「つながりたいから, 諦めない」 (Tsunagaritai kara, Akiramenai)
“I Want to Connect, So I’m Not Giving Up”
The sixth episode of Sarazanmai finally gives context to the overall conflict of the anime between the Kappa Kingdom and the Otter Empire. As Haruka is caught in the tug-of-war between the two, our protagonists are driven to save Haruka, keep Kazuki from giving in to his guilt, and learn about why Keppei is invested in gathering shirikodama. But will they be discouraged by the uncomfortable truth behind what it means for people to lose their shirikodama?
One very welcome change-of-pace for the episode is explaining some of the nuanced details of the anime’s lore. They took the wise approach by fleshing out the characters to such a large extent in the beginning that it gave them a good amount of elbow room to explain many of the more intricate mysteries and mechanics of the world itself in this episode now that we’ve become familiar with our cast’s emotions and motivations. For Keppei to be one of the few survivors of the Otter Empire’s invasion of the Kappa Kingdom for their desire energy adds tension for Keppei to gather shirikodama and avoid detection from the otters. With desire energy as a major source of energy that fuels the war between the kappas and otters as well as propels them towards humans, it feeds into an overarching conflict that would ultimately spill out towards the human realm as the two forces build up their power by gathering the desire energy from as many people as possible whether it be through creating or destroying zombies.
This episode also gives us further insight on who Reo and Mabu truly are as soldiers of the Otter Empire. Our cliffhanger this time around is the information that the Kappa prince in his previous form had rendered Mabu a shell of his former self. It ties into the last scene of the fifth episode 05 with how Reo is strained by how much of Mabu’s desires and identity are a far cry from how he would have acted before. Reo’s ploy to use Haruka to lure out Keppei and his trio is definitely fueled by his vengeance for what happened with Mabu, but it also lends itself to trying to juxtapose him with Haruka as the two find themselves searching for a way to reach out to the ones they love the most.
And speaking of Haruka, we learn through his repressed memories that he lays responsibility on himself for Kazuki’s lack of happiness. There is a sense of irony to Haruka’s guilt over finding out about Kazuki’s real mom and telling her off given that much of this episode had Kazuki face his own guilt head-on now that he’s come clean about the responsibility he feels towards Haruka getting injured. Even as he tries to distract himself with the worldly pleasures of a kappa such as sumo wrestling with Enta or chowing down on cucumbers, he finds himself disassociated from those around him and is more than willing to let himself disappear from all existence to give Haruka his ability to walk again. Thankfully, this episode also gave us the moment where Enta gives Kazuki the miçanga that Haruka gave back to him, addressing right away that Haruka had recovered the miçanga because he never gave up on Kazuki. No matter if he wanted to continue punishing himself, Haruka had kept it under the impression that Kazuki is sure to come around at some point. It gives us a sweet moment where the trio come around to finally play soccer amongst themselves to punt Keppei into the box that’s holding Haruka, allowing Kazuki and Enta to practice passing and shooting for the first time since he left the soccer team. But with Haruka safe and sound, there is still tension to be found as the next episode leaves us in the tough spot of having the trio handle the truth behind gathering shirikodama and Keppei having to be on high alert now that Reo & Mabu know where he is.