Kuzu no Honkai – 05

And then we have Kuzu no Honkai, which is so irritating it makes any vexation I feel over Masamune-kun no Revenge feel like a blip…

Kuzu no Honkai - 05 -2Not to share too much information, but earlier this evening I figured I’d jump in the shower and then watch Kuzu no Honkai.  But then I thought “You know, you’re going to feel like you need to shower after watching that show”, and I decided to flip the order.  The point being, this is that sort of series – it just makes me feel like I need to wash its stink off every time I subject myself to it for 22 minutes.  Is that really evidence that you’re enjoying the experience? But of course, sometimes with art we need to subject ourselves to things we don’t enjoy because the experience is worthwhile anyway.

Kuzu no Honkai - 05 -3Mind you, I have no idea if that’s true here.  I don’t have the foggiest idea, in fact, what I should do with Kuzu no Honkai.  It’s tempting for me to dismiss it as Aku no Hana without the hideously failed animation experiment, and there’s no question that like Aku, it’s posing as high art while in truth being straight-up provocateur pulp.  But there’s a sort of artistry to Kuzu, both visually and narratively, that keeps me kind of fascinated even as I recoil in revulsion at what it has to say.  And it has something quite genuine in the relationship between the two leads.  But what bothers me perhaps more than anything is that I know it doesn’t take that element seriously – it’s just bait to lure me into the bear trap.

Kuzu no Honkai - 05 -4If the point here is that people use each other, well, “duh”.  Even people in love with each other use each other to a certain extent – it’s just our nature.  There are degrees and degrees of course – I mean, Akane-sensei is a straight-up demoness.  She makes the show close to unwatchable when she’s on-screen because she’s such a transparent narrative device, but she’s critical to the story so there’s a lot of her.  She pretty much checks all the boxes – she doesn’t become interested in Narumi until she knows it will hurt Hanabi. And she doesn’t decide to move past the teasing stage until he accidentally calls her “Hana-chan” in an unguarded moment (after which she promptly sleeps with him).

Kuzu no Honkai - 05 -5Much better are the moments that focus on Mugi and Hanabi, especially both of them together.  And this week did give up some welcome exposition with Mugi, who remains (somewhat ironically) the much more innocent in the main pairing.  It’s quite telling that as he lies in his bed, bored and thinking of Hanabi’s quirks, it’s his deflowerer sempai that he makes a booty call to.  There’s a fundamental difference in Mugi and Hanabi’s situations, I think, in that there’s just a chance that Hanabi’s crush might have reciprocal feelings for her – and there’s no chance of that at all with Akane.  And that makes Mugi much more likely to be badly hurt, because he’s much more likely to expose himself to Hanabi emotionally than vice-versa.

Kuzu no Honkai - 05 -6Does Hanabi wanting to have sex with Mugi indicate that she’s more interested him than before, or less?  In this context that’s a tough question to answer, because sex is not a sign of intimacy in this story.  It’a always Hanabi who initiates contact with Mugi, and it’s seemingly always Mugi who’s betrays real feelings for her.  She’s also aware that the two of them have a connection, that there’s the basis for a meaningful romantic relationship between them.  But Mugi seems by far the more likely to actually pursue it – and his asking her to became his “for real” girlfriend right after she’s backed out of having sex despite having insisted on it moments earlier is the proof that he actually is.

Kuzu no Honkai - 05 -1I just don’t know – this series is so pretentious and silly (that whole business about Mugi and Hana immediately knowing the other had made love to someone – please…).  And it’s plainly much more interested in provocation than meaningful exploration.  But if you’e going to be a provocateur, you better be good at it – and it is.  And the fact that Kuzu no Honkai is so good at sex scenes that are totally lacking in eroticism is the proof that it’s at least as interested in emotional provocation as physical (which makes it that much more interesting).  I don’t know how I can call myself anything but undecided as we near the halfway point.  But if the opposite of love isn’t hate but rather indifference, we at least have that to build on because while I may be conflicted, I’m anything but indifferent.

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9 comments

  1. s

    And with kuzu no honkai, we have a show that while i dont think it’s particularly good, it is definitely “good” at keeping me engaged with whats happening. The series knows what it’s doing: it wants you to be mad because the author knows that anger is still a powerful emotion that can engage someone into a narrative. Regardless, I wouldnt say i get angry with this show. I just want to see how far these characters will go

  2. I

    As a blogger do you feel you need to blog about stuff that you don’t enjoy. As a viewer when I don’t really like something enough I drop it. Perhaps fascination/interest with something is more important for a blogger than your actual enjoyment of the subject matter. But as a viewer I watch anime purely for one thing: entertainment. To quote Maximus Decimus Meridius (yeah I wiki’d it) ‘Are you not entertained?!’

    That said I dropped Kuzu after 3 episodes. Good day sir

  3. Absolutely not. But if I’m on the fence. if something is especially popular with readers I might give it a little more rope to hang itself.

  4. Personally I find this show fascinating. Not so much the veneer but the underlying story. The episodic review write-ups of the show at ANN have been able to articulate what I was understanding but also go deeper in analysis. For now, it is probably the best of the non-sequel shows this season.

  5. N

    I only watched three episodes of Aku no Hana, but when I read the manga several months later it blew me away.

  6. F

    Yeah, same for me. I haven’t watched the anime at all but I read the manga of Aku no Hana and in my opinion in the end it did manage to tell a meaningful story about life choices and artistry. And if we compared Aku no Hana with Kuzu no Honkai, I’d say that the former’s biggest advantage is that there’s relatively little narratation or even dialogue in the manga so the author leaves enough breathing room for the visuals. What I find extremely irritating in Kuzu’s case is that there’s this ceaseless self-narration like the director didn’t have enough faith in the viewers to comprehend the story so every character must always ‘spit it out to the camera’. And of course it also doesn’t help that one of the main pillars of the conflict is that Akane is so psychopathicly evil that I’ve seen that somebody on reddit compared her to Hisoka (which is funnily on the point, though while in a shounen setting this could be seen as a great addition, in a ‘nuanced’ romantic character drama it basically negates every opportunity for meaningful development).

  7. b

    > What I find extremely irritating in Kuzu’s case is that there’s this ceaseless self-narration like the director didn’t have enough faith in the viewers to comprehend the story so every character must always ‘spit it out to the camera’.

    Is the lack of trust in the audience’s intelligence really surprising in a show as self-important as this? An overly-inflated sense of self and a condescending attitude towards others tend to go hand in hand.

    The director and writers have such a contempt for the viewer that they can’t trust the audience to understand the story without hand-holding narrative. Either that, or they simply are incapable of telling a story without spoon-feeding the audience. Or both.

  8. Anyone else get a ‘Umibe no Onnanoko’ vibe from this show?

  9. b

    > it’s posing as high art while in truth being straight-up provocateur pulp.

    There’s a name for that. It’s called “middlebrow”.

    I can’t stand these kinds of shows. Good for you for finding value in it, but I can’t. I’d much rather watch a generic lowbrow harem with girls who have bouncy J-cup tits than shit like this. At least the lowbrow harem doesn’t pretend to be something grander or smarter than it is.

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