Sarazanmai 7: "...But I Want to Betray"

The episode title is back to “but”, so…I guess this’ll be another downer episode. …Oh, it’s Leo’s backstory. Also just the otter () / lie () pun over and over again, which the subtitles had to make up for in other ways.

Otter in a lab coat: "I am the Otter Empire's Chief Otticer of Science and Technology"

Otter: "Do you want to save your partner's life?"

“Your only option is to revolutionize the world.”

Okay, so I’m still not exactly clear on which side of the war Leo and Mab were on originally, but still. Here’s their present-day situation: Mab is alive but has basically had his emotions removed (his desires, perhaps?), and Leo is in service to the otters to get them back—get him back.

I’m going to pull the other Leo-and-Mab stuff forward and talk about that all at once to get it out of the way. Here’s the continuation of the opening scene:

(Leo exits a rooftop elevator to see Mab standing in front of him.)

Wow. It really is an elevator.

Utena references aside, I originally thought that this section was going to be Leo’s dream. He comes back and finds Mab and everything is okay…and then dream-logic takes over and it all goes wrong, or he’s brought back to reality. Instead, taking a page from Wicked, we find that

"Mabu has been fitted with a mechanical heart."

And, you know, huh. We’ve been seeing that all along. I wrote it off because it was part of the bizarre dance, but…

(at the climax of the Desire Extraction Dance, Leo reaches into to Mab's body and pulls out his heart)

…there it is. A mechanical heart.

This is at least a partial answer to why Leo and Mab need to collect desires. Even if it’s not clear what the otters are using them for, it’s potentially the case that these desires can be put into Mab to bring him back to normal. Or maybe it’s only temporary, and they need to keep harvesting people to extend the length. Or maybe it doesn’t work at all, and that’s just what the otters are telling Leo.

Also, this isn’t directly related to Leo and Mab…but I always watch the dance sequences and stock video to see if it changes, and this time it did.

(During the Desire Extraction Dance, two large eyes open behind Leo and Mab)

AAAH! I don’t remember those eyes being there before! And what’s more, they’re kappa-shaped eyes…

(We find out at the end of the episode that this is probably the ethereal being they’re calling “Darkness”, but I’m pretty sure it’s still going to have some connection to the kappa, more than just what we saw in the war flashback.)

EDIT: I was wrong about the eyes being new, but they have been emphasized more. And what’s more, the lyrics of the song has changed. Verse two?

All right, that’s it for the Otterman Empire (still happy with that pun). How about the boys?


Kazuki (thinking): "...but as long as the three of us are connected through the sarazanmai..."

“…I feel like we can make it through anything.”

Kazuki, don’t you know you’re in a story? You should never phrase anything as “as long as X, we can Y”; that’s just begging for a dramatic-ironic reveal.

Anyway, it’s summer break. T-shirt weather.

Enta: "Let's get that last dish for Kuji's sake!"

The transition to casual clothes makes sense in-universe, but it’s also a convenient device to show that all three boys are less stressed than they started. Toi is particular is opening up, even as he’s still surprised to find acceptance. Too bad Kazuki has terrible clothing taste. There are way too many colors, dude.

(oh well, he’s just a kid)

Meanwhile,

Sara, kissing Keppi: "I love you, dish!"

I don’t even know, okay? I still want to know what’s up with Sara-chan being a kappa, and this episode didn’t actually give me any answers.

Anyway,

Enta: "We'll worry about the dishes later! ('kangaeru')"

Y’know, it’s funny. When playing through 999 I was a little annoyed that I had to go through extra effort to listen for the Japanese puns in the character names that were in the voice acting (a minor plot point), as opposed to the English ones in the subtitles (equivalent but still different). Most of the time, though, it’s less distracting to translate the pun than to explain the original one. I mean, as you know I clearly enjoy explaining the Japanese stuff here when I get it, but that’s different from having it in the subtitles. Keikaku means plan.

Anyway, as a punster myself, putting a pun untranslated in subtitles is effectively admitting defeat. In this case, Keppi mishears “kangaeru” as “kaeru” (frog), so…well, okay, “frog” is hard to mishear in English. Here’s the best I could come up with:

  • “We’ll worry about the dishes when things are less fraught!”
  • “If I saw anything suspicious earlier, I forgot!”
  • “We need to hurry; look at this fog!”

