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EP. REVIEW: Sarazanmai


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wolf10



Joined: 23 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Thu May 23, 2019 5:15 am Reply with quote
Alexis.Anagram wrote:
Maybe that's deliberate; Enta's "desire" for Kazuki may be conveyed through chaste fantasy sequences that maintain a child-like sense of fascination for his best friend as a kind of cover for his actually unspeakable attraction towards him, but we have yet to explore what Enta really wants from Kazuki, and I'm concerned this show might never go there at all and thus end up speaking out of both sides of its mouth by keeping the attractions its kids feel for each other distant and virginal, confined to "subtext"-- the kind of "pure" romantic construction that makes adults feel good without reflecting the facts of what kids, especially queer kids, experience (or at least the emotions behind them).
And this is the part of your essay where I wonder if we're even watching the same show at all. Episode 6 was very clear about what Enta wants during his little impromptu sumo match with Kazuki (which wasn't a fantasy, though he had to pinch himself afterwards to be sure). I'm pretty sure he even reached, ah, "completion," so to speak. Yeah, they were still in their kappa forms, because it was funny (yet still extremely relatable), but how obvious/explicit does it really need to be?
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Dragonsandphoenix



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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2019 2:55 am Reply with quote
Alexis.Anagram wrote:
Similarly, Enta and Tooi are pretty one-note in their own regard, and it feels like the series has wasted a lot of time on cutesy shenanigans instead of building off a robust assemblage of iconography intended to convey a sense of depth and scale to the events that are happening. Like just now we're getting this Kappa Kingdom exposition while Kazuki's personal storyline is still kind of in free-fall, and Enta and Tooi have had episodes and flashbacks dedicated to them but not much in the way of substantive narrative or thematic progression. We know who they are (kind of) but not why they're here, and taken altogether it gives the impression of a character drama that doesn't treat its characters all that significantly. It's like it's piling on the skeletal framework of its own symbolic vocabulary without really evoking the ideas ostensibly underscoring that approach, and it feels decidedly uninventive, like Ikuhara's just funneling the raw conventions of any and every anime soap opera through his particular over-the-top brand and calling it a day. Kazuki isn't an especially interesting or revelatory protagonist, but if he's a singing kappa for five minutes of every episode, isn't that "weird!"


This articulates a lot of my concerns with Sarazanmai. To be fair, when I was watching Penguindrum, I felt like I really didn't get the show's point until maybe the last episode or at least episode 20. So yeah, I think Sarazanmai is following that show's approach to storytelling rather than Yuri Kuma, which was less of a character drama and more of a playground of ideas with character building coming later. In Sarazanmai I have a lot of empathy for the characters and the show has at least introduced a lot of the seeds of ideas but I've yet to see how it will all connect (ha) in the end.
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Alexis.Anagram



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PostPosted: Fri May 24, 2019 11:56 am Reply with quote
wolf10 wrote:
And this is the part of your essay where I wonder if we're even watching the same show at all. Episode 6 was very clear about what Enta wants during his little impromptu sumo match with Kazuki (which wasn't a fantasy, though he had to pinch himself afterwards to be sure). I'm pretty sure he even reached, ah, "completion," so to speak. Yeah, they were still in their kappa forms, because it was funny (yet still extremely relatable), but how obvious/explicit does it really need to be?

That's a fair point, but at the same time I think it exemplifies the overarching issue I was describing with how the material is being handled: by continually playing Enta's attraction to Kazuki for comedy relief without providing a strong dramatic backdrop for it, the show runs the risk of tokenizing his feelings by leaning into common stereotypes and conventions surrounding the depiction of gay male sexuality as this awkward, fumbling, and even predatory thing rather than a product of mutual love and attraction.

