Sankarea: Undying Love (Series Review)

Sankarea Series Covers

Chihiro was trying to reanimate his dead cat when he overheard a girl screaming into a well. Rea was desperate to escape from her life. Little did they know that both of their lives were about to change forever!

Sankarea: Undying Love (Series Review)

What did you read?

I watched the Sankarea: Undying Love anime back in 2019 as part of a collaborative series of posts with Yomu from the Umai Yomu Anime Blog. We watched it and felt that it was distinctly average and as such, I didn’t give it much more thought. That was until I spotted volume five of the manga at my library. That was when I remembered how the ending of the anime had been quite inconclusive. Maybe, the manga had the answers that I didn’t know I needed. Then, when I started reading, I discovered that the anime covered only the first two volumes. What more could there be to this story? I had to find out.

Sankarea Volume 1 Rea falls to her death

What happened?

Chihiro is obsessed with zombies. He’s always wanted a zombie girlfriend as unrealistic as that is. So, when he discovered the instructions for a zombie formula, he decided to give it a go. Maybe, he could revive his cat that died recently. While attempting to create the elixir, he met Rea, a girl from the nearby school who was having some issues at home. Desperate for a way out, she asked to help Chihiro. After several nights and several failed attempts, Chihiro was ready to give up. However, Rea had one last idea. If it didn’t work, they would bury his cat and call it a day.

When Chihiro wasn’t looking, Rea took a vial of the elixir for herself. That night, she drank it, hoping to end her life. She woke the next morning to a mix of disappointment and relief. That relief was short-lived when she learnt that her father planned on punishing Chihiro. She had to warn him. Danichiro followed Rea to the abandoned hotel where they would meet and tried to get her to come home. She argued, fighting back, and then fell from the cliff, ripping open her stomach. She died and then came back as a zombie!

Sankarea Volume 2 Zombie Rea kisses Chihiro

What did you think?

This might have started as the same story as the anime, but overall, it was completely different. I really enjoyed the manga and was surprised to see just where it went. Just the fact that the anime only really covered two out of eleven volumes should tell you that this story had only just begun. I loved how it took the very few hints of impending doom that the anime showed us and ran with them. This was a far darker and more sinister story than the slice-of-life romantic-comedy that the anime portrayed. It’s worth noting that Chihiro doesn’t get any better as a character, but Rea certainly does.

Sankarea Volume 5 Rea trying to eat Chihiro

What was your favourite moment?

The stuff on the ZoMA island in the Caribbean was fantastic and wonderfully creepy. Rea and Chihiro had gone to Grandpa’s old research facility in the hopes of finding out how to save Rea who was starting to show signs that she was entering a phase in her zombie life where she would eat everything dear to her, unable to distinguish between love and hunger. During the night, Chihiro had been moved from his bed and placed in a cage where he woke to find himself surrounded by zombies in their final stage where all they wanted to do was eat. Meanwhile, Rea was restrained in the facility and forced to watch. As the zombies got closer to Chihiro, she panicked. She told them to let him go. Finally, she screamed that he was hers to eat!

There were a lot of fantastic moments in this series involving Grandpa and Chihiro’s mother and I’ll get to those shortly, but this scene really stuck with me. It was one of those moments, where I had to reread the panel several times to make sure I got it all in.

Sankarea Volume 7 Rea wants to eat Chihiro

What was your least favourite moment?

Chihiro learned all about his mother from the zombified remains of Grandpa’s third wife who he defrosted from a block of ice. They were on their way to visit Grandpa when they were in a car accident. Chihiro and Mero were unhurt, but their mother was terminal. She begged Grandpa to use the formula on her so that she could keep her promise to take the kids to the amusement park. After doing so she left forever. Later that year, Chihiro and Mero used their savings to visit Grandpa and found their mother in a cabin, literally rotting away. She was restrained otherwise she would have tried to eat them both. I theorised that something happened to Chihiro’s mother that made him have a zombie fetish, but I never imagined it would be as brutal as this. Such a heartbreaking moment.

Sankarea Volume 10 Young Chihiro and Mero find their mother

Who was your favourite character?

In the anime, it was undoubtedly Ranko, but after the first couple of volumes, she really dropped away and didn’t feature too heavily in the story other than to pop up here and there. Rea was far more interesting in the manga as she struggled to control the urge to eat Chihiro. However, the character that really turned the story on its head was Darin. We saw her at the end of the OVA for about twenty seconds, but she became incredibly pivotal in the manga. She grew up at the ZoMA facility with her father and was quite the accomplished zombie researcher. It’s impossible to overstate just how much she changed everything.

Sankarea Volume 3 Darin explains the situation to Zombie Rea

Who was your least favourite character?

Amazingly, it’s still Chihiro. He failed to really step up at any moment and any time he accidentally did in the anime, it was someone else in the manga. Sure, he’s a teenager, but he’s also hopeless. Even when he faced Rea in their final showdown, he needed Danichiro to return and slap him about until he realised what he had to do. Now, admittedly, that didn’t go so well for him, but Rea benefited enormously. Other than Chihiro, I feel like I need to mention Darin’s father who also had a zombie fetish. He was a worrying portrayal of what Chihiro might become.

Sankarea Volume 7 Rosarie tries to eat Chihiro

Would you like some more?

Everything was wrapped up nicely in this series so there is no need for any more. The only thing that bugs me was that Rea was allowed to settle down in the forest near their cabin and live in the ice cave. Sure, she might have been cured of her need to eat people when she ate Chihiro’s heart, but she was still a zombie and there’s no telling when or if she might lose control once more. That annoyance aside, it was a very good series and had a thoroughly satisfying ending with a little bit of a twist too. A very dark twist!

Sankarea Volume 11 Rea thanks Chihiro

What have you learnt?

I probably wouldn’t have ever thought to check out the manga based on the anime. It just didn’t occur to me. Now, admittedly, I did enjoy the anime a lot more the second time I watched it and I think that was due to my expectations. That may have also played into how much I enjoyed the manga. I had no idea what to expect and based on the anime, I wouldn’t have been out of place expecting a romantic comedy. So, if I go in expecting that and get a dark comedy which is much more in line with my sense of humour, I’m going to have a kinder view of it.

Sadly, there’s no real way to set readers’ expectations beyond the covers and blurbs and oftentimes, you’ll get a bad reaction if you fail to deliver what you said you would. So, I wouldn’t recommend trying to subvert expectations. More often than not you’ll fail as there’s no way to know what the audience is really after. It’s usually best to assume they want what you promised with the cover and the blurb. So, this lesson is more for me and maybe you. Take a chance. Sure, you will be disappointed from time to time, but if it means you find something glorious that you otherwise wouldn’t have then surely it was worth it.

Sankarea Volume 11 Rea cant find Chihiro

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What did you think?