Ghosts, friends, smiles, warmth, & girls holding hands. This picture says it all.
A slice-of-life with ghosts. What could have easily been a gag anime with a tinge of yuri became one of the more contemplative, meaningful, and life-affirming series of spring—even though a large part of the cast was already dead.
From 4-Koma to Anime
I was the one who previewed this series, and I had it pegged … well, not exactly wrong, though not totally right either. And without going back and reading more of the manga, I can’t tell you whether that was a mistake or not. I do know what I got right: The comedy was good. The atmosphere was warm. The ghosts were benign. But what I didn’t know about was the kind of meaning and heart that can be packed into a series of stories about the lives of those who have already passed, without any jump scares to ruin their messages. Which is impressive, since it’s adapted from a 4-koma.
In that way, Re-Kan reminds of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. Not because of anything to do with their subject material, nor did my expectations (and enjoyment) ever soar as high for Re-Kan. It’s a much more laid-back, subtle, and contemplative anime. But both sprang from 4-koma mangas, which is surprising with how much story each of them have. So much story, and so much character.
Poignant, Thoughtful Ghost Stories
Often, ghosts are used as objects of fright. They’re creatures to be feared, things of nightmares, or at best, generic challenge obstacles in a crappy video game or a Ghostusters flick (and in some cases, both). They get a bum rap, is what I’m saying. But Re-Kan doesn’t do that. It’s more contemplative, with its ghosts conveying the respect one should have for people already past. And I just now figured out what series it reminds me of. It’s a spiritual sister to none other than Mushishi, which—keep your pants on—is a statement I know I’ll need to immediately defend.
To be clear, I don’t think Re-Kan is as good as Mushishi. That would be no small feat. But one of the itches they both scratch is similar. Re-Kan treats the spiritual not as abnormal, but as mundane—it’s the extension of life, in a way, where the dead’s unfinished business links them together with the living. This was typified most by the penultimate episode, where Amami was shown all the ways she helped people through her power. And of course, there’s some similarity between Amami and Ginko—it is through their special abilities that they’re able to bring the mundane and the spiritual together. Yet in the way they went about it, Amami was perhaps closer to Makoto of Gingitsune, in the way they facilitated understanding between the spiritual and the mundane, as opposed to the troubleshooting that Ginko specialized in.
The Meaning of Life/Death
If it seems like I’m having trouble defining what I liked about this series, it’s because it’s not an overt thing. Each episode largely had an aesop-of-the-week formula, where Amami met a new ghost and helped them, or helped someone who was still alive. Often, she did both in the same episode. It was simple, but it was the themes they explored were so heartfelt as to spread a warmth through me with each episode. They’re understated, but I found myself wanting to savor their simple beauty. No episode was a worldbeater, especially; I got that right in the preview as well. But each resonated, hitting notes of respect and care, both for the living and the dead.
There’s more. The jokes were good, to be sure, and I enjoyed Amami’s friends. Esumi was hilarious, especially when she was angry at someone about being called Flame-Haired Messiah-chan, especially if that person was Yamada’s hapless aniki. Uehara egged on the antics and loved to tease Inoue, which was always fun. Ogawa’s zombie fetish added perhaps the least to the story, but her general personality was cheerful and bright. Yamada himself was noteworthy for being a male character of actual substance and worth, and in the other main character’s friend group—for a series with yuri tinges, that’s notable in itself, though I enjoyed his baka antics in their own right. And as for the yuri tinge, Inoue’s tsundere attitude and fear of the ghosts was constant fodder for squeeing or laughs. Her relationship with Amami was adorable, even while it remained subtext instead of simply text—save for when Ero-neko hung a lampshade (trope!) on the yuri angle, in the first and last episodes. Loved it!
To Watch, Or Not To Watch?
I won’t pretend Re-Kan is a must see, nor that it will change your world. But there’s endearing thoughtfulness in this series, and heartfelt character as well. When the ghosts are as memorable as the girls, the stories they tell so soft, warm, and caring, and when the production team knows when to do less—harnessing the power of silence, or standing still, or letting a moment carry so as not to spoil the mood—I believe it is deserving of your time.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: The secret to enjoying a long life, Story Review: Mad Max Fury Road, How to not get butthurt when others insult stories you love, and Guilty pleasures are bullshit.
Guess I’ll have to go back and give it a second try, thanks for the post!
This became my favorite Spring anime ! To people whp dropped the show or heard bad things about the intial episodes are misled! Yes maybe the first 2 / 3 episodes were not over the top but after that it was a lot of excellent episodes ! Even Pervy cat took a backseat and ended up good actaually! In the end her friend the ghosts all wortked together!
BTW Hibiki ends up being one of the nicest persons in any anime I watched!
EP 8 “Let’s All Play Together” where two Hibiki’s teachers are getting married except the male teacher made a promise to a sick girl who died but now has come back to have that wish fulfilled and then knows it’s time to move on! That was so good!
EP 6 “A Super Awesome Holy Night” The introduction of Kogal during Christmas time and takes over Hibiki’s body but really was sad to say goodbye to her mother! Then she stayed around because she liked it here!
Of Course EPS 11 and 12 dealing with Hibik’s mom and then losing her ghost sense!
I came in expecting silliness and ghost antics. I left with a warm heart and more than a few tears shed in several episodes.
