First of all, I’m thankful for Sarazanmai’s premiere because it made me realize what perspective I specifically have to offer. Perhaps one reason I fail to put out content frequently is that, when I want to analyze a work, I want to analyze everything. Nobody can do that. That’s what I’ve tried to do with Clannad and have failed spectacularly, barely scratching the surface of the first season alone in a total of over 100,000 words. I was most successful when I focused on very specific elements of the story, like the Ibuki Sisters. The work that I’m consistently the most proud of, like my (hopefully only first) piece on Suguha from Sword Art Online, focuses on specific topics, in that example, one scene in episode 15.
Anyways, I’ve realized that, in order to contribute to the Sarazanmai discourse in as meaningful a way as possible, I need to utilize my own perspective, and I think the most interesting perspective I can bring to the table is my own neurodivergency. One of the few things I’m not too hot on in Monogatari is how, in Hanekawa’s case, they make a point of comparing her apparitions to a multiple-personality disorder. I think it’s wrong to try to squeeze Hanekawa into a box like that. Fortunately, that’s the only instance in which Monogatari does that. Society’s insistence on pathologizing neurodiversity is a structure that I think I can actually engage with meaningfully in fiction. Okay, I’m not saying people shouldn’t get diagnosed, medicated and go to therapy, I’m saying that they should not have to hide their struggles out of fear of being treated differently for them. Folks should not be othered for any reason, including neurodivergency. But this is all obvious stuff.
In my own case, I’ve had ADHD and struggled with anxiety since childhood, struggled with depression since high school and have struggled with self-hatred and experienced delusional and psychotic episodes with varying frequencies since starting college. There’s a difference between me outlining those things myself and having them imposed upon me. The phrase “struggle with” is particularly empowering when it is applied to mental health issues, as I did above. Its better than saying “I’ve struggled with depression,” for me, helps me avoid the conflation of my bouts of depression with my identity, even though they have shaped who I am and will likely continue to in the future. Perhaps most importantly, I think, is that, in many cases, the social pathologization of neurodiversity misrepresents some of the frequent causes of many mental health issues. In my case, my anxiety is the consequence of my traumatic experiences with my second grade teacher. The social pathologization of anxiety does not accommodate the variations in each individual case. For example, my trauma shaped me so that I’m constantly afraid of “getting in trouble” even as an adult. For many people, life-shaping trauma comes at the hands of oppressive structures, and this is something Ikuhara has explored before. Honestly, whenever I’m watching anime, I’m always considering the specific ways characters might be neurodivergent. So yeah, my analysis of Sarazanmai will focus on what insight I can provide from my own perspective of being a neurodivergent individual.
Anyways, enough rambling, onto the actual content.
First of all, you should have expected me to point out this:
And most memorably.
Just had to get that out of the way. Those are probably meaningless parallels found only by grasping at straws, so they probably don’t mean anything.
Actually that’s not true, especially considering the fact that Bakemonogatari didn’t have to start with the scene from Kizumonogatari. The light changing at the crosswalk is a really classic way of indicating that the story is beginning. For both Araragi and Kazuki, these crosswalks herald the dramatic ways in which their lives will change, blah blah blah. The second parallel I noticed both seem to serve the purpose of contrasting the characters with the largeness of the world around them. In Monogatari, characters rarely explicitly engage with that outer world, but in Sarazanmai, I expect that to be different. As for the architecture, I’ve always interpreted the intricate architecture of Ikuhara shows to represent the oppressive structures that his characters are struggling against. Oh and Nobuyuki Takeuchi who storyboarded the first five episodes of Bakemonogatari is codirecting Sarazanmai, but I expected everyone to know that connection already.
Anyway, Kazuki is the member of the main trio that receives the spotlight in this episode. They spends the first half of the episode asserting their need to connect with a certain girl and carrying around a box, one they says they always keeps with them. These boxes contain the characters’ secret desires. The contents of Kazuki’s box “leak” and are broadcasted to Enta and Kuji when they are performing the Sarazanmai sequence. In Kazuki’s box are the clothes of the idol that appears on the TV. The conclusion I immediately came to is that Kazuki is a closeted trans woman. The woman they’re trying to connect with is themself and the model for their femininity seems to be the idol, Sara. Their reaction to the leaking of their secrets to the others is to say that they themselves are “messed up” and that they never asked anyone to understand them. Kazuki seems to have some negative feelings directed towards themself, feelings that are imposed by society’s values which label their behavior and trans identity as being deviant. Having the context of their box leaked put Kazuki on the spot, and their instinctive initial reaction was to affirm the assertions of the systems oppressing them. Kazuki’s assertion that they are “messed up” also seems like a fairly accurate reflection of the systematic government-imposed pathologization of trans identity in Japan, where gender dysphoria is legally considered a mental disorder.
Of course, at the end of the episode, we see a little girl that seems to be receiving their texts and my presumption was that Kazuki is sending the selfies to her, so perhaps their assertion of their need to connect with a certain girl has a double meaning. Another interesting thing is that Kazuki becomes anxious at the idea of being taken in by the police, and it seems that their assumption is that the cops would confiscate the contents of their box. The show has clearly set up the cops as the villains. Perhaps they are supposed to represent the oppressive structures our characters will be struggling with.
I’m not sure what’s going on with Kuji, but Enta explicitly states to his sister that the contents of his box are for Kazuki, and it seems like the contents are representative of romantic feelings. There seems to be a lot of anxiety between the three main characters regarding the secrecy of the contents of their boxes. I was considering taking this down cause I’m just stating the obvious, but it seems like that’s what some people on twitter want, based on what I saw of the tweets reacting to this episode.