Re-Kan Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD / Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 328 minutes approx.
“I see dead people”
We all remember that famous line as spoken by a young Haley Joel Osment in M. Night Shamamalayanan’s film The Sixth Sense and it understandably freaked the poor lad out. But if this were to happen in Japan, possessing this sixth sense – or Re-kan – just means business as usual.
Transfer student Hibiki Amami inherited her ability to communicate with the deceased and animals from her late mother, Yuhi, who died giving birth, while her father Asahi is petrified of the supernatural, illustrated by his prematurely white hair. But while Hibiki has grown up with this capability, it is not always easy for others to reconcile, as she finds out on her first day at her new school.
En route to Hanazuka Prefectural High School, Hibiki encounters class rep Narumi Inoue who, like Asahi, is scared of ghosts. Witnessing Hibiki talking to empty spaces and conversing with a cat is enough to wonder what kind of fruit loop the new girl is but Narumi eventually warms to Hibiki’s gentle amiable nature, as do others in the class, even if she is still spooked on a daily basis.
Re-Kan is a gentle comedy with a healthy dose of light slice-of-life drama that has its origins in a four-panel manga by Hinako Seta, so anyone expecting another Ghost Hunt will be disappointed. There are no scares here, instead the ghosts are as much a source of the humour as they are the fulcrum for a morality tale of unhappy spirits needing closure before being able to pass over to the other side.
Narumi is not alone in initially being alarmed by Hibiki’s paranormal ability but some of her new classmates think it’s cool and get to know the cadre of ghosts that protector her – Roll-Call Samurai, so called as he answers on Hibiki’s behalf (with an antiquated “in attendance”) when she is dozing off; Ero-neko the perverted cat and Bounded Spirit of the Park, a ghost attached to the entry sign of the local park and an enemy of Ero-neko.
Just as whacky as the ghosts are Hibiki’s new friends – tough girls Kyoko Esumi and Kana Uehara, zombie-infatuated Makoto Ogawa and Kenta Yamada, the lone boy and designated punching bag for his ill-advised lurid comments – who soon form a support group around Hibiki for times in trouble as well as benefitting from her ability in their private lives.
For example, Narumi’s grandmother watches over her granddaughter (although she is not shown in human form but like a Super Mario ghost) which Narumi is unaware of. When her younger cousin Yuki comes to stay and kicks off about the food given to him, Hibiki realises that he misses his granny’s egg dish so Hibiki gets the recipe from granny ghost to appease the youngster.
This typifies the formula of the show, with Hibiki selflessly using her power to bring a resolve to a number of personal situations, although these are not limited to her friends, as some situations are exposed via external means. During the course of the thirteen episodes here, Hibiki and friends help a young girl haunting the school toilets, allow an elderly man to taste his wife’s Valentine chocolates one last time, and reunites a Kogal girl with her mother, but only after the girl possesses Hibiki’s body first!
As broad as the humour is with Narumi freaking out at every moment, Kenta being punched into oblivion and Ero-Neko being thwarted in his attempts to spy some panties, the scenarios are tied to the conventions of the high school life as depicted in anime, so be prepared to spend another portion of your time at the school cultural fair, the beach, the amusement park, making Valentine’s chocolates and celebrating New Years.
This may seem lazy but these functional set-ups allow for exploration of the characters and widen the scope of issues Hibiki hopes to resolve, while scriptwriter Takahashi Aoshima recognises that the burden of such a power will take its toll on Hibiki. Her health becomes a focal plot point in the later episodes along with Hibiki’s own need for closure with her late mother, which she is too unselfish to raise herself.
It is likely that this dichotomy of the episode structure – zany comedy in the first half, sentimental drama in the second – will have a varied appeal to those who prefer their anime to go either one way or the other, but if we look at it philosophically, life is exactly like that with moods changing on a whim or through circumstance, and this show does a good job of reflecting that.
Similarly the themes it explores of unconditional friendship, acceptance of people for who they are and the paying forward of good deeds, are not laid so thick that everyone has an epiphany at the end of it thus feeling forced; it all unravels naturally and retains the good natured spirit (pardon the pun) of the show.
There is still room for some farfetched frippery however, such as how those without Hibiki’s ability can work in see the ghosts via their mobile phone cameras; Kana runs a blog about the ghosts, complete with pictures, that reaches a healthy audience yet nobody shows up at the school to investigate?
Production is handled by Studio Pierrot who gave us Naruto and Bleach but this is a far cry from both of those shows, presenting animation charitably described as “economic”. The biggest beef is the character designs of Kana and Kyoko, whose hair hangs over half their faces yet, for some reason, they’ve still drawn the hidden eyes! It is both distracting and creepy to say the least.
Horror or supernatural fans won’t feel satiated by the temperate and playful style of Re-Kan, nor is the drama substantial enough to hook viewers seeking deep investment, but this well-meaning show warms the viewer like a blanket on a cold day.
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black