Not So Clearly Connected
Series in a Sentence
Three boys (Kazuki, Toi, and Enta) must combat “Kappa Zombies” by themselves becoming Kappa in order to end the weird happenings of their town and figure out how to connect with those around them.
What I liked
Sarazanmai was the season’s unabashedly weird show and it leaned so heavily into interpretations of Japanese mythology that it kind of worked. Kappa stereotypes and references based on stories of ages past abounded, giving the world its own realistic yet surreal vibe, while a production quality that the show had no right to have elevated it to new heights. Characters were all distinct yet not over designed, certain common animation sequences were beautifully done and a joy to watch, and the music (from the opening and ending to the insert songs and instrumental tracks) was infectious. Of course, this show is one driven by the development of its characters and that, too, was well done (for the most part). Characters do have individual arcs that illicit changes and the overall theme (dealing primarily with connecting with others and living through life despite its hardships because of those connections) is illustrated in a variety of different ways consistently. From struggles with past crimes to familial loyalty and sexuality, this show isn’t afraid to put its characters in compromising or difficult situations. Unlike other shows that deal with generally similar themes, the use of metaphor here is just enough when coupled with these direct showings of character that it is easy enough to follow.
What I Didn’t Like
While I liked that this show really leaned into its weirdness, that weirdness is a double edged sword based to the obscurity of some of the references. Knowing what a kappa is, what they are rumored to eat, who they are rumored to not get along with, what they do with shirikodama, what a shirikodama is, and what they stand for are all somewhat important to fully getting some of the jokes and references. While this knowledge isn’t truly required, and while a couple of minute Wikipedia refresher is enough to catch anyone up on Japanese lore, there are a few jokes and gags that constantly rely on that knowledge. Also, while I praised the animation, it is obvious that the surprising quality came at a cost: repeat scenes. Seeing a song and dance number or a transformation scene or a battle once or twice frame for frame without minor changes wore down on me after a while. This is especially true since a lot of these scenes straddle the line of NSFW if not crossing it altogether. Finally, the pacing is a bit of a mess, especially early on. The show constantly swaps between the “present world” and flashbacks, without warning at times, to establish character traits/flaws/motivations and this, too, was jarring. On top of that, some key scenes are relegated to post-credit status, a practice that irks me to no end considering that many people might skip ending themes altogether.
Sarazanmai isn’t a series that I thought I would want to keep up with, but I ended up sticking with it week to week. Its themes are common but thankfully not presented in a convoluted way, its characters are varied and interesting but can be annoying and are commonly presented in some awkward NSFW scenes, and its pacing struggled to settle in until the tail end of the show. Regardless, after seeing many shows tackle the theme that Sarazanmai presents through the use of overly complicated plots/unnecessary metaphor, it was somewhat refreshing to see it presented in a mostly straightforward way with characters that change over the course of the show and that learn from events that occur. Yes, the stakes aren’t as high as other shows that focus on accepting the struggles of life and connections and, yes, the series isn’t action-packed but that still didn’t take away from the enjoyment I got. I wouldn’t really say that this is a must-watch series, though, but that is alright: From its catchy tunes to its colorful atmosphere and deep themes, Sarazanmai definitely has its audience. Life sucks sometimes, but the people you meet along the way can make it all worth it if you just let them.