Short introduction: kanji can be read and pronounced in several ways. The different readings are divided into kun-yomi for words that originated in Japan and on-yomi for readings that are based on the Chinese pronunciation. Additionally many kanji have alternative readings when they are used in names. Here I’ve included the common kun-yomi and on-yomi readings of each kanji, but not any of the alternative possible readings that are used for names because they can be numerous.
When I write in English I write the character names first name first. Note that in Japan names are presented the other way around with the first name last(as I’ve done here with the kanji).
Now for the characters!
Kazuki Yasaka: 矢逆 一稀
Kazuki is made out of 一 (hito-, hito.tsu, ichi, itsu) which means “one/ no.1” and 稀 (mare, mabara, ki, ke) meaning “rare/ phenomenal”. These are good positive things that make for a nice name. They also point out that he’s special.
Yasaka is made out of 矢 (ya, shi) which means “dart/ arrow” and 逆 (saka, saka.sa, saka.rau, gyaku, geki) meaning “inverted/ reverse/ opposite”.
Tooi Kuji: 久慈 悠
Tooi consists of 悠 (too.i, haru.ka, yuu) which means “permanence/ distant/ leisure”. Based on the pv his name seems to suit him and his solitary/distant lifestyle. His name also indicates that he’ll be calm and easygoing, or at least that’s what the ones who gave him his name might’ve wanted him to be.
Kuji is made out of 久 (hisa.shii, kyuu, ku) which means “long time/ old story/ eternity/ forever” and 慈 (itsuku.shimu, ji) meaning “mercy”.
Enta Jinnai: 陣内 燕太
Enta is made out of 燕 (tsubame, en) which means “swallow (bird)” and 太 (futo.i, futo.ru, tai, ta) meaning “fat/ plump/ thick”. Note that “fat” is derived from the word for “big/ grand/ great”, so “a great swallow”.
Jinnai is made out of 陣 (jin) which means “camp/ battle formation” and 内 (uchi, nai, dai) meaning “inside/ within/ between/ among/ house/ home/ one’s own”.
Keppi is written in katakana, which are basic characters with sounds but no meaning. Katakana is generally used for lone words and for emphasis (similar to italics). Keppi does not exist as a word in Japanese and is most likely derived from “kappa”, which seems to be what he is?
Leo/Reo Niiboshi: 新星 玲央
Leo/Reo is made out of 玲 (rei, rou) which means “tinkling/ the sound of jewels” and 央 (ou) meaning “center/ middle”. Note that his name is spelled as レオ (Reo) in Japan, but many English speakers prefer to call him Leo instead as it sounds similar, but is easier to pronounce. L/R are generally interchanged between Eng and Jp names for this reason, as there is no L-sound in Japan.
Niiboshi is made out of 新 (atara.shii, nii-, shin) which means “new” and 星 (hoshi, -boshi, sei, shou) meaning “star”. Together the kanji are read as shinsei which means “nova” or a “rising star”.
Mabu Akutsu: 阿久津 真武
Mabu is made out of 真 (ma, makoto, shin) which means “truth/ reality/ genuineness” or “Buddhist sect” and 武 (take, take.shi, bu, mu) meaning “warrior/ military/ martial/ courage/ chivalry/ arms”. This conveys the image of him as a pure and proper “officer”. A “good cop” if you may.
Akutsu is made out of 阿 (omone.ru, kuma, a, o) which means “Africa/ flatter/ pander/ fawn upon/ corner/ recess”, 久 (hisa.shii, kyuu, ku) meaning “long time/ old story/ eternity/ forever” and 津 (tsu, shin) meaning “haven/ port/ harbour/ ferry”. I believe this surname is taken from a place.
Sara is written in katakana and because of that the name doesn’t hold any meaning in itself. However we know that Leo named her after 皿 (sara) which means “plate”, because that’s what they found her on.
One thing that may be worth noting is that many of these names are quite feminine. Some of them can be gender neutral, but most are actually female given names. It might be a reference to typical bl-naming conventions, where the characters have feminine names.
Note for the future:
Sara shares her last name (Azuma) with the red bridge in Asakusa.
Toi’s brother is called Chikai which can be read as “close”.
I’d rather say that Leo to Mabu (the spin-off manga) is a prequel to Sarazamai based on the fact that Sara (the baby they find in the manga) could be the same character that is shown in the pv’s, as she’s clearly more grown up in them!
