The winter season of this year had a lot of good shows. Series like Boogiepop, My roommate is a cat and Kaguya-sama are very memorable. They’re not amazing, but they have some sort of remembrance. Something that you can think back upon. So when the spring season came along, I was at least expecting something like that. Something to remember. But I was unfortunately too naive. Cause most shows were at most mediocre, which is not a good thing. None of the shows had any sort of remembrance. They all felt like another anime, another slice of life. Well, that is aside from two of the shows. Those being ‘Carole and Tuesday’ and ‘Sarazanmai’. But since ‘Carole and Tuesday’ is continuing through the next season as well, I’ll be talking about Sarazanmai.
Sarazanmai is directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara who made series like Revolutionary Girl Utena and Penguindrum, none of which I have seen. It follows Kazuki and his classmates Enta and Toi who accidentally breaks a kappa statue in the city of Asuka. Keppi, who claims to be the first heir of the kappa kingdom, turns them into kappas and tells them to kill kappa-zombies to turn human again. But in all honesty, that isn’t super relevant. Cause what Sarazanmai is really about, is the connections between people. And while I think that theme is something that anime and media in general uses too much, this show mixes it up by showing different sides of the subject. The main conflict is whether or not connections should be preserved. Should you pursue a connection even though it stands in the way of your desires. No beginning, no connections, no end. And that’s what I found interesting about the story of Sarazanmai. It doesn’t display connections in perfect light but shows how Enta gets jealous of the connection between Kazuki and Toi, or how the connection between Toi and his group of friends stands in the way of his desire to help his brother. Even to the point where he wants to delete the past, so his connections couldn’t ever be made. It’s really interesting and is perfectly summarized by the episode titles.
I Want To Connect but I Want To Lie,
I Want To Connect but I Want To Take,
I Want To Connect but It’s Not Meant To Be,
I Want To Connect but You’re So Far Away,
I Want To Connect but I Can’t Be Forgiven,
I Want To Connect so I’m not giving up,
I Want To Connect but I Want To Betray,
I Want To Connect but We’ll Never Meet Again,
I Want To Connect but I Can’t Express It,
I Want To Connect but I Can’t,
I Want To Connect so Sarazanmai.
It’s kind of beautiful. Seeing how true to reality the show depicts the connections between people. How there’s always something that makes you not want to connect. They don’t like me, we weren’t supposed to be connected, I want to be in a comfortable space where my connections are safe, cause there aren’t any. Happiness is inconsistent, so why even try when you could stay in depression where it’s comfortable and consistent. Maybe this wasn’t what the creators intended to be the theme of the show, maybe I’m going into this too much. But art doesn’t have an answer, it’s all about your own interpretation of it. So that was mine.
The second thing that really surprised me was the directing. I think a lot of anime don’t have very interesting visuals. Most of it just feels cutesy and cool, but rarely does a show interest you in the story through its art. And this a show where that really works. Since Ikuhara is an established director, you can expect the directing to be great. It has a ton of visual symbolism, like how the friend trio makes a wi-fi symbol, symbolizing a connection when they say “sarazanmai”, or like the butt symbolizing your desires (That sounds really weird). And even though some of it is really surface-level, like the wi-fi connection, at least it is something. I’m tired of anime not doing anything with the immense potential that animation and art has. How much potential visuals have. So seeing just a tiny bit of it here is a breath of fresh air, which is nice.
That along with the really good designs, like the character designs of the humans and kappas, and just the background characters, made for a really interesting visual experience that was worth watching every week.
But the biggest problem with the show, the one that bugged me the most, was how repetitive it was. In the first 4 episodes of the show, it follows a formula. The episode centers around one of the main characters who have some sort of problem or something, and then that character kills the kappa-zombies who are connected to the problem the characters face. The trio defeats the kappa zombies by doing a dance and then scream “Sarazanmai”. And unfortunately, this dance doesn’t change at all. It is the same dance every… single… time. In episode two they introduce two cops named Reo and Mabu who also have their dance that they do for three episodes in a row. four and three episodes might not sound very bad. But when more than a third of the episodes have 40% of content that I pretty much skip, there is a problem. Those episodes aren’t bad at all. The first episode is one of the best episodes because of the dance, the rest show secrets that the kids have that are really interesting. 3/5 of episode 2,3,4 are interesting, but the rest just felt like filler at times.
And I can’t even say that it was a lack of talent or budget. Ikuhara is a great director and a pretty famous one at that, so I can’t see the possibility that he didn’t care enough or that they didn’t afford to make other dances. Since the zombies they attack are always different, whether it is a cat zombie or a box zombie, I can tell that it couldn’t be a budget problem.
There must be a reason for this, I just don’t get why.
This ends through at episode 5, and boy is that a good episode. Not just because it breaks the formula that the show set for itself in the beginning, but because of the genius character development in the episode. Before Kazuki and the gang fight the zombies, he dresses up as Azuma who’s like an idol in the city or something. He does this so that he can take Azuma’s place at a convention that Azuma was going to. We don’t know why at this point, but we know that Kazuki has text conversations with his brother through this persona. And when he fails to do this, he runs to Keppi to turn into a kappa so he can defeat the kappa-zombies as a distraction. But he’s not concentrated enough so they lose the battle and his secret spills out. It is revealed that he caused a car accident with his brother, making him break his leg. This is not only a really interesting explanation to why he wants to turn into Azuma so he can have a connection with him that way, but also really well made. With the great directing, editing and animation, you really feel for Kazuki. You understand his struggles and connections. Yet again, it shows how he doesn’t want to have a connection with his brother, cause he thinks that he hasn’t been forgiven. Episode 5 is named I Want To Connect but I Can’t Be Forgiven.
This is what steers the show into what it really is. It isn’t just silly kappa dances and butt jokes. This is serious. It’s what steers the show into its true glory. And even though I can’t excuse the 4 episodes before that or how the show was a little hard to follow at times, it was a really good show, even great at times. So sarazanmai