This Week in Anime
What is Sarazanmai All About?

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

As Kunihiko Ikuhara's Sarazanmai reaches its endgame, the shock and strangeness of its imagery has slowly given way to themes of connection and sacrifice. This week, Micchy and Andy look past all this anime's butt humor to unravel its deeper symbolism.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


You can read our weekly coverage of Sarazanmai here!

Micchy
Hey Andy, we're nine episodes into Sarazanmai, and between all the butts and kappas and emotional wreckage, I got one question for ya.
Andy
Let me tell you, I hadn't been keeping up week-to-week, because it's usually easier for me to process dense stuff in bursts, and uh...
I don't know if it's possible to stay entirely sane after seeing any of this tbh.
I could spend this whole column just talking about how much Keppi upsets me. I love me some body horror but I absolutely hate this.
No you're right, long-legged Keppi is the absolute worst, how dare you make me look at it again.
It's a good hate in that I respect his position in the show and the horrible things I am forced to see whenever he is on screen, but this is my preferred version of Keppi.
Be careful, or else Sara might operate on him again and turn him into something even worse.
Jokes aside, there's a lot more to chew on in Sarazanmai since the last time we checked in. The boys are sad, the cops are bastards, and everything is going to hell.
We never really saw how bad she did, so it may have actually been an improvement! Plus I'm all for seeing him get run over by Ottermus Prime again.
 
 
I'm pretty sure her surgery involved some degree of swapping Keppi's face and crotch, so I'm good never seeing the full results of that.
Coward. I guess instead we'll have to see more children suffering!
Everyone loves Kazuki, the cute kappa boy! Five minutes later: we regret to inform you that the kappa boy blames himself for his brother's tragic accident.
This kid has been dabbling in petty (and not-so-petty) crime under the guise of pleasing his baby brother, but not only is his relationship with his family more complicated than he lets on, he's also hella dishonest about his motives—to others and to himself. It's a surefire recipe for disaster!
My kappa has depression, how do I fix it? Surprisingly the answer both does and does not involve Butt Stuff.
Not even all-purpose glue can put Kazuki's broken heart back together.
I wouldn't trust that brand anywhere near my shattered soul. Kazuki's inner turmoil finally hits a breaking point when Haruka ends up in one of Ikuhara's ominous boxes after a run-in with the bad cops, leading to a scene that hits a little too close to home on suicidal thoughts. Our poor boy just wants to make everything right in the past without caring about his future.

According to Keppi, someone who doesn't have any meaningful relationships may as well not exist. Everyone lives in a web of connections with other people, and to be severed from that web is to guarantee that nobody will remember you, as if you never lived.

And that circle is made of butts.
When Kazuki finds out his family isn't his biological family, he starts to think he's already on the outside. And if he's not really part of the circle, then deliberately cutting himself out of it shouldn't hurt anyone, right? At the same time, he desperately tries to maintain the one link he does have to the circle - Haruka - in spite of himself. But he himself admits that it's more out of a selfish desire to belong than concern for his brother's needs.
This eventually does more damage than he could ever expect, as Haruka secretly blames himself for trying to stop Kazuki from living inside of the circle of his biological family.
Haruka instinctively clings to Kazuki, the only brother he's ever known, and blames himself for prioritizing his own desires. But when he's kidnapped and thrown into the Kappazon zombie machine, it rejects him for having genuine love instead of selfish desire.
While Kazuki harbors a ton of self-resentment over the accident, Haruka has come to terms with it and just wants his brother to be happy again.
Though Haruka thinks his love for Kazuki is selfish, a healthy relationship requires both selfish desire and selfless love to survive, so he escapes the desire machine's crushing maw—only to be thrown into the shredder.
Kappazon only needs desires and they have to pay for returns. It's much better for profit margins to shred that useless love.
Now Sarazanmai hasn't been leaning too hard into the capitalism angle yet, but that is kind of what corporations do; they prey on people's desires for material comforts and reject other methods of self-fulfillment. Anyway, Kazuki's about to trade places with Haruka, when Toi and Enta remind him that he's not as isolated as he thinks.
Kazuki finally has his big breakthrough when he accepts that he doesn't need to jump through fancy hoops or kidnap local idols to connect to people. He just needs to be honest with himself, Haruka, and his friends.
It's very sweet that they save the day by playing soccer together, and I'd love to watch an AU where these kids have easier lives and win whatever Japanese middle school tournament they desire.
Unfortunately, Enta is a disaster gay and will fuck that AU up within ten minutes.
God damn it Enta.
He's all like "paint me like one of your French kappa", while he's secretly trashing their own hangout to try and get Toi out of the picture. How did Enta even get that many cans anyway? Did he raid a paint store? Has he started committing crimes just like his boyfriend and his boyfriend's boyfriend?
Though on the subject of crimes, someone please save Toi from like, everything.
This poor kiddo spent so long looking up to his dirtbag of a brother who burned all his bridges only to get excluded from the circle permanently. I can't blame Toi for trying to hold on to his only remaining family, but oof.
There was a part of me that actually expected this scumbag brother to push Toi into staying with his friends, even after he almost got Enta killed by a chicken man. Alas, it was not to be.

