Sankarea – 14

With Dan’ichiro away, Rea’s stepmother Aria live alone in the house, eating little, drinking much, getting driven to Rea’s school where she is headmistress, and generally being bored out of her mind. Meanwhile, Mero finds an unconscious girl under the temple and brings her in. The girl won’t talk but seems to have it in for Rea, and proceeds to stealthily harass and terrorize her. Once the jig is up and the others confront her, she runs out to the graveyard, where she reveals she’s Aria. Furuya lectures her on being nicer to her daughter, and she fumes and unleashes a torrent of glowing rain. She then wakes up in her bathtub. It was only a dream, but Rea and Furuya had it to.

Bored, miserable, and under-, nay, non-sexed, and always deep into a bottle of Vitamin XO, Aria tries to take her frustrations out on the only person she has control over besides her mocking household staff: her stepdaughter. When she starts touching herself in the tub and goes underwater, and the episode then cuts to the Furuya residence, we thought that would pretty much all we’d see of Aria. How wrong we were! The entirety of the episode after that only took place in a dream, albeit a dream that she, Rea, and Furuya had at the same time. It’s a clever little device, but we have to admit, when the girl reveals she’s Aria (with her beauty spot), we were a little lost for a moment. How is a little girl Rea’s mom???

Happily, the episode explains itself soon thereafter, and everything ends up making sense…more or less. And hey, the dream even ends up changing Aria’s tune; she ultimately decides the petty punishment she was forcing the school to mete out to Rea simply out of spite didn’t catch her fancy anymore. What’s funny is that Furuya’s rejection of the dream-Aria was an interaction between the two that actually happened and wasn’t just a dream. That makes this more interesting, because the typical “never happened” or “reset button” aspects of dream episodes don’t apply here.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Sankarea – 00

Seven months prior to the events of Episode 01, Furuya travels to Tohoku with his father, Mero, and Ranko to help an uncle donate his large book collection. Dan’ichiro just happens to choose the same village as the setting for his latest photo shoot with Rea. A drunken Aria takes her frustrations out on Rea, leading Rea to consider “disappearing.” While sifting through books, Furuya finds an old photo of his deceased mother, and the wind blows it to a hole in the floor where he finds the occult recipe book. When he gets separated from Mero and Ranko, he happens upon the very hot spring where Rea is bathing, leading to their meeting for the first time.

Yes, Rea and Furuya met before he saw her yelling into a well at an abandoned hotel – though it was so brief (and stressful to both), perhaps it was struck from their memories. It matters not; from that point onward they were fated to meet again. After all, this is where Furuya found a book containing just the thing that would help Rea escape her life and become reborn as someone else. It is a book we know his gramps knows about (or knew about before he got senile), and for all we know, whatever happened to his and Mero’s mom may have involved the same dark powers he employed to bring Babu and Rea back.

As extra episodes go, this is a good meaty one, painting a picture of the horrible life Rea lived that led her to start screaming into wells in the first place. Her dad is a freak and she knows what he’s doing isn’t right, but is too frightened and cowed to fight him. She’s respectful to her “mother” Aria, but gets only contempt and disgust from her. Divorcing Dan’ichiro, while a good and sensible idea in theory, would mean giving up on all the wealth and power she worked so hard for, so she sticks around, drowning her sorrows. More than anything, this episode perfectly illustrates how much better off Rea is with Furuya and his family than she was with her fucked up parents…even if she had to die to be free.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Car Cameos:
Furuya’s family piles into an original Mini Cooper. A flash BMW 6-Series follows them through the tollbooth.

Sankarea – 11

Dan’ichiro takes Furuya to his fencing hall and challenges him to a duel. If Furuya can hit him, he wins. Rea has arrived at her house, but her father’s maids capture her and dress her up for fun until she breaks her binds and races to the hall. She arrives right after her father has run Furuya through, but he isn’t dead, after being “infected” by some of Rea’s “poison” before, he is temporarily half-zombie. He headbutts Dan’ichiro and convinces him to let Rea make her own choice. He entrusts Rea to his care and heads abroad to search for a cure for her zombification.

We have to admire Furuya’s poise throughout this Dan’ichiro ordeal. Not only does he maintain his cool despite the fact he’s up against someone who has the power to literally erase his existence without consequence, he even uses what Danny Boy’s wife Aria told him to call him out on his bullshit. He doesn’t want to save Rea. He wants to save the reincarnation of his wife. Well, Rea’s more than that. She has her own dreams and desires, and their nothing special; she just wants to be a normal girl. A normal undead girl. Surprisingly, Dan’ichiro relents.

We’re also surprised how quickly the peril is deflated not only by Furuya’s nonchalance, taunting, and eventual realization that a rapier through his gut is no biggie, but by the silly cosplay that goes on between the maids and Rea. That said, we like how Rea blocks her father’s killing blow, probably using a little of her zombie strength but also the fencing skills he taught her. What we didn’t like so much was Furuya’s wake-up scene. Here’s a guy who, again, had just been impailed, and everyone treats him like they’re trying to finish what Dan’ichiro started. Leave the guy alone and let his wound heal. And oh yeah, Rea now knows she has competition in Ranko. Whoop-dee-doo…

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sankarea – 10

Tied up in a dark room, Furuya is approached by Aria, Dan’ichiro’s wife and Rea’s stepmother. She tells him the story of how she became a trusted member of the Sanka family’s household staff, but like the other maids, could not seduce Dan’ichiro, who ended up marrying a sickly 15-year-old who attended a charity fencing event at his house. She died giving birth to Rea, and Dan went into a spiral of despair, nearly starving himself. Aria nursed him back to health and Dan married her, but only so Rea could have a mother. Meanwhile, Rea races to her former home to rescue Furuya.

