Asakusa Sweets – 7

From the official Sarazanmai Twitter account:

Chapter 7 of Leo to Mabu: Futari wa Sarazanmai will be published today in the January issue of Rutile. This month the presented Asakusa sweets is LISZT’s “Grilled Donut”! The fluffy texture with the fragrance of butter and the accent of orange peels makes for a stylish sweets!

LEO TO MABU: FUTARI WA SARAZANMAI – CHAPTER 6

This last month has been eventful for Sarazanmai! We finally got a full pv as well as a synopsis and that brought out so many more fans! I’m almost starting to feel pressure writing these! Only almost though, since chapter 6 ofLeo to Mabu: Futari wa Sarazanmai has been available for free for everyone to check out themselves on Rutile SWEET, and as usual it will be available for another month until the 21st of December 2018.

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Here’s the cover for chapter 6. No Sara, but these two look cute even on their own!

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The chapter begins with a shot of Sumida with Tokyo Sky Tree and the Asahi Breweries Headquarters. Leo’s riding a bike over the bridge connecting to Asakusa, singing what I suspect is a commercial jingle for ochazuke (a Japanese dish), when he comes across a young boy who seems to be about to jump off the bridge. Leo immediately lunges forward yelling at the boy not to go through with it – an action which results into two things falling down into the water.

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Following this we get Mabu, who’s holding Sara in a child carrier, asking the young boy why he was about to throw himself off the bridge. The boy responds that it wasn’t his intention at all. He was only trying to pick up his hat when Leo attacked, grabbed his arms and made him lose it. While it’s fortunate that only his hat was lost and not his life, unfortunately for Leo he lost his hat as well. Since Leo’s hat isn’t his own, but part of his uniform, this means trouble for him so he immediately went looking for it.

…in the river and this is where I expect Leo to be revealed as an otter 😛 Even Sara becomes more alert and provides us with a “deisshu…”, prompting the topic to change from Leo’s hatsaving operations to her. The young boy asks Mabu if they’re always together to which Mabu replies that they can’t leave Sara alone at the station.

Papa cop!

That makes Mabu a “papa cop” (papa coppu)!

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Mabu’s startled. But he’s a dad and a policeman isn’t he? Thus a “papa cop”.

The boy continues with what’s the best dialogue in the series so far, calling Mabu cool and handsome. Mabu’s questioning him, but he insists that he doesn’t have a cool father like him. Mabu gets curious and asks the boy if he’s a traveller. He isn’t, he has however ran away from home!

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…which is something you can’t tell a police officer. Mabu instantly wants the boy’s personal information.

The boy explains his situation further and apparently he’s just a student tired of preparing for his examinations. Mabu won’t force him to return home, as long as he will return, which he says he always intended to do anyway.

Then Sara reaches out towards the boy! He takes her hand, calls her cute and asks for her name. This boy is just full of compliments, after hearing her name he comments on how she will grow up to become beautiful. He comments on her soft hands and says that she’s loved.

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Mabu get’s worried that the boy isn’t loved, but he confirms that he is, and continues by telling Mabu how the hat that fell into the river is something his mother gave to him, the only thing she’s given him.

Mabu’s about to insist that they must find it then, but the boys says that it’s fine. It’s impossible to find it in a river of that size.

But then! Leo’s voice carries through. He’s down below, on a boat, hat in hand.

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Sara’s smiling as well, which frankly is quite suspicious.

The boy thanks Mabu and the chapter ends there for him. Things don’t end as happily for Leo though. He didn’t manage to find his own hat and gets yelled at for losing it. An apology won’t make it, he’ll receive a pay cut!

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The next chapter will be out on the 22nd of November 2018 in the Rutile manga magazine. It’s going to include a coloured illustration, so that’s something to look forward to as well!

BONUS:

Isn’t it nice, having a cool dad?

A cool… dad?

You’re handsome. That makes you cool, you know.

My thought on the premise

DYCEAVERRUNCUS asked me on tumblr:

What do you think of the utterly crazy premise of sarazanmai? This show is already getting controversy from the synopsis alone( and the advant garde animation style)

Here’s my answer:

My initial reaction was “omg they really went there…?!”.

Being familiar with kappa mythology and getting the bl vibes made the inclusion of the shirikodama quite obvious as one conclusion to get to. I never would have dared guessing it would be included like this though, because how do you show it on tv? It was just an inappropriate joke!

Before the reveal I was also guessing that the boys could be the kappa since their hairstyles were the same and kappa mythology supports transformations and shape-shifting. I’m not sure if they’ll spend most of the series in their kappa forms or not. It almost seems like it, if Sarazanmai begins with them forcibly transforming into kappa and then the end goal is for them to regain their old forms. Then again I also feel like the boys need to be in their human forms for more impactful scenes and to better convey their feelings and emotions. Plus there’s so much promotional material of them like that…

I’m not a huge fan of “mascot” characters (they tend to be annoying and unnecessary), but I think the kappa and whatever Keppi is will be interesting to watch and follow along. Mostly thanks to how they’re proper mythical creatures or humans that have been transformed, so they’ll actually have stories and personalities, compared to some creature that’s there just to look cute or act as a comic relief. I really like Japanese mythology and yokai so it’ll be fun to see Ikuhara’s take on it. I’m not sure how they’re adding zombies to the mix as well though…

I haven’t come across much controversy yet, but I can definitely see it coming. You’ll ALWAYS have controversies with Ikuhara. He’s one of those creators whose style divides people and it doesn’t help that he has a habit of tackling controversial subjects.  

