does not suffer. It is a worthwhile purchase for those that want a quirky romantic comedy.