It is October, the month commonly associated with spooky stuff, which means it is the perfect month for me to talk about all those overlooked horror anime!
…except that I do not like horror.
Personal preference and all, but having the living daylights scared out of me or watching gruesome and disturbing images is not very high up on my list of things that entertain me. I have nothing but respect for horror as a genre but it just is not for me. Thankfully, not every anime about things that go bump in the night are out to unnerve you. Some shows of this nature are more sentimental in nature, with some being downright warm and fluffy, while others use monsters of various sorts to instead explore things on a more dramatic/intellectual level. I will get to the latter next time, but for now I will look at one of the former shows, the 2015 anime Re-kan!
While hardly the first or the best show about the daily life of someone who can see spirits, Re-kan nevertheless made for very pleasant viewing for me. The setup is as simple as it gets: the main character, Hibiki Amami, can see spirits, most of whom are more interested in having her company than in trying to exact vengeance against humanity. This leads to wacky things happening around her that make most of the classmates a bit too scared to approach her, though thankfully she has a group of friends that do not mind the supernatural hijinks around her… for the most part. Her closest friend, Narumi, is actually really scared of the supernatural stuff, but puts up with it since she cares about Hibiki a lot, even if she is a bit too tsundere to admit it. The rest of the show features both various hijinks that Hibiki, her friends, and the various ghosts get into, as well as a couple of stories where they help out certain spirits with their particular afterlife issues. While the former is good for a couple of laughs, the latter is where this show truly shines.
If you have not watched much anime involving spirits before, you should note that a common Japanese belief is that spirits are the souls of deceased people who have lingering regrets or attachments in the world. Should those regrets/attachments be resolved, they will then pass on to “heaven,” not to be confused with the Christian Heaven. Overall, Christian viewers should be aware of how this show is primarily based on Japanese spiritual beliefs (mainly those of the national religion, Shinto), and to keep that separate from their own beliefs. However, even with that in mind, there are some surprisingly good stories in this show.
One of my favorite episodes of the show, and the point where this show went from being “pretty okay” to “actually rather good” for me, is episode 6 (expect slight spoilers from here on out). This episode features a kogal (basically, a teenage girl trying to be super cool and trendy) ghost who possesses Hibiki to try to deal with her final earthly attachments. She wants to speak with her (still living) mother on Christmas, and when the day comes, she complains that her mother is still too grieved over her death (since she still makes an extra portion of food) and needs to get over her.
The truth is that the kogal feels guilty that her parents still care that much about her, as she feels like she has not done much for her. While we do not know the details, she did at points act like she liked the freedom of living without her parents, suggesting that she might have rebelled against them quite a bit during her living years. Of course, her mother has no hard feelings against her and is just glad to be able to talk to her daughter one last time.
Medieval Otaku already wrote a good post looking at this episode last Christmas, so I will mainly be adding to what he has already said. For me, the episode reminded me most of The Parable of the Prodigal Son. After taking an advance on his father’s fortune and going off to live life however he wants, he squanders all his money and ends up taking care of pigs. He only goes back to his father in the hopes of working for him as a servant, figuring any hope of being accepted back into his family was long gone. When he returns, though, his father runs out to greet him, and even throws a party for his return, since to him it was as his son was once dead, but is now alive. The parable shows how God does not make any judgement of whether we are worthy of being in his family, as long as we turn away from our old lives and return to Him.
Alas, for the kogal ghost, she really is dead, but her last moment with her mother at least grants them a moment of her being alive again. Her earthly attachments resolved, she is finally able to… stick around as a recurring comedic character because she got too attached to Hibiki and her friends instead. Oh, and she encourages one of said friends to go spend time with her (living) parents, because this episode also features a nice parallel storyline just to make things even more emotionally resonant.
Overall, this kind of story and other stories throughout the show are why I love this show. It does a great job of showing the bonds people have that remain even after death, and helps give an appreciation for life in the process. The show is available for streaming on Crunchyroll if you want to look at it. Again, be aware that the spiritual element of the show is based more in Japanese Shinto religion than Christianity; otherwise, the main potentially problematic elements are the usual yuri-teasing that comes standard with slice-of-life shows about a group of girls, and one perverted cat that’s a bit too obsessed with panty shots (though the show does not have too many actual such shots). If you are okay with all that and want some ghost stories that are more fluffy than scary, this is definitely a show worth checking out.