I still have a hard time believing I actually sat down and watched this show, much less finished it given my initial impressions. You can backtrack to the two podcast episodes Draggle and I recorded on it: in one, I lambast the series‘ not-so-subtle rape, and in the other I marvel at the character development and metaphors of online versus offline connectivity. That 180 in attitude towards the show occurred through much of the season while it aired, and I would not in good conscience recommend the anime to someone without fully knowing their tastes. Regardless, Sarazanmai was one of the most memorable shows of the year and with high rewatchability.
From a strictly visual point of view, Sarazanmai is A-grade material. Its staff credentials make for rampant symbolism that in this work makes more sense than nonsense. The transformation and action sequences stun in their detail and smooth animation. The color palette is rich and the focus varies from the sharp present reality to dreamier flashbacks and imaginings. Sometimes those representations are swapped to confuse. You can be certain when watching this show that every shape and sound is intentional and meaningful.
I would have actually loved this show right from the start if not for its questionable introduction of Keppi. His outrage and his “rude” awakening results in the forced transformation of three boys. How does he do that? By delving straight into their anuses and turning them into kappa. He further traps them in this world by dangling the promise of a wish come true should one of them defeat enough zombies by also forcing his way into their anuses and taking their shirokodama. Perhaps I’m completely misunderstanding some cultural relevance here, but I just couldn’t condone the methods with which Keppi enlisted Kazuki, Toi, and Enta.
It was some time before I went back for the second episode, and only after I continued to see praise for the show in social media. This time, the boys’ transformations were glossed over and more time was spent on their individual stories, the backgrounds of the zombies, and the Otter cops creating the zombies. I found myself lured back into this colorful wonderland of kappa and lies. By the end of the anime, I was incredibly invested in the relationships between the different characters, including the boys, their families, and even the supposed villains. I’d go so far as to list Sarazanmai among my favorite Ikuhara works next to the likes of Penguindrum and Utena.