Anime Review: Kuzu no Honkai

kuzu no honkai

WARNING: REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS

Continuing our trek through the yuri-ish shows that the winter anime season had to offer, we now come across Kuzu no Honkai. For an anime named Scum’s Wish, I have to say that given the actions of the characters involved, that’s a very appropriate title. Let me explain why~

To the outside world, Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya are the perfect couple. But in reality, they just share the same secret pain: they are both in love with other people they cannot be with. Hanabi has loved her childhood friend and neighbor, Narumi Kanai, for as long as she can remember, so she is elated to discover that he is her new homeroom teacher. However, Narumi is soon noticed by the music teacher, Akane Minagawa, and a relationship begins to blossom between them, much to Hanabi’s dismay. Mugi was tutored by Akane in middle school, and has been in love with her since then. Through a chance meeting in the hallway, he encounters Hanabi. As these two lonely souls spend more time together, they decide to use each other as a substitute for the one they truly love, sharing physical intimacy with one another in order to stave off their loneliness. [Source: MAL]

Year: 2017
Length: 12 Episodes
Genre: Drama, Romance, School

The synopsis makes it sound like this anime might be rife with heavy themes, and that couldn’t be more true. Kuzu no Honkai is an anime that handles adolescence in a very raw and unadulterated manner, and for that reason, I love it. This show is far from an idyllic representation of young love, and while it seems that we have a million shows that are trying to be Disney movies, this would rather present this phase in one’s life as what it really is, a trying time where you’re not only trying to discover who you are but what it is that you really want.

Almost every single one of the major characters has to deal with unrequited love and the anguish that comes from it, but it’s how these characters cope with it that really gives the story some oomph.

Driven by her desire to be with her longtime friend and now teacher, Narumi, Hana’s pact with Mugi reeks of desperation on both their parts, and that’s kinda sad. Their relationship soon turns intimate, and I think because of that, it’s probably easy to lose sight of why that happened in the first place. Through her emptiness and lack of self-worth, her reliance on Mugi sends her down a slippery slope that compounds the problem, sending her further into the abyss. Some of her actions probably didn’t win her that many fans, but at least by the end of the show, she seems to finally be on the right path, so at least there’s that.

I’m going to be very blunt about this… Akane is a deceitful bitch who might be my most hated anime character of all-time.

It’s a bit hard for me to bash Mugi, because, honestly, he was just living out what most teenage boys think about, namely having a very active sex life (and with his teacher, no less!). Even though he’s not quite the man whore that Takuya is, for him, filling the void with sex was enough to help him manage the situation. Though, as a result, his journey had nowhere near the same emotional impact as Hana’s (or Noriko’s, or Ecchan’s), and even when he was bawling his eyes out while accepting rejection, I honestly didn’t feel that sympathetic towards him. That probably had a lot to do with the person Akane is, but compared to the heartfelt sympathy involving most of the other characters, he was the odd man out in this regard.

I’m going to be very blunt about this… Akane is a deceitful bitch who might be my most hated anime character of all-time. I don’t mean to be mean, but when it comes to her, I just can’t help it. Looking like she stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale, Akane seems like the ideal woman, but hiding underneath that veneer of perfection is a selfish and emotionally hollow individual that is ridiculously easy to dislike. Once the mask comes off and she’s exposed for what she really is, she’s almost like a villian that’s—directly or indirectly—pulling the heart strings of all involved, puppeteer-style. I could go on and on about how much I hate her, but I have to give her some credit as well. She is a very compelling character that, despite her hideous psychological flaws, makes things far more interesting.

At the start of the show, Narumi seemed like he had his head on straight, but all that changed when Akane got her hooks into him. He seemed decent enough, and I was hoping that he and Hana would wind up together, yet it didn’t work out that way. I’m on the verge of spewing more hate at Akane, so let me just keep this succinct and say that at the end of the day, Narumi is an idiot for accepting her, warts and all. An honorable idiot, but an idiot nevertheless.

