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Promotional art for the series
GenreComing-of-age, fantasy,[1] magical realism[2]
Created byKunihiko Ikuhara
Anime television series
Directed by
  • Nobuyuki Takeuchi (Chief)
  • Kunihiko Ikuhara
Written by
  • Kunihiko Ikuhara
  • Teruko Utsumi
Music byYukari Hashimoto
Licensed by
Original networkFuji TV (Noitamina)
Original run April 11, 2019 – present
Episodes11 (List of episodes)
Reo and Mabu: Together They're Sarazanmai
Written byKunihiko Ikuhara
Illustrated byMisaki Saitō
Published byGentosha
  • RuTile
  • RuTile Sweet
Original runMay 22, 2018March 22, 2019
Volumes1 (List of volumes)
Light novel
Written by
  • Kunihiko Ikuhara
  • Teruko Utsumi
Illustrated byMigi
Published byGentosha
PublishedMarch 16, 2019
Wikipe-tan face.svg Anime and Manga portal

Sarazanmai (Japanese: さらざんまい) is a 2019 Japanese anime series created by Kunihiko Ikuhara. The series, which follows a group of middle school students who are transformed into kappas, is a joint production between MAPPA and Lapin Track, and broadcasts on Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block in Japan. In English-language markets, the series is simulcast by Crunchyroll, while an English-language dubbed version will be simulcast by Funimation. A spin-off manga series by Ikuhara and Misaki Saitō was published in Gentosha's RuTile and RuTile Sweet.


After accidentally breaking a statue of a kappa that serves as the guardian god of Asakusa, middle school students Kazuki, Toi, and Enta are transformed into kappas by Keppi, the prince of the Kappa Kingdom who steals their shirikodama. They come to assist Keppi in collecting the Dishes of Hope, which fulfill the wishes of whoever possesses them. Dishes are acquired by collecting the shirikodama of zombies created by Reo and Mabu, agents of the Otter Empire that has warred with the Kappa Kingdom for generations. To defeat the zombies, the boys must make the sound "Sarazanmai", which can only be produced when the three are united. They struggle to connect, as each time the sound is made, one of the boys' secrets is revealed.[3][1]


Main characters[edit]

Kazuki Yasaka (矢逆 一稀, Yasaka Kazuki)
Voiced by: Ayumu Murase[3][4] (Japanese); Alejandro Saab (English)[5]
A second year middle school student who is transformed into a kappa alongside Toi and Enta. He formerly played soccer with Enta, where they were known as the "golden duo", though he quit the sport immediately prior to the events of the series. He also cross dresses as the idol Sara Azuma to take selfies for his brother Haruka.
Toi Kuji (久慈 悠, Kuji Tōi)
Voiced by: Kōki Uchiyama[3][4] (Japanese); Ricco Fajardo (English)[5]
A delinquent middle school student who is transformed into a kappa alongside Kazuki and Enta. A recent transfer student in Kazuki's class, he sells cannabis for his brother Chikai.
Enta Jinnai (陣内 燕太, Jinnai Enta)
Voiced by: Shun Horie[3][4] (Japanese); Justin Briner (English)[5]
Kazuki's childhood friend and classmate who is transformed into a kappa alongside Kazuki and Toi. Harbors a secret crush for Kazuki.
Keppi (ケッピ, Keppi)
Voiced by: Junichi Suwabe[3][4] (Japanese); Tyler Walker (English)[5]
A kappa who claims he is the heir to the throne of the Kappa Kingdom.[1]
Reo Niiboshi (新星 玲央, Niiboshi Reo)
Voiced by: Mamoru Miyano[3][4] (Japanese); Ian Sinclair (English)[5]
A policeman who works in a kōban with Mabu, his partner and lover. He is a kappa who once served as a knight to Keppi, but now extracts the desires of humans on behalf of the Otter Empire after Otter resurrected Mabu. He wishes to use the Dishes of Hope to restore Mabu to his former self, who Reo believes is now merely a re-animated facsimile. In the spin-off manga, he is the adoptive father to Sara.
Mabu Akutsu (阿久津 真武, Akutsu Mabu)
Voiced by: Yoshimasa Hosoya[3][4] (Japanese); Daman Mills (English)[5]
A policeman who works in a kōban with Reo, his partner and lover. He is a kappa who once served as a knight to Keppi, but now extracts the desires of humans on behalf of the Otter Empire after being resurrected by Otter. Mabu was implanted with a mechanical heart by Otter after sacrificing himself to protect Reo, and now behaves in a cold and detached manner. Though Reo believes this is due to Mabu having to have lost his soul and personality after being resurrected, in reality, Mabu was forced to never again verbalize his love for Reo in exchange for his life. In the spin-off manga, he is the adoptive father to Sara.
Sara Azuma (吾妻 サラ, Azuma Sara)
Voiced by: Teiko Kagohara[6] (Japanese); Sarah Wiedenheft (English)[5]
An idol and host of Asakusa Sara TV. Similarly to the Shadow Players of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Double H of Penguindrum, Sara functions as the series' Greek chorus, commenting on the events of each episode in an allegorical manner.[7] In the spin-off manga, she is the adopted daughter of Reo and Mabu.
Otter (カワウソ, Kawauso)
Voiced by: Takaya Kuroda[8]
The Chief "Otticer" of Science and Technology for the Otter Empire.