That's not to say that sex can't be awkward and fumbling (arguably all teenage romantic/sexual interactions trend in this direction), or that there's something inherently wrong with playing up the humorous aspects of romantic/sexual tension; the problem is how it's contextualized, and how it works to the benefit of the material. Unfortunately, at this stage, all we really know about Enta is that he's attracted to Kazuki-- that's his only real driving characteristic, and everything he says and does tends to orbit around that feature of his personality. So when even that is played for laughs and made to feel tangential (insofar as it may be shown, but isn't really presented as advancing his arc) it gives the impression that he has very little going for him as a part of this story. When I posed the dilemma of exploring what Enta wants from Kazuki, I should have noted that it's not necessarily just about sex (though that was on my mind) as not every person wants to have sex with the people they're attracted to, romantically or otherwise; it's about inviting the question of how Enta is attempting to actualize himself through his attraction to Kazuki and how that gives us the necessary insight and perspective to comprehend the trajectory of his personal story. Scenes like the sumo wrestling bit may be cute enough, but they don't really do that.

That may be forthcoming and I'm interested to see what happens, this is just my feelings about where the show is at right now and my concerns about the past few episodes, which felt pretty weak in terms of structure.

Dragonsandphoenix wrote:
This articulates a lot of my concerns with Sarazanmai. To be fair, when I was watching Penguindrum, I felt like I really didn't get the show's point until maybe the last episode or at least episode 20. So yeah, I think Sarazanmai is following that show's approach to storytelling rather than Yuri Kuma, which was less of a character drama and more of a playground of ideas with character building coming later. In Sarazanmai I have a lot of empathy for the characters and the show has at least introduced a lot of the seeds of ideas but I've yet to see how it will all connect (ha) in the end.

I haven't seen Penguindrum, though I intend to, and I haven't managed to finish Utena, so Yuri Kuma is the only point of reference I have for an Ikuhara show I generally enjoyed. And what I really remember from it is that the girls seemed very human in their relationships to one another, and seemed to cohere more fully with all of the symbolic flourishes and stylized approach to the material. It felt more focused and condensed in its imagery and narrative elements than Sarazanmai does, although Sarazanmai itself felt really tight in its first two or three episodes, so hopefully it circles back around for a proper conclusion.
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wolf10



Joined: 23 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2019 6:32 pm Reply with quote
Episode 8 thoughts: I may have to walk back some of my earlier praise for this show if Ikuhara really went and did that bit from Yurikuma again. Not a nice place to cliffhanger, man. And really not what this show needed, so I'm hoping it's a troll.
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dm
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2019 12:49 am Reply with quote
wolf10 wrote:
Episode 8 thoughts: I may have to walk back some of my earlier praise for this show if Ikuhara really went and did that bit from Yurikuma again. Not a nice place to cliffhanger, man. And really not what this show needed, so I'm hoping it's a troll.


I suppose I should have expected something (though, actually, I don't remember Yurikuma all that well). A few episodes ago everything felt so happy, everything seemed to be working out for our kappaboys, and I thought we'd turn to the ottercops. So, of course it was time for a shift in tone and the situation of our central trio.

"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

Gosh, I love the ED imagery for this series. The combination of light-show animation, the characters, and the street scenes is a real pleasure to watch.
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Alexis.Anagram



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2019 5:27 pm Reply with quote
Between the belabored heavy-handedness of episode 8 and the animation taking a nosedive, this was an unfortunately off-pace episode. I really hope this is all going somewhere, but it still gives the impression of a character drama that doesn't give much weight to the characters who inhabit it. Enta is basically Harukappa 2.0, just there to serve as a vehicle for Kazuki's pathos, to the extent that none of Enta's plentiful scenes here are actually about him so much as they are about Kazuki and Tooi with Enta realizing what a third wheel he's become. Which would make sense as some sort of destination for him, except that it's kind of a strained premise given how little we've seen of Kazuki and Tooi developing any particular bond, because so much of Kazuki's emotional development has been taken up by the Harukappa subplot. Speaking of which, Kazuki himself is just kind of floating from one disastrous plot development to another with no real direction: the ease with which his feelings about Haruka were dispensed followed by the ease with which his anger towards Enta was constructed and then dissipated just makes it seem like he's not really participating in the events that unfold even as they unfold around him. Tooi seems like he has the most going for him but it almost feels like he would be better off in another show with a more focused insight into the dissonance between his attachment to his brother and his desire/need to connect with others.

