mawaru penguindrum

Super Frog Saves H-trio — Himari Takakura and the divine

Himari Takakura’s first brush with divinity came years before she met Sanetoshi in the library.

Forgive me, for I am about to blaspheme (a bit).

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You and I are connected by ア —Sarazanmai Episode 1

“The more boxes you have, the happier you’ll be! Take a Happy Selfie, send it to your special someone, and you’ll be even happier, dish~”

-Sara Azuma, Sarazanmai, Episode 1

Prior to Sarazanmai‘s television debut, director Kunihiko Ikuhara said in an interview with Pash+ “We live in an age where, with our smart phones and social media, connecting with people is a daily activity––so I wanted to ask, what does that all mean? What do we want to do with [those connections]?”

Sarazanmai is the most outwardly direct Ikuhara has been in a series premiere. Even the tagline of Sarazanmai‘s first episode, “I Want to be Connected, But I Want to Lie” neatly bookends the entirety of episode’s fairly self-contained plot. Naturally there’s a lot more to dig into, but in terms of Ikuhara premieres, this one was surprisingly succinct.

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Good morning! Sara-zanmai speculation and Ikuhara Greek choruses

Who is Sara?

The short answer is, a local idol of Asakusa in Sarazanmai. The longer answer could relate to a kappa’s head dish (sara) and director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s penchant for Greek choruses.

Major spoilers for Mawaru Penguindrum. Mild spoilers for Revolutionary Girl Utena.

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Kappas, kawauso (otters), Mawaru Penguindrum, and more early Sarazanmai speculation

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.

Major spoilers for Mawaru Penguindrum.

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A slightly-too-early primer of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s 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.

This won’t be as in depth regarding some of the names behind Sarazanmai outside of Ikuhara and a few others. For more on that check out this post at Sakuga Blog. Also special thanks to Good Haro for translation work and providing additional pre-release material.

Major spoilers for Mawaru Penguindrum.

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