Supporting characters[edit]

Chikai Kuji (久慈 誓, Kuji Chikai)
Voiced by: Kenjiro Tsuda[9] (Japanese); Chad Halbrook (English)
Toi's older brother. An organized criminal.
Haruka Yasaka (矢逆 春河, Yasaka Haruka)
Voiced by: Rie Kugimiya[10] (Japanese); Alison Viktorin (English)[5]
Kazuki's younger brother. Uses a wheelchair after getting hit by a car.
Otone Jinnai (陣内 音寧, Jinnai Otone)
Voiced by: Mariya Ise[10] (Japanese); Kristen McGuire (English)[5]
Enta's older sister, and teacher to Kazuki and Toi.
Zombies (ゾンビ, Zonbi)
Voiced by: Ryo Kato[11]
Zombies exist in the Field of Desires, a universe parallel to the human world, as the spirits of humans attempting to satisfy their desires from when they were living. A new zombie is fought each episode in a villain of the week-style format.


In August 2017, MAPPA listed a job posting to recruit staff for a "Kunihiko Ikuhara-directed work", effectively announcing the existence of a series to be produced by Ikuhara and the studio.[12] The series was formally announced as Sarazanmai on March 6, 2018 during a three-day Revolutionary Girl Utena marathon on Niconico,[13] with one of three different teaser trailers shown at the end of each respective day of programming.[14][15][16] A full-length trailer was released in five parts on Noitamina's YouTube channel, with the first part posted on October 4, 2018,[17] and the final part posted on November 1, 2018.[18]

The series is created by Ikuhara and produced by MAPPA and Lapin Track. The original story is credited to "Ikunirappa", similar to how Ikuhara's previous directorial work Yurikuma Arashi was credited to "Ikunigomamonaka".[19] The primary production staff includes Ikuhara and Teruko Utsumi as script writers, Nobuyuki Takeuchi as chief series director (who previously collaborated with Ikuhara on Utena and Penguindrum[13]), Yukari Hashimoto as music composer,[4] and the illustrator Migi as original character designer.[20] Kayoko Ishikawa is adapting the character designs for animation and is also responsible for chief animation direction.[21] Kana-Boon performs the series' opening theme song "Massara," while The Peggies perform the series' ending theme song "Stand By Me".[22][23] The series is listed for 11 episodes.[24] The series' closing credits are directed by filmmaker and graphic designer Tao Tajima.[13]


Ikuhara has stated that his chief inspiration behind Sarazanmai was a desire to create a series about kappas. As the majority of stories about yōkai (supernatural monsters) are fables for children, he wished to create a story about yōkai for an adult audience.[25][26] He additionally wished to create a series where the primary protagonists were male, in contrast to the female-centric narratives of his previous directorial efforts.[26] The series setting of Asakusa was chosen for its mixture of historical and contemporary elements.[26]

Themes and references[edit]

A statue of a kappa in Kappabashi-dori, Tokyo. An adapted version of the statue appears as a central plot device the series.

