Sarazanmai 4 & 5

“I Want to Connect, but You’re So Far Away” and “…but I Can’t Be Forgiven”. I didn’t have enough to say after watching Ep 4, so I decided to combine the two and therefore catch up to the releases. A week till the next one!

Okay, really, though. In Ep 4 we got Toi’s backstory, and while it was tragic and all that there wasn’t really anything surprising. I mean, poor kid, to have to go through that, but also sure, whatever.

(Young Toi insists to his brother that he won't forget their parents.)

I did catch that present-day Toi still has the lollipop that appeared throughout the past, but I don’t think the lollipop is anything other than the symbol of Lost Innocence.

I also enjoyed this image of “perished” construction equipment.

"Those who perish are forgotten."

There was a deeper meaning in this scene that would actually be relevant for displacement and gentrification here in the Bay Area, but right now I’m just going to look at the nice painting of an excavator in a storage unit.

Even in this darkest-yet episode, the show reminds us that it’s not to be taken completely seriously with the stock-footage “flashback transition”.

"Kaisou: ○ Flashback, ❌︎ Seaweed "

I hadn’t stopped to think about what this was saying, but “kaisou” is the pronunciation for both “flashback” and “seaweed”. Add that to the flashback video being bubbles in water, and the general kappa / water theme, and it’s not quite as ridiculous…well, it is ridiculous, but it’s in-theme.

…And while I’m talking about Japanese-language things, Toi and Chikai, really? (“Tōi” means “far”, “chikai” means “close”. The actual characters use different, uh, characters for their names, but it’s still really obvious.)

Anyway, in Ep 4 Kazuki comes up with a wacky plan to kidnap a pop star—but we’ll talk about that in Ep 5—and the post-credits scene drops this bombshell.

Kazuki: "I hate Haruka."


(I did check the original Japanese. Kazuki does indeed say 嫌い, the word you learn in Japanese 1 for “dislike/hate”.)

So, Enta’s freaking out about Toi, and then about Kazuki doing this. Toi’s not really sure what’s going on—actually, how did Kazuki get the dish to begin with? And Kazuki…sees that Toi is fighting for something.

This was one of the reasons I didn’t want to just stop after Ep 4. It’s a cliffhanger, but it’s a stupid one. There is (was) a chance Kazuki actually does resent Haruka, but even then there’d be an explanation. So…onward.

Okay, so explanation: Kazuki is…adopted? A half-sibling? The show isn’t exactly clear, at least not in the subtitles. Also, I’m not sure I believe that Kazuki’s interpretation of his grandfather’s last words is correct—

(Kazuki meets his biological mother on the street by chance.)

Oh. (Happy Mother’s Day.)

Meanwhile, in the present, Kazuki and Toi have set up a plan to kidnap a pop idol and then have Kazuki go onstage as her at a public event. This plan is all sorts of broken, not to mention wrong because you are kidnapping someone, but hey, it’s all for Haruka, right?

The plan quickly goes wrong, because—

(Azuma Sara escapes a locked building in kappa form.)

Sara-chan’s a kappa‽ Is she gonna be the kappa princess or something? Or is this entire scene just Ikuhara being goofy and it’s not representing anything?

(Azuma Sara escapes a magician's box full of swords.)

Okay, there’s at least a bit of the latter, the way she lets Toi just keep trying. Also, *cough* Utena *cough*.

The plan eventually fails, and because of Plot, it fails right in front of Kazuki’s family.

Haruka: "Kazu-chan?"

…All right, let’s talk about the family stuff. (I’m doing this a bit out of order, but that’s fine.) Kazuki starts drifting away from his adoptive (?) family, but when he meets his biological mother, he decides

"I have a family that's more real than my biological family."

I should really talk to my adoptee friends and family about this at some point, but I’ve always assumed I would feel this way had I been adopted, and I’m a little sad that that point of view doesn’t seem to show up much in media. As a non-adoptee, though, my opinion here doesn’t matter so much.

Still, Kazuki’s keeping secrets, and that leads to Haruka—

(Kazuki's hand slips out of Haruka's)

—oh. Okay. Kazuki blames himself for the accident, and not entirely without reason. And that’s also why he stopped playing soccer—it’s something like flaunting his legs at Haruka. It all ties together.

Kazuki: "That's why I decided to stay with my false family for the rest of my life."

…no! Dangit, Kazuki, do you consider them your real family or not? And your guilt may be justified, but your attempt at atonement isn’t helping anyone.

All right. That’s Kazuki’s backstory, and I suspect that’s most of the boys’ backstories wrapped up by this point. Let’s circle back.

Toi: "Secrets eventually get out."

This seems to be one of the themes of the show, but I still don’t know what it’s trying to do with it yet. Yes, secrets eventually get out, and therefore…what?

The boys get turned into kappas again; one of them says it would have been nice to have a warning, and the prince scoffs “the sun goes down, the kappa zombie comes, and I turn you three into kappa; what’s the problem?”

Toi: "What about that isn't a problem?"

(Side note: I’m sure there’s interesting stuff written on the walls they run past, but I’m not going to be the one who takes the time to go frame by frame and figure it out.)

This is getting kind of long (two episodes, after all), and so I’ll just mention one more thing: all the kappa zombies have been men, and except for the first one, they’ve all been pining after women.

"I want to etch my girl's scent into my olfactory center!"

I don’t think there’s any significance to them all being male besides (1) being more willing to believe “depravity” of men, and (2) making the shirikodama extraction (slightly) less awkward, because it’s happening to a man. But do they all have to be doing the things because of women?

…well, maybe. It is at the intersection of “desire” and “connections” for heterosexual men, and if the show’s not going to investigate it…

…okay, I don’t have a conclusion. It’s just something I noticed.

The last thing that happens in this episode is in the post-credits scene: we find out that one of the policemen might not be really evil but just evil-curious.

Reo: "You would never understand!"

I kind of expected this too, but only because I knew the two of them were also considered characters and not just a backdrop, and because we see this guy having his own desires in the opening. I guess we’ll see where this goes.

So, has Sarazanmai gotten any better? Well, it hasn’t made any horrific gaffes like in Ep 2; now it’s just “normal” tropes like “let’s kidnap a pop idol and the worst that will happen is wacky hijinks rather than getting arrested”. We’re not quite halfway through the show, so it’s actually entirely likely that it’ll take a turn to be something much more serious, interesting, and/or deconstructive soon.

But so far, would I recommend this show to someone else? No, not really. On what basis would I do so?