Kuzu no Honkai – 03

I confess it, I’m still pretty much stumped by Kuzu no Honkai.  We’re getting to the point in the season where most decisions normally get made (three episode rule and all that), but rarely have I found a series more vexing than Scum’s Wish.  It’s an odd duck to say the least, but so far it’s undeniably compelling and in this extraordinarily thin season, that’s more than enough for now. But if I’m honest, the show is compelling enough that it would be hard to turn away at this stage in any season – it’s not really about the competition (or lack of it).

About the only thing I can say with certainty is that anything and everything involving Noriko is sure to be excruciatingly bad, and if she becomes a major part of the plot that would be a deal-breaker.  At thirty seconds or so of screen time like this week it’s a manageable situation.  Everyone else is at least watchable, and they all contribute to the fascinating trainwreck of a story that’s Kuzu no Honkai‘s main draw.

Here’s the bottom line, for now – the execution is excellent, both in terms of narrative in direction.  Yeah, Andou-sensei is paying stylish homage to Hourou Musuko to the point of imitation, but in terms of presenting the story it’s working.  But I can’t shake that uneasy “in bed with a viper” (and I don’t mean that kind) feeling while I’m watching.  I feel as if the heart of this series is probably venal and rotten, that it’s going to turn the corner into exploitation and outright depravity at some stage.  But until that actually happens, it’s not really fair to treat Kuzu no Honkai as if it has. Innocent is the wrong word, for sure – but maybe “not guilty” until proven guilty is closer to the gist of it.

Ultimately, it seems at the very least Kuzu no Honkai is a story about the ugly side of love – it’s just a question about how ugly the souls of the participants are.  There’s a lot of focus on people using each other, and on possessiveness.  Ultimately I don’t think either Mugi or Hanabi are bad people, just self-obsessed in the way kids are – but the night is dark and full of terrors on the path they’re treading.  There are those who seem to be collateral damage – Noriko and poor Ecchan, for example – they believe their love is the most important thing in the world but to the targets of that love, it’s nothing but a weight that has to be borne.

As Hanabi notes, being the object of such affection is indeed a burden.  I feel for Ecchan but if a guy had done what she did, some would be calling him a sexual predator.  It’s early days but I honestly believe Hanabi feels nothing romantic towards Ecchan (or as far as we know, towards any female), but her actions in the aftermath of Ecchan’s forced intimacy were rather interesting.  She went straight to Mugi’s house the next day (it’s kind of cute that his wallpaper on her phone is wheat), and after he didn’t answer either the phone or the door, let herself in and promptly crawled into bed with him (rather inconveniently for Mugi).  It seemed like she was trying to reaffirm her interest in men to herself, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

We finally got some backstory on Mugi, and it was very welcome.  That Mugi was sexually experienced was pretty clear from the start, but I actually think he’s the most innocent among the major players in the drama.  In effect he was sexually assaulted by a sempai when he was just a seventh-grader – as she later said, she “stole his adolescence”.  Mugi came to feel something for her, naturally enough, but this was not a healthy way for him to be introduced to sexual intimacy.  In their interactions so far it’s been Hanabi who’s instigated the physical contact with Mugi, and Mugi who’s pulled back for fear of going too far.  He understands the consequences of that better than she does.

It was rather touching (no pun intended) when Hanabi said she wanted to “try and love” Mugi, because it’s the most selfless thing she’s done so far in the series.  Things would certainly be easier if those two did come to love each other, and he seems like a genuinely decent person especially given his circumstances.  But I don’t think this is that sort of story (I’m repeating myself there), and now that she and Mugi have caught Akane-san in the act of cheating on Narumi, Hanabi seems to be on a mission.  That had to be especially galling for Mugi, not just that Akane was with another man but that it was in fact, a boy his own age.  His reaction smacks of denial – maybe it was the only way to keep himself from going over the edge – but it ties back into his own rather innocent nature.

