“I have faith that he’s going to smile again. I’m not the only one who wants to see Kazu-chan’s smile. Kazu-chan, you’re in the middle of a big circle.”
-Haruka Yasaka, Sarazanmai, Episode 6
As others have already written, placing things into a box in a Kunihiko Ikuhara series is almost always a bad thing. Boxes capture shortcuts — what people love is confined and boiled down to an easily-commodified object. It’s not allowed to get dirty or become “impure.”
Yet humans are dirty. The briefest of looks at the three disasters headlining Sarazanmai (Kazuki Yasaka, Toi Kuji, Enta Jinai) are enough to prove this but it’s a recurring theme in Ikuhara’s oeuvre: living is the punishment, but loving (yourself and other people) is the reward. All of that is messy, dirty stuff, especially when we have to fight through our own self-hatred to get there. We see this in Mawaru Penguindrum‘s Child Broiler and we see it again here in Sarazanmai with the inner workings of the Otter Empire’s plans in an otherworldly Sumida River/Azumabashi stage.
Speaking of self-hatred, let’s talk about Kazuki Yasaka.
Kazuki cannot truly connect with others because he hates himself. This is not only due to feeling responsible for Haruka’s accident but also because he was adopted by the Yasaka family and feels like an outsider because he’s not related to them by blood. Even then, he actively chooses the Yasaka family — and says as much when he meets his biological mother. The only thing stopping Kazuki from connecting with Haruka is himself. Rather than moving past his guilt, Kazuki connects with Haruka not as Kazuki: Haruka’s older brother but as the idol Sara Azuma. His false identity exposed, Kazuki is suddenly unable to connect even with Toi and Enta to perform the shirikodama ritual, which confines them to kappa form.
The entirety of Sarazanmai‘s sixth episode painfully and messily shows Kazuki breaking down before actually reaching out to form those true connections. In the opening moments of the episode, Kazuki is in complete denial, trying to convince himself that being a kappa is the best thing that ever happened to him. This continues until Haruka becomes Reo and Mabu’s latest victim.
All of the boys’ “desire box” items are present and each play a role in Kazuki’s growth. Toi uses his gun to rescue Kazuki from willingly sacrificing himself — a throwback in many ways to Momoka Oginome rescuing Keiju Tabuki or Shouma Takakura rescuing Himari Takakura in Penguindrum. Haruka holds Kazuki’s Sara Azuma headdress close to him as he’s shuttled around in his box. Enta uses the miçanga to finally talk to Kazuki without enabling him.
This scene with Enta has been a long time coming. Enta’s love for Kazuki is genuine and his confession heart-wrenching in Episode 3, but he also desperately wishes for Kazuki to return to “normal” or return to the past and their days as the Golden Duo. Enta doesn’t accept Kazuki for who he is, and even in the opening moments of this episode is easily swept into his own romantic delusions while enabling Kazuki’s self-destructive ways.
Yet Enta is in the unique position of not only loving Kazuki but also as a witness to how Kazuki’s actions have affected Haruka. Enta of all people understands how Kazuki has actually been hurting Haruka rather than helping. His scene with Kazuki and the miçanga is triumphant because he finally stops enabling Kazuki and speaks to him frankly. This miçanga isn’t the one that Enta bought Kazuki to try to confine him in the “box” of his expectations of who he wants Kazuki to be, this is Kazuki’s original that he tried to throw away. Here we see the true extent of what one of these desire items can represent — they are icons of that person’s love of something, but they’re also so much more. Their commodified versions, like the one that Enta bought Kazuki from Kappazon, cannot tell the entire story of a connection, love, or desire. Rather than trying to freeze time and put Kazuki in a box, Enta offers the miçanga as a representation of a way forward to truly having a relationship with Haruka, since it’s proof that Haruka still loves Kazuki.
We also see this during the sachet flashback. Previously, Kazuki wondered why Haruka had his mother’s sachet and this was filtered through his own self-hatred into something bad — a reminder that Haruka knows that they are not biologically-related brothers. Instead, it’s because Haruka didn’t want to be separated from Kazuki and didn’t want Kazuki’s biological mother to take him away.
Back to the idea of the Child Broiler, in order to escape being shredded by the Broiler, you had to be “chosen.” In this episode, we see Haruka, Enta, and Toi all choose Kazuki. This in turn allows Kazuki to put aside his self-hatred and choose Haruka in turn, rescuing him from his box. As Haruka says to Kazuki in his final text to “Sara,” Kazuki is in the middle of a circle. He’s loved by people other than Haruka, and with a little self-acceptance, he too can love them in return.