Noriko feels a little strange to talk about, because, in the grand scheme of things, she doesn’t come across as being that bad. She and Mugi were childhood friends who used to live in the same apartment complex, and ever since then, she’s viewed him as her prince and the object of her affection. Unlike some of the relationships in this anime, you really do get the sense that Noriko is genuinely in love with Mugi, and that made it easier for me to sympathize with her situation, as opposed to someone like Mugi. Perhaps the worst thing you can say about Noriko Moka is that she’s a little annoying, yet compared to what you can say about her contemporaries, that’s not exactly the worst insult.

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This is great and all, but I’m sure the sole reason that nearly everyone reading this review tuned in to watch this is because of Hana x Ecchan. Short of someone being an ardent hater of yuri, I think hardly anyone would argue that their story wasn’t the most emotional of all the pairings. From their first meeting aboard a train (where Hana rescues Ecchan from a groper), these two form a connection that sparks Ecchan’s feelings for Hana. So often in anime we see relationships that are of little consequence and seem like they’re not meant to be much more than a bullet point to try to draw in additional viewers, but what we have here is something of substance that may in fact be one-sided, yet it comes off as far more sincere and authentic than what you’ll find in most other anime.

All the episodes that have a lot of those two are really good, but episode nine was definitely my favorite. They’re pretty much exclusively featured in that one, and from the sex scene to that heart-wrenching scene in the rain, the show never again reached those heights for me over the course of the last 3 episodes (even the final episode was pretty good, too). In typical fashion, there isn’t a “happy” yuri ending, but the fact that they’re on good terms and both seemingly in a better place is a bittersweet way to end things. All in all, having another non-yuri anime in which the yuri romance is arguably better than the main het romance should be a reassuring consolation prize for the genre and fans alike.

As a character-driven romance anime, Kuzu no Honkai could have very easily have been sunk by dull characters, but on the contrary, it boasts a handful of engaging characters who you can’t help but root for or against. But from a yuri fan’s perspective, Hana and Ecchan are the real draw, and their romance—while bittersweet—is easily the best reason to consider this.

As polarizing as the characters may be, I think one thing that can’t really be argued is that the visual presentation of this anime is superb. Something that immediately jumps out at you is the use of panels that overlay the shot and add a very nice cinematic touch to many scenes. I don’t think I’ve really seen that done in an anime before (and definitely not to this extent), but I hope it’s something that catches on, because it’s pretty great. Aside from that, the faint, wavering outlines of the characters are another thing that catch your eye, and for an anime as glum as this, that’s a very fitting look. Overall, Kuzu no Honkai‘s stylish exterior is another nice aspect of this anime, and considering the genre, that’s something you don’t see everyday.

While it may not be as attention-grabbing as the visuals, the music does its job very well. The many emotionally intense scenes are complemented by the subtle yet effective music that does just enough to enhance the mood without taking the focus away from what’s happening on-screen. The voice actors give noteworthy performances, and in addition to having some nice background music, Kuzu no Honkai also features some great themes that help are my favorite OP/ED combination of the season.

A refreshing glimpse into the psyche of those stricken with one-sided love, Kuzu no Honkai goes against the grain of romance anime and delivers a torturously intense story that is absolutely not for everyone. I can imagine some people despising this show, but I love the mature storytelling, the adult subject matter, and the serious, meaningful yuri that make this worth watching for anyone not deterred by some het.

Story: 8
Characters: 8
Animation: 8
Sound: 8
Yuri: 8
Total Enjoyment: 8

kuzu no honkai

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27 thoughts on “Anime Review: Kuzu no Honkai

  1. I have seen the yuri bits of this on youtube and I have to say they are so damn good! but I just cant get into this series because of everything else! the way Hana and Ecchan were to each other really had me rooting for this to have a yuri end… but to no avail 😦 the yuri that is there is amazing but the fact they didnt end up together plus everything else in the series turns me away from it. I am glad they are on good terms in the end though.

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    • Yeah, it’s a show that can be pretty tough to watch, but the yuri parts were pretty great~

      Maybe some day, a show like this will finally get a happy yuri ending, but I’m not holding my breath. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, yeah this one was a bit rough to watch. I had read the manga (which just finished being translated), and I have to say this is a case where it did follow the manga faithfully. The anime also gives the characters and story much much more depth.

