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.
There aren't many anime as uncomfortable as Kuzu no Honkai. It introduces itself as a melancholic tale of unrequited love, and quickly transforms into something far more ugly. The characters are relentlessly trampled upon, until, indeed, as the title might suggest, they are reduced to human trash.
It isn't necessary for a story to make you feel happy. There exist a wealth of fiction that, while depressing, and perhaps never even enjoyable, are still valuable for the message they are trying to make.
Kuzu no Honkai doesn't have that message. It is misery for misery's sake, existing almost exclusively to make you feel like crap.
If you found anime such as Aku no Hana and School Days difficult to watch, you might have yourself something of a challenge here, too.
There is seldom a character within Kuzu no Honkai who behaves sensibly or is capable of thinking with any other organ except their genitalia. Hanabi and Mugi are lonely because they cannot be united with their loved ones, and so they seek to find some solace in each other. They can't love each other because they love someone else. They use sexual intimacy as an escape. But they still can't give up on the one they love. And so the cycle, their tedious lives continue.
If that is where the series stood, all may have been fine. But it escalates, and they, and just about everyone else surrounding them, wants more, more, until nothing remains in their hollow lives but sex and sleaze. It becomes impossible to feel any empathy for them and the grief they are constantly plunging themselves into. They're beyond saving. They deserve everything that happens to them. And so I cannot bring myself to care when it tries to play Hanabi as the victim, the tragic heroine. The real victims are Norumi (the male teacher) and Noriko for being deceived by such deplorable people. Love is blind, as the cheesy proverb goes, but in this case they must also be blind in the literal sense.
Most of Kuzu no Honkai's cast is comprised of hypocrites who get upset with their partner(s) for acts they have been committing themselves. They act nonsensically at times, and can change their attitude on a whim, giving up on their love at the end of one episode and then cheerfully encouraging each other to confess at the beginning of the next. They haven't the slightest idea of what they want. Maybe that is to be expected. Love is a tricky thing, after all, and teenagers are at their most confused stage in life. But it becomes a question if what they felt was ever love in the first place when they can so readily find someone else as a replacement, sleeping with anyone who shows them even the slightest affection. It's entirely possible that Hanabi and Mugi only fell in love with their respective partner because they were the first ones to give them that affection. And so how am I to feel bad for the two when their crushes end in disappointment?
While women like Akane undoubtedly exist in the real world (having unfortunately encountered someone similar myself), she is possessed by such an intensely twisted and ugly worldview that it becomes a wonder how she is even able to fulfil her duties as a teacher. She eventually comes to a point of redemption, but makes it quite clear that she is there only to see, to try, potentially ruining a man's entire life merely for the chance of relieving her boredom. I didn't find that heartwarming as it was intended to be - I found it disgusting of her, and that's in the face of all the detestable things she had already done.
The main theme of each episode is who is going to make out with or bang whom. It's an endless rotation, much like a hentai, the characters seemingly unaware of or passive to the concept of cheating, and incapable of guilt. Everyone loves someone else, and seemingly nobody in the world is capable of a happy, fulfilling relationship-- even Hanabi's friends (who are never otherwise shown) are revealed as having their partner cheating on them. Maybe it's a good thing I detest all the characters, as I don't think I would want a character I actually like to be in a story like this. Any time Noriko appeared, the one I disliked the least, I was dreading to see the mess she might be dragged into. And Narumi, while naive to painful extents, is never really deserving of the awful situation Akane puts him through. The only joy you could possibly extract from something like this is some sadomasochistic desire to see everyone in pain and despair. I can't say I possess that desire.
The main rebuttal, I would imagine, is that the characters are meant to be human trash, and so it is okay that they are trash. I could concede to that point, as stories do not require respectable characters. But even trash are human, and so it is expected that they still behave like humans, a detail that Kuzu no Honkai seems so ready to forget.
Sanae, for instance, has such an intense (and frankly creepy) attachment to her loved one that it almost seems a crime for her to not be locked away in some mental hospital. There can at times be a desire to stay with someone you love even when you know you cannot have them or that they are bad for you, but she long crosses the boundary of how real people would react in her situation. There is a difference between being a confused teenager who seeks sexual gratification, and being a psychotic almost-rapist who believes people are their property. If they have done as she does, then they've probably gotten to know prison life pretty well.
It's also questionable why the author decided to complicate things further by giving Sanae someone who one-sidedly loves her as well, considering how little is ever done with them. You could write them out completely and it wouldn't affect much of anything. They exist solely, I would assume, to create more despair, as if the show hadn't enough of that already.
Kuzu no Honkai's detestable cast is, if nothing else, well-realised, thanks to the frequent monologuing and backstories. Each of the main six get their turn to narrate on numerous occasions, which does well to explain their motivations and feelings and to make them feel like proper protagonists rather than mere accessories to the carnage, even if some (namely Sanae) receive significantly less characterisation than others. To merely show two characters having sex or making out with each other is not nearly as meaningful as when it is accompanied by narration. It leaves less to the imagination, but, unlike other intensely uncomfortable and cringe-filled anime such as School Days, gives substance to the scene and makes sense in the context of the characters. When timed with the anime's emotional soundtrack, some of the dialogue can almost feel captivating, and a kiss can carry power, even if it is between two people who really have no business kissing each other in the first place. It's nice to have an anime courageous enough to portray sex in an honest manner, as most use it purely for pornographic purposes, or seem afraid of touching upon it altogether, as if humans are somehow sexless creatures. I just don't think that real people are nearly as defined by it as they are in Kuzu no Honkai.
