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REVIEW: Sarazanmai


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Cardcaptor Takato



Joined: 27 Jan 2018
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:36 pm Reply with quote
This review pretty much sums up how I feel about Sarazanmai. It has a lot of interesting ideas and characters and impressive animation but it doesn't go far enough from what I'm expecting from an Ikuhara work. Ironically you could say Ikuhara's critique of capitalism can apply to the problems of Sarazanmai in that it appears to be a more streamlined work of all of Ikuhara's past ideas rehashed to appeal to a wider mainstream audience. I also wish they could have explored it's subplots more in depth than how Ikuhara seemed to just drop subplots halfway through in favor of focusing more on Reo and Mabu and Toi's brother. The idea of Kazuki's crossdresssing and the hints at his sibling's gender identity and Enta's feelings are all interesting ideas that should have their own arcs devoted to but the show just rushes through it all to focus on the broad themes of the bigger picture going on. Even with how much focus Reo and Mabu get, I feel like their story ends up feeling half resolved and I wish we could have gotten more detail about the kappa world and the conflicts with the otters.

On the other hand, I also feel this more limited scope which Sarazanmai explores it's themes might make it an easier entry point for younger fans wanting to get into Ikuhara but don't have the time to commit to a longer show like Utena. And the more streamlined plot might make it more easier to understand than the more over the top surrealism of Yuri Kuma Arashi even if I was kind of hoping for Sarazanmai to be more like a BL version of Yuri Kuma myself. Reo and Mabu's story is the one I enjoyed the most as I feel it gets the most focus and it has all the classic tragic themes and surrealist symbolism I love out of Ikuhara, though Toi is probably my favorite character out of the main trio. I still need to finish Penguindrum sometime but as for my own rankings for Ikuhara's original works, I would rank Utena as my favorite, then Yuri Kuma Arashi, and I would also put Sarazanmai at the bottom. Though even a lesser Ikuhara work is still worth checking out just because it's Ikuhara and he always has something interesting to say and I can't say that wishing for more of it is necessarily a bad thing for Sarazanmai. And I still need to finish Penguindrum as I'm curious to see how I would rank it in comparison to Sarazanmai. I still think Ikuhara's best portrayal of queer male themes is the Sailor Moon R movie, which even though much of Mamoru and Fiore's queerness is more on the subtext level, at the same time it felt more devoted to exploring those themes than Sarazanmai to me.


Last edited by Cardcaptor Takato on Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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bemused Bohemian
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:14 pm Reply with quote
Though I don't totally agree with your description of capitalism I think your perceptions of Amazon, Inc. are spot on, Gabriella. That aside, thanks for clarifying some of the wonks in this show as I became lost in some of the minutiae going forward.
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John Thacker
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:14 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
You see, capitalist economies need to be constantly getting bigger or else they'd just collapse - this has been proven mathematically.


In a review with a number of dubious assertions, this stands out as particularly dubious. In the real world, a robust private sector, including the wide range of essentially capitalist social democracies, is conducive to minorities of all types because it encourages a separation of the private and public spheres. Just compare LGBQT rights in Israel or Taiwan to anywhere else in Asia, especially the socialist countries like China.

Police, social pressures, factories, sanctioned and official art, and military empires existed before capitalism and exist in all forms of human societal organizations. But rejecting capitalism and free trade, and thinking that trade is about winning and losing, is something that brings together authoritarians of all stripes, which is why Trump gets along better with leaders of socialist countries than capitalist democracies, and instinctively taks the PRC line on Hong Kong.

Reducing the insights of Sarazanmai to anti capitalism is absurd. It's redolent of an End of History outlook completely unfamiliar with other societies.
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Key
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 4:51 pm Reply with quote
So is there anything in this series that will appeal to those who don't normally like Ikuhara's works? And is there any point in trying to watch more if I very intensely rejected the first episode? (IOW, was that just an extreme episode or pretty typical?)
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Arale Kurashiki



Joined: 24 Aug 2015
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 5:15 pm Reply with quote
Key wrote:
So is there anything in this series that will appeal to those who don't normally like Ikuhara's works? And is there any point in trying to watch more if I very intensely rejected the first episode? (IOW, was that just an extreme episode or pretty typical?)

Both.

It's typical in that subsequent episodes follow a very similar pattern, but it's also extreme because it's introducing you to all this imagery at once, all of a sudden. As you go through and get used to the imagery and what it means, it's no longer as shocking or overwhelming; it becomes the routine.
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KitKat1721



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 5:33 pm Reply with quote
Probably my least favorite Ikuhara series for a lot of the reasons you mentioned, but I still definitely enjoyed watching it week to week and it was still my second favorite series of the Spring season. I think it would have benefited from extra runtime to better establish some of its themes since it did have a much more grounded take than something like Yuri Kuma Arashi (a series with a similar episode count, but a more surreal fable-like approach that doesn't need tons of episodes).

