Sarazanmai – Anime Preview
Synopsis: The setting is Asakusa. One day, second-years in middle school Kazuki Yasaka, Toi Kuji, and Enta Jinnai meet Keppi, a mysterious kappa-like creature, who steals their shirikodama and transforms them into kappas. “To return to your original forms,” Keppi tells them, “you must fight the zombies and take the shirikodama from them.” Can the boys connect with each other and steal the zombies’ shirikodama?! This is the story of three boys who can’t connect with someone important to them, learning about what it truly means to do so. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Sarazanmai is the latest anime from famed director Kunihiko Ikuhara (Known for such works as Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, and Yurikuma Arashi.) Right from the get go you notice his manic, bizarre, thoroughly strange style, painting a bizarre world where Kappa worship (mythical Japanese yokai known for pulling your ‘soul’ or such out through your anus) is dominant and people have trouble connecting to one another because of their secret desires. Despite the wealth of potential meaning spread throughout, symbolism in the visuals, the metaphorical elements of the story and more, it’s fairly easy to follow the basic premise: Three boys must learn to accept their secrets and connect with the people in their lives. It’s a positive message about accepting one’s self (At least that’s what I took away anyway). But to appreciate said message you have to find Ikuhara’s balls to the wall, insane style appealing, and that’s where Sarazanmai maybe starts to feel more like a ‘cult hit’ than a mainstream success.
Linny: The comedy in this episode is heavily steeped in the boys’ interactions with a Kappa Prince as well as many of the superstitions associated with Kappa in Japan and dialing all of it up to a ridiculous level. This makes the show have a very unique flair and humour but that also means that this isn’t a show that will resonate with everyone. While the episode is clearly aiming for an emotional core and message, even wrapping up with a very dramatic declaration at the end by one of the protagonists, the insane and extremely quirky comedy takes centre stage and doesn’t make for the smoothest of transitions in tone.
Tom: Because Sarazanmai is more focused on message, meaning, comedy and establishing its absolutely bizarre premise, there’s little time to develop any of our three leads. Yasaka, Kuji and Jinnai all feel a bit nebulous as characters, save for the reveal of Yasaka’s desire that he’s been keeping secret all this time. If you’re someone who wants to immediately grow attached to the leads, Sarazanmai has put that kind of character building on the back burner. Honestly Sarazanmai isn’t the kind of show for me, and will remain a largely niche/cult experience much as some of Ikuhara’s other work has been. But that’s okay. It’s perfect for fans of his experimental, nonconformist, absolutely bizarre style, steeped in metaphor, symbolism and more.
Linny: It’s definitely true that Sarazanmai sparkles with the same style and quirkiness that the other creations of its director all share. Not only is the show experimental with its comedy, it even has some unique animation and stylistic choices such as depicting crowds using logo like designs as shown in the first image in this review. The art and animation is also very colourful and striking, really adding to its unique nature. If you’re familiar and fond of his previous works or you’re always willing to give experimental anime a try, Sarazanmai has a high chance of wooing you as it offers a very similar vibe and personality. However, if you’re someone who prefers their comedy a little more grounded and less stepped in mythical lore, you’re probably safe skipping Sarazanmai.
Sarazanmai is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.