I'll fully admit that I hated every second I spent watching Kuzu no Honkai, and felt relieved when it was over. This isn't because it is a particularly bad anime, but because it aims to say or do little else but make the viewer feel terrible. It pushes you, kicks you, and then throws another punch to your gut once that is over. It is filled with moments where you want to shout at the characters to stop, to not be stupid. There are times where you will have to pause and take a breather because of all the cringe and madness that is unfolding. Kuzu no Honkai is about as far from a pleasant anime as can possibly be, and it never really aims to fill that gap with much substance or meaning. Its starting and ending points are the same. It wants to say that people are stupid, that love hurts, and more than that, it wants you to hurt, too.
Some people will be fine with that. Maybe they want to feel awful. Maybe they just want to feel emotion, any emotion.
I'll give them that - it certainly makes you feel something.
Did “School Days” get a second season? Oh, no, it’s Kuzu no Honkai, also known as one of the most popular and overrated anime series of winter 2017.
Kuzu no Honkai is an exaggeration of the love life experienced by high school students and watching it reminded me of a National Geographic documentary about mating rabbits I saw years ago.
While the show had some very good ideas, it failed in executing them, fact which made the show look more like a trainwreck rather than the “in-depth, mature” series it intended to be.
The plot is inconsistent and poorly executed for the most part employing
cliche ideas, cringe worthy scenes, predictable twists and unnatural actions.
The character cast in itself is poorly constructed and consists mostly of generic tropes that are shallow and one-dimensional, but the inter-relations between them were surprisingly well-done.
Nowadays, shows that feature adolescents thinking about and doing the dirty is considered to be mature and “in-depth”... To be honest, Kuzu no Honkay is your generic drama TV series that got animated, nothing more and nothing special.
The story revolves around the love life of two high school students, Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya.
High school students Mugi Awaya and Hanabi Yasuraoka appear to be the ideal couple, they are both pretty and popular, and they seem to suit each other well. However, outsiders don't know of the secret they share, both Mugi and Hanabi have hopeless crushes on someone else and they are only dating each other to soothe their loneliness.
Hanabi has been in love for a long time with her older childhood friend Narumi Kanaiwho who is now her homeroom teacher, and Mugi is in love with his slightly older former tutor Akane Minagawa who is now a music teacher at his school.
In each other, they find a place where they can grieve for the ones they cannot have and they share physical and emotional intimacy driven by loneliness. This begins their romantic relationship as both of them predictably fall for each other as the story unfolds.
The story is character-driven, linear and fairly unique but predictable, it progresses with the characters at a good pace, showing their inner thoughts and development as well as portraying their dilemmas and questions about love.
Themes such as “forbidden love”, “friendship”, “maturity”, “sex, lies and betrayal” are approached by this show and some of them are fairly well executed while some of them are not.
Kuzu no Honkai explores sexuality from the interesting yet juvenile perspective of high school students. Unfortunately, what could have been a great enlightening experience turned into a revolting experience consisting of watching people as they take some really dumb and weird sexual actions with no clear purpose other than satisfying their primitive needs.
This anime touches the sensitive feelings and problems that most young people go through when they find real love/romance or fake love/romance that they don’t know how to deal with and the problems those feelings can lead to. While I commend the show for taking such an unusual path I cannot ignore the poor manner in which it was executed.
I wish the show would have focused much more on the moral and emotional implications of these love acts, showing and thoroughly analyzing the psych of the characters rather than focusing on poor-taste sex scenes that seemed forced, but that’s just my opinion.
Kuzu no Honkai is the definition of a pretentious show because the main theme is “I’m 17 and I’m deep” and the show expects to be treated as a mature and profound romance series.
Although Kuzu no Honkai has those ambitions, it miserably fails at being mature and rather comes off as pseudo-mature. A bunch of junior high school students try to compensate for their desires, insecurities and unrequited sentiments through ludicrous acts like pointlessly having sex in order to “fill their emptiness”. Is that the best they could come up with?
Also, recall the villainous slutty music teacher who screws around saying she “exploits” men, that is so profound.... I failed to see the “maturity” and “profoundness” of this show.
Scum’s Wish tried so hard to be complex to the point the script became an utter mess.
Why I say that?
Hanabi loves Kanai, Mugi loves Akane but Hanabi and Mugi are together, and Akane and Kanai are together, Moca loves Mugi and Ecchan loves Hanabi and now Hanabi starts to fall for Mugi.
I say it is too complex for its own good, it seems like a clusterfuck of a situation more than anything else and to be honest, it’s dumb and pathetic to see a show try so hard and fail just as hard.
The “friends with benefits” scenario is as cliche as it can get and makes the plot so much more predictable. This scenario consists of the generic course of action where two people decide to have sex on a regular basis and promise to never fall in love with each other and later on they always end up falling in love with each other.
As predicted, after Hanabi and Mugi started having sex they started developing feelings for each other and later on in the show, Hanabi decides to “try to love Mugi”, predictable.
