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‘Sarazanmai’ And The Beautiful Art of Reverse Storytelling

Sarazanmai is more than just a pretty face. Employing reverse storytelling made it one of the most exciting watches of Spring 2019.

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The beauty of storytelling is that there’s no one right way to do it. Though most novels, movies, anime, and so on typically stick to telling a rather straightforward narrative, there are an array of different ways to communicate a character’s backstory other than exposition dumps or back-to-back flashbacks for the first couple episodes.

Indeed, maintaining a sense of mystery that keeps the viewer guessing is one of the most effective ways to hook an audience. Kunihiko Ikuhara pushes this concept to its limits with Sarazanmai, and the result is an entrancing string of revelations that masterfully commanded viewers’ attention all season.

Though it’s classified as Action/Fantasy, Sarazanmai could just as easily fall into the Mystery genre. The show starts by thrusting viewers into a day in the life of Kazuki Yasaka, an 8th grader who opens the first episode by revealing that he lives by three rules:

  1. He has to carry a box around every day,
  2. He has to check the daily selfie fortunes of idol Sara Azuma, and
  3. He has to share those fortunes with someone special on a daily basis.

Sarazanmai

And, well, that’s it. There aren’t any other indications of who Kazuki is, his relationships with others, general backstory, or anything else. The next scene introduces one of the other main characters, Toi Kuji, in much the same way. We see him attempting to break into a car before he’s caught on camera by none other than a wandering Sara Azuma herself, the aforementioned idol. We’re then left to make our own assumptions about Toi for the rest of the episode. The reveal of the final protagonist, Enta Jinnai, does unveil that Kazuki used to play soccer and that Enta is one of his childhood friends, but that’s all we learn about either until the very end of the episode.

One would reasonably expect for this minimalist take on introducing characters to backfire spectacularly. From One Piece to Mob Psycho 100 to Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul to Kaguya-sama, we always at least know enough about an anime’s core protagonists to get invested in their exploits. But how can an audience possibly be expected to care about characters they know so little about?

As unusual as it might sound, Sarazanmai manages to flourish despite this because of how well it makes use of reverse storytelling. It sacrifices trying to get viewers attached right away in favor of establishing a blank canvas that’s filled in little by little every episode.

The show only manages to pull this off because 1) Its cadence of gradually building characters and their motivations via flashback snippets is near-perfect, and 2) Sarazanmai has some of the most visually striking animation in recent memory (no surprise coming from MAPPA and Lapin Track). If the transformation sequences and world weren’t such a joy to take in, it’d arguably be much more difficult to make it to the first revelation at the end of episode one.

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Nonetheless, everything begins to fall into place with these two factors squared away. The vehicles for the consistent revelations are both contextual flashbacks and the show’s titular ritual wherein all three boys (who get turned into kappas in the first episode after a chance meeting with Keppi, the kappa prince) must synchronize to extract a shirikodama from a kappa zombie (the personified desires of humans).

A risk of this mystical act is the chance that some of a performer’s memories might briefly leak out to the others. Thus we’re exposed to all manner of genuinely shocking secrets that completely change the way one would see these characters and propels you to continue watching to find out more and see how it affects the group dynamic.

What are the true intentions behind Kazuki’s three rules to life? How is Toi involved in such seedy activities as a middle-schooler? And just why is Enta so determined to get Kazuki to fall in love with soccer again? Each of these base questions introduced in the first episode not only gets answered but get blown wide open and lead the story in some very unexpected directions. The late-season payoffs for these make the initial drip-feed completely worth it.

Sarazanmai Review

Though the last few episodes move away from reverse storytelling in favor of focusing on what’s happening in real-time, everyone’s established by that point. True to the show’s theme of connecting with one another, viewers are eventually armed with ample reasons to care about what happens to all of the core characters just like any good anime. The difference is all in how it gets you to that point.

