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EP. REVIEW: Sarazanmai


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Dragonsandphoenix



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:05 pm Reply with quote
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On that note, I love how each boy in this triad is able to connect to another on different levels that the third wheel in each instance doesn't understand. Earlier in the series, this was most obvious in how Enta's purity and privilege excluded him from understanding the sacrifices that Kazuki and Toi made to maintain their more broken families. But as time went on, Toi and Enta gradually became closer as the two boys most self-aware about the depth of their own feelings, leading to an unexpected camaraderie between them when they realize that they only resented each other because they both loved the more obtuse Kazuki, the kind of boy who dramatically throws himself into expressing feelings he doesn't understand through actions that don't make much sense. And as we round the bend into Sarazanmai's final act, Kazuki and Enta also reconnect by choosing to clash with one another directly instead of bottling their feelings and drifting away like the too-sacrificial Toi.

This is such a good summation of the Kappa Trio's relationship and it makes me even more optimistic for the ending. I love all these boys and their complicated relationship. I'm sure they'll be fine. I dare Ikuhara to end this anime with gay polyamory.

Quote:
When Chikai is reminiscing over the more innocent days he once shared with his little brother, we see what appears to be Kazuki and baby Toi riding the ferris wheel together, as if they were fated to be siblings in some alternate dimension.

I thought that was just Chikai and Toi as kids. We see two adult silhouettes with them who I assume are their parents.


Last edited by Dragonsandphoenix on Sun Jun 16, 2019 3:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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JacobC
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:10 pm Reply with quote
Dragonsandphoenix wrote:

I thought that was just Chikai and Toi as kids. We see two adult silhouettes with them who I assume are their parents.


The hair and red shirt looked way more like Kazuki than Chikai to me, but just in case it's too galaxy-brain, I'll take it out for now. Anything to get the word count down! :'D
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Alexis.Anagram



Joined: 26 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 12:59 am Reply with quote
JacobC wrote:
That famous fairytale is now widely accepted to be a metaphor for the pain and anguish that follows unfulfilled same-sex attraction (Andersen himself was a gay man)

I'm having that distinct sensation where my entire understanding of the universe is realigning; I always took it for granted that TLM is a queer/trans parable but nothing about Andersen's sexuality seemed to come up in my repeated looks into what was going on with "The Snow Queen" and why it's so obviously a tortured, triumphant gay redemption fable. Feels like my literary IQ has been raised by a point or two, thanks Jacob!

JacobC wrote:
Ikuhara is a big fan of distorting time and space in the finales to his stories...

I assumed something to this effect was being alluded to by the opening montage of the first episode, with Kazuki referring to not wanting to lose his connections "again" and the constant interweaving/sharp transitions of imagery which seemed indicative of a cycle in the process of being disrupted. I'm not sure I'd be entirely satisfied with a full-on redux approach as that seems like an easy exit for a story that's meant to be about the difficulty of maintaining connections, but considering how Kazuki has been chasing a chance to reshape his own history in one way or another for pretty much the entire show, and the fact that there's a magical wish waiting in the wings...

I thought the use of the pachinko balls was way too on the nose as it was, so learning that the metaphor has a totally literal facet to it is kind of amusing. It's nice to know that it's true to character for Chikai, regardless.

Speaking of which, the more I think on it, the less I'm sold on the way in which Chikai went out in ep 9. It feels too obvious and neat, more of a necessary turn of events to fix the narrative dilemma that came with moving Toi away from the other two-- a choice which, in and of itself, rang as more of a convenience than a necessity-- than a dramatically satisfying reinforcement of the ideas which Chikai embodies. Chikai may have drifted into a life dedicated to the pursuit of "desires" (money, whatevs) but only because he's functionally trapped within a society that has made money king, and he's gambling on the surest bet to survival: the same could be said of any "lawful" citizen pursuing power/prestige at the expense of nebulous and kind of pretentious concepts like "human connection"-- i.e. politicians, corporate lawyers, ethically dubious CEOs-- but Chikai is ultimately penalized twice over for circumstances outside of his control (the death of his parents, as Jacob mentions, and the utter heartlessness of the dog-eat-dog design of capitalist economies); meanwhile, the impact of his parents' suicides on his development and his decisions, as well as its obvious reflection in his oscillating degrees of attachment to Toi (who represents both the most organic and lasting connection open to him, and the kind of emotional siphon he doesn't have room for in his ever-contracting circle) goes underexplored. I guess the question it leaves me with is, what was the solution to Chikai's situation; what could he have feasibly done differently to avoid his fate, and how does this inform what Toi is going to take away from his brother's death? "Make better friends" feels fairly weak as a concluding thesis to that arc.