I guess the creator watched one of those cliche movies like “Friends With Benefits” or “No Strings Attached” and decided to do a perverted and twisted animated version of them.
In a sense, Kuzu no Honkai is a jumble of realistic scenarios and life problems which I really enjoyed. It portrays questions and situations some people faced in their youth and could relate to, such as:
“If I could have things work out with him… I’d do it in a heartbeat” - which is very much true, the only thing you want when you are in love is to be with the one you love but sometimes you don’t have the “courage” to take the first step towards that goal and that is unfortunate.
“I’m not sure if I should choose the older man or the athletic student” - also a problem that a lot of women face when they have the option of choosing between money and social security represented by the ”older man” or looks represented by the “athletic student”, in the end, neither choice is based on the feeling of “love” but it is rather based on the feeling of lust or the need to feel secure.
“I’m not sure what is the diffrence between love and lust anymore” - a question that confuses many teenagers but has a rather simple answer.
“It’s not like I like them both so much it hurts but making the choice is a pain” - also a real problem many people face before entering a relationship just for the sake of doing it because they had nothing better in mind.
“It was love at first sight” - as the line says, this “love” can only be based on physical appearances therefore it is superficial and should be called lust.
What I like is that Kuzu no Honkai is an open-minded show in which love has no bounds. Be it student-teacher, lesbianism, incest or childhood friends, nothing will stop the characters from having sexual intercourse based on a moment’s decision.
The idea of exploring same-gender love was actually great, after all, that is what Kuzu no Honkai is supposed to do, but the execution of it was terrible and resulted in a girl-to-girl scenario that was wrong, out of place and furthermore damaged the show.
After seeing Hanabi willingly have “sex” with a female friend after being rejected, I was left pondering that course of action and questioned the creator’s knowledge of the female mind, therefore I proceeded in asking multiple young female friends if they would have sex with a person of the same gender, given the context of being “heartbroken”. The answer was an unanimous “no”.
The characters seem damaged on a fundamental level, desperately wanting the attention of their loved ones, fact which I could not understand.
Hanabi is obsessed over her “onii-chan” to the point that what she feels is not called “love” but “lust”. It is not normal to fantasize about your crush to the point where you have sex with another person while pretending that person is your crush.
I find this “unrequited” love situation grossly exaggerated and forced because it doesn’t follow a natural flow and it is very far from being realistic.
For the sake of the plot, these characters have no common sense, instead of confessing their “love” or silently await the right moment to take the initiative, they decide to screw around and play house with no worries about the consequences of their actions or their future.
When I was in highschool my first and foremost priority was studying in order to pass the university entrance exam, not fooling around and whining about being lonely.
I know I shouldn’t compare anime to real life, but they made the show in a high school setting because they wanted people to relate to it and how am I supposed to relate to such exaggerated, unnatural and hard to believe love problems?
Another important writing screw-up made by the creator was changing the fundamental traits of the characters in very short periods of time, referring to Noriko and Akane.
Noriko is an innocent girl who has built her life around the idea that she is a princess and only thinks about marrying her “prince” and live happily ever after, an innocent girl who suddenly wants to have sex with the prince, basically a “princess” turned into a lusty and deplorable girl in the matter of a few minutes…
Akane, a despicable women who screws around seeking any man’s attention and other women’s jealousy. This woman that is damaged on a fundamental level suddenly changes as Narumi, the “knight in shining armor” touches her soul. It is not only cliche but also unreal, for a woman who only considers men as warm bodies, distractions from a mundane life and basically sleeps with anyone she meets to be changed so easily. Poor judgement on the writer’s part.
There was a saying, “you can’t change a whore into a housewife” and that perfectly applies to Akane’s situation. From all the lack of judgement on the creator’s part I was able to notice a life lesson: If you are pretty, everything is forgiven.
The last thing that bothered me were the imbecilic lines such as: “I want you to be filled with me”; “Getting a man to fall for you is easy”, “It doesn't matter if we are cousins, I’ll never give up”; “You don’t have to stop seeing other men”, etc. and the forced, cringe-worthy scenes when Hanabi was giving a handjob to Mugi, a bunch of idiotic scenes about Akane, etc.
At least I sometimes laughed at how stupid some of the lines and scenes were...
The characters on their own are nothing special, they are mostly self-centered tropes and quite despicable characters that are difficult to relate to or like, but when they are looked at as a whole, it’s a different situation. Almost forgot, there is no character development except for Hanabi and Akane.
What I found interesting is the true strength of Kuzu no Honkai that lies in the character interactions, this show has some amazing relationship development.
Hanabi Yasuraoka, she is a high school student who is in love with her older childhood friend, Narumi who is her homeroom teacher. After finding out that Narumi is in love with another woman, Hanabi enters a “fake” relationship with Mugi to satisfy her loneliness but soon after she has physical relations with Mugi, she realizes her feelings towards him, and as the story unfolds her character undergoes multiple changes.
At first, Hanabi is portrayed as a innocent girl but after she begins her relationship with Mugi she becomes confused and doesn’t know what she is feeling and what she is supposed to feel, as she states, “I can’t even tell the difference between love and lust anymore”.
