Sankarea: Undying Love, Vol. 1

By Mitsuru Hattori. Released in Japan as “Sankarea” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Bessatsu Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

I have been running into the same sort of problem lately with many new manga, even though most of them are completely different on the face of it. They all seem to boil down to the same thing when I review them, which is “quite readable and even better than I expected, the big downside being crushing unoriginality”. This probably does the title a disservice, as originality, particularly in recent Japanese manga, is what DOESN’T sell. In general, what readers want is “something familiar with a slightly new spin on it”. And Sankarea provides that in a perfectly readable way.


I should note that the cover you’re seeing is one created by the artist especially for the North American market. The original Japanese cover just has Rea staring at the reader in that sort of cute seductive ‘girl posing’ way, with absolutely nothing to suggest what the content within is like. Except, of course, the title, which is a play on words based off of a very popular zombie movie (seen over here as Zombi 2, and one of the most terrifying movies of the late 70s, if I recall.) Kodansha decided that they’d need more than ‘generic cute girl staring at reader’ to sell this, so asked for the more… gruesome shot. I approve. It’s a better cover.

As for the content, it’s mostly a fairly standard romantic comedy. Nice if somewhat weird hero, who has a cousin who’s busty and secretly likes him, as well as a younger sister who’s an emotionless stoic. At his all-boys school, we see him with his two friends, one of whom is girl-crazy and overdramatic, the other pleasant and unmemorable. They are most impressed by the perfect Japanese princess girl who’s going to the all-girls’ school across the river, who is gorgeous and popular. Except that it turns out she has a secret, which our hero quickly finds out.

So far so boring, but it’s the nature of the secret, and the nature of our hero’s weirdness, that perks things up. Rea’s father is not so much possessive as disturbing. We don’t see a lot of him in this volume, but given she’s talking about him taking nude pictures of her and his increasing paranoia at Rea being touched by other men, I think Daddy’s shaping up to be our main villain here, with a side of incestuous creeper. (To the book’s credit, this ISN’T played for laughs at all – after all, he’s not an older brother.) As for Chihiro, he’s trying to resurrect his dead cat using a magic potion that turns things into zombies. Which is presented as mildly eccentric – he’s a normal guy at heart, he just wants to bring back his cat. From there, things start to go desperately wrong.

Rea is probably the best part of the title – she’s written very well. Her sheltered upbringing is warring with her desperate Attempts to get away from her father’s smothering. Her immediate attraction to Chihiro could be read as romantic, but could also be read as a little bit unnerving – fitting for a title like this. Her zombification (yeah, sorry if I spoiled that for you, as if the cover didn’t) reads almost like a rite of passage – she demands Chihiro “accept responsibility” in a seductive voice, equating death/resurrection with loss of virginity.

The question is which direction this goes in. If it continues to do fanservice and comedy (and there is quite a bit of fanservice – particularly from Chihiro’s cousin Ranko), I’m not sure it would keep my attention. But there’s a lot of potential for both depth and darkness here. If it manages to mine those two veins, Sankarea could be a real winner.

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  1. Dave Baranyi says

    The fan service eventually becomes secondary to a very dark and bleak story, but you’ve got a ways to go before you get there.

  2. I liked the Anime and the concept made me go sure why not! So I pre ordered the first two volumes over on Amazon

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