In a dull season plagued by the predictable, describing this newest series as “different” would be a severe understatement. Enter Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, the front-runner for absurdity—playing the seductress, the shrew, the madwoman fueled by crack cocaine. Be forewarned. This is a genuine concoction of the bizarre, lacking any sense of direction, and indeed, having no concern for it. Sheer bewilderment becomes Sasami-san’s very forte. Yet, this eccentricity is a double-edged sword, and considering the shallowness of Sasami-san’s loony design, we’re unfortunately left with a show that is plain disappointing.
Both a strength and a weakness, the plot is all over the place. In the first episode for example, Sasami spends her idle time stalking her brother from home via some unexplained form of ultra-computer technobabble, mixing in Haruhi references (oh the boldness) on the way; then Sasami purchases some Valentine’s Day chocolate for her brother, which suddenly transforms the world into…chocolate. Now if this weren’t enough, we have some wacky screenplay done in eroge style, a whole 30 seconds spent watching Sasami undress; cue jazz-fusion music, concurrent with tumultuous action scenes: missile-endowed breasts, chocolate dragons, magical powers, mechanical wings, and sensual cannibalism—all to save the world from becoming a permanent Willy Wonka factory.
While we’re offered nothing of the underlying plot, we’re so bemused by its over-the-top direction, disoriented into excitement by the story and art direction’s compounded nonsense. Yet, the underlying problem is that we’re offered nothing related to the real plot. Instead we’re served a bowl of shallow eccentricity, leaving a cloyingly sour taste as we’re still wondering what the heck is going on (!).
This is a real shame given that some of the more unique eccentricities are intrinsically linked to the Shinto doctrine. Sasami’s brother Kamiomi perpetually hides his face under the presence of his sister, a testament to the humility of servants under deities; and the brooding incest between the two—while a common SHAFT delicacy—is canonically supported by the historical myths behind Shinto creationism. These are the occasional subtleties, the acts of brilliance overshadowed by heavy-handed symbols and writing: Sasami’s mother inserting an awfully phallic totem into her daughter’s stomach, festering into tangible bloat, and then Sasami birthing her own mother through some Freudian version of catharsis. Better yet, Takamagahara mythology even details this very method as the cycle of creation.
Am I overreaching somewhere? Yes, a bit. Unfortunately, Sasami-san clouds itself with so many absurdities (much of the time for fanservice) that it becomes impossible to determine what actually warrants in-depth discussion. It would be too convenient to suppose all of it is just pandering eroticism, especially with the more detailed source material in mind. Yet, this potential existence for merit does not make Sasami-san’s diluted symbology any more comprehensible from the start, overshadowed by the show’s refusal to expand upon its elusive—and unfortunately, fleeting—strengths.
At the show’s core we’re left with nothing but soppy melodrama—a direction that the show initially tried to avoid. This is where Sasami-san truly unhinges itself. While once entranced by the subtleties within the Shinto doctrine, the story takes a jarring left turn, yanking us out of the rabbit hole and placing us into a different tale: one of happiness versus responsibility, an introspective battle between Sasami’s self-indulgent desires and her shrine maiden duties. Yet, the story forgets what previously distinguished Sasami-san, substituting eccentricity for intense manipulation (and boy is it an emotional roller coaster). Spending time with a zombie mother, only to be handled with a glop of melodrama by the end, simply does not compute. To have such a jarring turn of events (and an awfully serious one at that) alienates viewers from any meaningful connection to the characters.
This dramatic venture is only exacerbated as many of the events are unnaturally spontaneous, pulling away from any sense of realism in the story. These are the scenes full of hilarious spunk when the show doesn’t take itself seriously, but when deus ex machina are integrated with the drama, it’s difficult to consider any of it to be sincere writing. How unfortunate that the only savior from a time-traveling golem (which just happens to have waited an entire decade in hibernation) is some awkward plot device tantamount to going Super Saiyan.
Unfortunately, the narrative lends no favors to the cast either, as all the intriguing characters are offered little substance beneath their eccentric guises. Sasami Tsukuyomi is a hikikomori who also happens to be something of a goddess, and is queerly characterized by opposites: antisocial hikikism and a gooey moe personality. Sadly, her character is inconsistent, and constantly swaps between the two at the flick of a switch, a poor trait for a lead character aiming to pull off realistic drama. As for other cast members, Kamiomi plays the lustful brother, Tsurugi the frivolous red-head, Kagami the cold-hearted robot, and Tama the well-endowed moeblob with the brain age of a nymphet. While we are offered the occasional dynamic cleverly (word)played among these personalities, it is regrettable then that they never amount to anything more than that; the plot simply refrains from developing them past farcical melodrama. Moreover, the show even introduces more quirky characters three-quarters of the way through its 12 episodes, which only seems to confirm that the writers are looking more for gimmicky shells than ripened fruit.
In the end, Sasami-san concludes as the devil child that it is. The show’s dynamics lends itself into an air of ravenous hilarity, pumping out the rare cheekiness reminiscent of more successful shows of its kind. But unfortunately, Sasami-san is so all over the place, and weighed down by its bloated melodrama, that these breadcrumbs are unsavory—ephemeral loaves expanding into excessively sour ones. Worth the watch? LSD’s better.