Studio Mappa has been producing hit after hit ever since last summer’s Banana Fish – an adaptation of a criminal shojo manga from the ‘80s. Then, in Fall 2018, came ZOMBIELAND SAGA – the unexpected success story of an original comedy show about zombie idol girls which won the hearts of many anime fans. Recently, Dororo has been making the rounds in the anime community as a surprisingly captivating modern anime adaptation of Tezuka Osamu’s manga from the late ‘60s. It’s no wonder that anime fans would now look to their newest show, Sarazanmai, with high hopes of another anime worth their hype.
Although Mappa cannot be accused of a lack of variety in the type of anime they make, Sarazanmai is a wild beast, the extent of which most viewers probably do not anticipate. FujiCreative describes Sarazanmai as:
Kazuki Yasaka, an 8th grader living in Asakusa, is turned into a Kappa along with his classmates Toi and Enta by a mysterious creature named Keppi, after they break inadvertently a statue of a Kappa, the guardian god of the city. They are then ordered by Keppi, who claims to be the first heir to the throne of Kappa Kingdom, to fight against the Kapa-zombies, bioarms created by his enemies, if they want to return to their human form. In order to kill them, they have to make a specific sound called “Sarazanmai” which is produced only when the three of them are united, but the three boys cannot connect at first. In addition, one of their secrets is revealed to each other every time they emit the sound! They finally accept to take risks to collect the “Plates of Hope”, given by Keppi when they defeat the Kapa-zombies, and which can make their wishes come true. However, some trouble occurs over the plates…! Along the course of the fights against the Kapa-zombies, their fierce past and inner conflicts keep getting revealed. This is the sarcastic fantasy of three boys who don’t feel connected to their important ones, getting to realize the real meaning of bonds.
Most anime fans will undoubtedly find themselves blinking in surprise at the unusual premise, but those familiar with Ikuhara Kunihiko’s works will likely only nod in unspoken understanding. Between the iconic Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum, where the late sister of two high school boys is resurrected by a penguin hat they bought at an aquarium, and Yurikuma Arashi, where bears take the forms of human girls and fall in love with actual human girls in a world filled exclusively with girls who hate bears, incomprehensible synopses are par for the course for anime born from Ikuhara’s mind.
However, some lucky fans have already had a chance to see beyond the synopsis. The special pre-screening event where the first three episodes were shown took place on March 31st in the Tougeki theater in Ginza, Tokyo. Having had the privilege of participating, I can assert that anime fans new to Ikuhara’s works have no idea what they are getting themselves into.
The first three episodes of Sarazanmai were a wild ride from start to finish. Fast-paced, the show doesn’t linger much on irrelevant details and quickly plunges into action and what it promises in its synopsis. While revealing just enough about the main trio to make them sympathetic, it also pique’s the audience’s interest in regards to their deeply-held secrets. However, what words cannot convey are the visuals which will leave most viewers somewhere on the spectrum between confused and intrigued, likely including shock along the way, and hopefully inducing laughter by the end. That is not to say the animation and backgrounds by Mappa and Lapin Track are anything but beautiful and intricately made, but few expect high-quality animation to be used for purposes one can witness in Sarazanmai. It is safe to say that visually, Sarazanmai will be a treat for those who enjoy seeing the medium of animation be pushed to its limits and showing a world which could never exist outside of it.
Music-wise, viewers will surely be satisfied with the opening theme by KANA-BOON and the ending by The Peggies, though the soundtracks used in the anime itself are also a huge highlight. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to spoil any of the details, but suffice it to say that I found it to be a unique experience. Once released, I think the anime will cause waves in the anime community in the best way possible. I would recommend Sarazanmai to anyone who considers themselves open to new, unusual anime, and absolutely as something to watch with one’s friends and share a good laugh about.
Sarazanmai is currently airing on Crunchyroll. It’ll air in the Noitamina timeslot and is slated for eleven episodes. Don’t miss it!
Below are photos of one of the three random clear files the pre-screening guests received.