After finding out that Narumi had sex with Akane, Hanabi decides to “steal” everyone that is under Akane’s “spell” by having sex with them. Fortunately enough, after dating one of Akane’s boytoys, Hanabi realizes that lowering herself to Akane’s level is not the answer to her predicament and hateful emotions, therefore she stops deluding herself by thinking she can beat Akane at her own game. Soon after that, Hanabi begins to isolate herself from Mugi and starts thinking of herself as a “weak” person and a “coward”, having no “self-worth”, this is a difficult time for Hanabi because she feels defeated and inferior to Akane.
As the story progresses, Hanabi slowly recovers from that depressive state of mind and fulfilling a promise she made to Mugi, Hanabi confesses her love to Narumi and gets rejected, event that sets Hanabi free and makes her feel like she can have a fresh start at life.
In a nutshell, Hanabi goes from being a normal girl to lowering herself near to the level of a “slut” but she soon recovers from that downfall and starts to feel miserable about herself only to later regain a healthy way of thinking and decide to stop ignoring her feelings towards Mugi.
My thoughts on her character: Hanabi just wants true love but doesn’t know how to lover herself, yet.
Mugi Awaya, he is a high school student who is in love with his former tutor, Akane. He and Hanabi begin a fake “relationship” to satisfy each other's desires. In middle school, Mugi had already been in a “friends with benefits” relationship with his senior, Mei Hayakawa, who took his virginity.
Mugi is not a dense man but rather clever and observant, he is one of the only men who realized what type of woman Akane really was, he had always been aware of the kind of person Akane was, but loved her nevertheless.
Mugi is reluctant to admit his true emotions towards Hanabi because he already had that kind of “friends with benefits” relation, he fell in love with that person and ended up heartbroken because the relationship had to end. He is still afraid of being close to someone, point that is proved in the scenes where he asked for sexual favors then suddenly stopped as if it was a bad idea, which is synonymous with him wanting to try being in a relationship again but being scared of the rejection he once experienced.
At the end of the series, after he had sex with Akane on multiple occasions, trying to change the way she was, he realizes he doesn’t love Akane anymore so he bids goodbye to her.
Narumi Kanai is Hanabi’s homeroom teacher and older childhood friend.
Narumi is the generic and cliche type of man who is kind, shy, mellow, forgiving, etc.
He is in a relationship with Akane even though he knows she is a “slut” and completely forgives her for it, telling her she “doesn’t need to stop seeing other men” because he loves her enough to accept that part of her.
Even after knowing Akane's true nature, Narumi does not seem to mind and asks her to marry him, which she accepts. Bleh, cliche.
My opinion on his character: He is just an emasculated guy who plays the role of the knight in shining armor that saves Akane from herself. More and I’m gonna throw up.
Akane Minagawa, on the outside, she is a nice, well-behaved woman who is adored by her students, but she actually loves the feeling of winning a man's heart while directly hurting someone else who is in love with that man. She can also be considered a lonely person and a nymphomaniac.
Akane attempts to seduce Narumi like her previous relationships, but she notices that Narumi refrains from touching her, unlike the men in her past, later realizing that he truly loves her. After Narumi asks her to marry him despite of knowing her true nature, Akane begins to take interest in him and suddenly decides to change her ways. Bleh, cliche.
My opinion on her character: This depraved woman thinks she is “exploiting” men when she has sex with them but actually she is the one being used and “exploited”, what a pathetic and disgusting state she is in.
I have a saying that fits this like a glove: “A key that can open many locks is called a master key, but a lock that can be opened by many keys is a shitty lock.”
There are other characters that are just empty tropes, particularly Sanae Ebato who is the lesbian girl who forced herself on Hanabi, and Noriko Kamomebata who is a deluded “loli” girl that considers herself a princess and dreams of marrying her “prince”, Mugi.
Now, the strong point of Kuzu no Honkai are the character interactions, which I’ve basically described in the paragraphs above, no need in doing it again.
The art is beautiful with surprisingly good character designs, working with a well-chosen color palette that gives a somber tone. The animation is fluid, nothing to complain about other than a few small flaws and the overuse of “hidden eyes”, which are used when they want the characters to reflect a deep emotion.
The opening and ending theme were well-suited for the show, not only being pleasant to hear but also having some symbolism and offering a drama tone. The OST was well-chosen as well, it offers an immersive experience and facilitates the potential flow of emotions coming from the show. The voice actors did a very good job interpreting the characters and their emotions but there were some exceptions to the rule.
I am inclined to say that I enjoyed the show despite its numerous flaws.
The show has failed in many categories but I think it does a fairly good job at showing how cruel love can be. If you are looking for a romance show that is slightly different form the generic “boy meets girl” scenario, give Kuzu no Honkai a shot.
When someone considers themselves or others to be connoisseurs of any kind of storytelling media, there are certain prerequisites expected from that individual that's usually understood without the need to outright state it. These factors can include being well-versed with different genres within the medium in question, to more demanding things, like understanding the construct in which the medium expresses its ideas. But out of all these unspoken base requirements, I think the most important one is something that's usually acknowledged but often taken for granted. That something in question is a hands-on understanding of the subject matter itself.
