Sarazanmai – 01 (First Impressions) – Secrets, Lies, and Butt Stuff

“The world is full of connections,” muses Yakaza Kazuki at the start of things. Yeah, no duh, Kierkegaard. That’s especially true in Tokyo (Asakasa specifically), where many people are connected both by technology and the relatively small amount of space they share. There’s one connection in particular Kazuki never wants to lose.

Turns out that connection is a ritual exchange of selfies with the local idol, Sarakappa, who is constantly keeping the folk appraised of the latest Asakusa news via the public video screens. While Sara herself is taking a selfie, she happens to catch someone breaking into a car. That someone is Kuji Toi, who chases after her.

Instead, Toi encounters Kazuki, notices he has the same phone strap as the girl, and lunges at him with his ruler-cum-slimjim. Kazuki happens to be grabbing at statue of the Prince of the Kappa Kingdom, and in the ensuing violence, the statue is destroyed, releasing a great gust of wind.

The next day at school the two lads hear a clear ringing bell no one else can, and start compulsively acting like kappas, dousing themselves with water, doing a sumo dance, or eating cucumbers. Neither knows what the heck is going on.

The ringing leads them back to the destroyed statue (now a crime scene), where they are introduced to the actual Prince of the Kappas, Keppi, whom they awoke with their roughhousing. Keppi seems level-headed enough…until Toi dares to call him a “frog.”

Keppi reaches into their anuses (yep) and extracts their shirikodama, an organ containing desire, then gobbles them up and transforms them into kappas themselves. When Kazuki’s best mate Enta arrives to see what’s up, he ends up calling Keppi a frog, so he’s transformed as well. It’s a very gross process!

The gross weirdness continues when Keppi assigns them their mission: extract the shirikodama from a “zombie kappa” in the “Field of Desires,” a realm between life and death where no humans can see them, but where the kappa and zombie kappa dwell.

This particular zombie is hoarding stolen “Kappamazon” packages, and his deep dark secret is his compulsion to empty the boxes and place them on his head while naked. The three kappa-lads work together to sing a musical number, blast through the zombie’s defenses, reach and enter his anus, and successfully extract his shirikodama. Again, quite gross!

After the extraction, before they pass the shirikodama to Keppi, the three undergo the titular “Sarazanmai”—a connection of mind and soul between the three. Within that state, Toi learns that Kazuki and the girl he saw were one and the same, and Enta learns his best friend cross-dresses as an idol, all to send selfies of himself as Sara religiously.

The other two learn Toi is a car thief, but Toi isn’t outwardly ashamed by that, but after the initial embarrassment has passed, neither is Kazuki. Even when Enta tells him he’s cool with his “quirk”, Kazuki insists he isn’t asking for understanding, only for his secret to remain his and his alone…which is fair.

Post-ED (a lush merging of live-action footage, augmented reality lightwork and animation with a very catchy peggies song) there’s another strange incident involving two very pale, stylish cops extracting something from their prisoner, but that will have to wait until next week.

Sarazanmai is nothing if not visually bold and doggedly inventive with its madcap brew of mythology, symbology, philosophy, and sociology you tend to get from the work of Ikuhara Kunihiko. Its narrative isn’t always the easiest to follow but you can be assured it’s going to look and sound cool and explore ideas few anime do (especially when it comes to contemporary social issues), which definitely helps.

Non-fans of kappas (or, incidently, Ikuhara) probably need not apply, nor should anyone who is uncomfortable with the occasional…stylized anal extraction. But there’s a lot to like here so far.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 11 – Decluttering

The sudden departure of Teresa and Alec for vague “family reasons” comes as a shock to all, especially when the reality of their absence sinks in via their now-empty apartment and desks at school. But no one is hit as hard as Mitsuyoshi, who is constantly encountering things that remind her of Teresa, and of the fact he had his chance to say something to her and blew it.

