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.
Tomohiro Furukawa’s overarching direction of Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight is an interesting cycle of influence. Furukawa worked alongside Kunihiko Ikuhara on Mawaru Penguindrum and Yuri Kuma Arashi. Ikuhara’s directorial flair has clearly inspired a lot in Revue Starlight, especially in the mechanical transformation sequence that transitions Karen Aijou from Seisho Music Academy to a surreal underground dueling stage
“I love the word ‘fate.’ You know how they talk about ‘fated encounters.?’ Just one single encounter can completely change your life. Such special encounters are not coincidences. They’re definitely . . . fate. Of course, life is not all happy encounters. There are many painful, sad predicaments. It’s hard to accept that misfortunes beyond your control are fate. But I think sad and painful things happen for a reason. Nothing in this world is pointless. Because, I believe in fate.”
-Ringo Oginome, Mawaru Penguindrum, Episode 2
Ringo Oginome is a complex character, steeped in guilt, longing, love, and later, forgiveness. Her many facets make her not only tolerable within the scope of Mawaru Penguidrum, but wholly lovable, despite her introduction in the series’ second episode as the stalker of the Takakura brothers’ homeroom teacher.
She’s introduced with a grand speech about fate, rivaling the iconic opening monologue from Shouma Takakura in the series premiere and the equally passionate closing words of his brother Kanba that bookend the episode.
She’s also introduced with a toilet flush, stars wafting from the bowl like a lingering, undeniable stench.
Humming to herself, she carefully tucks a worn, pink-covered notebook into her schoolbag. It brushes gently against the penguin cell-phone strap and last night’s homework. Boarding the train with her chattering friends, eating lunch as a group while one of them drones on endlessly about the cute guy she bumped into the other day, and stopping by the grocery store on her way home for necessary dinner ingredients, her thoughts are always occupied with one thing: her grand and creative plan to save her family. Everything she does, it’s all for her family.
Every night, he talks to ghosts. Of course, he knows that they’re not real, that the warm and affectionate light and delicious steam wafting from a bubbling pot on the stove top do not exist, yet he feels them. He wills them into his existence, and swears to carry out their bloody legacy in order to protect his sister. Following the night he accepted that envelope on the train, a last-ditch effort in order to keep the roof over their heads, his hands have become dirtier and dirtier. But no matter, as it’s all for his family, and his sister.