Without that attribute, an exhausted catalog
of literary knowledge and understanding of narrative tools is rendered almost pointless. Being book smart amounts to nothing without practical experience, or at the very least, first-hand encounters. Think of it this way, knowing about an archetype or trope is only as important as understanding what worldly influence caused it to exist, to begin with. Anyone can comprehend a creator's intent all day, but without an inkling of relation to it, all diegetic information could only be taken for what it is at face value.
Now, with that in mind, it's time to take a quick litmus test; ladies and gentlemen, Kuzu no Honkai (Scum's Wish) is average.
Quickly, what was your initial thought after reading that statement? Did you think that was an outlandish claim to make? That Scum's Wish is far from average and that the claim made was purposefully contrarian or, for the lack of a better word, attention-seeking? How can an anime that explore sexual decadents with such unfiltered restraint be considered "average" by any means? Most relationship anime don't even get past first base, so how can that claim be justified?
If you've already come to a similar conclusion regarding Scum's Wish before reading my statement, bear with me, as for everyone else that possibly rattled off something similar to the aforementioned thought process, time to explain why.
One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, The O.C, Dawson's Creek, 90210, Pretty Little Liars, Gilmore Girls; what do these live-action TV shows have in common? Well, for one, they're centered around teens or young adults dealing with relationship drama in very exaggerated ways. And secondly, and perhaps more important as well, they're usually pigeonholed by most astute viewers as typical television programming. No critical thinker or demanding viewer worth their salt is singing high praises about these shows. The reason why is pretty simple, apart from being well-cultured in several different mediums that is. The discernment for shows of this ilk ties back to that essential requirement I mentioned; having hands-on experience.
If your firsthand encounter with the drama Scum's Wish wraps itself up in is close to none, praising it becomes easy to do. However, if you've ever been involved in any kind of relationship, where you and the party in question were mutually in it for sexual gratification, then what Scum's Wish tries to depict gradually gets more juvenile and diluted with each passing episode. Any one of the bottled sexual/sensual encounters it indulges in can be believable on its own, but when meshed together to the degree in which every single character in immediate circles in the show is involved in a daisy chain of intimate depravity, it becomes wholly unrealistic, almost approaching the point of midday soap opera levels of contrived. This is sensationalized TV drama 101; the quintessential reason for why the phrase "sex sells" remain relevant for mainstay media.
Simply put, Scum's Wish is an animated version of your typical live-action teen/young adult drama TV show.
Now, before we go on any further, let's make this clear, teen/young adult drama shows themselves aren't inherently devoid of substance. There are live-action TV shows like Friday Night Lights and My So-Called Life, and even animated titles such as Nana that receive widespread critical acclaim for the same kind of things depicted in Scum's Wish, but instead of sensationalizing the subject matter for the sake of capturing audience attention, those shows decide to depict the relationships of the characters in naturalistic ways. The key takeaway there is that those shows did NOT rely on sensationalizing its content. That's the difference between media that uses sex in an exploitative manner and those that incorporate it as just another facet of life in the narrative at hand. Having relatable scenarios don't amount to much if it's unrealistically presented in the confines of the story. The show takes itself seriously but the situations themselves are anything but. As entertaining and titillating as it could be, what Scum's Wish has to offer at the end of the day is vapid and shallow.
And that isn't even to say that theatrically sensationalized programming doesn't have its place in storytelling media either.
There's no shortage of TV shows that uses sensationalism to its advantage, such is the case with TV series like Shameless; a show that purposefully acknowledges the fact that it's all about sex, violence, drugs, and mayhem. And if the namesake didn't already make that clear enough, it's a show that "shamelessly" uses these aspects to tell its story. But that's the difference between something that's purposely sleazy like Shameless and the likes of Scum's Wish. One show is clearly self-aware of its overblown content while the other is conceited, operating with an aura of pretension when portraying its subject matter. It's the difference between knowing your shit stink and rolling with it and trying desperately to cover that fact up.
But enough with the long-winded preamble, let's discuss what the show is all about. Short answer: yearning for others and sexual depravity. Long answer:
For as long as she could remember, Hanabi "Hana" Ysuraoka has been infatuated with her neighbor, Narumi Kanai. Due to their single parent upbringing, from a young age, they quickly established their own sort of family bond with each other, with Narumi becoming a frequent guest in Hanabi's household, to the point where she refers to him as her "big brother." Eventually, this infatuation Hanabi shares for Narumi slowly turn into a romantic interest. And as is the case with any kind of story scenario of this nature, that love goes unnoticed as Narumi has his eyes set on someone else. That someone being the alluring music teacher and predestined rival, Akane Minagawa.
Being the object of affection to any guy that attends Hanabi's high school, Akane has no shortage of men fawning over her at any given time, with Narumi becoming yet another victim piled up on that puppy-love laundry list.
With Akane and Narumi both being teachers, Hanabi's standing as a student further widens the gap between her and the one she loves, as she watches with each interaction they share slowly chipping away at her chances of ever having him to herself. Left in a state of emotional limbo, unable to do anything but watch as he gradually slips further out of reach, it's here, in this place of solitude that she finds out that she's not alone. A pair of eyes fixated with a familiar saddened gaze reflected in them stare at the cheerful adults as well. Mugi Awaya; she may not know him but the familiar bitter tinge of unrequited love that they mutually share leaves them both with a small glimmer of reassurance - "I don't have to suffer this alone." And so a pact is made, one signed with only physical comfort in mind; sexual relief; mutual resentment; a promise of no strings attached; emotions left harbored off from each other for that promised day. Friends with benefits with only one intent in mind, to eventually gain the affection of the person they truly yearn for.