I don’t think Mitsuyoshi is mad at Teresa—nor should he be—so much as he’s angry at himself. He can’t hide his change in behavior post-Teresa from his best friend Kaoru, who quickly comes to suspect Tada liked Teresa and has been shaken by her disappearance. Kaoru wants to help him, but doesn’t have enough info, and it’s too sore a subject to broach lightly.

One friend who has no compunctions about broching sore subjects is Nyanko Big, who despite lacking thumbs is able to get into his closet and rifle through the box he filled with mementos of his time with Teresa.

Mitsuyoshi goes off on his own, and senses a great emptiness from all of the spots he’d previously visited on their last day together. Like the new tenants in the apartment, everything has changed, and there’s nothing for it but to move on. Mitsuyoshi tosses his Teresa Box in the trash.

That practical and emotional “decluttering” continues in the photo club, where he unceremoniously erases Teresa and Alec’s names from the whiteboard. Then they find an extra memory card filled with all of Teresa’s photos. They’re mostly of rocks, but the greatest treasure is the sole video file of their game of photo tag.

That’s the day Teresa and Alec truly became two of the gang, and she also managed to capture Hajime and Hinako’s unspoken love. Those memories of Teresa laughing and smiling just keep rushing through Mitsuyoshi until he can’t take it and flees home to retrieve the box from the trash, only to find it’s already gone.

He sulks in his dark room until Kaoru confronts him, though not before showing him the photo he was looking for, which Hajime submitted for him, and which won an Excellence prize. In it, Teresa is beaming, her hair flowing in the wind, rainbows reflected in her eyes. It’s an absolutely gorgeous image full of love—the photographer’s love for the subject in particular. Kaoru says there’s no way such a photo could have been taken if Mitsuyoshi didn’t feel that way about her.

Mitsuyoshi finally opens up about how angry he’s been since Teresa left, and how stupid he was to stay silent and close love out of his life. All he wants is one last chance to see Teresa and talk to her so he can tell her how he feels—even if she rejects them. Gramps comes in with the un-tossed box, telling Mitsuyoshi that now that it’s “stopped raining in his heart” it’s time to search for the rainbow that comes after; i.e. Teresa.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 10 – The Larsenburgian Princess Makes an Irish Exit

This was a simple, quiet, beautiful episode focused mostly on Teresa and Mitsuyoshi’s date (there’s no other word for it) to the Rainbow Samurai show, which begins with the two meeting where they first met, by the gates of the Imperial Palace.

It’s an episode with a beginning and middle that will warm your heart and an ending that will break it—assuming you’re invested in these two.

It’s obvious how much fun both Mitsuyoshi and Teresa are having, but while they’re both smiling, there’s an underlying romantic tension that neither of them is bold enough to remark on with words.

Instead, they simply enjoy their time together, winning each other prizes at the cork gun stand (Teresa hitting hers thanks to an assist from the Yakuza-ish cafe regular), interact in the live show as “hostages”, and enjoy a rainbow-themed meal.

Meanwhile, in a rare cut from their date, Kaoru asks Alec if she’ll go on a date with him, expecting her to reject him for the umpteenth time…only she doesn’t! Not immediately; she gives him a chance to choose where they’ll go, but he’s too consumed in utter shock to suggest anything, and she retracts her offer.

The two encounter one another at the Tada cafe, where Alec delivered a letter to Gramps from Reiko, AKA Rachel, Teresa’s nanny, who introduced her to the Rainbow Samurai in the first place. What a weird coincidence…

When Mitsuyoshi and Terea scale the Sky Tree to the observation deck, it’s suddenly all gray and rainy, as it tends to be whenever the two meet up (or so Mitsuyoshi jokes). The weather, and the sight of a happy family beside them, reminds him of the last time he saw his parents, on a day just as gray and rainy.

He tells Teresa how he blames himself for not telling his father his true feelings; delaying them just a little could have prevented the accident. This is something he knows is ridiculous, but he’s always felt that way regardless, and hasn’t been able to tell anyone…until Teresa.