Of course that doesn’t rule out the fact that the pv’s show whatever, or maybe the actual anime is all over the place chronologically. The pictogram humans actually all have what seems to be historical hairstyles, maybe it’s supposed to depict their old fashioned way of thinking, or maybe they actually are from the past and there are some crazy time shenanigans going on?
I’m not able to read Japanese so I wondering if you noticed sose potential theme or story elements in the sarazanmai promo material. Ive heard someone say it’s about bonds but I don’t know the basis behind that .
Here’s my reply:
Oh yeah, it’s most definitely about bonds, being connected, linked or related in some way!
Here’s my translation of the newest pv:
This world is overflowing with connections. Blood connections, town connections, thought/feeling connections. A world connecting everyone. Yet, why can’t I connect with anyone? I wonder if I could connect with you?
I also translated the initial pv’s here. They also mention bonds/connections as well as desire, not letting it go, something about truth and lies and as you can tell it’s all very ominous.
The word they used for desire can also be translated as lust or appetite, in the first pv’s I think it feels kinda sexual, but then the Leo to Mabu: Futari wa Sarazanmai spin-off manga and all the promos they’ve done for it has been focusing on sweets, so it could be more about that kind of desire, or then the manga is just a fluffier (symbolic?) version of what Sarazanmai will be about (this is almost a given).
The manga is pretty funny and sweet. If you’re curious about it I’ve been buying it and blogging about all the chapters.
I’m not sure how much of what happens in it will show up in the anime or be relevant for it though.
So yeah, I think Sarazanmai will touch upon loneliness and emptiness and feeling and creating different connections and bonds with others. I think that would be a relevant topic in today’s world. It’s also going to be about desire of some sort and possibly seeking it out/daring to go after it/standing by it? They also mention “the world” a couple of times, so the themes will be grand like that. Then I think Sarazanmai will have some sort of fantasy element, similar to what has been present in previous Ikuhara series, because that’s just what he does and it’s been pretty much confirmed by Sara having a “mysterious power” in the manga, as well as by the kappa that can be seen in the newest trailer.
At first when watching the trailer, I was thinking that Kazuki Yasaka and Sara could be the same character… But Since the series seems to be all about connections/links/bounds, maybe there is a connection between this cute boy and Sara?
Here’s my reply:
When I first picked up the manga I was thinking the same thing! Wondering if she could be the protagonist of the anime (even though there had been hints that it would be about a boy and not a girl). Yeah I mean there’s almost bound to be one? Reo and Mabu were introduced as “key characters” and their lives revolve around Sara for the most part, she’s been built up as someone special so she’s gotta have some connection with Kazuki!
Also, I actually think that we get a glimpse of Sara in the trailer! This girl here in the advert:
The pink text below spells out “Sara Television” and I think she has some of the same features as Sara the baby, mainly the eyebrows, eye shape and the way her hair is parted, although it’s not like those things are super unique or don’t change over time.
She doesn’t seem to be someone our protagonist could easily approach, being famous and all, but she also seems super important to the story so I’m sure that they’ll have some sort of connection or bond or fated encounter!
They accidentally uploaded a video early on youtube. I got a link to a lq version of it from an anonymous tumblr user.
For me the most interesting thing in the test video was a shot of a little green guy that was turned away from the camera, with a white plate on top of it’s head, a turtle shell on its back and a tiny tail. It’s a fucking Kappa.
Kappa’s if you don’t know, are Japanese yokai (demons basically) with humanoid and amphibious characteristics that inhabit rivers and ponds. They have cavities on top of their heads that are literally called “sara” meaning a plate or a dish. The sara is supposed to be filled with liquid that gives the Kappa its powers and keeps them alive when they’re on land.
Furthermore Kappas have many different names (one source is telling me there are up to 80) and one of the more common ones is kawaso, meaning otter.
You know what I just realised/remembered? Maru/a circle stands for being correct. At the start of each teaser we get a full circle splitting into four, can we derive something out of this?
Also this image contains both a maru ( O ) and a batsu ( X ), so something true and something false. Something right and something wrong.
The X is present only in this image, not during the beginning of each trailer or for the third teaser symbol. This image also has a very heavy feel, the other person is twisted and broken (or they both are). Are they being punished for doing something forbidden or are they a warning?
I’m finally going to talk a bit about the different symbols shown in the three teasers as well as their negative images that quickly flashes by.
For example, if everything passes by, even this world would become empty. I will tell you the truth. You are connected, but alone. Don’t let go, desire is your life.
