Second Impressions – Kuzu no Honkai

That honeymoon ended pretty quickly.

Kuzu no Honkai - 02 -1Maybe that’s a deceptive headline, because I didn’t by any means hate the second episode of Kuzu no Honkai – only parts of it.  But it would be fair to say the magic of the first episode was missing for me.  Maybe in part it was because the visuals weren’t so magical.  Don’t get me wrong, they were fine, and this is still one of the more stylish efforts of the season so far.  But they weren’t transcendent and awe-inspiring like they were in the premiere, the kind that can draw you into a series despite every instinct screaming at you to flee in terror.

Kuzu no Honkai - 02 -2In the end, though, a much bigger problem is content.  In every way this episode felt much more conventional than the first one, not just in terms of visuals.  There were parts of it that carried on the spell (the scenes between Hanabi and Mugi were by far the strongest), but a lot too that felt pretty hackneyed and melodramatic (even I’m allowed to use that word as a pejorative once in a while).  I hear people compare this series to School Days, and it puts me in mind of Yosuga no Sora a bit.  I don’t know if it’s going to get anywhere near as out there as those two shows, but it definitely has trainwreck written all over it.

Kuzu no Honkai - 02 -3I didn’t care for either of the new elements the series introduced this week, but by far the worst was the osananajimi Kamomebeta Noriko.  She’s pretty much every annoying imouto cliche you can imagine and some you can’t, though she doesn’t happen to literally be Mugi’s little sister.  She’s awfulness incarnate, from the voice (sorry Izawa-san but it’s true) to the twintails to the mugging for the camera.  The less we see of her the better.

Kuzu no Honkai - 02 -5The other new character is Ebato Sanae, who’s Hanabi’s only female friend and known widely as “Ecchan”.  She’s better, if nothing else because she’s played by the marvelous Tomatsu Haruka.  It’s hinted that she has a crush on Mugi (those stares could hardly be less subtle) but in fact she’s in love with Hanabi.  A lesbian romance angle that’s treated as a serious plot development and not as yuri pandering would certainly be an interesting turn, but I’m far from convinced this is the right sort of series  for that.  My instant reaction was “Oh, boy – this on top of everything else!?”, and we’re only in the second episode.

Kuzu no Honkai - 02 -6This is the true problem, really – it already feels like there’s a lot of manufactured drama here, and this episode traded pretty heavily in anime tropes.  Every major character in the cast seems to be in love with someone, and each of them are involved in an unrequited relationship either as the giver or receiver (and in the case of the two leads, both).  Yeah, high school is dramatic but in this world, not every relationship is a dysfunctional powder keg.  There’s something interesting between Mugi and Hanabi – the way they seek comfort in each other and dance at the edge of true romantic feeling (there’s both desire and affection there, obviously) but man, even this early in the run there’s already a ton of baggage.  We’ll see – I’m still intrigued, but my expectations are tempered by my better instincts.

 

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7 comments

  1. I groaned at the introduction of osananajimi trope. Noriko is an annoyance but she shows the side of the openly clingy type to someone who has absolutely no romantic love interest towards her. This is effectively the cringy extreme side of the unrequited love. In turn, Ecchan also has unrequited love for Hanabi but she is now the first to actually make the sexual move first. Expected it to get messy but not in this manner.

    That said, I found the interaction and relationship between Mugi and Hanabi being quite fascinating in that they are really a matched pair, even though they are both bitter about the unrequited love and using each other. They are comfortable with each other and you can feel their raging hormones nearly getting the better of them. They have gone the whole way yet but are close to before pulling back from the brink.

  2. EDIT: They haven’t* gone the whole way yet but are close to before pulling back from the brink.

  3. H

    For some reason, and against my better judgment, I can’t seem to keep myself from watching this. At first I hadn’t planned on it at all since there was nothing about the story that I like and yet the dynamic between Mugi and Hanabi is something that has pulled me in. Maybe knowing that there can’t be any way for this “relationship” of theirs to lead to anything that will make either one of them happy (or me for that matter since I would prefer a cliché ending with them) is what has snagged my attention. I can’t recall having watched a show quite like this before. The characters are such unlikable people but I still feel such empathy for their situations. There have been some moments in both episodes that have given me a lump in my throat. I do agree that the second episode doesn’t really compare to the first, mainly due to that annoying imouto, though it wasn’t enough to drive me away just yet. I don’t know if I will end up finishing this show in the long run, however I will be checking out your posts on it regardless since I am curious as to where the story will go. I will say that my biggest complaint for this show currently is that horrendous opening song. I felt it was completely jarring in the first episode especially because it ruined the mood set by what was going on and it took me a little bit to get back to where I had been emotionally. It would have been better if they had gone for something more moody like the ending song instead. But that’s just me I don’t know if anyone agrees with this.

  4. I totally agree that it’s the dynamic between Mugi and Hanabi that keeps me around for now, but not totally that they’re so unlikable. They’re obviously annoyingly self-absorbed and arrogant, but kind of in a typical teen way. Yeah, there’s probably no chance they end up in a healthy relationship but that’s more down to the type of series this is than the two of them as people IMO.

  5. H

    Something I want to clear up: When I was talking about the characters being unlikable I didn’t mean the leads specifically. I can’t say that I like them, but I certainly don’t hate them at this point :). Mainly I made that comment because of a spoiler I came across recently that made me dislike one of the other characters immensely. This led to me getting annoyed at a couple of the other characters for being accepting of what makes that specific character so awful, which lessened the likability of said characters for me personally (I hope that makes sense since I’m avoiding giving away anything). Added to that was the unwelcome addition of Noriko who I feel will annoy me every time she shows up, which I think might be a lot. Mugi and Hanabi’s relationship kind of reminds me of the one between Isobe and Koume in “A Girl on the Shore” in some respects, which might be why I empathize so much with them at this point.

  6. S

    I had some flashbacks to Servant x Service there with annoying imouto holding the whole show hostage. No demands, no negotiations, no way out, only suffering. Glad that was avoided here, for now at least.

    That sudden shift in pacing at the end of this episode left me with an open mouth actually voicing a confused “what?” out loud. It’s a bit of a cheap trick, but it certainly managed to amuse me in this instance. These are the kind of details that keep me watching even when the qualities you’d normally look for in a good show aren’t pronounced very strongly.

    To be honest, I still have a tiny glimmer of hope the relationship between Hanabi and Ebato will lead to something more interesting than just serve the purpose to add some tense awkwardness that romantic dramas apparently can’t go without. But I think you’re right and this isn’t the type of show for that. Especially with only 12 episodes to work with. Is it too late to cut the twintail princess scenes (I feel like her arc had a nice and satisfying conclusion in this episode, don’t you think?) out and add more Ebato? It is? Well, too bad.

  7. R

    Haha oh man I jumped into the manga out of curiosity and trainwreck is a very good way to describe it. However, I need to emphasize that for me, especially in the later parts, it’s the GOOD kind of trainwreck. Not a trainwreck because of narrative failings but a trainwreck because the characters all have really big flaws and they kind of piledrive into each other in a giant dramatic mess. It also strikes me just as much in the anime as when I first read the manga but the anime cliches really clash hard with some of the rest of the series, especially the very reflective and disturbing character studies and it bugged me when I read the manga. It’s actually less obvious in the anime, surprisingly. And I supposed it’s a testament to the fact that the series is still engaging as hell (if not always enjoyable on a visceral level since sometimes you just want to wrangle the character’s necks and go no this is not how you deal with personal problems) since I can more or less ignore the cliches in favor of the more interesting parts.

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