The primary theme of Sarazanmai is "connections." Quoting Ikuhara in an interview with Pash! Plus:

"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 it? 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 it go from there? What happens to connections that are lost? Do we even need connections?"[26]

The word "Sarazanmai" is derived from the word sara (サラ, "plate"), referring to the plates located on heads of kappas from which they supposedly draw their power, and the suffix -zanmai (ざんまい), referring to indulgence. It is also a close variation of sarasanmai ("three plates"), a reference to the three primary characters who are turned into kappas.[27] The series' setting of Asakusa is the location of Kappabashi-dori ("Kitchen Town"), its name a pun for the area's proliferation of kappa imagery and dishware wholesalers.[27]



Sarazanmai premiered on April 11, 2019 on Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block.[28]. In English-language markets, Crunchyroll simulcasts the series,[29] while Funimation simulcasts an English-language dubbed version of the series.[30]

No. Title Storyboarder(s) Episode director(s) Writer(s) Original airdate
1"I Want to Connect, but I Want to Lie"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、偽りたい)
Kunihiko Ikuhara, Nobuyuki Takeuchi, Katsunori Shibata, Maimu Matsushima[31]Masato Jinbo[31]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[31]April 11, 2019 (2019-04-11)[32]
After accidentally breaking a statue of a kappa at a shrine in Asakusa, middle school student Kazuki Yasaka encounters Keppi, heir to the throne of the Kappa Kingdom. He, along with his classmates Toi Kuji and Enta Jinnai, enrage Keppi by calling him a frog; he steals their shirikodama, a mythical organ located in the anus that stores an individual's secret desires, and transforms them into kappas. Keppi informs them they must defeat a zombie by taking its shirikodama in order to become human again. They are successful, but the act of "doing the sarazanmai" to transfer the shirikodama to Keppi exposes Kazuki's secret to the group: that he cross-dresses as the idol Sara Azuma. In a post-credits scene, police officers Reo Niiboshi and Mabu Akutsu extract the desires of a man they are questioning.
2"I Want to Connect, but I Want to Take"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、奪いたい)
Shingo Kaneko[33]Shingo Kaneko[33]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[33]April 18, 2019 (2019-04-18)[34]
Keppi gives the group a Dish of Hope as thanks for helping him, which grants one wish to whomever possesses it, and informs them that they can earn more plates by defeating more zombies. Kazuki explains that he cross-dresses for his younger brother Harukawa, a fan of Sara's, and that he wishes to earn a dish for him. Toi wishes to earn a dish for his older brother Chikai, a yakuza for whom he sells cannabis. Kazuki and Toi are later forced to pursue Nyantaro, a feral cat cared for by Kazuki and Haruka, after he steals a bag of cannabis from Toi's grow-op. Nyantaro is suddenly captured by a kappa zombie who, upon being defeated, exposes Kazuki's secret that Nyantaro is domestic cat that he stole. In a post-credits scene, Enta encounters a sleeping Kazuki dressed as Sara, and kisses him.
3"I Want to Connect, but It's Not Meant to Be"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、報われない)
Masato Jinbo[35]Masato Jinbo[35]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[35]April 25, 2019 (2019-04-25)[36]
Enta, who has a crush on Kazuki, wishes to earn a dish so that Kazuki will return to playing soccer with him. Reo and Mabu extract the desires of Otone's boyfriend (who, unbeknownst to her, is a serial killer targeting women) and turn him into a zombie. The group defeats the zombie, exposing the secret of Enta's crush, and causing Otone to forget her boyfriend ever existed. In a post-credits scene, Enta visits Haruka in a hospital, who is revealed to be a wheelchair user.
4"I Want to Connect, but You're So Far Away"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、そばにいない)
Nobuyuki Takeuchi[37]Nobuyuki Takeuchi[37]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[37]May 2, 2019 (2019-05-02)[38]
