One of the most striking images from the main Sarazanmai preview trailer is of a red stain expanding outwards from an icon of an otter in a heart. The stain looks like a blood droplet spreading across Asakusa just above (or below in relation to this map, which is rotated) the Sumida River. Sarazanmai‘s Asakusa policeman duo of Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu appear to set this reaction in motion by throwing their hats in the air and yelling about extracting desire — complete with a transformation sequence that includes a lot of rising otter icons and the character “吸” for sucking or extracting. Given that the basic outline of the story involves three junior high school students transformed into kappa in search of tiny balls (shirikodama) inside the anuses of kappa zombies, Reo and Mabu’s presumed transformation where they “milk desire” is already an interesting addition.
The relationship between kappa and otters (kawauso) goes back to Japanese folklore, much like the existence of the shirikodama itself. Sarazanmai director Kunihiko Ikuhara used a kappa and otter motif around the parents of Mawaru Penguindrum‘s Ringo Oginome in a rather insidious way that could tell us a lot about his plans for a similar motif in Sarazanmai.
In two weeks, director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s latest original anime, Sarazanmai, will air in Japan. I’ve found few anime as immersive, both coy and direct with their symbolism, and as emotionally-affecting as Ikuhara’s original works, which include Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum, and Yurikuma Arashi. They all have something important to say and reward watching (and rewatching) with a careful eye. To say that I’m looking forward to Sarazanmai is an understatement.
I rarely preview series, but in the interest of digging into Sarazanmai as soon as possible, and organizing my own thoughts before the first episode airs on April 11, here is a collection of themes that the series may be looking to tackle, based on the information available thus far and Ikuhara’s previous work.
“Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can’t get out of the banana hole?”
“Yes,” said Sybil.
“Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die.”
“Why?” asked Sybil.
“Well, they get banana fever. It’s a terrible disease.”
-an exchange between Seymour Glass and six year-old Sybil Carpenter, A Perfect Day for Banana Fish, J.D. Salinger
Feature writers are gifted with dialogue. Their task is to then craft a story around those words, which can be a blessing and a curse. How much should be left on the cutting room floor? Should you, the writer, become a narrator?
How much of yourself should you put in a feature?
The line between feature and fiction is often blurred. Authors of fiction draw on their own experiences. Their works are full of personal anecdotes and even when a writer tries to avoid taking a more personal tack their point of view will subconsciously bleed into their words.
What does this have to do with J.D Salinger’s A Perfect Day for Bananafish and Akimi Yoshida’s Banana Fish manga, or the recent anime adaptation?
In 2009, I began watching anime as it currently aired. It wasn’t long before I was writing about it. My first year of blogging was full of horrid, weekly recaps that described what happened, maybe gave grades for music, visuals, story, etc., and moved on to the next show after perhaps doing a separate series review that was much of the same.
Steins;Gate came at the time when I was finally shedding my self-imposed, unimaginative shackles of graded episodic recaps (this is in no way meant to be a reflection of episodic blogging as a whole, only my own inadequacies) and moving towards an editorial style, even when writing weekly. I wrote about Albert Camus’ The Plague while watching vampires slowly take over an entire town in Shiki, and later framed the entirety of Star Driver through the lens of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. For Steins;Gate specifically, I contemplated Mayuri “Mayushii” Shiina’s role in the story as a catalyst for Rintarou “Hououin Kyouma” Okabe.
It wasn’t the best or most original output, but I began to play around with the craft of writing via anime blogging and rediscovered my love for it. This remains the primary reason why I still blog to this day.