A tragic, bittersweet, ill-fated romance. A setup that could take so many avenues of exploration and be successful at all of them if done right. It doesn't have to do much, just simply show the consequence of that kind of entangled emotional dependence as it affects the characters involved. Anything that toxic and shortsighted is bound to cause emotional scarring to anyone that participates. A dangerous game that some of us may have personally felt the backlash for at some point after foolishly thinking that because "it's me, I know better;" that somehow that meant the consequence wouldn't apply to us. A foolhardy belief that we could handle it where others weren't capable.
A continuous physical/sexual dependence on others will always come with a steep price of admission, whether it's immediately realized or comes on later in life during a silent night laying in bed, as thoughts of it creep in, festering in your idle mind. The foolishness of our now bruised ego, as we reflect on the stupid decisions of our past selves.
And to the show's credit, it does a good enough job depicting that inevitability. The problem is that it doesn't just stop there, deciding to go the whole nine yards, and then some. Instead of just settling with a believable depiction to carry this core message, Scum's Wish is too greedy to call it quits. It doesn't just want to depict that scenario, it wants to depict everything under the sun, exhausting every possible love/lust scenario imaginable in an attempt to make every possible outcome into an attention-seeking circus act of sexual decadents. And it's because of this, a fairly believable scenario turns into a ludicrously overblown orgy fest.
Without getting into specific names or details, I'm going to describe the general plotting of this show. And no, I'm not exaggerating here, this is actually what happens:
Person A wants to be with person B, but person B wants to be with person C, and person C only desire attention, and person D wants to be with person C but settled for person A, while person E wants to be with person D, and person F wants to be with person A, and person G wants to be with person F, and person H wants to be with anyone who's willing, and person C uses person H, while person D uses person E, while person J and D uses each other, and person A uses person F, and person H tries to use person A... and so on and so forth.
And again, this isn't an exaggeration, this is what literally happens when you sit down to map out the plot for each episode. To say this story is insanely contrived would be an understatement. There are shows with fatalism in it that manage to feel more naturally placed together. Any character that's recurring or has a name in this story is actively trying to bone each other.
There is absolutely nothing realistic about this intoxicating nonagonal love web. And it's this web that actively defeats any victory laps the show achieves with any one of these smaller stories stuck inside it. This show does have genuine character beats and character arcs but when all that's mired in content that's essentially one big exploitative fuck fest, it's hard to give it any credit whatsoever.
And while a majority of the characters' depicted have very despicable personalities, the show does dedicate a decent amount of time framing their mindset properly so that the audience could understand what makes them tick and why they carry themselves in the way they do. You don't necessarily have to like them but you do understand how their thought process operates under certain circumstances. This is the definitive attribute it has over its much more cruddy sibling, School Days, where no time or effort was dedicated to any of the main lead's concubines. Scum's Wish, at the very least, gives the illusion that the characters presented are their own person, as with School Days, they were all just assembly line fuck buddies. Not that it isn't the same case with Scum's Wish, in due time, they're all just reduced to sexual encounter cannon fodder. But with the time given beforehand to at least probe their psyche and reasons behind their action, they could still be considered characters by the end of it.
And speaking of School Days, not surprising enough, this sleazy brainchild was also penned by the same scriptwriter as well, Makoto Uezu. The man has a tendency to over exaggerate everything he writes, and where that proves successful with his efforts in comedy-centric shows, for dramas, they have the adverse effect, as demonstrated here, in Arslan Senki, Akame ga Kill and of course, everyone's favorite, School Days. Needless to say, properly written drama is not the man's forte.
And speaking of dramas that become unintentionally funny or cringy, Scum's Wish is also plagued with random "comedic" cut scenes where the characters go all silly-antics mode, usually following up from an emotionally heavy scene, having the same terrible effect in the way Akame ga Kill randomly cut to comedic hijinks after someone was brutally murdered. Whether we could pin this similarity as another fault of Uezu is unknown, as this might just be a result of what the manga does than what the adaptation might be responsible for. Either way, it's a bad attempt at levity that comes across as awkward the first handful of times it's used.
Other than that, the actual art and animation of the show demonstrated some thoughtful consideration in how it was constructed. Incorporating panel strips to make scenes flow together, visually emulating manga image tiles, the show was able to convey more information by not only accounting for the character's reaction to a situation but also drawing central focus to certain key moments as they pertain to the people involved within the frame. This allowed the audience to get a general sense of the mood and mindset that's being conveyed by placing a fixated point of concern with things boxed off within the manga panel technique as it relates to the overall scene. The talented duo behind this thoughtful piece of storytelling was Yukie Oikawa and Masaomi Andou, who's past collaborative efforts together created the technical wizardry demonstrated in Gakkougurashi, where they both did their best Satoshi Kon impression.
Capitalizing off that, the art department showed a keen eye for color placement as well, with cool and warm colors striking a delicate balance, bringing with it visual chemistry on screen. Nothing overpowers the other unless it's done to insinuate a certain mood. An example of which is when they purposely chose to plunge the entire palette in monochromatic blues and dark purples to help give a feeling of isolation, only to use that same coloring technique with soft touches and color highlights to be used for times of intimacy. It's this firm grasp the creators have over color theory that allows for selective color choices to serve dual purposes under the right guidance.
