Chihiro:Me? I'm not into living chicks! Ah, how I'd like to meet a cute zombie-girl... I want to go out with a girl whose arm is almost ripped out and guts are flowing out! But I guess there's no way that will happen, right?
Rea:Then... if I ever become a zombie... will you take responsibility?
In the vast ocean of manga, there are those about girlfriends, there are those about Magical Girlfriends... and then there's Sankarea. From Mitsuru Hattori, the author of Umisho, comes his latest romance comedy about... a zombie girlfriend.Chihiro Furuya is a high school student with a fascination for zombies; movies, books, games, plushies... To revive his cat, Babu, who died a few days ago in an accident, he's been trying to make a "resurrection" (read: zombification) potion in an abandoned building in the past few days. Incidentally, there's another person who's been visiting the area: Rea, a a girl from a wealthy family and an idol to everybody in the neighborhood, who lives under the shadow of an oppressive father. After finding out what Chihiro's been trying to make, she helps him with the potion while slipping out a mention that she'd also like to die and be reborn.After Rea's father finds out what she's been doing, he attempts to confine her to their mansion for the rest of her life, and sends his personal guard to deal with Chihiro. In the middle of the scuffle, she falls off a cliff and dies impaled by a tree... after drinking the zombification potion the night before, in an attempt to poison herself out of despair.An anime adaptation was greenlit, and aired as part of the Spring 2012 Anime season (licensed by Funimation). Quite impressive for a manga that was only 30 chapters in.
Tropes presented by Sankarea:
Ambiguous Disorder:. Its quite clear that Dan'ichiro has some serious problems with social skills. He shows OCD with things being perfect, marries a woman after just meeting her, marries another woman after his wife dies with the sole purpose of just being a mother to his daughter and giving her no affection. His Knight Templar Parent focus for Disproportionate Retribution. His borderline Parental Incest actions towards his daughter. And he does not seem to find any of this to be wrong.
Brick Joke: Otoki, Jogorou's second wife from the Meiji era, uses Japanese comedian Dandy Sakano's catch phrase of "Gets" when she is first thawed out by Chihiro... which may seem odd since he's from the end of the 20th century, until Otoki's story reaches the point where she's briefly thawed out in the story's recent past and inquires what is popular. Jogorou responds by using said catchphrase and mannerisms.
But Not Too Foreign: Implied, since Chihiro's grandfather is named Boyle, which is definitely not a Japanese name.
Cat Smile: Chihiro has a cat face very often, since his hair itself is shaped like a cat's head. Which also ties into the "Cat & Dog" theme with his cousin Wannote Japanese onomatopoeia for a dog's bark.ko.
Distressed Damsel: Subverted. Rea gets super-zombie strength from being undead, so the men sent to bring her back to her father fail miserably. Plan B, however, brings us to...
Distressed Dude: Chihiro is abducted when it becomes clear that taking Rea isn't going to be a simple matter. Played for laughs when one of the Rea maids brings him a drink, and he quickly snaps out of his courteous thank you to start screaming for help, as we're shown that he's still strapped to a chair.
Does Not Like Shoes: Darin passionately loves being barefoot to the point she gets a sexual thrill out of rubbing them on Chihiro's face.
In the anime, Rea seems to enjoy going barefoot. This is justified as due to no longer feeling pain she would not have much use for wearing shoes.
Don't Try This at Home: One scene shows the grandfather eating hydrangea leaves. A warning appears onscreen to tell the viewer that hydrangea leaves are poisonous to humans and should not be eaten.
Driven to Suicide: The zombification potion is made from poisonous plants. Rea steals some, and after her father bars her from ever leaving her house again, drinks it. Unfortunately, being made into the potion detoxifies it. Fortunately, the effect lingers enough to bring her back when she does die.
Also, Wanko, in an emotional fit, takes zombification drugs in an effort to get Chihiro to like her. Fortunately, the drugs were harmless (they were actually sleeping pills being kept in the zombie-drug bottle), and Wanko realizes that Chihiro would have loved Rea regardless of whether Rea was a zombie or not.
Dude Looks Like a Lady: Darin's father Kurumiya. To the point both Rea and Chihiro assumed that he was Darin's mother when they first met him.
Easily Forgiven: Rea's dad. Nobody even thinks about calling the cops on him, despite all the horrible stuff he did.
