Grief, regret, gratitude – none of these emotions are ever one-way between the living and the dead. Hibiki Amami knows this, and it isn’t just because her sixth sense lets her see those connections better than most. It’s her natural generosity and kind heart, which was likely the gateway to her gift, that opens her senses to the pain and joy that span the spiritual planes. This willingness to nurture and find the truth behind these invisible bonds permeates through Re-Kan!, each day a snapshot revealing the ghost in a photograph.
In vignette flow, the spirits that linger all around Amami’s home town have a unique visual humour; a chilled, ecchi-lined kookiness that conjures Azumanga Daioh. With thoughtful gifts and sometimes ridiculously mundane messages, they show us a caring contrary to the fear of death underpinning the belief in ghosts. Their memories linger to protect us, not to make us feel guilty, unwelcome or uneasy. They love us, and want us to acknowledge them so we can all feel a little less lonely.
Tokyo ESP’s Ibuki Kido brings Amami a subtle, mournful awareness with her performance, grounding her empathy with anyone suffering bereavement. So we come to realise that this is a girl who’s grown familiar with loneliness. Her mother didn’t even get to hold her in her arms before she passed away, and Amami seems to carry this first descriptor of her separation from humanity through life. Besides her ghosts, most were too scared to get to know her before scaredy-cat Narumi Inoue, supernatural fanatic Kana Uehara, ex-delinquent Kyoko Esumi and zombie-fancier Makoto Ogawa. The fact that these slightly more socially adjusted weirdos accept her completely endears you to them, but each is given the chance to express how they came to brave being misfits. They prove their courage by becoming Amami’s assistant chaperones of the macabre; even Inoue, afflicted with bittersweet feelings of duty to Amami after being told her beloved grandmother’s ghost is always close by.
Amami’s everyday efforts to bring some relief to the living and their lost, sometimes helping spirits pass on without even trying, show you how important it is to appreciate the gifts of life. Impossible as it is to avoid selfishness and cruelty, it’s important to try and make it right, and show gratitude to the people who see us at our worst. Between the ghosts and those they’ve left behind, there are devastating moments for anybody who’s lost a loved one. While reassuring that they’re watching over us, it manages not to be mushy with the message, a difficult balance masterfully handled.
The trick seems to be in its earthy, practical attitude towards its ghosts, calling up the folklore of helpful spirits that’s bound generations in fascination and hope. Re-Kan! uses the unifying power of a common belief and comfort in shared loss to craft stories between characters that wouldn’t otherwise communicate. Between the older and younger generations, this approach breaks through to conversations based on life wisdom, experiences that leave their mark as deeply on a high school student as an elderly widower. It’s an unconditional sympathy that admits how sorely it’s missed in real life, leaving you with a resolve to rebuild those lost connections, or at least make the most of the ones you have.
Clean opening/closing animation; also available from Sentai Filmworks.