Saturday, June 29, 2019

Anime Recommendation: Sarazanmai

It's been awhile since I've written anything, but I just had to write something about SARAZANMAI!!

Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum are two of my favorite anime and they are two series from the mind of director Kunihiko Ikuhara. The anime that he creates are not only hilariously absurd but they're also terrifyingly real. In Revolutionary Girl Utena, he tells a story that challenges traditional gender roles and explores toxic masculinity in between episodes of sword duels that take place in the sky and a girl laying eggs and turning into a cow. And now in Sarazanmai, Ikuhara tells the story of three young boys who learn the value of connecting with others while they turn into frog-like creatures that fight zombies and otters.

Let me expand on that because there is a lot more to Sarazanmai then that one sentence. This is an anime about three main characters, each with their own struggles and desires. The first boy to be introduced is Kazuki Yasaka. He's just a middle school student with a seemingly average life. He used to be a pretty good soccer player, has a best friend, and lives with his little brother. But Kazuki is carrying around a secret...he dresses up as famous idol in order to make his little brother happy through playful text messages and selfies. It's a little strange, but Kazuki is scared of others learning his secret and will go to any length to continue this act for his brother.

And Kazuki's best friend also has a secret of his own. Enta Jinnai is the other half of a golden duo, but after Kazuki quits soccer, Enta's left alone. He is a dedicated friend who wants to get closer to Kazuki and find out why he's abandoned his passion and has become less happy. Enta will go to almost any length for his friend, and why? Because Enta is in love with him, even though Kazuki is too dense to realize it.

Finally there is Toi Kuji, and in my opinion, he's probably the most well-adjusted of the boys even though he's got a messed up backstory. His parents died when he was young and his big brother is a gangster on the run after a murder. Toi has given up his dreams and acts like a tough guy in order to runaway from it all with his brother. Like the other two boys, Toi will go to any length for the one person that's special in his life. 

With characters with these kinds of motivations, Sarazanm-ai sounds like it could be a pretty serious and emotional drama, which it is...but it also gets weird. The boys end up getting turned into kappas, mythical creatures that pull the desire out of people's anuses, in order to protect their desires. So there are two cops who serve an evil otter by creating zombies that feed on people's desires and the three boys have to turn into kappas to steal back the desire from the zombies' butts. And all this happens along with brief musical numbers and moments that leave you going, "what?"

But once you get over the weirdness of Sarazanmai, I think that you'll find yourself truly invested in the lives of these three boys. You want them to achieve their goals and make their dreams come true with the people that they love. You'll shake your head and cry when they're stupidity and foolishness pushes them further away from happiness. That's how I felt after almost every episode of Sarazanmai and I loved it all.

There are two issues that I do have with the series that I think were kind of resolved in the end. The first is that there are a lot of repetitive scenes with the boys transforming into kappas and fighting zombies, and the cops doing a brief dance before turning people into otter zombies. It can get a little obnoxious, but those scenes go away for the most part halfway through the series. My second issues are the cop characters, Mabu and Reo. I really didn't know their motivations as antagonists and I really didn't care about them...but then the last two episodes changed all of that. I now think that they were one of the best parts of this series. 

So with all that being said, I think that Sarazanmai is a great series to check out if you're looking for a deep and meaningful story about friendship or desire and despair. If you're just looking for something weird to make you laugh and maybe cry, definitely check this series out. While this may not be Ikuhara's best anime, I do love this series and I think it may be my favorite anime of this year...maybe The Promised Neverland might be better in my opinion. If you've already watched Sarazanmai, let me know what you thought about it and if you know of other strange anime, feel free to recommend them!

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