Anyway, back to the premise, I was certainly taken aback by the synopsis and although I don’t think that the premise of them being turned into kappa by having their shirikodama stolen is too bad, because it’s taken from the mythology, the part where the boys need to steal the shirokodama from a zombie seems more sketchy, along with them having to connect in “that” way. Hopefully the boys won’t be pressured into having sex, especially without wanting it themselves? That could quickly get uncomfortable in a bad way, that not even good storytelling or the excuse of a dark story will save. I completely understand that people are worried over how rape-y this whole shirikodama business sounds. It’s partly the point (it’s a story! based on other stories!), but it’s also completely justified to not be a fan of it at all. I just wish that people won’t judge it too hard before we get to see how they’ll portray it. I think Ikuhara has done well with various uncomfortable scenes and topics previously, so I’m not too worried about it (although I’m slightly questioning). At least Keppi doesn’t come across as the worst bad guy out there. He seems kinda fun and full of himself? (being a self acclaimed ruler and all). Plus that cute small round form takes away from the potential gruesomeness.

Then I’m a bit disappointed, but also very amused that the synopsis only told us that Leo and Mabu will basically “be there”. I’m guessing that they’re the zombies, because of their greyish skin? I kinda like that they’re so secretive about their roles in Sarazanmai, it’s so much fun to try to make sense of it!

As for the animation style, I think that a lot of those who complain about it don’t realize that the anime itself won’t look like the pv’s. It was a cool promotional trick to have Tao Tajima work on them and to incorporate animated characters to live video of real life Asakusa, to highlight the importance of Asakusa and to make people take notice and talk about them more. Sarazanmai has Ayaka Fuji and Studio Pablo listed as those who will work on the art for the anime, and they do traditional drawn backgrounds (and a very good job with those).

Overall I think the stylistic choices have been great so far. I think that the pv’s were cool. They had very little animation, but the characters looked nice and smooth. I’m a huge fan of all the logos and symbols. My only complaint is that the character designs are a bit generic and not that exciting (although Migi’s works are amazingly beautiful). They’re not bad, and I like the softness of them, but that’s about it. Well Leo’s kinda hot. And you can never go wrong with Mabu’s looks either…

Back to the premise again, although it’s very “what the hell is this supposed to be!?!?!?!!” rather than “omg this sounds amazing”, it’s one of the things I like about Sarazanmai. I want to be surprised. I want to be offered something so ridiculous I could never have imagined it myself. I’m prepared to watch and love anything.

So yeah. All things considered I’m a fan of it!

Everything we know so far…

I found a blog with a rundown of everything we know so far. I’ve done the same translations for the PV’s and characters, but they’ve included a report from the AGF2018 event which is worth checking out here:

http://blog.19.04se.cc/2018/11/sarazanmai-everything-we-know-so-far/

AGF Event

Ikuhara and Suwabe gave a talk at AGF on November 11th where they introduced the series, talked a bit about recording and the themes/premise (along with tons of jokes about shirikodama). Some excerpts from various event reports below (these are reasonably close transcripts of what was said at the event).

From Pash+

About Sarazanmai

Ikuhara: I’ve wanted to make a story focused on boys for a long time now. While there’s a lot of folklore about kappa, but no one’s ever actually seen one, which is why I’d like to say that the kappa that appear in Sarazanmai are the real deal! (lol) So the shirikodama is a pretty famous piece of kappa folklore and it’s a major motif in this series. Now, I know there’ve been plenty of anime series so far that feature youkai, but if you ask me those were all kid stuff––this series is going to be a real adult youkai story!

The Setting of Asakusa

Ikuhara: I actually started from the idea of making a story about kappa, and once I got into planning around that idea and doing research into various pieces of kappa folklore, I eventually settled on Asakusa. I figured, with its mix of old and new, surely there would be kappa in Asakusa. The Sumida River is right there and it’s a place that feels very alive––so I decided to set [the story] of these boys connecting with each other there.

The Theme of “Connections”

Ikuhara: We live in an age where, with our smart phones and social media, connecting with people is a daily activity––so I wanted to ask, what does that all mean? What do we want to do with [those connections]? And made those questions a central theme of this series, and I wanted to look at things like how there’s this conflicting mix of emotions where you have this desire to connect with someone, but that connection can also bring pain. If you maintain the connection, where does [the relationship] go from there? What happens to connections that are lost? Do we even need connections?

Regarding Recording Sessions

Suwabe: We’ve already wrapped recording for the series, but Director Ikuhara always made each session very warm and inviting by talking to us before we started. He’d get right in the booth with us and explain what each episode was about. If I’m being totally honest I think our director here is an extremely “unique” person (lol), and just looking at the text in the script we’d have many questions about what exactly any of it meant, but he’d always take the time to explain it to us. Of course, if he were to ever come in late we wouldn’t be able to start since no one would have any idea what was going on. It’s very much Ikuhara’s World here! But once he’d explain it, it would all snap right into focus and we could start.

From Comic Natalie

A video message from the voices of Kazuki, Toi, and Enta––Murase, Uchiyama, and Horie respectively––played on screen. Murase commented that, “Director Ikuhara is very particular about certain things. For example, he got really specific about the scene where the shirikodama are removed––he’d ask for us to add exactly this percent pain, and this percent embarrassment and to sprinkle in just a little pleasure. He even acted out [the moment of having one’s shirikodamaremoved] for us.”…

Concluding comments from the three of them: Murase––”We live in a society where we can easily connect with people over social media, but this series will make you think about whether those connections are real or not.” Uchiyama––”I hope everyone is looking forward to it too, but we’re really excited to see what the finished product looks like ourselves.” And Horie concluded by saying that he is, “[the type of person who] usually just one-sidedly spits stuff out on Twitter without really thinking about connections” and that “if anyone [in the audience] is also like that, I hope you’ll watch this series.”