(I’m striving for more creativity in my blog posts, so this time, I’m not presenting rigid episode “reviews,” but purely my thoughts and reactions. Be warned: there may be spoilers. I’ve also decided that for the rest of the season, I will do weekly episode reviews of Sarazanmai instead of two episodes at a time every two weeks. Or I’ll try, anyway.)
Episode 5: “I Want to Connect, but I Can’t be Forgiven”
I asked for character exploration, and man, did I get what I wanted this time around. I’m sure everybody will be saying this, but episode 5 was packed with powerful feels. We now know why Kazuki said he hated Haruka, as well as why Haruka can’t walk, and a surprising reveal about Kazuki’s family. Although not to nearly the same degree as Kazuki, I know what it feels like to think you’re responsible for what happened to a sibling, and to spend way too much emotional and physical energy overcompensating. I’m impressed that Kazuki admitted his actions were for his own sake– to relieve his guilt– more than for Haruka’s sake. That includes stealing the cat in episode 2 and crossdressing as Sara throughout the show so far.
Speaking of which, I’ve been curious this whole time about exactly who or what Sara is, and my suspicion that she was once a kappa was half right. She’s still a kappa. But the question is, how is she able to change between human and kappa forms instantly, with perfect control, and without involvement of shirikodamas? One theory is that she is a being with no worldly desires or no heart/soul. The shirodama, after all, symbolize souls and secret desires. Whether or not she’s a spirit without a soul, I hope we learn more about Sara-chan and continue to see her as one of the few female characters in the show.
The flamboyant Cops Reo and Mabu create another zombie-kappa by killing a man suspected of illegally using salamander secretions for scented sachets. On what episode did you realize that those two were murdering unconvicted criminals? I started to understand in episode 3, but only in episode 5 did the full gravity of it hit me. Penguindrum and Utena did this to me a lot, too– they portrayed something in a ridiculous or comical way, being extremely subtle with the fact that what’s really going on is very serious.
I’m still now sure why or how the cops are creating kappa-zombies. As far as how, it seems like the power needed for the supernatural procedure is drawn from Mabu’s heart, which may symbolize his life force. At the end, Mabu says he’s going somewhere to get “maintenance” and that it’s their “lifeline.” So he has some way of restoring his lost life force elsewhere. Reo seems angry or jealous, like Mabu leaving is some kind of betrayal. I do share the popular opinion that these two are a gay couple. With that in mind, and how upset Reo seemed, perhaps “maintenance” for Mabu requires being intimate with someone else.
Going back to the main story, this is the first time the kappas weren’t successful in extracting the shirikodama from the zombie. Whenever they do this, the boys join consciousness. Whoever eats the shirikodama, in exchange for seeing the desire of the zombie, has his secret shown as well. Everyone linked to his mind will see it. In episode 5, Kazuki can’t stand it when his secret– the truth behind why Haruka can’t walk– starts to be exposed. So he rejects the shirikodama (actually he poops it out), and the zombie recovers it. Keppi refuses to give a dish or turn the kappa boys back to humans, since they failed to defeat the enemy.
One of the prominent themes later in Penguindrum was family and what makes a “true family,” and apparently Sarazanmai is using that theme too. Kazuki doesn’t feel like he belongs with his family. Part of it may be resentment that he was taken away from his biological family. (And by “taken away,” I’m not sure if it’s meant to imply that his mother was unable to take care of him and gave him up, or if he was forcefully taken from her because of some legal issues.) It’s possible that Kazuki is upset because, as well as feeling out of place and resentful, he believes his parents will never love him as much as they love their biological child, Haruka. I hope to see more on this theme as the show airs.