Sankarea: Undying Love volume 2 is everything a follow-up to a successful first installment should be. It builds upon the foundation laid in the initial book, introduces new scenarios and gives us more of the aspects that made volume one such a hit. But with the continued refinement in storytelling and character development comes a few setbacks that slightly sully the overall experience. These qualms aren’t completely breaking, but nonetheless apparent, and disappointing considering all that this second chapter does well.
Volume 2 picks up right where the first left off. Rea has recently died and come back to life via the elixir she drank earlier and is now a full-blown zombie. But while the first installment only touches on her zombification, this second entry really tackles the subject with a critical eye, introducing readers to a host of scenarios one doesn’t think about when considering what a zombie would actually have to confront in their undead state of existence. Because of this, we see Rea and protagonist Chihiro struggling to figure out how to deal with rigor mortis, the decay of one’s body post-death and the ever-so important question of: do the walking dead ever need to urinate or defecate? Through these unique encounters, we see that volume 2 prides itself on emphasizing comedy, and at times dark-comedy, more so than its original counterpart. As a result, readers are provided an experience that is out and out zany fun, with tender-hearted moments and more serious situations sprinkled throughout to round out the narrative.
As mentioned, the second installment integrates various new plot hooks to keep folks’ attentions. As such, one of the primary angles we begin to see mature is that of a triangle love story between Chihiro, Rea and another one of the female cast members. It’s not explored with great depth, but from what we get, it looks like future entries will focus on all of the usual tropes present in such a scenario. The initial groundwork laid in this respect is wonderful, though, giving readers a trio of main characters who are able to showcase different sides of their personalities because of the positions in which they find themselves.
This isn’t the whole of volume 2’s take-away, however, because that is most certainly reserved for the relationship between Rea and Chihiro to develop. As Rea descends further into the zombie-world, we witness Furuya lose himself in his fetish-based thoughts, often seeing him pop with excitement each time that Rea exhibits some type of quirk that aligns with his adolescent dreams of befriending a zombie gal. Rea plays the part perfectly and is downright adorable in her attempts at recognizing and playing to these fantasies of Chihiro’s. The majority of this follow-up truly resides in the dynamic between the two and by the time that the last scene wraps, readers will have a certain fondness and adulation for the pairing. If nothing else, this volume shows just how strong a writer Mitsuru Hattori is, because the dialog, especially the more humorous circumstances, are expertly crafted. Perhaps that’s what most endearing about Sankarea in general thus far; its writer seems to uncannily understand when to tighten down on dramatic, serious moments, and when to open-up and let loose those times where comedy can help sell a character and allow us to fall even more in love with them.
As a result of the narrowing in on Rea and Chihiro, this by proxy means other characters take a backseat. In fact, outside of the aforementioned third player in the love trifecta, the story only incorporates a few other personalities intermittently. The curtain gets pulled back on Rea’s parents a bit more, which is nice to see, and readers will see a lot more (and we mean that in a literal sense) of Chihiro’s grandfather, but the spotlight is most definitely fixated on the aforesaid duo. Interestingly enough, though, the read is better off because of it.
Volume 2 retains the aesthetic quality presented in the opening book by way of clean line work, effectively utilized perspectives and wonderful expressions to elicit particular emotional responses from the characters. Sure, Hattori’s efforts here aren’t wholly distinguished, but they don’t need to be — this is the type of story that benefits from clear work and easily understood panels, which by the way it delivers in spades. It can be very easy, even for the most veteran manga readers, to get lost in panels due to overcrowding issues or problems associated with the illustrator trying to convey one too many points in a single drawing. Neither of those troubles ever arise at any point in the book. The continued use of SD style for Chihiro in moments of panic or utter bliss is appreciated, as well, as it only helps serve the comedy that much more.
It saddens me to say that, despite all of the aforementioned qualities, Sankarea’s localization work is not the strongest. It’s not horrible by any stretch of the word, but coming off the heels of the first installment, which was pitch-perfect, this follow-up had big shoes to fill. Regrettably, it’s fallen short and mostly due to at least one noticeable spelling issue and some poorly thought-out and subsequently executed lines. Meaning to say, at moments volume 2 reads flawlessly, while at others it’s clunky. Some of the dialog comes off as unnatural and readers will undoubtedly stumble through some interactions and need to re-read others. The first volume has a wonderful flow to it, and that was partly due to the excellent translation work. It’s a shame, then, that the same can’t be said here.
Nevertheless, the book makes up for this by including a slew of notes, re-caps and character bios to refresh readers’ memories. In the front of the book, we get biographies of all the story’s characters, in addition to their status as of the end of volume 1. Throughout, there are various other sections like this that focus on informing, or reacquainting readers with motivations and key events. As someone who reads multiple manga at a time, this was an excellent refresher. We’re sure that there are others out there like us, reading a myriad of books simultaneously, so they, too, will delight at this addition.
In the end, Sankarea: Undying Love volume 2 is a big success, and is overall on-par with the first book. It delivers on the front of character and story development as well as visual appeal. Its story is actually stronger and more enjoyable than the one presented in the opening issue, which is mostly due to a more polished approach to fleshing out characters through unique and fun interactions. The cast isn’t as large here, but because of that readers are given a tighter focus and more intimate narrative. It possesses some technical hiccups, no doubt, particularly so in the department of localization; but for each of those qualms there’s a host of overshadowing positive qualities. If you read the first volume, don’t even consider not picking this up. If you missed out on the opening installment, however, then this is all the more reason to buy it and catch up, because this is one marvelous love story about a boy and his zombie sweetheart.
Distributor: Kodansha Comics