The ride of wondering why Enta would possibly make such a rash decision, or being completely baffled by a cliffhanger left by a memory leak; being made to try and fill in these massive gaps before the show does in the next episode made watching Sarazanmai supremely exciting. Binging it won’t capture that same feeling of suspense that came with waiting with bated breath for questions to be answered each week, but I still can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can watch Sarazanmai on Crunchyroll (subbed) or Funimation (dubbed).

Brent became infatuated with manga and anime after randomly stumbling upon Vol. 3 of Yu Yu Hakusho on a childhood roadtrip. Today he has a soft spot for colorful JRPGs, cozy anime, and both games and shows that indulge his innate love of adventure. Find him (im)patiently waiting for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Fire Emblem: Three Houses @CreamBasics.

Anime

Anime Ichiban 16: Detonation!

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After a rather lengthy break, the crew returns with another round of spicy discussions. Join them as they delve into Venice tours and what’s hot this new anime season.

Note: We are currently having difficulties embedding media players. Until we resolve the issue you can listen to the episode on our Podbean site here.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions
14:32 – Honoring Kyoto Animation
20:37 – Venice, Italy ARIA the Animation Tour
27:20 – Crunchyroll service coming to HBO Max
34:25 – Premium Manga Framing
38:59 – Japanese government program for spreading anime
43:28 – Japanese Blu-Ray Rankings
48:55 – MAIN TOPIC: What have we been watching this season?
1:19:00 – Closing remarks

TRACKS

Intro – “Gurenge” by LiSA (Opening theme for Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer)
Outro – “Macho a Name” by Kaito Ishikawa (Ending theme for How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?)

Kyoto Animation relief GoFundMe page

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Anime

The Horrors of the Kyoto Animation Fire and What You Can Do to Help

Kyoto Animation has suffered a devastating loss that sits heavily in the hearts of many. Here are some ways to help the affected.

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Yesterday morning, Japan saw its worst confirmed mass murder incident since the start of the post-war era. At 10:30 am, a 41-year-old man set fire to Studio 1 of Kyoto Animation — popularly known as KyoAni — killing at least 33 people and injuring many more.

This tragedy comes as a shock to many around the world but especially to the anime fans that have loved and adored the contributions Kyoto Animation has made to the industry over the past couple decades. We at GoombaStomp’s anime section extend our heartfelt condolences to all who are affected by this disaster and hope for their swift recovery.

Hoping isn’t the only thing you can do, though. Even if you find yourself far removed on the other side of the world, there are still ways to show your support. Here are just three:

  1. The Monetary Way – Sentai Filmworks, the primary English licensor for Kyoto Animation, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds that will go directly to the relief and recovery of those affected by the fire. At the time of writing, the campaign has already more than doubled its initial goal, having raised $1.5 million.
  2. In Our Thoughts and Prayers – Probably the easiest method on this list. We live in the age of social media, where we can communicate with those we want with a click of a button. Show your support by writing an encouraging message on Kyoto Animation’s Twitter page or join the thousands of others in a chorus using the #PrayforKyoani tag.

    A word of warning, however. Do NOT mention any hopes for the status of their projects, regardless of if there’s goodwill behind it or not. This is not the time for such things.
  3. The Physical Way – We tend to forget nowadays that sending letters to others through traditional snail mail is still possible. Simply sending an email or tweet is so much easier and more convenient. It’s because sending a letter is so much less convenient that makes it so much more meaningful, though.

    Making a hand-written letter with your thoughts and feelings and sending it to someone shows you care enough to take time out of your day and go through this involved process when simpler methods exist, and that can mean the world to the recipient.

    Don’t worry if you can’t write in Japanese. Beyond the fact that English is still understood on some fundamental level in Japan, simply receiving the feelings and support from passionate fans around the world in such a meaningful form has the potential to have an incredibly positive effect.

    The address for Kyoto Animation’s main office can be found below. Consider sending your feelings in a physical form.