In the first pair, we get the colour pink. The symbol or image in question is a pictogram of two male figures, possibly indicating male characters (it could also be used as a general human shape, though we got both male and female ones in Penguindrum). Behind them is a circular shape made up of lines, most likely representing a timer as seen at the beginning of the teaser.
They’re positioned in a very interesting way, they’re connected and facing opposite directions, head upwards resp. downwards. The image they form could be interpreted as a infinity symbol, which parallels the symbol used in the logo for the title. It’s also reminiscent of yin yang, the symbol for duality, that stands for connectivity and complementarity. This is further emphasized by how we’re shown two images, a white positive one and a black negative.
The pictogram shape differs from the others in the trailer. The hand on the figure on the left is not connected to the body. Likewise, there’s a gap in the head of the left figure, taking out about a quarter of the circle.Since the background behind the head has a splotch of black, this gives us the mental image of a wound, a gunshot perhaps? If we interpret it more symbolically it could be taken as another kind of loss. Have they let golike the narration warns them not to? Is this the emptiness?
The two are connected by sharing their right resp. left arm. This is their bond. However, they’re facing opposite directions, which means they’re also alone.
Am I a lie? Is the world a lie? Are we a lie? We are connected. But I dislike it. But I want it. Who is the one with the strong desire? Don’t let go, desire is your life.
For the second teaser we’re treated with a light blue colour. The symbol is an otter inside a heart, playing with a ball. This will be the mascot character this time around, similar to the bears in YKA and penguins in Penguindrum.
Otter in Japanese is “kawauso”. If we take this word apart we get “kawa” – “river” and “uso” – “lie”. In Japanese folklore otters are known to fool humans. In many of these stories they shapeshift into beautiful women who then lure and kill men. Here we can imagine them shapeshifting as the image flashes negative. Desire is the keyword, which is something the heart symbolises. The violent imagery from the first teaser goes together with these stories. All Ikuhara series have been dark so we can expect the same from this, which is something the narration also strongly suggest.
The ball that the otter is playing with contains three splashes of paint in the first image. The number three has been recurring (symbol in the logo, three adjacent pictograms, three colours, etc.) and it’s hard to say whether this is a deliberate inclusion or just a coincidence. Hardly not. In the second image the ball loses its round shape. It is reminiscent of a jumping fish, food for the otter, something it desires and needs and preys on. There’s also a white dot slightly beneath it, next to the heart. It’s hard to say what it could be or represent.
Cross that river. Because returning is no longer possible. For example, even if everything passes by and this world becomes empty, I want to protect this connection. Don’t let go, desire is your life.
The third and last teaser is yellow. The symbol is another set of the pictograms used earlier and throughout the teasers. This time they’re all drawn fully, facing head down, on different levels and with black spots under their heads, increasing in size the lover the figure is. Like in the first set of images there’s a circular shape made up of lines behind them that covers two of the three figures.
The narration completes the wordplay with the otter by mentioning a river. This is also significant considering what the rest of the teaser shows us, with the text and imagery flowing by like water.
The number three is further emphasised and we can expect to get three main characters. They’re all faced the same way, and/since they can no longer return. Are they perhaps in the process of crossing the river? Has the one on the right come the furthest indicated by the largest black spot, and is this a good thing or not? They are at different stages, but what these stages are is yet unknown. In contrast to “desire is your life” could the dark spot mark death? Could that be seen as equal to the emptiness?
Lastly as a curiosity, once the images switches to the negatives, there are some differences to be observed!
In the first set the main pink splash of colour disappears and only the small black one remains. In the second set the splash of colour remains, but changes its shape and position. In the third the splash stays exactly the same. The first set is the only one to use two different colours of splashes, having pink as the main one and black as an accent.
I’m guessing this is a hint regarding the fates that our three characters face. Possibly a reflection on their personalities or circumstances? One changes completely, one just slightly and the third one stays the same.
Interesting analysis! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
The image on the left
reminds me heavily of a crime scene, like two corpses laid out next to each
other, where the victims were holding hands in their final moments. The black
splotch (white splotch in the black and white version that flashes) makes me
think of a pool of blood that has spread from a wound in that person’s body.
The black splotch also
makes me think “shadow.” In Yurikuma, for the girls on the “lily” side of the
wall, their “bear” selves were sort of like Jung’s shadow, a part of themselves
they disavowed, at least publicly. This, combined with what I mentioned in the
previous paragraph and the fact that this image has the color pink and that the
featured figures are male symbols, makes me wonder if the image is hinting at a
similar thing regarding (traditional) masculinity and how it views femininity.