I dunno, the dramatic soapy stuff is bland and doesn't work very well in the context of this show, which is designed to consolidate these three boys' stories as encircling one another-- whereas it feels more like they're just accidentally rubbing shoulders. That fight between Enta and Kazuki really should have been all about their actual feelings (Enta's belief that nobody, himself included, is actually good enough for Kazuki and his resentment that Kazuki doesn't understand those feelings; Kazuki's belief that he is nothing but a burden and that he doesn't deserve to be connected to others, and his self-loathing over how yet another person he cares about is now leaving him), I mean there's an entire shared history there to mine, but instead it's about these scripted feelings it would be really convenient for the show if they expressed in that moment so another tragedy can literally fall into Kazuki's lap.

Sara still gives me some hope. She's weirdly anachronistic with her cartoonish hijinks and this show could use more of that. But I'm a little worried this show is going to end up feeling like something of a cop out.

...

no pun intended
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Dragonsandphoenix



Joined: 21 Jan 2015
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 2:17 am Reply with quote
Alexis.Anagram wrote:
That fight between Enta and Kazuki really should have been all about their actual feelings (Enta's belief that nobody, himself included, is actually good enough for Kazuki and his resentment that Kazuki doesn't understand those feelings; Kazuki's belief that he is nothing but a burden and that he doesn't deserve to be connected to others, and his self-loathing over how yet another person he cares about is now leaving him), I mean there's an entire shared history there to mine, but instead it's about these scripted feelings it would be really convenient for the show if they expressed in that moment so another tragedy can literally fall into Kazuki's lap.


I mean, that's what literally happened in the show.

At this point, we're approaching the last stretch of the show and I'm approaching it with a sense of cautious optimism. I've been enjoying the show a lot so far so I believe that it will be able to stick the landing. I'm not 100% sure if its larger ideas will all come together in the end, but I'm so invested in all of the characters that I wouldn't even mind if it turned out to be a smaller character drama.


Last edited by Dragonsandphoenix on Fri Jun 07, 2019 12:28 am; edited 1 time in total
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dm
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:56 pm Reply with quote
Episode Nine: Oh, my God.

The post-credit scene was nothing short of brilliant: images, music, and "dialogue". All the better because I was expecting to wait a week for something else.

...I am glad I bought the soundtrack for this series, just for those few seconds of music.

Um... what preceded it was also golden.



Jacob, I realize you're really into Fruits Basket, but this series deserves some attention. I don't mean that in a snarky way --- I'm afraid I wouldn't want to try to write about this series until I'd watched the whole series through once or twice.


And: after watching episode nine, do you still feel the same way, Alexis.Anagram?

(Though I will say that I agree that Sara does, indeed, add something when she appears.)
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JacobC
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07, 2019 1:41 am Reply with quote
dm wrote:

Jacob, I realize you're really into Fruits Basket, but this series deserves some attention. I don't mean that in a snarky way --- I'm afraid I wouldn't want to try to write about this series until I'd watched the whole series through once or twice.


Yeah, unfortunately I'm behind on Fruits Basket as well! I've been dealing with a personal emergency for the past week and a half, which means I've only had time for my regular editorial work until this weekend (assuming nothing ELSE goes wrong unexpectedly), which is absolutely killing me because I just wanna write about these shows. Anime cry

My goal for this weekend is to finish two episode reviews a day to get caught up, so wish me luck! I'm going to need it.
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dm
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:29 pm Reply with quote
Sorry if I sounded impatient.

I hope you get stuff straightened out soon, Jacob. I look forward to reading what you have to say about this series, and am sure it will be both worth the wait and improved by you having the time you need for it.

Like I said, I appreciate the challenge a series like this represents.
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Dragonsandphoenix



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:04 am Reply with quote
The episode 6 review is great and insightful as usual Jacob!
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Juno016



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:22 pm Reply with quote
JacobC wrote:
Yeah, unfortunately I'm behind on Fruits Basket as well! I've been dealing with a personal emergency for the past week and a half, which means I've only had time for my regular editorial work until this weekend (assuming nothing ELSE goes wrong unexpectedly), which is absolutely killing me because I just wanna write about these shows. Anime cry

My goal for this weekend is to finish two episode reviews a day to get caught up, so wish me luck! I'm going to need it.