As the clouds part to reveal a humongous double rainbow, Teresa tells him if he regrets not sharing his feelings in the past, simply try to share them from now on. If that’s meant to be a hint, Mitsuyoshi doesn’t take it.

After that, the two part ways at the cafe, and Teresa can barely hold back tears when thanking Mitsuyoshi for their wonderful day together, for a souvenir he got her, and for the photo of them posing with the Rainbow Samurai. He asks if she wants some coffee, and she shakes her head and returns to her hotel next door.

The next morning at school, the teacher announces that Teresa and Alec have returned to Larsenburg for “family reasons.” Mitsuyoshi and Kaoru are stunned. His entire day with Teresa turned out to be the last they’d spend together, and he didn’t even know it.

There were ample chances for Mitsuyoshi to take Teresa’s advice and share his feelings. On the other hand, every time she shared hers, it was through muttered words he never quite heard, and followed with “oh, it’s nothing at all.”

I would’ve gone a different way than basically ripping off a relationship like a band-aid, but ultimately it was her choice to decide how to say goodbye to Mitsuyoshi. Perhaps anything more would have only made it harder for her to leave at all…and she has to leave, for he good of her country.

Gunslinger Stratos – 04

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I’ll admit, I was going to drop this last week, but for the fact it ended with the unexpected death of a character who’d had a non-trivial amount of screen time up to that point. Yes, much of that screen time was spent setting up death flags for her, but it was still a shock to see Sidune get taken out so quickly and gorily. Everyone reacts how I’d expected, which is both good (no one acting out of character) and bad (such reactions are predictable).

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While the first half of the episode was about mourning the dead and dealing with the fact it wasn’t any one person’s fault, the second half was all about moving forward, and on to the next battle the Timekeepers set up. Life goes on, except for the people turning into dust. Tooru and Kyoka also had a nice little moment of shared grief, but their would-be kiss is unfortunately interrupted by an alarm.

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From there, it’s back to 2015 Tokyo, and more battling with their alternate doubles. Both the other Sidune and Olga get badly injured, and the two Toorus race each other to the goal gate atop Tokyo Sky Tree, in a sequence that really did the massive structure justice in terms of accentuating its sheer scale (only Burj Khalifa is currently taller).

Still, my drop reprieve was only for one additional episode, so this will be all from me, reviews-wise. I imagine if I was a big fan of the game I’d be a little more passionate about it.

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Vividred Operation – 08

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Akane is admitted to the hospital in serious condition. The Alone attaches itself to the Tokyo Sky Tree and builds a cocoon around itself to regenerate. With Akane out of action, docking is not possible, so conventional military tactics need to be considered. However, Aoi, Wakaba and Hiwamari decide to have a go at the alone anyway, destroying it in a way that won’t destroy the city. Their plan nearly works, but Rei shoots an arrow at the alone and it hatches. Aoi borrows some of Akane’s power to dodge the alone’s attacks and defeat it. They then visit Akane, who is on the mend.

This is an interesting dynamic: after a string of victories so easy they didn’t even bother showing one of them, the most powerful Alone yet appears and Akane is quickly taken out of the picture. The military has a plan (with just a 4% chance of success), but it will destroy most of the (evacuated) 23 wards in the process. Not ideal, but if they do nothing, the Incarnate system will go kaput (a lesson in why global power should never be so centralized). So Aoi, Wakaba, and Himawari meet up before dawn, get don their pallet suits, and report for duty. Whatevs, they’ll simply fight a girl down.

Yet even with Akane laid up in hospital, a part of her remains by their side: the love and memories they harbor for her, along with her boomerang, which never de-materialized after her clobbering. Aoi believes a part of her soul is in it, and wisely brings it along for the fight. That choice proves decisive, as it is re-purposed as rocket-powered wings she uses to finish the job the other two girls started, saving them and Tokyo in the process. The only major casualty is the Sky Tree. Poor Sky Tree! Oh, and a bit more of Kuroki Rei’s sanity.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)