Also, as a random aside, the simuldub for this show was really well-done. Easily the best dub an Ikuhara series has received. The writing and casting (with maybe a couple nitpicks) was far and away better than either Utena or Penguindrum's efforts, and reasonably better the Yuri Kuma Arashi (which was fine but left a bit to be desired since it was one of Funi's early simuldubs and it shows). And having a good dub is always an extra incentive to buying the blu-ray down the line for me.
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Cardcaptor Takato



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 5:40 pm Reply with quote
Key wrote:
So is there anything in this series that will appeal to those who don't normally like Ikuhara's works? And is there any point in trying to watch more if I very intensely rejected the first episode? (IOW, was that just an extreme episode or pretty typical?)
As mentioned above, once you get past the first episode, the extreme symbolism cools down and it becomes more focused on the characters than on the surrealism. But personally for me I enjoy the symbolism in Ikuhara shows in general more on an aesthetic level and you don't need to psychoanalyze every symbolism in an Ikuhara show to enjoy it.
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Sherris



Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:14 pm Reply with quote
So the episode reviews will not be finished after all:
https://twitter.com/itsbonedaddy/status/1160590660350570497
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Cardcaptor Takato



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 6:26 pm Reply with quote
KitKat1721 wrote:


Also, as a random aside, the simuldub for this show was really well-done. Easily the best dub an Ikuhara series has received. The writing and casting (with maybe a couple nitpicks) was far and away better than either Utena or Penguindrum's efforts, and reasonably better the Yuri Kuma Arashi (which was fine but left a bit to be desired since it was one of Funi's early simuldubs and it shows). And having a good dub is always an extra incentive to buying the blu-ray down the line for me.
I enjoyed the Yuri Kuma dub a lot, especially the acting performance of Life Sexy's voice actor, so I'm glad to hear Sarazanmai's dub is even better. I'll have to rewatch it dubbed sometime soon.
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Arale Kurashiki



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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:56 pm Reply with quote
I've never had a significant problem with any Ikuni dub
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Merida
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:56 pm Reply with quote
Even though i've watched all of the anime he's directed, i probably wouldn't call myself a "diehard Ikunihead"...and i'm apprently in the minority here, since Sarazanmai turned out to be my favourite so far (previously it was Penguindrum), though i agree with some of the criticism, especially about it feeling rushed and the neglected subplots. But overall it really gripped me emotionally and i loved all the characters.
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Usagi-kun



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:27 am Reply with quote
Excellent review! Big Brain time indeed. Some of the most fascinating conversations I've had as fan have sprung from his previous works. I would love to be in the corner behind a potted plant in one of his pitch meetings. I agree things were cut kind of lean here, and it was nice to have more male characters, but I don't think we had enough time to explore everything in it's potential. The show still made a personal, heartfelt, emphatic rise, but sort of stalled at the top. Expectations are always high for Ikuhara shows, but I also agree the classic themes seemed to stumble around these slightly different characterizations.

As a side, I really loved the OP theme. A year later and I've still got that on my playlist. Also, Haruka is adorable. Sweetest little bro/sis ever.
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Key
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 9:38 am Reply with quote
Arale Kurashiki wrote:
It's typical in that subsequent episodes follow a very similar pattern, but it's also extreme because it's introducing you to all this imagery at once, all of a sudden. As you go through and get used to the imagery and what it means, it's no longer as shocking or overwhelming; it becomes the routine.

For me, there's been no "getting used to" Ikuhara's imagery; the one of his series that I did watch to completion (Utena), it bugged me the whole way through but there was just enough of a story to offset that.

Yeah, sounds like this is still something I don't want to bother with. Thanks for the insight.
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angelmcazares
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 10:00 am Reply with quote
I am a huge fan of the Utena tv series and a big fan of Penguindrum. But once again, like with Yuri Kuma Arashi, I was disappointed with an Ikuhara show. Overall Sarazanmai is a very strong show with some interesting things, but it did not connect with me as I wanted to.

That being said, the song in Sarazanmai's ED is fantastic.
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wolf10



Joined: 23 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 3:43 pm Reply with quote
I keep trying to write up my thoughts on this series and why I love it so much, but as soon as I realize I'm halfway through drafting a massive essay I run out of steam.

Suffice it to say, I think Ikuhara was a lot more self-aware with this one than people give him credit for, and I think framing it as just a retread of the same basic structure does a disservice to all the things he does to switch up the formula. Hell, he all but directly calls out the endings to his past series as "lame" (twice!) when taken in the context of Sarazanmai's themes of maintaining connections while staying true to your desires in a system that wants to simultaneously fulfill them for you and condemn you for them, all so it can fit you into a neat little box.

Tl;dr, it's probably my favorite series of his so far. I don't see anyone else here echoing that sentiment, but I guess I'm okay with a series being basically made for me, for once.
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