It's not really that I see Chikai as either a victim or a "good" person (it's risky to even qualify those concepts in most contexts), but I think the intended juxtaposition of connected VS disconnected with Chikai as somehow exemplary of the latter is fraught, even within the internal logic of the show itself: if connection is an intentional act, and one which takes immense and repeated effort, then why is Chikai's life (and his characterization subsequent to that) framed as so thoroughly circumstantial? Even his death is framed as essentially random. There's too great a disparity between what we know about Chikai as viewed through Toi's perspective, as a source of strength and conditional but reliable support, and the cartoonishly "bad guy" pretensions of his portrayal in realtime, with little connective tissue to make sense of either. Chikai's relationship with Toi is really the only area of his life which he can directly alter for better or for worse, but since there's seemingly nothing he can do to push Toi away, even that opportunity for growth/redemption is more or less denied him. There's an unreasonable quality to his character dilemma: if he's a good brother to Toi, he's bad for keeping Toi close to him when the best thing for Toi would be to separate from him-- if he's a bad brother to Toi, it just further serves to illustrate how awful and toxic his connection to Toi is and how important it is for Toi to separate from him. He isn't even permitted a "sacrificial" death because it would allow him the opportunity to follow through with one actually selfless act in the interest of another, and that would also posit an unhealthy conception of what it means to be connected (basically, Enta). Chikai's death ends up coming off as pretty cheap: it's like, what else could be done with this character?

I also have tons of thoughts about how death is presented/symbolized in the show and the use of guns and bullets in particular, but I'm interested to see how it all shakes out first.
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wolf10



Joined: 23 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 16, 2019 10:53 am Reply with quote
Assuming Toi's words about the misanga were referring to a connection beyond just the literal knot coming undone (it's pretty vague in Japanese), I think the best case scenario is we find out that the misanga originally came from Chikai, and that by losing that connection, Toi can finally be with people who actually care about him as a person and not just some abstract notion of "family."

All of my worst-case-scenario anticipation has been proven wrong so far, so I'll try being optimistic for the finale. Enough bittersweet crap has happened already, so hopefully we'll get something unambiguously happy from the ending. (Like movie Utena, not TV Utena.)
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Alexis.Anagram



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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 12:54 am Reply with quote
I'm sorry to see that the direction has gotten so choppy and rushed in the show's eleventh hour; there are a lot of really neat ideas being explored throughout episode 10 but there is just as much in the way of hand-waving, dropped premises, anticlimaxes, such that the narrative isn't doing the essential work of connecting its own tangents. It could be that Ikuhara's expectation is that this will all seem rewarding if we dig through the mangled disarray of mix-and-match thematic lines/circles he's traced but it's his job to give all of that a compelling sense of design and it seems like he pulled this ningyo-yaki out of the oven half baked.

I can strain to believe that Reo's and Mabu's entire conflict is derived from an unfortunate "accidental" eavesdropping that gave a jealous lover the wrong idea (I mean...I can...I'll try...), and the fact that they were kappas this whole time but Keppi never thought to mention them, aand the fact that Reo pulls a "let me tell you all about our evil plan and also take you to our evil base because we're running out of episodes." But the way it's just haphazardly resolved through dropping Mabu in a vat of toxic waste and "killing" them both ("for now") as a transparent effort to shuffle them off the stage to set up the big finale, which basically just consists of unceremoniously depositing Toi back in the main plot at the last minute-- I just don't see how any of this is coming together outside of some thin exposition (well you see, dear audience, Keppi was actually doing...basically nothing of value for the whole show). I guess I expected to experience some sort of tension surrounding Enta's peril, but he's been in a deadzone of dramatic development for too long (IDK if I even believe that he could break free of the Otter's illusion, but it sure is convenient that he can!); I guess I expected Kazuki to get more to do than scream the names of his friends at the top of his lungs at every opportunity, but I guess I'll have to settle for him actually using his wish to save his best friend instead of...not doing that?

On that note, this has bothered me for a while, but I wish the show had never taken up delivering major story developments after the end credits: the ending of this episode changes completely from what it would appear to be without watching all the way through. It's not a tease for the next episode, it's a full fledged revision of the stakes. I prefer to be trolled within the duration of the show's runtime proper, tyvm.