    For me this wasn’t just a story about everyone suffering through unrequited love, but also one about players in general. Akane is the consummate player, and Mugi an indifferent one. Hanabi is a failed player, and Kanai an anti-player.

    My heart really went out to Ecchan, desperate to give up any sense of propriety or self respect to be with the one she loves. The hair cutting scene made me gasp, as she was finally able to move on. Given the way Hanabi left it saying she would wait for her I did have some hope that they might end up together…but perhaps this was for the best.

    At least it did have a (unexpectedly) happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess I can see it like that. I’m just happy that it’s something a bit different than what we’re used to seeing.

      I wasn’t expecting her to show up again, so that was a pleasant surprise, and it took it from being a “bad” ending to an acceptable one, so I’ll take it~

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I totally agree with you with most of the points at least. What I loved the most about the anime and the yuri in it was that it was so well written in a way, that it might be the most realistic way they have ever shown a queer girl before, in anime. I mean almost every queer girl/woman have probably fell in love with a straight girl and knows what that feels like, I mean you can’t really tell if Hanabi was into that in ‘a gay way.’ But still.. it’s basically the same thing. Ecchan is so relatable character for so many of us, in a good and in a bad way and I really wished they’d start portraying yuri characters more often like this and not make so much this more porn-like garbage aimed for men. Maybe someday.

    I’ll be cosplaying Ecchan in next con, it’s still a bit work in progress, but yeah… 😅

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Thank you for the awesome review!!! This show was probably the best written anime of the season. The characters and their relationships were realistic and you cannot help either loving the characters or hating them. I really enjoyed the mature themes in an anime, especially for an anime categorised as a romance anime know for its abundance of cliche’s and stereotypes. The yuri relationship was the most touching for me however, that didn’t make me enjoy the other relationships any less. The only thing that really drove me mad was the ending which was simply to predictable and I was expecting more from a show where it isn’t ashamed to show the darkness of humans. I just wish there was more yuri in the show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • *gets embarrassed* Thanks~

      Agreed. The last episode or two seemed like a bit of a letdown (at least compared to what had happened up until that point), but I like to think that it could’ve been much worse, so I didn’t mind all that much.

      Something kind of like this (but completely yuri), would make so many people happy. Who knows, maybe it’ll happen someday~

      Like

  5. Dropped it at episode 5…. right after their sex even.
    Man that scene felt so heavy, so unreal and dark in the weirdest way, just like the whole anime itself.
    Dragging you down with every new episode, making you hate almost all characters, but then again, strangely pulling you in, since in a way, it might as well be understandable – and very much interesting.

    You are also right about the yuri in this one. Well, I didn’t see it all (which I will by the way catch up on) but the main appeal for me was definitely Ecchan. Yeah, it was kinda dark, but not in an unpleasant way~

    Liked by 4 people

  6. i actually abhorred this show from nearly start to finish. It did what it did, but I couldn’t enjoy it. For yuri I’d rather have something like Kobayashi, and not a long drawn out road to nowhere with detours along the way.

    Just not my style of show at all. I don’t plan to make the same mistake again either. Inconclusive finales are the worst imo. It’s fine if it’s because ther’es more source material that has a chance of being animated someday, but when it’s the actual end? It just makes the journey feel so pointless.

    While I thought it was a 3/10, I can appreciate that it did whatever it aimed to do well. I just didn’t like whatever it aimed to do

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    • Awww. I’m actually hoping we get a lot more shows that are kind of like this. With all the bright and cheery anime we get, I need that reminder that not everything is perfect, so I liked it a lot.

      It’s like the end to a chapter of their lives, and whether it’s Narumi & Akane with their marriage, Hana with her new outlook on her life, or any of the others, it’s still the beginning of their journey, so I didn’t mind it not having conclusive results~

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  7. I thought this was the best show I saw in the season, and not just because of Ecchan, though I really enjoyed the well-written gay-girl who didn’t feel token at all.

    Whereas I was downloading Urara instantly to watch it as soon as I could, this one I was putting off for a bit since I was so… uncomfortable to watch! In a good way!

