Sarazanmai‘s eighth episode breaks the pattern of episodes prior. There is no “Kawausoiya” and no trio singing on the otherworldly version of Azumabashi trying to capture a kappa zombie’s shirikodama.
Yet, Azumabashi bridge — the location of Sarazanmai‘s field of desires — still plays a large and similar role in this episode. It connects people.
Azumabashi (“Azuma Bridge”) was the last of five bridges spanning the Sumida River (at that time called Ookawa or “Big River”) built during the Tokugawa Shogunate. It connects, in the words of Sara Azuma herself, Sumida Ward and Taito Ward. It’s also been called “East Bridge” or “Wife Bridge” even after the kanji for higashi (east) and azuma (which can also mean east) were separated. Azuma can also mean “my wife” and has ties to a nearby shrine, Azuma Shrine. This was said to be the shrine of Yamato Takeru’s wife, Princess Ototachibana, who threw herself into the ocean to appease the gods and grant Takeru safe passage. Through multiple renovations and more than a few natural disasters, Azumabashi has become one of the iconic bridges of Tokyo. The wayward pylons in the river pictured above are likely from prior iterations of the bridge.
Sarazanmai questions the strength of connections — especially in a world of social media, commodification, etc. — and how well we’re aware of the connections we make with others. To steal a line from a favorite Kunihiko Ikuhara reference point, The Little Prince, it’s our awareness of the responsibility for that which we have tamed. Most of these connections all lead to one physical place in the series: Azumabashi.
When we’re first introduced to Kazuki Yasaka, even in Sarazanmai preview videos, he was running along the Sumida River with Azumabashi in his sight. As we hear Haruka Yasaka yell, “Kazu-chan!” immediately before his accident, the reflection of Azumabashi is shown in the water.
Azumabashi is not-so-coincidentally the location of the mystical Field of Desires, where the main trio of Kazuki, Toi Kuji, and Enta Jinai fight kappa zombies and steal their shirikodama. It’s also the location that the aforementioned Sara names as her home — despite being brought up as a baby by Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu in the prequel manga — and takes her family name “Azuma” from. (As an aside, it’s interesting that “Azuma” could also designate Sara as “my wife” related to Keppi the kappa prince).
Above all else, in Sarazanmai, Azumabashi connects things (a bridge’s purpose). It physically spans the river, connecting parts of Tokyo. It connects the kappa trio with the kappa zombies’ desires, and subsequently the kappa trio with their own secret desires. It’s the location of their makeshift soccer practice area.
And, following Episode Eight, it’s both an initial meeting place and a departure point for Toi and Kazuki.
When given space to breathe a bit, Ikuhara excels at setting up patterns — like the Kawausoiya and Sarazanmai songs/transformation sequences every episode — and then breaking them. Similarly, he enjoys returning to specific places or scenes and adding greater context by mixing up character groupings in that episode and returning to known physical locations. In this episode, that means pairing up Enta and Toi’s older brother Chikai for an episode, returning to the soccer practice area at Azumabashi via flashback, and returning to the Hanayashiki amusement park.
Unlike Toi and Kazuki, who were forced into close physical contact at Hanayashiki in the second episode, Enta and Chikai are purposefully separated visually. This is particularly poignant when the viewer realizes that Toi knew who Kazuki was all along, even while being dragged through the amusement park, forced to hold Kazuki’s hand the entire time.
Kazuki doesn’t remember, but it was Toi who gave him the miçanga he wears all the time — later erroneously “borrowed” by Enta to become Enta’s desire box item because he thinks it connects him and Kazuki — and first did the “Saratto!” pose. In his effort to give up the thing he loves, soccer, for his brother, a young Toi throws a soccer ball off of Azumabashi and happens to meet Kazuki. Kazuki remembers none of this.
“People realize they were connected when they no longer are.”
-Toi Kuji to Kazuki Yasaka, Sarazanmai, Episode 8
Toi says this to Kazuki twice: once when they were children, and again as he’s leaving with Azumabashi in front of them, likely in a desperate attempt to jog Kazuki’s memory.
It doesn’t work.
These words along with Azumabashi frame Toi’s departure, Kazuki’s fight with Enta, and Enta’s (possibly fatal) injury, making them all the more tragic. Toi realizes he was connected to Kazuki, but feels as if he no longer is due to Kazuki’s lack of recognition. Enta realizes Kazuki and Toi were connected before he and Kazuki were connected, making the previously strong “claim” to Kazuki over Toi that he had built up in his mind, completely moot. And, as Enta is dying in his arms with Toi already gone, Kazuki realizes he was connected to both of them, but may never see either again.