I was very surprised, and glad I watched it.
Hmm, with how busy I am these days this one must have slipped right under my radar. Didn’t even know it existed before today. Seems right up my alley, though. Thanks for the heads up, Stilts!
Really enjoyed this series. Some of the stories where pretty good especially 6, 8, 11 and 12 getting me teary eyed. Also Yamada and his antics and situation are pretty funny. Especially his wish in ep 11 and the classic beach episode.
Re-Kan! is one of my favorites anime of this season, the few I watched promptly on release (the other one being Danna Ga…).
Even if the art style is not of my taste, the well balanced comedy and heart warming moments made my week feels good.
Stilts cited Mushishi and Gingitsune, and I think this also remember me of Natsume Yuujinchou. I think that Re-Kan! is similar to Natsume in the way its make you feels good.
Shameful confession time: while I found myself rather enjoying this show, I dropped it because the transparent hair bother me to no end. My poor brain just could not deal with it for some strange reason.
I definitely feel this is one of the more underrated series of the season. Maybe not a masterpiece, but cute, fun, and entertaining nonetheless. Aside from Amami and Inoue themselves, the characters didn’t really fall into the cliches I was expecting either; like Esumi and Uehara not being snobby popular girls who would be victims of ghost antics, and Yamada not being a pervert trying to get into the girls’ panties every chance he got (that went to the cat, lol).
That’s a good point. And even if Amami and Inoue don’t exactly break their particular molds, they’e well-explored enough as characters to not feel cliched, per say. Some people really do more or less fall in line with cliches—the sheer number of people in this world demands it. But when only two of six in a friend group do that, you know it’s a deliberate decision, not laziness.
Plus, Esumi, Uehara, and Yamada may have been my favorites. Especially Esumi and Yamada!
And the whole time watching, it made me wish I knew such girls in high school…
I went into Re-Kan with the expectations of slice of life comedy like K-On with the additional flavor of ghosts.
I must say that Re-Kan completely exceeded my expectations. The light hearted comedy was spot on, but it was the little stories of love that remains strong even after death that really got me.
Ever seen a full grown man trying very hard to stop that single tear from dropping from his eye? Look no further for I am here!
Re-Kan is no masterpiece nor is it something that will revolutionize anime, but to those who watched it will definitely consider it as something special
There were masterful moments, though. I still remember that scene with the old man, and the oppressive silence that permeated the scene. I held my breath, it was so tense. Little things like that are so understated, so missed—but so beautiful, for the emotions they can bring forth.
I think i give it a Try, thank you
I feel like I’m one of the few people who had to almost push myself to get through it all…It was never bad, but it never hit me as something beyond even average. I liked the ghost characters, but some of the living friends were pretty annoying especially Inoue. Her fear of ghosts was ridiculous. I just never found it funny. Once it got to the point that she was nervous about going to an amusement park just because there was a haunted house attraction…I can’t even…
I’m glad everyone else seems to like it at least.
I guess it’s safe to ask since it’s over but I wasn’t exactly clear on the reason Hibiki’s mother can’t leave that space where she’s in. Is it really something as simple as she didn’t want the flowers in that room to wither because they hold sentimental value, or his Yuuhi-san protecting something even bigger in that big space? That was, by the way, my favorite scene in the whole anime when Hibiki finally got to see her mother. As for what I loved about the show, seeing Hibiki smile never gets old.
My understanding is that her mother’s power is what kept the flowers alive, those flowers being what gives Hibiki her supernatural powers (or they symbolize it, or whatever). After all, after the flowers wilted—the other ghosts’ supernatural powers apparently not being powerful enough to sustain them—Hibiki lost her supernatural sense for a time.
The show’s subtext gave me the same vibes. However, it puzzles me then as to why her mother’s soul decided to keep the flowers and her supernatural powers alive at all in the first place from the time of her birth. It’s stated from the very beginning that Hibiki’s social issues were due to her supernatural senses. So if her mom had just let the flowers wilt right when Hibiki was born she would have immediately lost her powers and lived a normal life. Her “need” for her supernatural powers in the present is an avoidable problem- if her mom had just let the flowers wilt at birth then she would have never formed the bonds with ghosts that created this “need” to begin with, and she would’ve had no trouble making friends like any other girl…
Just because it’s troublesome doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Personally, I hope my future children are weird. It’ll be harder on them in the beginning, but they’ll have richer lives in the end for not being commonplace. That’s a bad habit we humans have, repressing what makes us unique in order to fit in. Screw that, says I.
Hibiki’s supernatural sense has done a lot of good for her and for others, and given her much happiness. I think he mother wanted to protect that, even if it would be hard for a time.
Good point! Entirely plausible line of thinking for the mom…
That makes sense Stilts. All this time I was wondering why Hibiki couldn’t see her mother despite having sixth sense. I guess until we get official information, yeah I’ll just also assume Yuuhi-san is the source of Hibiki’s power. If we follow that train of thought though it’s just ironic isn’t it? That Hibiki’s sixth sense can’t let her see the most important person in her life because it’s that person that maintains her sixth sense.
Thanks Stilts. I read this review, then I decided to watch Re-kan and now I’m glad (and happy) I did it. For me it was worth. Thank you =)