Can Sara please just jump in and show these boys how a magical girl really gets things done? I'd watch a spin off about her and Haruka being the best of friends/rulers of the Rainbow Kingdom in a heartbeat.
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Sherris



Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:16 am Reply with quote
Episode 11
So that was ugh...a suicide end? Shocked Toi jumps off the bridge and after some time spent in water his brain shuts and he sees the happy life he could never have? That plate with the word 'Next' - is it 'next life'? 'Afterlife'?
Enta's feelings were never acknowledged and he never found the courage to confess.
What a depressing ending. Sad
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wolf10



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2019 4:27 pm Reply with quote
Sherris wrote:
Episode 11
So that was ugh...a suicide end? Shocked Toi jumps off the bridge and after some time spent in water his brain shuts and he sees the happy life he could never have? That plate with the word 'Next' - is it 'next life'? 'Afterlife'?
Enta's feelings were never acknowledged and he never found the courage to confess.
What a depressing ending. Sad

Um, what? No, this isn't Yurikuma. He jumps off the bridge (which isn't high enough that the impact against the water would be fatal), probably just to clear his head, but it turns out the other two were waiting for him at the usual spot. The post credits stinger even says they're heading off for the future together. It's hard to get Ikuhara to be less ambiguously happy than that.

Kinda agree about Enta, though. It seems like his arc sort of ended with him just choosing to compartmentalize everything for the sake of friendship, which feels like both a cop-out and more than a little unhealthy. That said, the montage of worst-case possible futures did include a scene that appeared to be him and Kazuki breaking up, which I suppose would mean there's a possibility they actually could get together.

We the audience don't actually get to see how things will play out for our trio in the future, but we are given just enough to confirm that they do have one together. Which was kinda the entire point, I guess. To be continued next Comiket?
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Alexis.Anagram



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:57 pm Reply with quote
Episode 11 has me like, "Hmmm..." more than anything else. As a finale, it was underwhelming and unsatisfying, driving home just how loose this show played with all of its narrative elements, never solidifying into either a coherent message piece or a great character drama (which stings, because it had the potential to be both). Characters like Enta, Haruka and Sara are all equally abandoned as anything more than the most rudimentary and utilitarian of dramatic ornamentation; Keppi and the Otter both feel rudderless as powerful, abstract beings who don't clash sufficiently to impress with their antics (I thought we were getting Otterzilla? No Otterzilla? 'Kay then...); the less said about the kappa cops the better; ultimately, what is there in terms of resolution comes off as heavily abridged and condensed to meet the demands of a too-busy sendoff. Toi's discovery of his own desire to be with Enta and Kazuki feels notably unexceptional, more like an unavoidable conclusion to a predictable setup than a strong assertion of some uniquely derived point of clarity on his part, and I think that's the result of trying to balance this development against everything else as the climactic, decisive moment when it's just a touch too quaint this deep into the material. And I could definitely have done without the entire epilogue involving him going to prison over the ending music montage (...yeah?).

On the other hand, as a standalone episode of animation, there is a lot to love. I thought the show teed itself up for a healthy finish with the extended soccer sequence, "I Want to Connect, but..." refrain, the visions of the future and the internal fears of its protagonists, and the use of pretty much every visual cue in the show's lexicon which is sure to keep eagle-eyed enthusiasts busy teasing the meaning out of every individual frame. I also liked the general concept of descending to a place "outside the circle," and the various ways that's executed in terms of presentation.

Overall though, the show ended with the impression that it was all rather one-note. It drew me in with the promise of seeing these boys learn how to connect, but it delivered more in the way of flashbacks of them being friends than actually compelling depictions of their advancing rapport. The core relationships and the motives of their participants ended up feeling more like abstractions (a chance meeting as kids, a barely explored childhood friendship, backstory infodumps) than creative arguments with real conviction behind them. There are some fine flourishes along the way, embedded within a central conceit that is a lot of fun when it works, but it's spread too thin.

I will however always love it for giving us "Kawauso Iya!"
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HandofBobb



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:46 am Reply with quote
lol, Ikuhara 4 dummies:
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Sherris



Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:05 pm Reply with quote
wolf10 wrote:
Sherris wrote:
Episode 11
So that was ugh...a suicide end? Shocked Toi jumps off the bridge and after some time spent in water his brain shuts and he sees the happy life he could never have? That plate with the word 'Next' - is it 'next life'? 'Afterlife'?
Enta's feelings were never acknowledged and he never found the courage to confess.
What a depressing ending. Sad

Um, what? No, this isn't Yurikuma. He jumps off the bridge (which isn't high enough that the impact against the water would be fatal), probably just to clear his head, but it turns out the other two were waiting for him at the usual spot. The post credits stinger even says they're heading off for the future together. It's hard to get Ikuhara to be less ambiguously happy than that.

Kinda agree about Enta, though. It seems like his arc sort of ended with him just choosing to compartmentalize everything for the sake of friendship, which feels like both a cop-out and more than a little unhealthy. That said, the montage of worst-case possible futures did include a scene that appeared to be him and Kazuki breaking up, which I suppose would mean there's a possibility they actually could get together.