Like, maybe the image
represents two aspects of the same boy/man, with the upright, relatively
unblemished figure being the idea of masculinity they’ve learned from society
and internalized as they grew up, and the upside down, “murdered” figure
representing a feeling they have of their own sense of self that doesn’t gel
with society. Maybe they have traits or characteristics that are typically seen
as feminine, and somewhere deep down they feel like it’s a valid part of
themselves, but everything they’ve internalized from society regarding masculinity
and femininity has caused them to disavow that and bury it, figuratively
“killing” that aspect of themselves. Could the pink splotch point to the idea
that, from what this person has internalized regarding gender (roles),
femininity in a boy/man is seen as a stain?
I also noticed that
the only bit of black on the upright figure is on their knee closest to the
upside-down figure. I wonder if this is pointing to the idea that disavowing
their feminine characteristics kneecaps their ability to be a fully formed,
On a different note,
I’m not sure if this adds anything, or merely reinforces already-existing
ideas, but the image on the right, of the three horizontal figures, makes me
think of the kanji for “river”: 川
I recall a different
post you made talking about how you think the three colors pink, blue, and
yellow are what they are because they’re primary colors. I’d be curious to hear
if/how you think that ties in with your analysis in the post I’m responding to
I further replied to them:
Thank you, I’m glad it piqued your interest! And thank you for sharing yours as well, I love reading about what other people think!
I agree it’s very
reminiscent of a crime scene, with drawn outlines of the bodies and the pool of
blood, although very rigid and artificially positioned.
I think your idea that
it represents different sides of the same character is really interesting!
Right now I’m thinking it really is just that, the same person and their two
sides, one of them twisted (something they’re repressing or hiding? something
happens and they change completely?). Further I get new thoughts regarding the
hand that doesn’t connect with the body, maybe it’s not about letting go but
performing an action, whereas the head is about a change of/in the mind? Is the
hand here causing harm in a dualistic sense or providing protection since
they’re connected by the other?
masculinity/femininity ideas are quite fascinating, but personally I’m not
really viewing it as something that has to do that so much. That could
certainly be a theme, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what it’ll be about
knowing Ikuhara’s other works, but I don’t think there’s enough here to speak
for it yet.
I don’t think pink
stands for femininity quite as strongly in Japan as it does in the Western
world. It certainly does, for that and for everything cute, which is usually
viewed as girlish, but it also has a masculine association since the pink
cherry tree/sakura blossoms are said to represent young samurai who lost their
lives in battle. Overall the most common association for pink in Japan is
spring and springtime, due to the sakura blooming then. Spring symbolizes
rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. Here that could have something to do with
discovering something new about yourself or changing yourself? A changed/new
world? We also get an allusion to the passing of time (seasons) by the timer
shown here in the background.
Another thing pink
stands for is erotisism, and that does tie in with the key-word desire. A
couple of times when I tried to look up meanings to the colour pink in
Japan/Japanese, if I chose my search words carelessly and what came up was porn
and erotic establishments. “Pink films” (Japanese low-quality, soft-core
pornography) are a thing after all, pink referring to nudity, I think.
(I just had to add
this image here)
As a side note, pink
in Japanese can also be 桃色 [momo-iro]
or “peach-coloured” in reference to the colour of peach blossoms.
For the other colours,
blue represents water and the river quite clearly, with the otter and all. It’s
also a colour that represents purity and cleanliness, and to contrast what’s
been mentioned before, I’ve seen claims that young Japanese women wear blue to
show their purity. The Japanese word for blue (and at the same time green) 青い [aoi] also stands for “youth”. For example if we
combine this kanji with the kanji for “springtime” 春 [haru] we get 青春 [seishun] which
means “youth” or “adolescence”, which ties things nicely with what
the colour pink could stand for.
However, since the
pictogram is that of an otter, I’d go for the river imagery instead.
Interestingly, blue usually also represents calmness and stability, reminiscent
of the sea, the opposite of rivers that are constantly moving even if the world
around remains still. Since I don’t think I’ve mentioned it elsewhere this
might be a good place to add that rivers also symbolises the passage of time,
which seem to be a recurring theme.
