A speculation post for everyone’s favorite otter cops: Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu.
Major spoilers for the Sarazanmai manga, Reo and Mabu~ Together They Are Sarazanmai.
Reo and Mabu’s domestic life
Kunihiko Ikuhara’ series often have a companion manga. In the case of both Revolutionary Girl Utena and Yuri Kuma Arashi, these were alternate retellings that ran concurrently with the series as they aired. Sarazanmai will have a companion manga with the first chapter releasing on May 17. This is in addition to the first light novel which has already been released and follows the series’ plot with a few minor changes and supplementary details.
Reo and Mabu~ Together They Are Sarazanmai is an outlier to other manga for Ikuhara’s series in that it’s specifically a one-voluma prequel that was released before the show began, and is not the typical concurrent series manga like those of Utena or Yurikuma. Reo and Mabu’s manga prequel seems meant to be digested as just that, a prequel, along with their Twitter account.
The Reo and Mabu of the manga are vastly different from the singing cop duo we see in the Sarazanmai series. Not only are they cops together in Asakusa but they’re in a domestic partnership. The two are emotionally expressive, and obviously care deeply about one another — their teasing in the manga is reminiscent of Sailor Moon‘s Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh where it’s laced with sexual tension and shows warmth and very committed relationship from both parties. Reo is outgoing and gregarious. He is shown to know nearly everyone in Asakusa in some way or another. Mabu is the more straight-laced of the pair, but even he has his goofier sides, like cooking in only an apron for Reo or becoming singularly obsessed with one thing until he figures it out.
Of the two, Mabu is the most different from his later iteration in the Sarazanmai series. As early as the first manga chapter, Mabu is shown to be fairly possessive of Reo, saying that the food he makes is specifically for Reo to eat — implying that it’s for no one else. By contrast, the Mabu of the series — presumably several years older than he was in the manga — is cold and distant. During their “Kawausoiya” dance and Reo pulling out Mabu’s beating heart, Mabu never looks at Reo while Reo looks lovingly at Mabu the entire time.
Throughout the manga there’s no explanation of how Reo and Mabu began working for the so-called “otter empire,” what happened to Mabu’s heart, or why they have to extract the desires of others, transforming them into “kappa zombies.” Presumably, all of this happens following the scope and timeline of the manga.
Reo and Mabu and Sara
In the manga, Reo and Mabu became fathers of baby Sara Azuma, who they name “Sara” because they discover her in the streets of Asakusa on a plate. Nearly the entirety of the manga could be marketed as, “Sara Azuma and her two extremely good gay dads” as Reo and Mabu go about their daily lives as policemen in Asakusa with adopted baby daughter Sara in tow.
In the penultimate chapter of Reo and Mabu~ Together They Are Sarazanmai begins with both Reo and Mabu waking up suddenly from a dream as baby Sara sleeps between them. the two policemen encounter a barefoot, pajama-clad stranger who wanders into their police box while Reo and Mabu are eating lunch (lovingly prepared by Mabu, of course). The stranger says that he lives in the ward across the river but sleep-walked his way into Asakusa. After Reo and Mabu give him money and shoes, a full-grown adult Sara Azuma — as shown in the Sarazanmai series — appears to thank Reo and Mabu before leaving. They both wrack their brains as to how Sara grew up so quickly, yelling at themselves for failing to remember her upbringing. After she thanks them for their help, Sara is reunited with her prince (the pajama-wearing man from earlier) over the Sumida River. Later, Reo and Mabu wake up with a start, finding that it’s all a dream and baby Sara is sleeping between them per usual.
“Writers exist in the space between life and death, dish. Sara exists between Sumida ward and Taito ward, dish. [Sara’s] prince exists between love and desire, dish.”
–Sara’s text crawl, Sarazanmai, Episode 4
There is evidence that this stranger could be Keppi himself in human form. Through Sara’s text crawls, it’s clear that the prince she continuously talks about his Keppi, who seems to be permanently in kappa form and guides the main trio of Sarazanmai (Kazuki Yasaka, Toi Kuji, Enta Jinai). In the series’ fourth episode, she specifically states that Sara exists “between the wards” and her prince exists “between love and desire.” In the manga, the pajama stranger “sleep-walked” from ward to ward before being reunited with Sara over the river itself.
Love and desire are made out to be at odds with each other during Reo and Mabu’s transformation sequences and Kawausoiya song in the series. With every zombie that Reo and Mabu create, they are confronted by Kazuki, Toi, and Enta at the Field of Desire, which is located on the Azuma Bridge (Azumabashi). Sara also takes the surname Azuma, rather than Niiboshi or Akutsu, pinpointing her location in a way.
@keeponly1luv (what happened to Mabu?)
Alongside the manga, Reo and Mabu had a Twitter account that posted from Nov. 11, 2018 to March 31, 2018, before Sarazanmai began airing. Each post is tagged with the name of the poster — either Reo or Mabu. Most of the account appears to be domestic fluff about their adventures as cops in Asakusa, but a closer look reveals nods to the series material as well as a rift in Mabu and Reo’s relationship. It also presumably chronicles their foray into the otter empire and details a bit of communication with higher-ups who are also present in the series.
Most noticeably, there is no Sara. Not only is she not mentioned at all in the Twitter timeline, but this post on Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) cheekily says, “Girls’ Day hunh, that isn’t very relevant to us.” While it could be a simple joke about them both being men, Hinamatsuri is something that they would participate in were they raising Sara, since it’s a festival to celebrate girls’ prosperity, health, and good fortune for the future. In this timeline, Sara is gone — or simply the young adult idol who is ubiquitous in the series.
It’s apparent that something happened to Reo and Mabu — Mabu specifically — in the time between the manga and the series. Sarazanmai‘s Mabu is completely devoid of emotion in a manner that’s almost robotic. The transformation of kappa zombies by Reo and Mabu are said to be Mabu’s “lifeline.” After the events of the fifth episode with the sachet kappa zombie surviving, Mabu states that he has to go out for maintenance and drops the line, “What’s the point of prioritizing personal feelings?” a stark contrast to his jealousy at someone else other than Reo eating his food shown in the manga.
This naturally upsets Reo, who not only is always looking at Mabu with a loving expression, but is also shown in the opening alongside the main trio and their “connections.” Just like Kazuki wants to connect with his brother Haruka, Toi wants to connect with his brother Chikai, Enta wants to connect with his crush Kazuki, Reo wants to connect (or reconnect) with Mabu. Something happened to Mabu and now Reo has presumably been collecting desire to keep Mabu alive. Reo appears to have a similar desperation shown by Kazuki’s crossdressing as Sara.
The “it was all a dream” manga ending with Reo, Mabu, and baby Sara points to another theory that the entirety of Sarazanmai the series could have happened within the “dream” that Reo and Mabu had in the manga. At the end, Sara reunites with her prince as an adult and leaves, which could be a later plot point in the anime series.