In defense of Sarazanmai’s Enta Jinai (sort of)

“Damn it! Why do you keep worrying about Kuji!”

-Enta Jinai to Kazuki Yasaka, Sarazanmai, Episode 7

Enta Jinai is a disaster, both relatable and familiar.

Following Sarazanmai‘s second episode — where the depths of Kazuki Yasaka’s obsession and dedication to his convoluted relationship with his brother Haruka Yasaka begin to be revealed — I wondered what Enta’s breaking point would be. Although we had yet to learn the extent of Toi Kuji and Kazuki’s failed connections with Chikai Kuji and Haruka respectively, it was obvious that those two would do anything to maintain their faulty, misguided relationships. Anything, in their cases, included but was not limited to running the family drug business, crossdressing, and later in the series, kidnapping.

Throughout the first few episodes, Enta maintains a (false) sense of purity about Kazuki and Toi’s actions, passing judgment on both of them, especially Toi. Even Kazuki, whom he forgives and enables almost instantly, isn’t exempt from Enta saying that his stealing a cat “isn’t right.” There’s a reason why Kazuki immediately goes to Toi when plotting to kidnap Sara Azuma and not Enta — the fact that Enta has already been tasked with escorting Haruka to Sara’s fanmeet aside.

Enta isn’t the one you call to commit crimes, but despite his righteous act, he desperately wants to be.

Instead, Enta tries to be the voice of reason. Only this fails because he can’t seem to stop himself from enabling Kazuki. His obsession, and breaking point, is Kazuki, who Enta kisses without consent as early as the end of the second episode. By the end of the seventh, Enta is pretending to be a happy friendship trio with Kazuki and Toi, while stealing the dishes of hope against Kazuki’s wishes, trashing their soccer practice space secretly, and letting his jealousy of Kazuki and Toi’s burgeoning friendship eat him alive.

This makes Enta worse, in a way, than both Kazuki and Toi. Enta is the person who pretends to be good, passes judgment on others for straying, while committing equal or worse acts himself.

Saying that someone “can’t help themselves,” is a loaded phrase. Like the title of Enta’s first lead vocal performance — which passes off his inability to connect due to something else rather than Enta’s own actions — it implies that another force is at work acting on Enta and making his actions somewhat out of his control. His inability to connect with Kazuki in the way that he wants to is born of his own obsession, but also outside forces. Kazuki could be straight. Kazuki could be gay but just not want Enta in that way. Because of this, Enta is driven to control what he can to an obsessive degree, helped along by his jealousy of Kazuki and Toi’s relationship. He sets up scenarios so that they can play out like his daydreams, and falls apart even more when his plans don’t come to fruition.

Like those who came before Enta in Kunihiko Ikuhara series past — Kyouichi Saionji, Touga Kiryuu, and Nanami Kiryuu (Revolutionary Girl Utena), Keiju Tabuki and Yuri Tokikago (Mawaru Penguindrum), Yuriika Hakonaka (whose family name literally means “in a box,” Yuri Kuma Arashi) and many others from these seres to varying degrees — Enta is both victim and perpetrator of the system.

And in an Ikuhara series, the villain is always the system.

This doesn’t make Enta’s possessive, jealous actions right — just as being victims of the system hardly excuses the actions of Saionji et. al. It also doesn’t mean that Enta’s feelings for Kazuki don’t have a layer of honesty. His confession to Kazuki is genuinely heartbreaking, and will resonate with anyone who has ever been queer and had what they felt was an unnatural or awkward crush on a friend.

It’s also no coincidence that Enta’s second lead episode is where Sarazanmai reveals more about Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu’s relationship. Like Reo, Enta cannot recognize that the person he wants to be with has changed. Part of Enta’s love of Kazuki is rooted in a desperate desire to return to the past, and we see both Reo and Mabu struggle with this concurrently. The title of Enta’s first lead episode, “I want to connect, but it’s not meant to be” has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more Enta refuses to recognize the Kazuki in front of him, the more he will push Kazuki away but this is the only way he knows (or has been taught) how to connect with Kazuki now that Kazuki has changed. While Reo and Mabu seem too deeply mired in the system to make an escape, there is hope for Enta, just as there was hope for Kazuki, and it likely lies beyond what he currently knows.

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