First Episode Spoiler: The very first page begins with a shot of Rea from the back (though her face isn't shown until a few pages later), with her guts hanging out. Hard to believe how cute she looks afterwards.
Fluffy Tamer: Mero's teacher Yamanouchi has her beloved pet alligator.
Foreshadowing: There are a lot of subtle hints (more so in the anime) that Chihiro's mother was a zombie.
Freudian Excuse: Rea's father is so so obsessed with her because she resembles her dead mother, who her father loved very much.
Fridge Horror: An in-universe example, from Chihiro (paraphased):
"Rea can't move? Oh, it's just rigor mortis... wait a minute... Oh Crap, she's decaying!"
If the flashbacks are any indication, Chihiro's grandfather might have had a hand in the death of Chihiro's mother.
Not to mention wondering about what Babu has been doing behind the scenes.
The Gadfly: Chihiro does seem to be in the habit of putting people on the spot for his own amusement.
Horror Hunger: Subverted. It initially looks like Rea wants human flesh. She actually eats hydrangea leaves. (Hydrangea is the poisonous plant used in the reanimation potion, and she needs the poison to stay undead.)
It's back.As the zombie progresses to the next stage of zombie-hood, their ability to differentiate between affection, lust, and hunger disappears, and Rea states that the thought of eating someone she loves is romantic...
It's back yet again.At the final page of Chapter 16 Rea tries to eat Chihiro and bites him on the neck.
Identical Stranger: In chapter 47, Jogorou constantly referring to Rea as Sada becomes a lot less random once Otoki's story reveals that Rea does have an uncanny resemblance to Jogorou's first wife.
I Love the Dead: Chihiro may be a subversion of this, as he is only attracted to females of the Living Dead. Darin's father plays this disturbingly straight.
Irony: At the end of #6, Chihiro gets permission to let Rea live openly in their house. The catch? Their dad is a priest, so their house is technically a shrine.
In Hattori's words, "enshrining a zombie".
This is just one of many jokes about life and death.
Rea: Whatever shall we do if a dead person really does appear?
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Ranko seems to be showing signs of this, as she ordered that Chihiro chase after Rea at a time she could have made her move. Darin even questions why she did it.
Jerkass: Aria (Rea's stepmother), who was more concerned about Rea' running away affecting her position as Chairman then caring about what actually happened to her.
Just A Flesh Wound: Rea will often treat her own limbs ripping apart from her body as this, though this is justified as she does not feel any pain.
Karma Houdini: Nobody even thinks of trying to get Rea's dad arrested for taking naked pictures of his own daughter or attempting to kill a high school student out of pure jealousy, mostly because he is a Villain with Good Publicity, so there's not much Rea or Chihiro can do about it.
Kissing Cousins: Wanko has an obvious crush on Chihiro. Being the male lead in a romantic comedy series, he's totally oblivious to it.
Chihiro's father, on the other hand, seems to support the idea of having them married.
Did we mention that he's a priest?
In #9, Wanko introduces herself to Rea as Chihiro's cousin and fiancée.
Knight Templar Parent/Abusive Parents : Both of Rea's parents. Her father in particular is really extreme, and it's not played for laughs. When he catches Rea returning home from sneaking out at night alone, and escorted by a boy, he gives her a lashing!
The anime even expands upon the Disproportionate Retribution side of his Knight Templar attitude towards his daughter: when she was walking to a maid and fell over he immediately fired the maid, when Rea was approached by a kitten she never saw it again, when Rea told a friend about how her father takes pictures of her he has her friend's father's company fire him and transferred far away and when he discovers who the boy that Rea befriended was he ordered to have the boy castrated.
Her father's obsession with Rea and her "purity" gets really creepy when it's revealed that he takes nude photos of her every year "to measure her growth" (he's got a whole room full of them framed on the walls). His actions stem from the fact that her real mother died giving birth to her.
At the end of #9, her dad complies to his daughter's wish following another speech from Chihiro. He hasn't completely softened up, but at least seems more willing to negotiate now.
The Mother isn't any better as since she is not Rea's birth mother and is ignored by her husband in favor of her she honestly couldn't care less about her - she only cares about how Rea impacts her job, and so is perfectly fine with imposing strict limitations on Sanka while not giving a damn about her well-being or her problems . She's actually jealous.
Major Injury Under Reaction: After being stabbed through the chest by Rea's dad, Chihiro takes the time to closely examine Rea in the maid outfit, perving out and circling her like a shark... With the sword sticking out of his chest the whole time.
