“Only those who can connect desires can have a future.”
-Mabu Akutsu, Sarazanmai, Episode 2
Ah, the things we do for love.
One of the oft-repeated refrains of Mawaru Penguindrum‘s first few episodes was, “Himari no tame ni!” (For Himari! For Himari’s sake!) For their sister, Himari Takakura, Kanba and Shouma Takakura were willing to do a variety of things — Kanba in particular.
Here we see this dilemma repeated with multiple Sarazanmai pairs: Kazuki and Harukawa Yasaka (for the sake of Haruka!), Toi and Chikai Kuji (for the sake of Chikai, but since Chikai is the older brother, I’m not ruling out the fact that he’s doing a lot of his illegal activities for the sake of Toi), and presumably Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu (for the sake of Mabu). The question that Sarazanmai poses is whether the sacrifices made are worth it, or even the sacrifices that /should/ be made over others. Penguindrum, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Yuri Kuma Arashi all dealt with fundamental misunderstandings on behalf of the person making the sacrifice as to what their sibling/lover/special person would want in the first place. I expect Sarazanmai to be no different.
The episode title ties directly into this, “I Want to Connect, but I Want to Take.”
Kazuki’s devotion to his younger brother, Haruka, is obvious and a highlight of this episode. Both sarazanmai leakage scenes have involved the great lengths that Kazuki will go to capture those lucky selfies and continue pretending to be Sara for the sake of Haruka. There’s likely something more at stake than simply making Haruka happy. Regardless, in this episode we see that Kazuki has no problems stealing someone’s cat from their yard — this entire setup was reminiscent of one of my favorite Ikuhara episodes from Sailor Moon‘s first season involving a cat named Rhett Butler — to show it to Haruka, and this is even before Sara announces “cat” as her lucky selfie item.
While he’s not yet at Toi’s level of law-breaking — drowning people, running the weed side business — cat theft could easily be a slippery slope for Kazuki, especially since he stole it a while ago (or repeatedly steals it) so that Haruka could have a pet. The sentiment that he would be willing to do anything for Haruka is actually what’s bringing him closer to Toi and further away from Enta, although Enta does a bit of his own boundary-pushing by kissing a sleeping Kazuki-as-Sara.
There’s also the issue of Kazuki himself, and his life-changing event that was shown in the cold open of the first episode. Sarazanmai poses the question not only of what happened to Kazuki but whether he’s even “alive” at all. This episode raised more suspicions by showing Kazuki’s only interaction with his parents to be after Haruka addressed him specifically. We know that Kazuki can interact directly with Toi and Enta, but given his recent and sudden departure from the soccer club, his “near-death” experience from the ㋐ sign nearly falling on him, and odd interactions, it’s something to keep an eye on.
Returning to our desire otter pair, there seems to be a similar dynamic between Reo and Mabu, albeit a romantic/sexual connection rather than a familial one. At the end of their musical number that transforms a cat criminal into the cat zombie monster of this week, Reo pulls out Mabu’s heart in a very familiar scene for anyone who has seen Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya from Utena, or Kanba and Himari Takakura from Penguindrum. They’re sharing something in that moment, which certainly works as a euphemism for sex, but also deep and lasting connection between the two. It insinuates that there’s very little (or nothing) that Reo and Mabu wouldn’t do for the sake of each other, and that includes turning other people into zombies for their own benefit (presumably after they murder them).
Reo and Mabu also play another role directly related to their in-universe job of policemen. They actively police the desires of others. It’s too early to say definitively that they uphold the status quo, but existing societal norms is what they appear to side with, especially since their two cases thus far have been deviants. Additionally, they specifically make a distinction between “desire” and “love,” forcibly separating the two, which plays into common boys-love media tropes. Yet, true connection between the two would involve both love and desire.