Recently, Star mentioned to me that she’d heard about Sarazanmai a lot as of late. And I, of course, showed her the Reo & Mabu dance sequence. But after that, I felt the need to explain to her how Sarazanmai is an experience that a lot of people have strong feelings about—it was either really bad and disappointing, or it was really good and unique. Which, I think both POV’s are valid, but I definitely fall into the latter. After naming it best of its season I briefly got into why I believed it to be good, but never went in-depth. Today though, we’re gonna go straight in and pull out the shirikodama to talk about why I believe this series to be so good, despite its flaws. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Sarazanmai, at first glance is about boys turning into kappa. At second glance, it’s about a lot of butt humor. And at third glance, you have no idea what in the world you’re watching. It is, without a doubt, a very hard anime for everyone to get into. What doesn’t help Sarazanmai is its ability to literally cut through scenes with no transition aside from a black screen and presumable time skip. In the first episode, we cover things in quick sequences in a manner that seem choppy (stylistically so) and makes the viewer even wonder what the actual fuck—as Kazuki wonders if the events of the episode so far were a dream, so does the viewer. And while Sarazanmai gets better over time to cohesively tell the story…it can also lose people on the front of what story is it telling. That story, my friends, is about connections. When you look at Sarazanmai as a whole, the random bits and pieces that get thrown together in a visually stunning but strange anime, combine to become pieces that help get across the true meaning of Sarazanmai: connections.
At the beginning of the anime, Kazuki, Enta, and Toi are all carrying around boxes. These boxes represent their secrets. Inside Kazuki’s, we find his Sara costume, inside Enta’s is the micanga that represents his feelings for Kazuki, and inside Toi’s is the gun that is proof of his past crime. These secrets are things that keep them from truly connecting with other people. The first kappa zombie they fight takes away their boxes which forces them to work as one to protect their secrets. But thanks to having to perform the Sarazanmai, their secrets (one by one) leak out. This essentially forces each of them to connect, and they all become closer as they prove that the secrets that they each were so desperately hiding, don’t matter to the other two. On the opposite side of secrets, we have the kappa zombies they fight. The kappa zombies become zombies because of these secrets they keep but unlike the boys, their secrets permanently keep them isolated from truly connecting with others despite their desires of usually wanting to connect with a specific someone. Essentially, both the boys and the kappa zombies come from the same place, but whereas Keppi has the boys connecting, the Otters use the kappa zombies desires to further remove them. Their secrets pretty much eat them alive.
Meanwhile, each of the boy’s secrets actually has to do with keeping connections, though each at the cost of throwing out all other connections to stay connected with the person they want. For Kazuki, his crossdressing is a way to stay connected with his younger brother Haruka. For Enta, the micanga represents the connection he wants to reform with Kazuki. And for Toi, the gun reminds him that the only connection he should hold onto is that with his criminal older brother. Naturally, we have episodes that explore these connections and desires. But it is funny, how fragile these connections can be. Enta desires to be closer to Kazuki again, but he still feels jealous of Toi and that causes a rift between him and Kazuki. Kazuki likewise, realizes he’s been selfishly holding onto his desire to superficially connect with his brother and decides to form true connections, which is why he gets so mad when Enta tries to sabotage his with Toi. And Toi, poor Toi, tries to throw away his connections with Enta & Kazuki, believing it to be the only way to protect his connection with his older brother. This tangling of threads is what leads to the climax of the story.