Kyoto Animation Head Office
32 Oseto, Kohata, Uji-shi, Kyoto
611-0002
Japan

Kyoto Animation has given us so much with some of the most important series in the industry’s history. Now it’s time to give back to them. Show your support and help Kyoto Animation come out of what is surely the darkest moment for the anime medium.

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Anime

‘Attack on Titan’ S3, Pt. 8: This World is Our Enemy

As Attack on Titan closes off the second part of season three, it is on a hopeful note but also one with a promise of pain. 

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Attack on Titan Season 3 Review

As Attack on Titan closes off the second part of its third season, it is on a hopeful note but also one with a promise of pain. While Eren, Mikasa and Armin have reached the shores of Paradis, as they have long dreamed of doing, across the turbulent waves of the ocean lies their greatest battle yet.

Like a soldier says earlier in the episode: “This world is our enemy.” It’s a sentiment Eren echoes himself in the closing moments of “The Other Side of the Wall” as he stands on the edge of their island prison and stares into the eternal blue of the ocean: “If we kill all of our enemies, will we finally be able to grasp freedom?”

It’s an ominous statement, particularly coming from such a firebrand as Eren, but with the Attack Titan nestled safely inside of him and the Colossal Titan now at home within Armin, their chances have never been better to crush their enemies once and for all.

Attack on Titan

While the arrival of our heroes at the ocean is a happy moment, it’s also colored with dread for what’s to come.

And crush them they must, if crush them they will, because the announcement came out very recently that the fourth season, set to premiere in the fall of 2020, will be the last. This news comes as especially surprising when you consider how much the mythology of Attack on Titan has been expanded upon in the third season, but one supposes that it’s better they end it sooner rather than dragging the story out indefinitely like so many other anime.

Still, with Eren’s declaration of war, and the already dark tone of the third season, this information may not bode well for Eren’s future. In the short teaser for the fourth season, we only hear Mikasa say: “Eren, please come back.” Has Eren become a monster in order to fight one in the final season of this story, and further, how many episodes will we have to explore the last arc of Attack on Titan?

Also, what of Ymir, Annie and other characters who have been out of commission for so long? Will their stories be resolved as well in the remainder of Attack on Titan? With so much material to cover, we can only hope that the remaining 6-12 hours is enough time to wrap up the dangling threads of this story successfully.

Attack on Titan

Many of the questions we have going forward circle around Historia and her role going forward.

Which leads to another series of questions: what of Historia and Eren? Eren is now harboring a secret in hopes of saving Historia’s life, and Armin seems to suspect as much. Will the person Eren fought so valiantly to save be his undoing? And will Historia and Eren finally show their love openly, or will Ymir return to put a wrinkle in their romantic relationship? Further, with Historia at the helm of the Eldian struggle, and the long sordid history of her family hovering in the background, the enemy may also be dead set on getting their hands on her once again.

Finally, we still don’t know how the Beast Titan and his ilk tie into things in regard to the oppressors of the Eldians. What is his end goal, and if he’s not at the head of the enemy on the mainland, then who is? All of these questions and more will be on our minds as we patiently await the last arc of Attack on Titan next fall.

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Anime

‘Fruits Basket’ Challenges You To Be a Better Person

Fruits Basket tells a story that reminds us how powerful simply having faith in another person can be and the importance of doing so.

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Fruits Basket Remake

Whenever an older piece of media is remade as a modern work there’s always the question of “Why?” What makes this work worth being reintroduced to a modern audience over the countless others in the sea of entertainment? When it comes to anime remakes, most are from the shounen genre that benefits from the improvement in animation technology since their original run, such as Madhouse’s Hunter x Hunter. This season’s remake of Fruits Basket, on the other hand, is a shoujo, an archetypical shoujo at that. While it is certainly a pretty show, the increase in animation quality doesn’t necessarily pay dividends when compared to its shounen compatriots. So the question remains: Why is Fruits Basket worthy of receiving the remake treatment? The answer, it turns out, lies in the timeless message it tells and the lessons it teaches that are just as important today, if not more so, as they were nearly two decades ago. 