With Furuya firmly in Dan’ichiro’s clutches, we truly didn’t know what would happen. His judgement upon Furuya was ultimately delayed this week, but not without good reason: this episode was all about Aria, Dan’ichiro’s bitter, drunk, tanned wife, and how she came to be there in the first place. Furuya mostly sits there and listens, which is fine with us; she told quite a stirring and sad story. We learn why she is the way she is, and gain a lot more sympathy and pity for her. What it boils down to is, all she ever wanted from him was Dan’ichiro’s love, but he only had love for Rea, the gift his beloved teenage wife gave him before passing away. For Rea’s whole childhood – fifteen years – Aria has been on the sidelines. Her scheme to possess Dan’ichiro’s heart backfired, and badly.

It’s a pretty heartrending moment when the butler shows Aria why she shouldn’t hold out hope Dan’ichiro will ever give her the time of day: he’s utterly obsessed with Rea, and not in a healthy, fatherly way. Aria’s disgust and despair turned to bitterness and hopelessnes. She gave up, and now mills around the mansion with a flask in her garterbelt, aimless and useless. And while Dan’ichiro can claim child porn among his crimes, we can’t help but feel a degree of pity for him too, considering who quite possibly was the love of his life, snatched away before hertime. We’re not sure if losing Rea to Furuya even caused him to snap – he had snapped long ago, and was always touched in the head. The point is, he and Aria aren’t evil villains, just deeply flawed human beings. But as Furuya says to a maid, that doesn’t give them the right to kidnap him.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Sankarea – 08

In exchange for letting Furuya document her every move, Rea insists he take her out like a normal girl, fulfilling the promise he made. They spend the day shopping, unaware they’re being tailed by three of Dan’ichiro’s henchmen. When Furuya leaves Sanka alone to grab some food, their first attempt to kidnap her fails when Yasutaka confronts her, and leads her out of the mall. When they try again, she knocks them all out with her zombie strength. Improvising, they kidnap Furuya instead, throwing him in a van bound for Dan’ichiro’s mansion.

We had trouble enjoying this episode because it made so many poor decisions, and Furuya made so many stupid ones, that it’s somewhat hard to overlook them all at this point, though at least he finally paid for his cavalier attitude by being kidnapped. Now Dan’ichiro can do whatever he wants to him, including making good on his previous threat to castrate him. But back to those decisions: after a Ranko-heavy episode that admittedly made her slightly more likable, she already shows up again this week in an extended scene that only exists so we can see what Andy W. Hole would refer to as her “big bangs”. This scene is totally extraneous, as she simply reiterates her desire to win Furuya and her frustration with his sudden intimacy with Rea. Yeah thanks, we already know that. This felt like padding.

Another bad move the episode made was using Yasutaka. We didn’t need the silly red herring of him sneaking up on her, and we certainly didn’t need him to appear in the episode for more than five seconds and have lines. He may be the worst character of the Spring season if not the year, including the series we’ve dropped, and frankly we would have liked to see the kidnappers beat him a little more severely. Perhaps most egregious is Furuya continuing to parade Rea around as if her father were no threat. Dan’ichiro is extremely rich, powerful, and insane…he is a HUGE threat. It’s admirable to give Rea a normal day of shopping, but more descretion was required. If one good thing came out of this episode, it’s that Furuya is finally aware of just how frikkin’ dangerous a situation he’s gotten himself into.

Rating: 4 (Fair)

Sankarea – 04

Furuya comes to grips with the situation he’s in: Rea is now a zombie, which means he’s now living his dream. Rea’s father vows to win her back an exact revenge upon Furuya. Gramps mistakes Rea for his resurrected mistress. Rigor mortis sets in for Rea. Estimating she’ll rot into bones in a month, Furuya considers how he’ll be able to protect and preserve her body.

Now that Rea has been zombified thanks to Furuya’s magic potion, her goal is to experience everything a normal girl should experience; that’s how she interpreted his promise to stay by her side. That equates to making her his girlfriend, which is everything he ever wanted. He’s a bit slow on the uptake, however, as it’s more than halfway through the episode until he realizes that there are worse things than having a gorgeous zombie girl living in his bedroom.

Of course, there are some issues he’s going to have to deal with. Protecting the secret of Rea from his family won’t be easy, as it’s not a huge house; the encounter with gramps was a close (and hilarious) call. Whether he’s aware or not, Rea’s father isn’t finished with him, and won’t give up on getting his beloved daughter back. And then there’s the practical difficulties; at some point, we gather Rea’s going to need some brains to eat, and Furuya needs to get Rea embalmed or something soon, or he’ll have a real mess on his hands.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)