“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
-The fox to the little prince, The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I return to The Little Prince a lot as a literary reference or frame through which to view other media. Its lessons are so simple and plainly said, yet remarkably difficult to achieve in life. Similarly, Kunihiko Ikuhara (who is also a fan of The Little Prince) uses seemingly-complex visual metaphors or specific visual and auditory languages to tell what are ultimately simple, but no less powerful, emotional narratives.
The shift between child to adult — and simple but important things adults may miss due to societal constraints or expectations — is the most-discussed lesson of The Little Prince, yet the one I was always interested in was that of connections. Or as the fox says to the little prince, “taming.”* What makes life bearable and meaningful is often found in relationships with others or connections, as Sarazanmai would say, and this is the most powerful force in existence, divine even.
The ninth episode of Sarazanmai bears the title “I Want to Connect, But I Can’t Express It” (or literally, I’m not transmitting it/it’s not transmitting). It’s fitting that it begins with one ㋐ symbol transmitting but the other not and/or refusing to receive said transmission. Sarazanmai has dealt in one-sided relationships from the beginning — where two or more people are unable to connect with each other due to each party having a set understanding of what they see that relationship as, and how they want it to go.
Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu are the most clear-cut example of this. In this episode, we see both of them attempt to return to their former selves to salvage their relationship, even if it’s under false pretenses. Mabu succeeds in making food that Reo approves of, and Reo immediately picks up food of his own and a bottle of wine for them to share and celebrate — all while dancing West Side Story choreography across Azumabashi and singing, “The perfect couple.” When he comes face to face, again, with the fact that Mabu is irrevocably changed — he’s still Mabu but he’s not the Mabu that Reo knows — he still refuses to accept this.
Furthermore, he refuses his own part in it, calls Mabu an imposter, and resumes his efforts to collect the Dishes of Hope to “return” Mabu. Mabu saying that he needs the desire part of Reo — represented by the shapeshifting otter — also speaks volumes. Since Reo has rejected him time and again, he’s seeking out that part of Reo that still wants him.
There are many parallels between Reo and Mabu’s relationship and the relationship Enta Jinai has with Kazuki Yasaka, especially when it comes to how Enta views Kazuki as a way to return to his sepia-tinged childhood past. The Kazuki that occupies Enta’s daydreams isn’t the Kazuki that exists in life, especially after Haruka Yasaka’s accident.
However, this doesn’t mean that Enta’s feelings aren’t based in something genuine and, for Enta himself, transcendent. When Enta was a lonely, isolated kid who had just moved back to Japan alone, Kazuki reached out to him based on a soccer connection. This experience helped shape and change Enta’s life for the better. It’s no wonder that he wouldn’t want to hold onto that as tightly as possible. Similarly, I would assume that Reo and Mabu’s relationship is based on a genuine and deep connection at its core. You are forever responsible for what you have tamed, and in this case, it means stripping away all other white noise to get to the core of that relationship or connection so both parties are transmitting and receiving. Kazuki already had to do this once with his brother Haruka to fully realize his connection to his own family — something that is lovingly referenced in this episode in Kazuki’s conversation with Haruka.
Then we have Chikai and Toi Kuji, who never manage to connect as equals despite both brothers performing extraordinary sacrifices for each other. They’re the cautionary tale of each sacrifice without actually talking to each other about what they want out of their relationship and for themselves.
This follows a similar pattern seen in other Ikuhara series where the true brushes with a god or any sort of divine, transcendent experience is actually a painfully human connection. It’s no coincidence that the two main “gods” in this series, Sara Azuma and Keppi, have been sidelined and are essentially useless. Yes, Keppi gives Enta some extended time for Kazuki to save his life, but what it’s likely to come down to will be the connection that Kazuki and Enta have, and even then it might be too late for Enta. After all, in a similar situation, Reo has presumably tried to keep “his” Mabu alive by doing awful things, and it’s brought him nothing but heartache.
*taming in this sense is from the French verb “apprivoiser” which is translated into English as “to tame” but has a softer meaning than complete (and unequal) dominion over a wild animal. It’s more like subduing a majestic or shy creature (like a fox, or a human for that matter). Apprivoiser was also used in the anime Star Driver alongside many other trappings from The Little Prince.