Mistaken for Spies: A variant. Just when Rea's dad's thugs are about to grab Rea, Sutaka shows up and abruptly drags her away. The thugs briefly wonder if they were spotted, and "Just who is that guy?" Of course, he turns out to not have anything to do with anything, and just thinks Rea is cute.
Chihiro, Chihiro, Chihiro. His dream-girl whom he wants to share his first kiss with? — A zombie girl. He also mentioned his ideal girlfriend as early as Chapter 1:
Chihiro: [...] I'd like to meet a cute zombie girl... I want to go out with a girl whose arm is also ripped out and guts are flowing out...
Zombies gain a nightmare fetish as they decay as they begin to connect love and hunger together, leading to Rea thinking the idea of eating Chihiro to be romantic and judging by the look on her face, erotic.
Kuramiya is also just as equally obsessed with zombies for research, if not more than Chihiro. As of the most recent chapter it is clear that he is much worse as he makes out with the dead (as in not living-dead) body of a girl he accidentally shot and killed.
Not Distracted by the Sexy: Chihiro, clearly shown when Ranko tries to get his attention most of the time barely wearing anything.
Also Rea's father, to the point where he would not even bat an eye to the maids who were there to be his potential wives. This lead most of the maids to believe that he did not have any interest in women, but really it's more like he has a very bad case of Single-Target Sexuality.
Our Zombies Are Different: This one's cute. Aside from that, they keep their full original personalities and intelligence, and are exceptionally strong. Unfortunately, unless preserved, they rot. Unlike Return of the Living Dead, they don't seem to feel any pain from it.
Although as of the chapter 13 it's been revealed this is just Rea's "fresh stage" and in about a week she's going to be turned into a "normal" zombie.
She went into the Hunger State and couldn't separate her feelings from her hunger and tried to eat Chihiro, but she snapped out of it.
In chapter 27 it's discovered that Rea is a new kind of zombie, as she is the first recorded zombie to have consumed the resurrection drug while still alive.
Overprotective Dad: Rea's father wanted to have Chihiro castrated, and then murdered, just for associating with his daughter.
Parental Incest: Played with with Rea's father. He takes pictures of her naked on her birthday, collapses in the bathtub with countless images of his daughter around him, wanted to kill a boy for simply being near his daughter and neglects his wife (his current wife who he married after Rea's birth mother died) completely. You can pretty much list everything here besides any actual intercourse and expect him to have done it. Heavily motivated by the fact that she looks just like her dead mother who was the only person he was ever attracted to. Presumably if she was still alive he would be less obsessive about Rea.
Parental Neglect: Darin's father Kuramiya, who is so obsessed with zombies he completely overlooks his own daughter, even treating a zombie girl more like his child. It was because of this Darin decided to study zombies to try to finally get her father to notice her.
Pervert Dad: By this point you should have figured it out. Just read the above trope if you still doubt.
Really Gets Around: It is suggested by the maids that Aria often sleeps with men other than her husband. This is pretty much confirmed when she tried to get Chihiro to sleep with her. However like her Alcoholic status, this is mainly due to cope with the fact that her own husband has not and never plans to sleep with her himself.
Revive Kills Zombie: Or the inverse of it, rather. Rea can only keep "living" if she regularly eats a (specific) poisonous plant.
Rule of Symbolism: Rea inherited her Purple Eyes from her father. After her zombification, her eyes turned red, symbolizing her freedom by severing that relation.
Skewed Priorities: Rea tends to take odd things away from important discussions. For instance, when Darin tells her about the next step in the zombie process, Rea is more hung up on the fact that Darin let slip that she was only 14 at the same time. Also, while at ZOMA, she's less fascinated in the fact that she's a completely unheard of type of zombie and more in the fact that they're on vacation in the Caribbean.
Justified as her Japanese is not quite 'normal', as it often sounds like something right out of period-dramas.
Younger than They Look: Kuramiya is 14. Yeah, that's right. Younger than Chihiro and Rea, but the dress and high heels she wore in her first appearance made her look mid twenties at least. This is constantly Lampshaded by both Chihiro and Rea.
Zombify The Living: The manga focuses on this trope, as Rea helps Chihiro finish his zombie potion and then drinks it herself. Soon after, once she gets cornered by her father, she slides off a cliff and then truly dies for the first time.