Making Important Connections

To bring those who are unfamiliar with Fruits Basket up to speed, the story follows high school first-year, Tohru Honda, after certain circumstances have left her in the care of her classmates’ household, Kyou and Yuki Souma. The catch is that some members of the Souma family are “cursed” by the spirits of Zodiac animals and will transform into their respective creature when hugged by the opposite sex — the rat and forgotten cat in Yuki and Kyou’s cases, respectively.

These supernatural elements aren’t utilized in a comedic sense as much as one would expect given the setup and instead are used more as a pretext to create an unusual family situation for Yuki, Kyou, and all the other Soumas. It’s this family situation that takes the usual worries and insecurities of a high schooler and exacerbates them ten-fold. How Fruits Basket — more specifically Tohru — addresses those insecurities, however, is where the show’s true beauty lies.

Fruits Basket Tohru and Kyou

Tohru is a bit of an oddity as far as main characters go. Where many dramas and slice-of-life’s will create protagonists that the viewer can relate to on some level, that’s not what Fruits Basket is asking the viewer to do with Tohru. She’s kind and understanding to a fault, a veritable saint that sees all the good in humanity that borderlines naivete, which can be a little difficult to find common ground with.

Instead, it’s everyone around Tohru that is relatable. Whether it’s Kyou’s inferiority complex, Yuki’s innate fear of making real connections with people, or something as complex as Hatori’s complicated grief over his loved one — there’s at least one character in Fruits Basket that anyone can sympathize and connect with to some degree. They are all believably flawed and it’s not unlikely that their worries were your worries at some point in time or even possibly right this very moment.

Then there’s Tohru, who comes along and does more than just accept those flaws. It’s through her eyes that the viewer can see what happens when someone believes in you unconditionally, flaws and insecurities and all. When someone speaks more than just hollow words of encouragement but has wholehearted faith in your potential it has an incredibly potent healing effect. Tohru has that capacity to soothe the anguish of those around her and by extension the viewers who connect with those characters. She serves as a reminder of the compassion we can show for our fellow human beings.

A Call to Action

The thing is, it’s not easy to be like Tohru. It’s not easy to have that kind of unflinching faith even with the closest of friends, to fully believe in your own belief in another person. Indeed in a world that sometimes seems to grow bleaker by the day, many have been conditioned to doubt more readily than believe. That doesn’t mean we can’t try, though. 

Fruits Basket Tohru and Yuki

Tohru may be more of an unattainable ideal, but she still challenges us to strive for that ideal. The next time you find yourself in the position of encouraging someone, take a moment to ask yourself how much you believe in your own words of encouragement. However much that is, take the effort to put even more faith into them. That’s a very unscientific way of putting it, certainly, but the sheer warmth of genuinely good intent can mean the world to the recipient, even if you find yourself unable to find the best words to say. We can see this demonstrated around the world, not just in a shoujo anime.

A recent study by The Guardian shows that gun violence in the Bay Area of California is at a record low, having dropped nearly 40% in the past decade as opposed to the national average of 7%. At the center of this effort is a fellowship program aimed toward individuals at risk of committing violence, particularly those who suffered from it themselves and feel compelled to return in kind. One graduate of the fellowship commented, “To have somebody who believes in you, and knows you’ve got the potential to go for it, stuff like that makes you want to keep going right.”

That is exactly the kind of faith that Tohru shows in her own friends. To acknowledge the flaws of someone as part of who they are, rather than simply accepting those flaws as an inevitability, and believing in all that they are, good and bad, can be a difficult thing to do. Yet doing so can have an undeniably positive effect on another and being able to have that kind of impact makes it a lesson from Fruits Basket well worth learning.

Fruits Basket Tohru and Kyouko

Watch Fruits Basket Remake on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed).

