Sasami-san is a surprise by SHAFT.
TV Series; Episodes 12
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Supernatural
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, in simple terms, is a coming of age story. It’s about making new friends, restoring relationships and fixing mistakes. It’s easy to not recognize these familiar elements because the context they’re put in is so alien. It’s not everyday that the world gets covered in chocolate or a video game saps the life force of its players or a robotic god destroys an ancient shrine. We don’t often get to time travel, meet dead relatives or fight ancient evils. But even against the backdrop of such craziness the series tries to reconcile these two elements, the familiar and the fantastical, to make one emphatic statement: freedom is what gives life.
Sasami is born into the Tsukuyomi clan, burdened with the duty to protect the power of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. It gives the bearer the ability to shape the world in his or her own desires. Because the potential abuse of this power can lead to the destruction of mankind, the Tsukiyomi strictly train the vessels for this power, their priestesses, in all forms of abstinence and self control, barring them from the materialistic society outside. Sasami, the next in line to wield the divine gift, finds a way to escape the shrine and into the world she had never seen.
While the series spends a lot of time on how Sasami readjusts to normal life, the idea of freedom becomes a common thread in its short run. It is the utmost highest ideal a human can strive for and is more important than duty or responsibility even at the cost of gambling away the fate of mankind. Humanity, according to this series’ philosophy, is essentially defined by the choices we are allowed to make. Sacrificing this capacity to perserve the future would basically be illogical.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai uses the events that unfold as a metaphor for this sentiment. The dead returning to life, spirits warping the fabric of time and a woman growing a penis are examples of the extent the forces against Sasami must go to deny her freedom. The series tells us that in order to destroy what is essentially human nature, you must uproot the laws of the universe to get anywhere close. Liberty is fact of life. Not even the gods themselves, (who make quite a few appearances) can take it away from Sasami, or anyone else.
Sadly, some might only take this show at face value though, a crazy series of events whose only goal is to make you laugh. The writing never asks the viewer to peel away the allegorical layers the show is wrapped in. I believe it’s one of the only weaknesses of the plot. The narrative makes it easy to ignore the delicious fruit hidden underneath Sasami-san@Ganbaranai‘s surface. Considering the amount of depth, it feels like a waste.
While Sasami can be easily described as an average girl (as average as an otaku gets I guess), the rest of her relationships could be labeled as strictly taboo. Her brother, Kamiomi, worships her in an intense sexual fashion that can only be described as incestuous.He is unwavering in his service, from feeding to bathing and clothing her. Kamiomi makes it quite clear that his devotion to her stems from the fact that he will one day marry his younger sibling and take her innocence. More bizarrely, Sasami often shows that she reciprocates these feelings toward him, albeit hidden behind a flurry of punch and kicks towards her older brother.
It’s not the only bond that Freud would have a field day with. The rest of the series is slathered with inappropriate sexuality and lesbian innuendo. I don’t have a particular distaste for deviant behavior, but it just doesn’t work here. There is so much going on in the actual plot itself, the flamboyant cast just feels like a distraction at points. The show would function much better as a whole if it could ground one element, namely the characters, firmly in the ground for the audience to relate to. Instead the nature of the bonds between the cast goes further to alienate viewers from the setting at hand.
It’s hard to peg the eclectic art style of the show down. Akiyuki Shinbou, the director, uses the interplay of shadow and light to characterize the visual look of the series and the different settings throughout the show. His signature use of static screens is still present, but their appearances are scant and far between since the focus is more on the beautifully illuminated backdrops. It’s a much more muted approach for a director known for Bakemonogatari and his unusual production sense. Toning it down works for a series like Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, which has enough insanity as it is.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is surprisingly deceptive. Hidden in the hysteria of the plot is an exceptional and deep narrative that frankly is easy to miss. For those willing to look past the cast of ludicrous (but hilarious) characters and spend some quality time with the actual story will find a deeply rewarding show that not only goes to explore the human condition but give meaningful insight in to the way it works. If you’re the type willing to make the leap, then these twelve episode might be for you.