I was worried, so thanks for clarifying!

Honestly, reading your reviews is about as fun as watching the shows. I LOVE the attention you bring to all the intricate details of every show you review and there have been episodes I've rewatched of some shows just because of something I read in your review that made me want to reframe a whole episode or scene. No other reviewer has had me doing that. For whatever it's worth, you've got a cheerleader in me. I hope things turn around for the better in your personal life and thank you for everything you've done thus far~
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dm
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:47 pm Reply with quote
Gosh, I think I need to take another look at this episode right away. Thanks for all the new ways to look at what's going on in this series!
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Alexis.Anagram



Joined: 26 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2019 6:02 pm Reply with quote
dm wrote:
And: after watching episode nine, do you still feel the same way, Alexis.Anagram?

Yes and no; as solid of an entry as episode 9 is, it only exacerbates the sense that episode 8 was stretched too thin, and it still doesn't do any favors for Enta as a character. Most of the moments that work in this episode would have landed even better making use of the time that episode 8 wasted to give them some breathing room, and it would all benefit from a more dynamic approach in general, something that doesn't feel like such a retread of the previous arc with a conveniently slight escalation of the stakes at play. As for Enta, again he's used here as a springboard informing Kazuki's search for direction: despite his own sister showing up, there's no indication that she and Enta have a particularly meaningful connection (unlike the other two boys and their siblings), and while she dumps the barest hint of exposition as to what Enta was like as a kid, it's only to give Kazuki cause to self-reflect and reach...the same conclusion and sense of resolve he already had when he went to rescue Haruka. It's notable that Enta immediately disappears from the episode after fulfilling this purpose despite the fact that he's the protagonist who is ostensibly in the most imminent danger, just so that Kazuki can have another character moment with his little bro-- who has also been effectively exited from the ensemble now that he no longer serves a function as an extension of Kazuki's self-derision.

And while the individual elements of ep 9 cohere (albeit with some elasticity to them), it also drives home the overall lack of focus that appears to afflict this story: Sara is still way too enigmatic for such a late juncture, the idea of revealing Keppi as an "evil"/"grey" force now is fairly fraught although it wouldn't surprise me, and Toi more than ever feels like he belongs in an entirely separate anime that has time to actually examine his qualities of character. That post-credit scene was so elevated above the rest of what this episode does, and what the show on the whole has done, that its poignancy (minus the bit where he throws all the money at the viewer, but by all means feel free to try selling that angle a little harder Ikuhara) feels underserved by all of the contextual elements framing it. I guess it's ironic in a way that some random goon got Chikai on a lucky bullet, but it also reinforces how expendable his entire presence in the show may as well be: his flashback scenes with Toi were uniformly great, but it's aggravating how much distance he puts (literally) between Toi and the Golden Duo when it's that rapport which has my attention, and how Toi is essentially put on standby mode while Chikai calls the shots (...no pun intended...). Toi's choices are basically made not to matter: he'll end up back where began-- in the "meanwhile..." that is the main plot-- not of his own volition, but because tragic circumstances have once again thrown him a curveball. At the same time, completing the circle with Kazuki and Enta is the natural conclusion to his arc? OK then.

It feels a bit routine and contractual and it's like the energy the show had early on has been dissipated in an attempt to paint its narrative in the broadest possible strokes in service of a couple sweeping thesis statements ("Connecting with people is hard, but just don't give up!"): maybe it'll work if it can commit to a suitably outlandish, tightly packed denouement, but the sensation of spinning dishes-- i mean wheels-- is a little hard to shake.

Still, this was an enjoyable episode and the Mabu/Reo stuff was especially strong. That scene with desire!Reo was firing on all fronts visually. More that please.
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NothingIfNot



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:57 am Reply with quote
He doesn't throw the money at the viewer.
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