 

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‘Attack on Titan’ S3, Pt. 7: Paradis Lost

Attack on Titan has officially entered its Lost phase. With the latest string of episodes taking the kind of mythology dump that would make Game of Thrones blush, Attack on Titan has revealed more about the backstory of the titans in the last two episodes than it has in the last two seasons. 

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Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan has officially entered its Lost phase. With the latest string of episodes taking the kind of mythology dump that would make Game of Thrones blush, Attack on Titan has revealed more about the backstory of the titans in the last two episodes than it has in the last two seasons.

With the basement door open and Grisha Jaeger’s secret journals revealed at last, fans have gained their first glimpse into not only what the world looks like outside the walled cities and surrounding countryside, but also how the rest of the world operates, and where titans actually come from.

But let’s backtrack for a second, because holy crap, this is NOT a post-apocalyptic scenario as we’ve been lead to believe for so long. There are plenty of humans outside of the walled cities and not only are they living relatively care-free lives, they’re the source of most of the titans that continue to menace our heroes.

Attack on Titan

The pictures of Eldians from academic and religious books paint them as hideous demons and corruptors of mankind. With this in mind, the parable between Eldian hatred and anti-semitism is almost immediately apparent.

It turns out that the people of the walled cities are called Eldians. A sort of surrogate for the Jews, Eldians are a long-persecuted race of people who have been blamed for the ills of the world for centuries, and as a result they are kept separate from the main population. In their carefully controlled neighborhood ghettos they are closely watched and monitored while being subjugated by the powers that be.

However, after something called the Titan War, the leader of the Eldians went to Paradis, the island where most of the show has taken place, and built the walled cities out of massive titans. He swore if he and his people were not left alone, he would unleash all of the titans within the walls and flatten the world forever.

Phew, but that’s not all: there are also nine founding titans, and they are hosts to god-like powers. One of these is the Attack Titan, which Eren inherited from Grisha. But then the question becomes how many of the other 8 have we seen? The Beast, Colossal and Armored Titans are likely three of the others, meaning that the opposing side is trying to gain this power as well, but what of the other five?

Attack on Titan

The origin and motivation of the Joker-like Smiling Titan has been revealed at last, and they’re as heart-breaking as they are chilling.

Speaking of the origins of titans, we also got the hideous cap on a long-ago love story, as the Smiling Titan was revealed to be Grisha’s former lover from when he aspired to revolution on the main continent. This horrific twist means when the Smiling Titan arrived to eat Eren’s mother in the first episode, she was still trying to honor her promise to come back to Grisha, no matter what. It’s a truly disturbing reveal, and it bodes of even more moral challenges to come for the heroes of Attack on Titan. 

For one thing, this means that the titans that the Garrison and Survey corps have been slaughtering for years have actually been their fellow Eldians, hated by the people of the mainland and turned into titans as punishment for their insolence. Even more terrifying, many of the abnormal titans we’ve seen from past episodes were members of Grisha’s resistance group, including the bearded titan and the small, short-haired titan with the large eyes.

The real-world reference point to this would be the classic tale of world leaders pointing groups of disenfranchised people against one another to keep them from focusing on the leaders who are truly deserving of their ire. Call it the Wizard of Oz strategy. The devious nature of such a plan, and how well it has worked since time immemorial, makes the struggle at the heart of Attack on Titan feel even more real, and it’s all the more chilling for it.

Attack on Titan Council

The leaders of Paradis now understand their circumstances more than ever, but what will they do with their newfound knowledge?

Finally, though, with all of this new information being handed over to Historia, Pyxis, and the other leaders of Paradis’ governing bodies, the question is what are they going to do with it? Yes, there is a much larger, and much more threatening enemy across the ocean, but how on earth can the Eldians begin to confront them? Especially with the threat of the Beast Titan and his followers remaining omnipresent.

If anything, like with Lost and Game of Thrones mentioned at the outset, the new information may answer a lot of questions, but those questions are then replaced by a myriad of new queries and concerns. Let’s hope we can get a few more answers before season three comes to a close.

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Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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