Kazuki asks for Toi's help to kidnap Sara and take her place during a meet-and-greet that Haruka plans to attend. Toi's backstory is revealed through a flashback – after his parents died from suicide upon being conned into crippling debt, the family's soba shop was saved from closure through Chikai's intervention. When a yakuza came to collect the family's debt, he was shot by Toi, which was subsequently covered up by Chikai.
5"I Want to Connect, but I Can't Be Forgiven"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、許されない)
Kaori Makita[39]Kaori Makita[39]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[39]May 9, 2019 (2019-05-09)[40]
Toi attempts to kidnap Sara, though she evades him by transforming into a kappa, exposing Kazuki's crossdressing to his family. Kazuki reveals that he is adopted, and that he blames himself for Haruka's disability when he was hit by a car after they had a fight. Kazuki's turmoil causes him to fail in defeating the episode's zombie; an angry Keppi subsequently refuses to transform the group back into their human forms.
6"I Want to Connect, so I'm Not Giving up"
(Japanese: つながりたいから、諦めない)
Katsunori Shibata, Noriko Hashimoto[41]Katsunori Shibata, Noriko Hashimoto[41]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[41]May 16, 2019 (2019-05-16)[42]
The group rescue Haruka after he is kidnapped by Reo, and are transformed back into human form. Keppi explains that Reo and Mabu are agents of the Otter Empire, who have been at war with the Kappa Kingdom for generations over the energy of the shirikodama; with the Kappa Kingdom now effectively defeated, the Otter Empire has begun to extract the shirikodama of humans. In a post-credits flashback set during the Otter-Kappa war, Mabu sacrifices himself to protect Reo in battle.
7"I Want to Connect, but I Want to Betray"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、裏切りたい)
Yoshiyuki Ryunosuke[43]Noriko Hashimoto[43]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[43]May 23, 2019 (2019-05-23)[44]
In a flashback, Mabu is brought back to life with a mechanical heart transplanted by Otter, though Reo believes that Mabu is merely a re-animated facsimile. Chikai's criminal dealings force him to flee the city, and Toi announces that he intends to join his brother. The group agrees to use the dishes to help Chikai, but discover they have been stolen. Upon defeating a kappa zombie, Enta is exposed as having stolen the dishes out of jealously over Kazuki's concern for Toi.
8"I Want to Connect, but We'll Never Meet Again"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、もう会えない)
Shingo Kaneko, Masayuki Kurosawa[45]Shingo Kaneko[45]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[45]May 30, 2019 (2019-05-30)[46]
Chikai and Toi make preparations to leave the city. Enta returns the Dishes of Hope to Kazuki, but they are confronted by Reo and Mabu, who intend to use the dishes to restore Mabu. Reo shoots Enta, and takes the dishes.
9"I Want to Connect, but I Can't Express It"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、伝わらない)
Nobuyuki Takeuchi[47]Nobuyuki Takeuchi[47]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[47]June 6, 2019 (2019-06-06)[48]
Keppi transforms a hospitalized Enta into a kappa so that he and Kazuki can recover the dishes. Reo witnesses Otter performing sexually-charged "maintenance" on Mabu's heart; when he intervenes, Otter appears in the form of Reo, and explains that he is a mirror of Reo's inner desires. Meanwhile, Chikai is shot and killed in a confrontation with the yakuza.
10"I Want to Connect, but I Can't"
(Japanese: つながりたいけど、つながれない)
Masayuki Kurosawa, Katsunori Shibata, Shingo Kaneko[49]Noriko Hashimoto, Shingo Kaneko[49]Kunihiko Ikuhara, Teruko Utsumi[49]June 13, 2019 (2019-06-13)[50]
Kazuki, Enta, and Keppi encounter Dark Keppi, the corporeal form of half of Keppi's shirikodama held by the Otter Empire. Otter, having learned of Reo's plan to use the dishes on Mabu, transforms Mabu into a zombie. Keppi transforms Reo into a kappa, who recovers Mabu's shirikodama and learns that Otter forced Mabu into giving up his connection with Reo in order to live. Mabu tells Reo that he loves him, causing his mechanical heart to explode. A grieving Reo attacks Kazuki, Enta, and Keppi, but is shot and killed by Toi, who wishes to use the dishes to bring Chikai back to life. Kazuki uses the dishes to save Enta's life, and Toi is absorbed by Dark Keppi.