…hm, all right, I have some sympathy for the translators. So, what’s today’s zombie?

Balls.

Shut up, Ikuhara. I can hear you laughing at me.

Sara: "The more balls you have, the happier you'll be!"

seriously I mean it

*cough* Anyway, I wasn’t sure how to feel about today’s kappa zombie having a…I don’t actually know what this kind of mask is called…

(ball zombie wearing a mask traditionally associated with BDSM)

But at one point the zombie says “I got the ball off”, so I guess it’s not unrelated, and the man behind the zombie (again it’s a man) did specifically seem like a BDSM/kink sub. So…

Well, it’s consistent, and maybe not problematic on its own. But we’re back in the same space as before: there’s a big difference between having and acting on desires and fetishes that society doesn’t like (being kicked by your partner, wearing boxes on your head), and having and acting on desires that actually harm other people or invade their privacy (stealing a customer’s bathwater, and, IIRC, straight-up murdering girlfriends). So even without the “desires should not be shown as shameful” angle, the show’s drawing some really problematic equivalences.

Then again, I’ve mixed two categories here: all the “secrets” that the kappa zombies have are unusual-but-valid desires, but all the humans behind them have acted in harmful and intrusive ways, and we didn’t see what today’s human was doing before he was turned into a zombie. So…aargh. I just don’t trust this show to handle this well, because it hasn’t been handling it well, and so using something associated with a specific group that probably isn’t well-understood seems like dangerous territory.

Anyway, there’s one more thing to talk about in the episode:

Leak: Enta sneaks into the plaza to steal the wish dishes.

For some reason, the “leak” section of today’s episode started with a new title card: “This is what’s about to happen.” And I don’t know what that means. I thought it meant that we were seeing Enta’s plans or desires…but then instead we saw actions that were established to have already happened. (The garbage thing might happen again, sure, but the dishes have already been stolen.) And this makes a huge difference in how I react to it all.

Look, Enta. I get it. You’re jealous. And to be clear, there’s lots of valid reasons to feel that way! I’ll repeat that: your feelings are valid. It stinks that you can’t rewind to the way things were before, and it’s not fair-ish that Kazuki’s opening up to Toi much faster than he’s opened up to you these last few months. However…

…dangit, Enta is Kazami Tatsuya, isn’t he. (Utena again.)

So this is why it really matters that this actually happened, rather than being fantasy. I’m a strong believer that having bad thoughts but not acting on them does not make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you completely clean, because those thoughts can leak out—not in this almost-literal way, but in the form of unconscious bias, or using slurs when you get frustrated (ugggh). But we’re not usually near something that extreme. If Enta were just fantasizing here, then he’s working through his feelings.

But he actually did the thing, and he’s causing harm to those around him. And then the episode ends (except for the post-credits scene, which I covered earlier). I hate the timing of this show, because it’s making everything a cliffhanger when it could be showing healthy emotional interactions and growth.

(Speaking of healthy emotional interactions and growth, Steven Universe did a similar plot to this one, although they took it in a different direction. It’s interesting to contrast the motivations there with the ones here: Enta seems to be trying to wear down Kazuki’s positivity so he’ll give up on Toi, while in SU character A was looking forward to the opportunity to work with character B to “clean up trash”. It’s more like if the three boys would have had nothing to do with each other and so Enta started trashing his own yard to get them to come over.)

Oh, one last Japanese note: Kazuki calls Toi by his personal name, but Enta uses “Kuji”, his family name. My understanding of Japanese culture (and experience from previous media) is that this isn’t nearly as drastic as it would be in English, especially for kids: you wouldn’t use a personal name for someone you don’t know very well, but you might very well use a family name even for someone you do, especially if you’re used to calling them that.


Well. It looks like a lot of my predictions from last time were right on: we’re getting more Leo, and we still need to work through Enta and Toi’s problems. Four episodes to go, and suddenly that’s not feeling like a lot of time. Are we sure this thing is only one season?