And let’s not forget
that it’s the colour for coolness as well 😉
Yellow is an important
colour in Buddhism (especially in China), which could be of relevance if we go
by those interpretations of the title where “zanmai” refers to the
Buddhist term “Samadhi”. Furthermore it’s a colour used for warnings, and
in the teasers we get plenty of those with “KEEP OUT” being the most prominent
Other than that yellow
stands for light, clarity and curiosity, as well as happiness, optimism and
energy. That’s not at all the vibe I’m getting from Sarazanmai though,
especially not the last teaser, apart from maybe reaching enlightenment (those
circles being halo’s) and taking action? However there’s definitely something
going on, and we need to be alert, so a yellow caution sign it is.
The three primary
colours together are used to create all other colours, as well as black (not
going that deep into printing techniques, since they actually don’t create a
perfect black). I’ve actually played around with the images using photo editing
software, but there are no hidden signs if you overlay them all on each other
and so on. I did notice that the splash of colour used is the same in these
So it could be fun to
think that the otter is behind that wound or change of mind. It could also be
the designer being effinient by reusing the existing pattern.
I haven’t been able to
spot the yellow splash in the other images. Additionally I was trying to see if
I could make out any shapes and I started to see it as a lower torso cut in
half and now I can’t unsee that. The separate splashes or spots could be the
hands and the head too.
I always wondered how
people find hidden secrets by playing around with images, but I have my answer
to that now. Some simply become obsessed and try everything.
That’s a lot of information about the colors that I didn’t know, so thanks for taking the time and effort to go in-depth!
I don’t think I really
have anything more to add at this point, haha. I definitely agree with you that
there’s nowhere near enough info right now to think decisively about the masculine/feminine
stuff I mentioned. I was basing that analysis off of what little I understand
of Ikuhara, his works, and his influences (and I haven’t seen Penguindrum, and
have only the vaguest, most general memories of Utena; Yurikuma is his work I’m
most familiar with, but even then there’s a lot I don’t yet understand about
One thing about the
trailers I haven’t seen analyzed so far is the word “charge” in the banner
along the top and bottom. In addition to a clock or the idea of time, that
circle forming also makes me think of a gauge showing that something is
charging or loading. Do you have any thoughts on this? The only thing I can
think of at this point is, with the talk of taking action in a couple ways in
the teasers (e.g., “cross that river,” “don’t let go of your desire”), maybe it
has to do with an increasing intention to take action? A general idea in Utena
and Yurikuma is the idea of systems and how they perpetuate themselves, so I
wonder if the whole “charging” thing is maybe hinting that one or more
characters who are being oppressed by the system is/are finally getting to a
However, that’s also a
common thing between how Utena and Yurikuma play out, with characters
eventually gaining a better understanding of the system, getting fed up with
it, and finally just opposing it outright and/or leaving it, so it seems a
little odd that it would get its own symbol in the teasers. But if so, maybe
Sarazanmai will address this common thread (at least common to Utena and
Yurikima) more explicitly? Maybe in terms of how people negatively affected by
systems react to them, and what the consequences are for both the individuals
and the systems themselves?
I’m putting this
together out of the barest scraps, so this is essentially just me conjecturing
about hypotheticals without much certainty or decisiveness.
I replied to them again:
No problem, I had fun looking things up and sharing my knowledge and ideas 🙂
do still wish to be wrong with my scepticism. I think a work exploring
masculinity/femininity would be wonderful, it’s just very rare to see those so
I have to keep reminding myself that Ikuhara could actually do a series about
that, or rather he already has. (Well I still need something else to go on off
to develop those ideas here).
actually been planning on writing a separate post about that! “Charge” can be
interpreted in a couple of different ways after all, especially together with
the timer/gauge meter increasing and the other clues in the teasers. I also get
the feeling that the world of Sarazanmai will be centered around a system of
oppression and/or control of some sorts, it was something that was prevalent in
Penguindrum as well. I wonder if the “charging” is in reference to what
individual characters deal with before the pressure becomes too much for them
and they break or they’re “ready” to move to another level of sorts or do
something on a larger (societal) scale. Alternatively it could be more of an
collective that targets all of society or focuses on smaller societal groups
and for them to get their/enough individuals to a certain point and place.
right this might be a bit too straight forward and too much of a superficial
interpretation, or rather there’s definitely a deeper meaning we won’t have
access to yet just based on the teasers. The narration does give off an image
that the world is greatly flawed in some way and that the characters are aware
of it, so yes I could see the series be about how they deal with that being in
the focus more explicitly than it his previous works.