They also used splodges of ink/watercolor paint during cut scenes to represent a myriad of emotions and ideas, like lustful desire and deflowerment. While done with no subtlety whatsoever, it was still a nice touch. And even when everything was more than likely digitally colored in, they didn't use that for shorthand around adding personal touches, often giving things soft pastel-like textures and occasional color penciled in still shots placed throughout for good measure. Even the character designs are a nice standout, having anatomically believable body postures and designs that help the viewer buy into their placement as people within the story.
With sharp edits used to juxtapose certain situations and letterboxing being applied to convey certain pivotal moments, every idea here is given careful consideration. Yukie Oikawa's acquired abilities from their early work on Noir up to now has made this a show with a steady hand for cinematics, even if on a smaller, simpler scale. And to be honest with you, this overall care given for its presentation might be the biggest saving grace for this show. Without it, the show's gimmicky content would be way more apparent than it is now.
Well, at least for everything within the show, the opening and ending songs, however, couldn't be any more ridiculous had it tried. Starting off with a goofy blaring vocal performance and a flurry of rose petals, the imagery and song throughout is just a tad bit on the overblown side. Especially when it hammers home imagery that feels extremely tacky in comparison to what they did in the show. But to its credit, the tune wasn't bad on the ears if you just let it play out. As bad as it may have gotten at times, it doesn't come close to touching the ending song.
The ending song visuals are so blatant and try-hard that they actively make me cringe. It reminded me of Zayn's "Pillowtalk" music video, which is never a good thing since that was basically someone screaming "Get it bro? The FLOWERS represent VAGINAS/WOMEN'S WOMB, SEX, yoo, ain't I clever fam?!" - like no, just no, stop. You're embarrassing yourself and society. It's the kind of imagery a 15-year-old going through their "emo phase" would create, as they wear their Sid Vicious necklace and blast Linkin Park and Pierce the Veil in youthful revolt. Using a mixture of kaleidoscopic visuals to turn images phallic, the whole thing aims for contemporary sex appeal along the lines of a FKA Twigs or Beyoncé music video but ends up falling incredibly short, taking on the appearance of a former Nickelodeon child star trying to break free of their kiddie image by being super edgy and raunchy.
Having "mature themes" and being "maturely handled" aren't the same thing. An applicable distinction whenever the show crosses the line thinking they're one in the same. And one that's needed when addressing the other pending issue the show can't shake, the character's awareness of each other.
The characters all have this uncanny ability to not only know the inner-workings of their own thought process but also that of everyone around them as well, like if they were all psychology majors. The internal reflection is appreciated, but knowing the mindset and framework of everyone else is a bit ridiculous. Realistically speaking, there should only be two characters in the entire show with that kind of mental capacity.
I've been in similar situations, acting on sexual impulse, but was I fully aware of my decisions to the point of self-reflection? No, because I was horny, not some man musing about life and his decisions. This anime treats teens like adults. The phrase "young, dumb and full of cum" isn't just passed around to describe youth for shits and giggles. It's an expression born from the fact that during that turbulent time of change in your life, teenagers are shortsighted and driven by impulse. You don't start thinking with your prefrontal cortex, the rational part of your brain until you've hit your early to mid-20s.
Whenever the characters experience emotional woes regarding their actions, that's natural, and again, commendable for the show for trying to depict that, it's the moment they all become Dr. Phil that it loses touch with itself and reality.
And I think I've danced around this long enough.
I'm trying my best not to state the obvious here, but fuck it, time to state the ugly truth of the matter. If your closest thing to intimacy is the love you received from your family, with little to no experience in an actual relationship, then Scum's Wish may come across more realistic than what it's really made out to be. If you only watch anime and haven't ventured out to other mediums, then Scum's Wish offerings may also seem more novel than what it really is.
This anime's value could easily sway in either direction given the experience of the viewer that looks at it. As such, it's a show that's bound to cause contention among those that adore it and others that mock it. Of course, all of this doesn't even matter if you really just want to be entertained, because if that's the case, there's nothing here worth reading that would dissuade you in the slightest. But if for some reason, you happen to fall into that smaller collective that dissects and discuss the content they watch, this show would be met with divisive results.
However accepting you are for what it shows depends entirely on your tolerance or love for certain narrative decisions. As for me, I don't see any reason to get up in arms about it. If you see it for what it is, there's really no reason to get upset.
Scum's Wish lives in a vacuum. Real life is never so perfectly contrived. So instead of focusing on what it mirrors from societal norms, what should be looked at is what it does within the confines of its narrative. And when seen for what it is and not what outside influence it is not, the answer derived is pretty clear; Scum's Wish in its rudimentary form is quite literally animated smut. Meaningful at times but smut nonetheless. That age old adage "sex sells" that's expressed by everyone, from your critics to your everyday viewer, isn't one to easily shake off. It's a commonly known truth for a reason. Sex in and of itself is not a bad topic to center on. It's a natural act we partake in. The issue is when sex is reduced to nothing more than a meal ticket to get audiences through the front door. At that point, any kind of message the show may have had becomes null and void.
