My First Impressions for Sarazanmai is going to be coming from largely fresh eyes. I know next to nothing about the works of director and writing Kunihiko Ikuhara. I saw maybe one episode of Mawarau Penguindrum and that’s about it. Revolutionary Girl Utena kind of interests me as I’ve seen people compare it to Revue Starlight (and boy do I love Revue Starlight). Lily Bear Storm is also on the list if only because a yuri magical girl show about bears sounds fucking weird. That’s the one adjective I keep seeing in regards to Ikuhara’s work. They’re apparently weird and if that is the case then boy is Sarazanmai no different.
This anime stars an all-male cast but it actually functions a lot like a magical girl series. Fitting considering Ikuhara’s background as an artist. Sarazanmai stars three boys — Kazuki (Ayumu Murase), Toi (Koki Uchiyama), and Enta (Shun Horie) — who all get transformed into kappa by a kappa prince, Keppi (Junichi Suwabe) to combat zombies (they’re more like ghosts but let’s not argue semantics or else we’ll be here all day). The aesthetic may be drastically different but the familiar beats are there such as a monster of the week structure, a stylistic and sexualized transformation sequence, and the core theme of working together despite everyone’s individual shortcomings.
It is important to note that kappas are a real facet of Japanese folklore. Everything from their love of cucumbers and sumo wrestling to the fact that they extract shirikodama (a soul contained in an orb) from a person’s anus are all part of their established mythology. In that sense, Ikuhara is simply including actual kappa canon. I will, however, wonder if Ikuhara is using kappas as a vehicle for him to be even weirder. There might not be any escaping from how sexual extracting shirikodama looks like but damn, is this guy going all out with that image as he has the kappas enter the zombie’s butt looking like anal beads and the zombie starts moaning profusely with fluids gushing out. I was not the least bit prepared for that.
There’s a lot of imagery and quirks to unpack in just the first episode and I want to say I get all of it but honestly, some of it probably just makes more sense in later episodes. Why does the zombie wish he could live life nude with a cardboard box on his head? I don’t know. Why do the kappas need to sing their way into the zombie’s butt? I don’t know. Why is a popular idol providing the news? I don’t know. Why does Kazuki secretly cross dress like a popular idol (who’s also a newscaster…)? Actually, that one the show will elaborate more on since that is the boy’s darkest secret and therefore a big part of his character. Already, it’s hinted that it may have something to do with someone dear to him. If the show just leaves this character detail out in the open though then I’m a fool for expecting an explanation.
Apart from all that, the one thing I think I understood is the fact that everyone owns and carries a shipping box. It’s odd because of how everyone treats that as normal but I think they’re meant to symbolize how we try to keep things a secret, literally boxing in what we don’t want others to see. That Kazuki’s idol get up is store in his box is telling and no doubt, Toi and Enta’s own secrets are stored in there. Either that or I’m just making stuff up, kind of like what the director and writer of this show might be doing.
I won’t even claim that I get Sarazanmai after one episode. I’m assuming that I’m not supposed to and that for now, I should embrace the strange qualities that Ikuhara is known for. One thing I can safely say is that this premiere wasn’t boring at all. It’s strange but in a very engaging way, constantly barraging you with all sorts of oddities that it’s hard not to look away. And as someone who really enjoys symbolism and how they can accentuate the narrative they populate, this show has me curious as to what any of its shit means. Maybe this show will be pure nonsense and therefore a waste of time but one thing is for sure: one episode just isn’t enough to test these waters.
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