The problem for Mugi, as I see it, is that Kuzu no Honkai seems like the sort of story that chews up innocence and spits it out in disgust.  This could go in any number of directions, and almost all of them are unpleasant.  How far are we, really, from Hanabi and Mugi going from being partners in comfort to partners in revenge?  Not very, I would argue – and when things start to go dark here (well, darker), I don’t see a whole lot of friction to slow down the runaway truck.  Part of the fascinating nature of the show, no question, is that sense that a horrifying bloodbath is imminent at any time – but that it’s still fascinating is impossible for me to deny.

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8 comments

  1. H

    I took the scene of Hanabi going over to Mugi’s house and getting into bed with him as her attempt to unburden Narumi of her feelings for him. She had just come to the realization firsthand of how much unwanted romantic interest can trouble the object of said interest and I’m sure she doesn’t want to cause him distress that way. That was why it was so painful for me to watch her confess that she wanted to try to fall in love with Mugi because at this point it is a hopeless task for her and she knows it. Later on when she realizes that Akane-sensei is cheating on Narumi I was pretty impressed that her first thoughts weren’t happy like she suddenly had hope that this would be her chance to get him for herself. Her anger and hatred seemed like a more grown up response, though what she does with those emotions will determine how mature she actually is.

    Mugi’s backstory brought me a better understanding of how he deals with his unrequited love and unwavering adoration for a woman who is clearly poison. Maybe he is unconsciously frightened that she is like the sempai who stole his virginity and that is what makes him blind to the evidence in front of him. The fact that he doesn’t seem to notice makes me feel deeply sorry for him. Akane is a vile person IMO. I cannot stand cheaters and it bothers me that she is sleeping around with younger guys because I feel that she is targeting those whom she has the most power over, which in my eyes makes her a kind of sexual predator. I feel worried for Mugi because it is obvious that he has issues with his past sexual experiences and I don’t know if Akane will damage him more. I suppose this is showing another way that love can cause pain because I don’t believe that a relationship between the two of them could work even if he did end up getting what he wants since I doubt she could ever remain faithful to just one man. Once a cheater and all that.

    Lastly I wanted to remark on just how gorgeous the soundtrack is for this show. It has such an achingly heartbreaking tone to it which I feel fits the scenes to a T. I’ve become sucked into this show without even realizing it till just this moment and I do feel surprised. I know that I am not going to be happy with what happens as it progresses, but like with a car crash I just can’t look away.

  2. Honestly, I’m worried that Hanabi will damage him more, too.

    I know people like Akane do exist in the real world (I’ve known a few) but they do tend to make dramas less interesting. They can be crutches. But we’ll see – like I said in the post, better not to indict or convict until all the evidence is in.

  3. S

    Great review. At the very least, it’s a series that lends itself well to this kind of review. It has a wealth of interesting topics and thoughts and undercurrents, and I’m glad you’re tagging along. Maybe this will be a train-wreck (in the eyes of others, surely not mine) but until then, I don’t think anyone can look away.

  4. “it’s kind of cute that his wallpaper on her phone is wheat”

    That’s a reference to a joke the author made in one of the volumes omake, the second one, in which she complains about Mugi meaning wheat and how she should drop anything and just make the manga about Hanabi and Ecchan lesbian romance. She, the author, is kind of funny.

    Great review as always, let’s see if the series can keep your interest. I hope it does!

  5. Well that’s… interesting. Was that an act of mockery of a certain type of reader, or a sincere statement?

    I don’t know that the image in the anime necessarily has to be a reference to that. I mean Mugi does mean wheat, so it’s quite natural she’d have that on her phone.

  6. To me it seemed just a silly joke about Mugi, but I can’t really say it was a jab aimed at certain people too. You can check the page here: http://i.imgur.com/4sPMbKA.jpg

    I’m interested to see how you read the joke in context.

  7. Hell, I think the headline is that Meowth made an appearance!

    As for the joke, it didn’t seem too serious to me. I think she was just saying “Damn, Mugi is hard to draw – I’ll just make it about the girls and take it easy!”

  8. She seems to have a really BIG obsession with cats. (the bonus comic is always about cargirls. Read that as you will)

    About the joke, well yeah. My impression was precisely that.

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