Sarazanmai: A Riveting Series Review & Insight into the Breathtaking Finale

Thank Goodness for Sarazanmai

By gosh, Ikuhara has really outdone himself this time. As arguably one of the most unpredictable directors in the realm of anime, it’s a relief that he chose this year, which has been lackluster in terms of anime offerings, to showcase his remarkable talent. Sarazanmai turned out to be everything we needed and more. What made it even more impressive was not just its quality but also the way it diverged from Ikuhara’s previous works. It remained true to his distinct style while offering something completely fresh.

Connecting Themes: Tsuritama and Sarazanmai

If we were to draw a parallel between Sarazanmai and another Ikuhara work, Tsuritama stands out as the closest contender. Although they aren’t on the same level, both series expose their directors’ exceptional prowess, particularly in terms of visuals, and reveal a more humane side. These directors, who often struggle with discipline, managed to deliver their most concise and consistent series yet. In both shows, they explore the emotional ups and downs of adolescent boys with affection and whimsy. If Sarazanmai fails to bring at least a slight smile to your face, perhaps you’re a rather jaded viewer.

Hope and Despair

While Ikuhara is known for tackling big ideas and tragedies in his shows, Sarazanmai deviates by focusing on more straightforward themes and highlighting hope rather than despair. If Sarazanmai represents Keppi, then Mawaru Penguin Drum is its polar opposite. The latter series took inspiration from “A Night on the Galactic Railroad,” a subtly tragic work of Japanese literature, and centered around the psychologically unsettling Sarin gas attacks in Japan. In contrast, Sarazanmai explores the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, serving as a symbol for the catastrophic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, which left a profound impact on Ikuhara. The choice of subject matter fits seamlessly into the overall narrative.

A Life of Connections Through Pain and Loss

Sara beautifully captures the essence of what Ikuni intended to convey with Sarazanmai: “The dish is the vessel of life. If it has form, it will one day break and be lost. Only those who connect their desires through the pain of loss can take the future in their hands.” Even Keppi recognized this, stating, “The future is not necessarily a bright one. Hope and despair are both one with life.” Although the conclusion of Sarazanmai may be considered a happy ending by Ikuhara’s standards, it is grounded in acceptance. Pain and loss are inevitable consequences of choosing to live and truly connect with others. They serve as proof of our existence. Connection requires the willingness to endure loss and suffering. Ultimately, what other option is there?

Embracing Simplicity and Life-Affirmation

Ikuhara’s ability to evoke such powerful emotions through simplicity shouldn’t come as a surprise. His literary background has always shone through his work. What sets Sarazanmai apart from his previous works is his embrace of a life-affirming message, even within the framework of his dark and turbulent style. It’s immensely satisfying to witness his success in sticking the landing. The 11-episode format, though limiting, may have forced Ikuhara to focus on the essential aspects of the story while shedding superfluous elements, leading to an overall positive outcome.

Toi’s Decisive Moment

While Kazuki and Enta had already made their existential decisions in the preceding episodes, Toi faced a more challenging choice. For Toi, the value of life itself wasn’t a given. Losing his brother and discovering the truth about him firsthand served as a stark reminder. Toi may have contemplated pulling the trigger, but he couldn’t bear the weight of taking multiple lives and the lasting emotional scars that would accompany such actions, no matter how justified they might seem in the moment.

Keppi: More Than a Tool

With Keppi, it was unexpected that there was no hidden agenda or ulterior motive. Unlike Kyuubey, he possessed genuine emotions and displayed genuine concern for the boys. I couldn’t help but find some delightful self-parody in Ikuhara’s portrayal of Otter’s demise with the words, “I am a concept.” Keppi had to make his own decision, embracing his own darkness to enable the boys’ journey towards salvaging their future. Symbolically, this moment captures the profound depth of Ikuhara’s storytelling.

Interpreting the Ending

Various interpretations can be made regarding the events leading up to the ending. How exactly did Reo and Mabu manage to shine the light that guided the boys to achieve their goal, allowing them to deliver the miçanga to the 10-year-old Kazuki? Do Reo and Mabu live on inside Keppi, or is their existence more metaphorical? While it becomes apparent that Toi spent time in juvenile detention and later jumped into the Kandagawa upon his release, the true intention of his plunge remains open for interpretation. Was he contemplating the end of his life, or was it a symbolic gesture representing his reimmersion into life itself? Kazuki and Enta stood firm, refusing to let Toi choose either path. Personally, I choose to believe in the latter interpretation – rather than giving up hope, Toi symbolically expressed his willingness to fully embrace life once more.

Hope and Courage

In the era of climate change and amidst political turmoil, Sarazanmai, despite its relatively happy ending, conveys Ikuhara’s most hopeful and earnest statement as a writer. The exorcism of Otter is not an eradication of pain and suffering but an acceptance of their existence. The future may hold brightness or darkness beyond our control; all we have power over is our choice to face it. In literature, the struggle between possibility and regret often takes center stage. Choosing possibility requires embracing its inherent double-edged nature and resolving to do our best regardless of the outcome. Sarazanmai encapsulates this life-affirming sentiment, delivering a focused and coherent masterpiece. Without a doubt, this show will occupy a prominent place in our hearts when we reflect upon the year’s end.