「つながりたいけど, 報われない」 (Tsunagaritai kedo, Mukuwarenai)
“I Want to Connect, but It’s Not Meant to Be”
Instead of leaving it on the backburner, this latest episode of Sarazanmai cranks the stove up on high heat for Enta as he confronts his personal love for Kazuki. It’s fascinating not just because you don’t often see from the point-of-view of a gay kid grappling with romantic feelings for his best friend in anime, but also because the kappa ordeal forces Enta to think more inwardly about why he is in love with Kazuki and look beyond the puberty-stricken bouts of lust that drove him to kiss him on that night.
After following Kazuki for the past two episodes, it’s refreshing to follow a character like Enta who is less of an unreliable narrator. As someone who tries to wear his heart on his sleeve, we aren’t left hanging on the meaning behind obtuse gestures shrouded in secrecy. For Enta, the only secret he’s hiding is exactly why he’s been attached to Kazuki and how his personal investment in trying to better his friend’s life comes from his deep-seated love for him. In a way, it’s the opposite of Kazuki’s approach towards going the distance for someone. Whereas Kazuki outwardly tries to show his brother affection from behind the scenes, Enta is too worried about how his love will appear that he just hopes that Kazuki will come around to notice him. It’s part of the paradoxical nature on Kazuki’s behalf that he cross-dresses and stole a house pet to make his little brother Haruka happy but doesn’t invest that amount of time effort in getting to know his brother. It’s what makes Enta a neat antithesis for Kazuki as he spends the most free time with Haruka and has a general idea of what he wished his brother would do instead of going out-and-about and quitting the soccer team. And yet, for all the time Enta spends communicating with Haruka, he’s unable to speak more with Kazuki enough so to get him to understand why they should keep playing soccer together and why he should be closer with him and his brother.
Part of this struggle comes up the most through Enta piecing together how he feels about Kazuki. While emotions have manifested within Enta that made him grow fonder and fonder of getting close with Kazuki through soccer, he still finds himself at odds with his deeper infatuation for him. The episode frequently teases us with fantasy moments where things work out in Enta’s favor with a Kazuki who is too conveniently interested in him. After unearthing the kappa zombie’s secrets, it’s also revealed that Enta has secretly expressed his desire for him with less innocent intentions such as quickly grabbing Kazuki’s post-workout soccer uniform to sniff his dirty clothes and taking Kazuki’s recorder to put his mouth on Kazuki’s mouthpiece. It’s rather shocking, but it also lends itself to the overall theme of the episode on differentiating love and lust. Conceptualizing love has been easy for Enta as he knows how important it is to kiss someone during the kappa zombie fight and spends most of the episode bringing up moments where Kazuki has tugged at his heart-strings. Differentiating these emotions from the parts of Enta that compel him to secretly sneak a kiss from Kazuki while he’s lying down is where he must confront what he’s done so far in order to know exactly what he should be doing. The kappa zombie helps to put all of this into perspective with the zombie of the episode being a playboy who loves to get women to fall in love with them so that he can have them attempt suicide and allow him to commit marriage fraud. The metaphorical approach towards the kappa zombie as a former fishmonger of “kisu” is palpable, especially in lieu of the internal conflicts that Enta is having about what his love means and how he should express it. And especially with the juxtaposition between “kisu” and “kissu”. Although he’s tempted to forego romance after losing the red miçanga he got for Kazuki and realizing he shouldn’t decide his feelings based on lust, Haruka helped him find his true resolve after recovering the original blue miçanga that Enta originally gave to Kazuki out of interest for who he is on the inside. For Enta to shift his focus from channeling all of his lust towards Kazuki to homing in on what it was about Kazuki that gravitated his heart towards him in the first place is indicative on how far he’s come since Kazuki quit the soccer team. It shows true strength on Enta’s part to acknowledge where he went wrong in his approach and reach out to Kazuki not just because he loves him but also because he wants to be there for him with unconditional support.
As with the last episode’s kiss, this episode leaves us off at another post-credits stinger. This time, it’s a revelation about Haruka, who happens to be wheelchair-bound and require regular trips to the general hospital. While Enta’s sexuality helps to explain his personal connection with Kazuki and flesh out what his motivations are, Haruka’s disability may explain multiple details regarding Kazuki’s shift in behavior. Throughout the episode, both Haruka and Enta are dismayed by Kazuki’s shift in mood and behavior as he’s become colder and more frantic, and it’s easy to see how Haruka’s inability to walk caused this shift to occur. It would definitely explain why Kazuki would put all of his investment in trying to bring excitement into Haruka’s day without having to interact with him in ways that would make him feel like he’s missing out on the ability to walk around. Or something could have happened to Haruka that caused him to lose his ability to walk, weighing further on Kazuki’s consciousness to not put more time into making his brother happy than thinking about what he could be doing for those around him that’d make him happier. At this point I’m merely speculating, but Sarazanmai has been a fun series to follow so far because it proposes so many questions yet has enough answers to make it accessible and engaging to follow. It’s not so weighed down by symbolism that it feels overbearing, but gives you enough brain candy to reward you when you catch onto certain details. It does enough to shock viewers through both its plot developments and it’s butt-diving mechanics, yet it also an anime that wears its heart on its sleeve even with a cast full of people with repressed secrets. Particularly, Episode 03 was a treat because it went above and beyond to humanize Enta and give him enough character development to be able to reflect on how he expresses his love for Kazuki and seeks to make a change by showing him how he truly wants to be by his side by supporting him on a deeper level through thick and thin.