He cares a little! Just not enough to put Toi before his own desires.
At some point, Chikai fully bought into the philosophy that allows him to excuse Toi giving up everything to maintain their relationship. Like it would be a betrayal of all their past sacrifices to not continue sacrificing connections with others.
What started as an effort to protect his kid brother morphed into a dead-end philosophy that ultimately bit him in the ass. Chikai definitely loved Toi once, but eventually he sacrificed so many connections in the name of self-preservation that he lost the ability to care for anyone, even the only person he ever cared about.
Like Keppi said, someone who doesn't have any relationships may as well not exist! The problem is that in the end, Chikai still meant a lot to Toi, who reacts as you might expect to his brother's final moments of trying to ensure Toi has enough money to survive.

Toi never wanted his brother to fall into crime to support him. All he wanted was to be by his side.

Chikai sacrificed so much for money that he lost himself, and Toi sacrificed so much for it that he lost out on other connections. Neither of them ended up getting what they wanted, and now one of them's dead.
All these deeply personal stories are intertwined with the Otterman Empire's goal of generating endless desire. "Take only what you want out of life, because love is worthless." They crack open your shell and use what they find inside to exploit you. But on the positive side, I do love Otterzilla.
Sadly for Robo-Mabu, it turns out the thing Reo desires most is their old dead relationship, and his inability to let go of what they once shared is a powerful enough desire to drive the villains' whole plot.
The Otterman Empire only cares about Reo's attachment to Mabu as far as it can be exploited. They gave Mabu a mechanical ticker just to coerce the two of them into becoming their enforcers. Unfortunately, the Mabu that Reo knew is long gone, so now Reo's just working for the shadow of a hope to restore what he had before.
I gotta say though, I laughed out loud when the metaphor for this faceless system of exploitation just came out and said "btw I'm a metaphor".
 
 
I love me some good Darkplace writing. Otter Doc is a helluva bastard, but he's not entirely lying. Reo wants the concept of Mabu all to himself. His selfish desire is exposed when all it takes to win him over is successfully teaching the new Mabu to copy the old Mabu's baking. Admittedly, I too would fall for such adorable bread.

All the empire's technology could only deliver a fleeting imitation of what they once shared. It's a decent approximation of a relationship, but it's just not real. Reo and Robo-Mabu will have to break up if either of them are gonna have any chance of loving again.
Ikuhara tends to like repetition in his works, so I'm happy to report that Reo is continuing the Sarazanmai trend of taking bad news really well.
What, you mean the guy who up and shot a kid isn't the coolest cucumber?
This is why you don't make deals on an otter paw.

I am left wondering what all this is building toward. With two episodes left, I'm hoping for a more substantive confrontation between the kappa boys and otter cops, as well as clarification on Keppi's exact motivations. He's definitely more than a wacky fairy godmother, but what is his true nature, and what does it have to do with the dark Keppi lurking in the Kappazon factory?
Just once, I want that VA going "D-D-D-D-DARKNESS" to say "D-D-D-D-D-DUEL". Please, Ikuhara.
Next time on Yu-Gi-Oh!, Joey Wheeler vs. The Physical Manifestation of Bottomless Desire
There's not much time left and a lot of emotional damage to heal. Ikuhara has always had strong (if slightly nonsensical) conclusions to his stories, so as much as I'd like to say I'm ready, that's probably a lie. I'm also not ready for the worse Keppis yet to come.

Anything but more mucus. I'm begging you, Ikuhara, no more slimy frog butts.

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