When Enta ends up in a life or death situation, despite having previously been screaming at Enta, Kazuki wants to do anything to save him. It’s like he suddenly realized he didn’t mean it when he said he was done with Enta forever, because he couldn’t just throw away their connection, and he sure wasn’t going to let it end. Which, is why he goes to try and retrieve the disks of hope that had been previously stolen, that way he could use the wish on saving Enta. The thing is, at this point in time, both Toi and the cop Reo are also attempting to get the disks in order to bring back their own connections—Toi wanting it to bring back his brother who had just died, and Reo wanting to use it to bring back a Mabu who loved him (more on the cops in a minute). It is when Kazuki uses the disks to bring back Enta, therefore choosing Enta over Toi, that Toi decides to sever all connections and erase himself from existence. At this point, he decides that he has no place in the circle of connections, so he willingly goes ‘outside the circle’ at the Otters request. Naturally, Enta & Kazuki decide to stop him because they both want to hold onto their connection with him, and as Kazuki realized earlier in the series—you have to make a real effort to form true connections with those around you. Right when Toi has almost entirely erased himself, he gets interrupted by the other boys, and it’s when they are starting to forget their memories of their time together does he realize he doesn’t truly want to lose the connection he had with them. Performing one last Sarazanmai, they manage to undo what Toi has done and only by working together is their bond protected. During their final Sarazanmai, instead of seeing their secrets leaked, we see a possible future for them where their bonds are slowly torn apart. The overlay of each episode’s title, followed by a future event shows that despite already having gone through each of those things before, their bond didn’t get closer in the future—without the Sarazanmai to tell their secrets, they grew farther apart instead. But naturally, the show assures us that that is only one possible future, and not necessarily set in stone. The truth of the matter is that in order to truly connect and stay connected, you have to put in the effort—all parties have to. This is clearly seen by Toi’s selfishness to sever the connections. When he did, both Enta & Kazuki were forgetting their connection with him as he drew further and further away, and they couldn’t fix the bond without him. But at the end of the show when he puts in the effort to reform himself by going to juvie, he gets rewarded by Enta and Kazuki meeting up with him when he’s out, despite how long its been. This can also be seen with Enta and Kazuki. Enta had been trying so hard and for so long to fix his connection with Kazuki, but nothing was working because Kazuki wasn’t putting his effort into it, and they only began to reconnect when Kazuki started to actually try to understand Enta. Up until that point, it was entirely one-sided. Then for Enta, he too had to realize that the only reason he had a connection with Kazuki at all was because of Toi, and instead of trying to push him away from their friendship, he should be welcoming him in as there wouldn’t have been any without him. All three circumstances, they had to understand one another in order to connect and they could only do that together.
Then we have Reo & Mabu, the two Otter cops who were actually part of the kappa kingdom. While their story seems sidelined and incomplete, they actually are the best example of driving home the idea of understanding others in order to truly connect. Reo & Mabu suffer from a breaking relationship. On one side, we have Reo who believes that his partner is no longer the same and can’t connect with this ‘new’ Mabu who is cold and emotionless. Meanwhile, on Mabu’s side, all he wants is to remain connected with Reo, but of course thanks to some otter nonsense (sorry I had to make at least one pun) he cannot show any signs of affection towards Reo lest he explodes (I don’t mean figurately). The couple has no current understanding of the other, and both of them aren’t putting their effort into truly reconnecting. It feels like Mabu is trying to perfect his baking as almost a way of conveying his feelings without words, and for Reo those always turn out half-baked which causes him to pull away as well. In the climax of the anime, we see Mabu turn himself into a kappa zombie in a last attempt to reconnect with Reo. It’s sad because it’s only after Reo has ‘defeated’ him and seen Mabu’s secret that he finally understands Mabu. Their broken connection was finally fixed, even if it was at their end (spoiler alert, they end up living happily).
So connections are the heart of the show. But there’s also the theme of desire and love. Specifically on the otter side of things, as they often use people’s selfish desires to turn them into kappa zombies. This can make it seem like the show is trying to tell us desire is inherently a bad thing. However, that isn’t actually true. What the show is really showcasing is that desires can come from love, but its how we handle those desires that sets us apart. All of the characters had a moment in which they had a desire that stemmed from love, but not all of them became kappa zombies. Essentially, if a desire is too selfish, even though it stems from love, it isn’t true love. This is seen best by looking at the kappa zombies whose desires are selfish so that they can receive the love they want. Not to say they don’t love their partners, but they want MORE love. They are greedy in it but without asking for it. This is why Haruka doesn’t turn into a kappa zombie–he has a true love for his brother. The Mabu zombie is also a good example of love and desire. Mabu’s desire is to connect with Reo, fully knowing that if he does–he’ll die and therefore disappear from Reo’s life forever. His desire is selfish which is why he turns into a kappa zombie. But his desire stems only for love. He loves Reo so much and it’s hurting him to have to hurt Reo, so he opts for dying for his own selfish love rather than continue to live with Reo hating him as he did. It’s honestly…pretty tragic. But draws such a great line of how love and desire are deeply entwined.
Connection. Love. Desire. Sarazanmai truly is a concept. It’s wacky and zany but also so deep when you take a moment to think about it. There are so many places in it that look like bad storytelling because it leaves the audience to infer or come to their own conclusions, but that’s also why it’s brilliant. It’s not just a strange anime, it’s a work of art, even with all it’s obvious flaws. For me, Sarazanmai is something I’ll watch again and again and is my first true Ikahara classic.
Til next time