On October 1, 2013, anime publisher FUNimation Entertainment releases "Sankarea: Undying Love" in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack and we took the opportunity to review the first series that made me say, "zombies can be cute".
Based on the manga written and illustrated by Mitsuru Hattori (published in North America by Kodansha Comics), "Sankarea" follows Chihiro Furuya, a high school student with one of the creepiest fetishes around, normal girls just don’t do it for him, instead he dreams of dating a zombie girl. When his beloved pet Babu is hit by a car and killed, Chihiro’s fascination with the undead reaches new heights, he decides to try and bring Babu back from the dead using an old notebook containing what he believes to be a revival potion.
As he works on the potion he meets Rea Sanka, a popular girl from the nearby all-girls school and the two become friends. Rea has always wanted a pet and remarkably embraces Chihiro’s plan to bring Babu back from the dead. Despite coming from a wealthy family, poor Rea has her own difficulties at home though, due to an obsessed father, and one day things take a tragic turn. Luckily(?) for her she drank Chihiro’s potion before her death.
Ecstatic and shocked at the same time, Chihiro finally has Babu back, but he also has to look after Rea, who has now joined the ranks of the living dead and run away from home. Chihiro’s adventures will see him contending with Rea’s overprotective and outright crazy father, trying to keep the truth about Rea a secret from his family and learning what it takes to keep a zombie "alive", all while also trying to control his own urges now that he finally his his undead dream girl living under the same roof.
"Sankarea" offered one of the more intriguing stories I’ve seen lately, the romantic side was predictable, but there were some nice little twists throughout that kept things fun. The series did move at a strange pace though, the pacing was good early on and it had a nice blend of comedy and drama but towards the end it felt really rushed, like they tried to cram too much story into the final episodes.
Some of the characters also helped to keep the series entertaining, the "big sister" type Ranko and her aggressive pursuit of Chihiro helped to give he and Rea a nice little push and Rea easily has to be one the cutest zombies I have ever seen, it still feels weird saying that. There were some characters that got irritating fast as well, Chihiro’s grandfather was especially annoying after a while, but thankfully he doesn’t get much screen time.
Visually "Sankarea" looks fair, it isn’t one of the best looking anime, but at the same time it isn’t the worst. It sits right in the middle where you can’t really say it is good or bad. This review is based on the DVD version of the anime, the Blu-ray version will likely look a bit nicer.
As far as the voice options go, the Japanese voices are probably the best choice but I also enjoyed the series with the English dub. The cast fit well with their characters for both versions, so it is really up to the viewer to make their own choice. If you go with the Japanese dub, the English subtitles are clear, have good flow and spend enough time time on screen.
Included as on-disc features for the anime are the textless opening and closing, the U.S. trailer, trailers for other FUNimation Entertainment releases and English staff commentary for episodes 3 and 11.
This is probably just me, and partially due to an early fascination with 80s and 90s era zombie movies, but I was hoping for something a little darker if not more gruesome out of a zombie-themed series. That said however, as far as romantic comedy series go "Sankarea: Undying Love" if highly entertaining and offered plenty of moments that made me laugh. While I would have liked a little more violence, the anime isn’t "Highschool of the Dead", nor is it trying to be, so you can’t really judge it on the same "zombie scale".
If you enjoyed series like "Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl", "Princess Resurrection" and "Is This a Zombie?", or if you’re looking for a series that will offer a cute take on zombies, then "Sankarea: Undying Love" is exactly what you should be looking for.
3.5 Out of 5
Sankarea: Undying Love
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Runtime: 300 minutes
Number of Episodes: 13
Number of Discs: 2 DVDs (Also on Blu-ray)
Languages: English, Japanese with English subtitles
Age Rating: TV-14
Release Date: October 1, 2013
(A review copy of "Sankarea: Undying Love" on DVD was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.)