It definitely looked like a suicide to me. Throughout the anime we've been shown that human characters are not immune to physical damage (Haruka's accident, Enta getting shot) and jumping off a bridge is a sure way to get yourself either killed (cold shock response) or permanently disabled (if the water is shallow). The post-credit scene reinforces that whatever we see after Toi's jump is not 'the reality'. The trio are shown as kappas - there are no longer kappa zombies around, so why would they need to be in their kappa forms? It's Toi's hallucinations.

Alexis.Anagram wrote:
Episode 11 has me like, "Hmmm..." more than anything else. As a finale, it was underwhelming and unsatisfying, driving home just how loose this show played with all of its narrative elements, never solidifying into either a coherent message piece or a great character drama (which stings, because it had the potential to be both). Characters like Enta, Haruka and Sara are all equally abandoned as anything more than the most rudimentary and utilitarian of dramatic ornamentation; Keppi and the Otter both feel rudderless as powerful, abstract beings who don't clash sufficiently to impress with their antics (I thought we were getting Otterzilla? No Otterzilla? 'Kay then...); the less said about the kappa cops the better; ultimately, what is there in terms of resolution comes off as heavily abridged and condensed to meet the demands of a too-busy sendoff. Toi's discovery of his own desire to be with Enta and Kazuki feels notably unexceptional, more like an unavoidable conclusion to a predictable setup than a strong assertion of some uniquely derived point of clarity on his part, and I think that's the result of trying to balance this development against everything else as the climactic, decisive moment when it's just a touch too quaint this deep into the material. And I could definitely have done without the entire epilogue involving him going to prison over the ending music montage (...yeah?).


To be fair, I don't get how the Reo&Mabu situation escalated into what we've seen. Reo and Mabu were Keppi's retainers, yeah? Why didn't Mabu ever seek Keppi's help with his mechanical heart problem? Keppi brought them back to life in the end, so I presume a mechanical organ or two would be a piece of cake for him.
It's a shame Sara amounted to nothing but a piece of eye candy. I really hoped for her grand reveal saving/damning the day.
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Alexis.Anagram



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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:20 pm Reply with quote
Sherris wrote:
To be fair, I don't get how the Reo&Mabu situation escalated into what we've seen. Reo and Mabu were Keppi's retainers, yeah? Why didn't Mabu ever seek Keppi's help with his mechanical heart problem? Keppi brought them back to life in the end, so I presume a mechanical organ or two would be a piece of cake for him.

Well the show does make it clear that neither of them knows where Keppi is for the majority of it, and they're actively attempting to track him down, but the details beyond that make no sense. Why are they trying to steal the dishes when they know what Keppi is capable of in his own right? It's obvious he would help them without a second thought, in fact he consistently offers to do so throughout episode 10 and Reo is inexplicably antagonistic towards him the entire time. Also, Sara is their adopted daughter (if that's canon?) and she knows where Keppi is, and they know where she is, so...?

There's also the fact that they're both serial murderers who consistently put the human world in danger for their own selfish reasons, but that's fine, no big deal, just give them a flashy magical resurrection and say it was for "love."

Sherris wrote:
It's a shame Sara amounted to nothing but a piece of eye candy. I really hoped for her grand reveal saving/damning the day.

Yeah, she was essentially a red herring the show never needed.
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Sherris



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PostPosted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 4:53 pm Reply with quote
Alexis.Anagram wrote:

Well the show does make it clear that neither of them knows where Keppi is for the majority of it, and they're actively attempting to track him down, but the details beyond that make no sense. Why are they trying to steal the dishes when they know what Keppi is capable of in his own right? It's obvious he would help them without a second thought, in fact he consistently offers to do so throughout episode 10 and Reo is inexplicably antagonistic towards him the entire time. Also, Sara is their adopted daughter (if that's canon?) and she knows where Keppi is, and they know where she is, so...?

There's also the fact that they're both serial murderers who consistently put the human world in danger for their own selfish reasons, but that's fine, no big deal, just give them a flashy magical resurrection and say it was for "love."


I think the show would have fared better in an abstract setting - grounding it in 'present day, present time' causes too much dissonance between individual elements. I would totally buy into it if it was a big allegory and fully fuelled by surrealism, but, sadly, 'the ordinary life of ordinary Tokyo kids' gets too much in the way.
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NothingIfNot



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 1:25 am Reply with quote
I think the first end credits sequence functions as, among other things, an answer to anyone who wanted there to be a "big deal" about Reo and Mabu's actions earlier. "Ok, here's what punishment looks like."
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JacobC
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 12:44 pm Reply with quote
Hey guys, I'm very sorry to say that I'll be closing the book on Sarazanmai without being able to finish these in-depth episode reviews. I want to thank you all for your great feedback on the work I was able to complete, and I made a brief thread on my overall thoughts on the ending if you're interested in that. We'll have a full review/retrospective on Sarazanmai on the site sometime this month from another of our talented writers, so I hope you look forward to reading it.
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