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    • I know what you mean. I found myself pausing every few minutes to settle myself down, so what normally should’ve taken 20-something minutes to watch, instead, took like an hour each episode. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • It was my pleasure~

      I agree. It just goes to show that an anime doesn’t need action scenes or special effects to look good.

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  8. This show was shockingly mature and realistic about how it handles relationships. It was a little hard to watch, quite honestly. This is one of those anime that you have to psych your self up to watch (just finished it today, to be honest), and it’s kind of hard to watch something like Maid Dragon on the same night as this. In the end I’m glad I saw this through to the final episode.

    It may just be me, but a little part of me wanted to see Hanabi go on a School Days inspired Yandere killing spree (and end up with Ecchan of course)…

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    • Yup. In terms of quality, I’d say it’s definitely that high. The only thing is, it’s surrounded by the other het pairings, so the quantity could’ve been higher~

      If you do, she might hate you for life. 😀

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  9. I had missed that one until this review. Caught up and… I loved it. Thank you!

    It’s uncomfortable and harsh at times, but -in my opinion- also very honest. Innocence lost at its best.
    I couldn’t help but think “KareKano.2” for most of it. This being a much more adult (and adulterated) take, of cos. I can see the “love it or hate it” diversion, but I was a bit shocked at the rather low ratings and reviews this received on MAL.
    The show doesn’t even pretend to be cheesy or cute or romantic: It’s pretty clear, from episode one, from the mere premise, that this show delves into uncomfortable topics. It does depict the confusions, the inner discords, the uncertainties, the insecurities and the issue of getting lost within all of it, attempting to find a path for oneself or merely a feeling of self-worth, not only during adolescence, but even as the grown-ups struggle with it all just the same. And at that, it is painfully honest and doesn’t shy away from even the most private and unbeseeming thoughts and notions. Things we usually wouldn’t admit, hardly act on, but still may experience, if only in a fleeting moment of “weakness”.

    And, yeah, sex is – for most people – in one way or another an integral part of that. Not just the act, but sexuality as a whole, be it for the sake of physical or emotional intimacy, a mean to evaluate oneself’s ego or within society, or for the quest that is love, which comes in all its own various shades…

    Though there seems to be mutual agreement, that Akane-san is an abominable character, we not only got an idea what lead her to become this, but she did also serve as an example of stereotypes blurring – her associated male-whore student being the pivotal counterpart. Whereas male Kanai served as the loving, caring, gentle and hopelessly devoted type, in his own way also breaking typical gender-roles (that, and he may or may not have an oedipus-complex…).

    There are many, many love stories out there, with drama and conflict – but mostly with a happy end or tangible positive conclusion. Some of which are highly enjoyable; an escapist tool to feel refreshed and find a bit of bliss and hope – a place, where everything works out somehow. And I like watching these myself for exactly those reasons. But I do applaud this show for taking a different approach, to allow its audience to relate on this very different level, to hear (or read) someone else think thoughts we deem ourselves despicable for, see the characters experience these spiraling depths and move past the uncomfortable notions, and grow despite or even because of their pain and despair. We get to see each character’s thoughts, emotions and paths; maybe we can understand or we don’t; maybe we despise them for their beliefs or relate to them – but it gives us the chance to be empathic for getting an idea, that even if others don’t act on something or not in a particular, desirable way, they each do have their own set of issues and are struggling just as much as the main characters (or us).

    Not every experience or path leads to a happy conclusion. But it takes us somewhere else, eventually. And then we get to march on.

    That, and yeah, I liked how Ecchan was neither downplayed nor ridiculed. In particular, I loved the scene where her cousin(?), though supportive of her, kept quizzing her in hopes of finding confirmation that there was still the faintest glimmer of hope for him, and her patience grew thinner and thinner on him by the minute… I feel ya, Ecchan, I feel ya XD

    Within its (arguably marginal) genre, also considering style, art and soundtrack, I rate this anime 9/10.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My bad. I completely forgot about this comment…

      Man, why didn’t you do this review instead of me?! Yours would have been so much better! 😀

      But, yeah. Everything this show gave us, I liked it a lot, and I want more of it. A lot more of it~

      Like

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