Physical media[edit]

Aniplex will release Sarazanmai anime across six volumes, in DVD and Blu-ray media formats.

Aniplex (Japan, Region 2)
Volume Episodes Release date Ref.
Volume 1 1 June 26, 2019 [51]
Volume 2 2-3 July 24, 2019 [52]
Volume 3 4-5 August 28, 2019 [53]
Volume 4 6-7 September 25, 2019 [54]
Volume 5 8-9 October 30, 2019 [55]
Volume 6 10-11 November 27, 2019 [56]


A spin–off manga, Reo and Mabu: Together They're Sarazanmai (レオとマブ~ふたりはさらざんまい~, Reo to Mabu: Futari wa Sarazanmai) ran from May 22, 2018 to March 22, 2019.[57] The series was written by Ikuhara (credited as "Ikunirappa") with artwork by Misaki Saitō. It was published in Gentosha's manga magazine RuTile on odd-numbered months, and in the online magazine RuTile Sweet on even-numbered months.[20] The complete series was collected into a tankōbon published by Gentosha on March 22, 2019.[58]

The manga follows Reo and Mabu after they discover a baby lying in the street on a plate that can only speak the sound "でいっしゅ" ("dish"). They care for her while searching for her parents, giving her the name her Sara (サラ or sara literally meaning "plate" in Japanese). Reo and Mabu encounter various comedic and absurd scenarios throughout the series, many of which are solved by Sara's intervention, who Reo and Mabu come to believe has magical powers. They eventually come to love Sara as their own daughter, and privately hope that her parents will not be discovered. In the penultimate chapter, Sara suddenly grows up into an adult, thanks Reo and Mabu for being her fathers, and disappears with a man who previously sleepwalked into the kōban. Reo and Mabu suddenly both wake up to find Sara still with them as a baby, with an unspecified amount of the events of the manga having merely been a dream.

No.Release date ISBN
1 March 22, 2018[58]ISBN 978-4-344-84420-9
  • Chapter 1: Reo and Mabu encounter Sara.
  • Chapter 2: Reo and Mabu adjust to caring for Sara.
  • Chapter 3: Reo and Mabu enter a contest to win an air conditioner.
  • Chapter 4: Mabu tries to make a perfect ningyo-yaki.
  • Chapter 5: Reo and Mabu embrace being Sara's fathers.
  • Chapter 6: Reo and Mabu help a runaway child find his lost hat.
  • Chapter 7: A city official tells Reo and Mabu that they cannot adopt Sara.
  • Chapter 8: Reo and Mabu help a foreign tourist whose suitcase was stolen.
  • Chapter 9: Reo receives a large number of lost plates.
  • Chapter 10: Reo and Mabu help a man who sleepwalked into their kōban.
  • Chapter 11: Reo and Mabu dream that a grown-up Sara vanishes with the sleepwalking man.

Light novel[edit]

A light novel adaptation of Sarazanmai, written by Ikuhara and Utsumi with illustrations by Migi, was published by Gentosha on April 16, 2019.[59]


PreZanmai, a radio series hosted by series creator Kunihiko Ikuhara and Keppi voice actor Junichi Suwabe, launched on January 5, 2019. The series is broadcast Saturdays at 9 p.m. online and on A&G Plus in Japan.[60]

Social media[edit]

A Twitter account, @keeponly1luv, posted daily in-character tweets from Reo and Mabu from November 11, 2018 to March 31, 2019.[3] The account's tweets were deleted on June 13, 2019, following the release of episode 10 of the anime series.[61]


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