In the end, what saved me from completely dismissing Scum's Wish was the overall care given for its presentation, the extra time dedicated to at least exploring the characters involved, and the fact that content of this perverse nature is easily digestible on a basic entertainment level. As far as anything content-wise is concerned, it falls incredibly short of any meaningful passages in its narrative, save for the individual pockets of occurrences that get drowned out in all the clutter. When everything is said and done, Scum's Wish is a pretty porcelain vase; something nice to look at for awhile but when peered into, just turns out to be a hollow shell on the inside.
Love is perhaps one of the most complicated feelings in the world. We may all have experienced sometimes in our lives. Whether it’s platonic, romantic, or parental, it’s something that humans feel because that’s who we are. As part of growing up, people learn to understand these feelings. Yet, there are also people who make stories out of their lives from such feelings, in ways that become so twisted and disjointed that they become scum. Welcome to Kuzu no Honkai, a show that gives the characters a chance to grow up.
As a manga reader, I was already prepared although it’s easy to judge by the
premise that the story itself will be saturated with drama. Ever heard of ‘friends with benefits’? That’s pretty much how the premise sounds like. In the beginning of the story, we learn quickly that Hanabi and Mugi are engaged in a “relationship” that seems like those of a happy couple. Yet deep down, both suffers from pain because they are in love with someone else and are only using each other to ease their pain. It’s not hormone that’s driving these young folks into engaging in sex but that they simply want to feel something rather than pain. I have to admit, a show like this definitely takes on a more mature approach at romance than your typical high school rom-com. Make no mistake about it, Kuzu no Honkai is an emotional story that deconstructs romance in many ways more than one.
The character cast is small yet complex because almost every character has their own personal issues. Some are more complex than others as the show focuses on them in their own twisted stories. A primary example is Akane, the seemingly lovable teacher. Yet, as the story progresses, you’ll quickly learn that she isn’t exactly what appears to be. Fans could easily label her as a bitch in sheep clothing and hard to accept. It’s also relatable too as Akane is a type of character that can easily be encountered in real life. That’s what also makes this show more realistic than some others as Kuzu no Honkai demonstrates a lot of realism. Relationships draws a line between love and sex. Can sex lead to actual love? Or is it just sex?
In the meantime, character relationships in the show deconstructs what you’ll find in most romance stories. Yes, there are love triangles but Kuzu no Honkai has characters that uses others to satisfy themselves. Hanabi and Mugi is one but many examples. We’ll also learn in the show of how childhood friends will take the risk of being rejected and hurt. The fact is, no one is really safe of being happy in this series. Happiness is more like an illusionary word in the world of Kuzu no Honokai. Even when certain truths are realized and confessions are made, it is the stone cold truth that brings in even more pain. It doesn’t fall for every circumstance in the show as some characters are more willing to accept reality. However, the truth is still there that makes character relationships in this series seem like a losing battle. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
As you can imagine, the show is drama heavy with a lot of emotions. Jealousy, regret, greed, hopeful, mistrustful, fear, are just a few to name. Action has consequences and this show brings out the worst out of human behavior. Think about it really. Kuzu no Honokai translates to Scum’s Wish as the title references to one’s interest to satisfy their own desires. Most of the characters does this and is drawn by humans emotions. At the core of these emotions is love. However, this show deconstructs love and very few characters actually understands it. Or perhaps there is no real answer because everyone has different perceptions. Narumi (Hanabi’s homeroom teacher) is a rare example in this show where he accepts certain people for who they are even after learning the truth. Still, the truth can hurt doesn’t it?
Yes, don’t expect much comedy or humor from Kuzu no Honkai. It occasionally throws in some comedy from time to time but the majority of the show retains its mature feel. Now, the anime portrays sex as what it is and believe me, there’s a decent amount of it. The manga even has more explicit scenes to illustrate its point. So in essence, this show is not designed for a younger audience but suitable for those looking into a serious yet twisted story. The word ‘love’ doesn’t fit in there as that word is more or less an illusion. Still, I am happy that the adaptation captured the general idea of the original manga. It sticks to its point without derailing from its coming of age feel while inserting human emotions.
Lerche surprisingly did a fairly decent job at crafting the artwork. Character designs look mature especially for the adults such as Akane and Narumi. Ebato has that pure nature lady look that makes her desirable. However, Moca’s character design can be bothersome to get used to as she looks like a child being stuck in a mature world. Be aware that the show has a lot of fan service such as make out scenes, sex, and other suggestive innuendos. One thing I am impressed by the artwork is how there are certain scenes in the show that captures the characters’ expressions at fullest. It accomplishes this with a more detailed visual of their feelings but importantly makes them look impactful.
Soundtrack and music retains a somber tone. It’s a drama heavy story so what else did you expect? It has a feel of melancholy throughout the series along with light instrumental OST. Music director Masaru Yokoyama (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans) does a fantastic job at the directing as expected. The OP and ED theme songs have some symbolism along with a drama-like tone. But in terms of voice mannerisms, this is where it gets sort of mixed. Characters such as Akane and Ebato are really hard not to feel attracted to with their mature voices. In the meantime, I have to mention again that Moca is a source of annoyance whenever she opens her mouth.
Kuzu no Honokai is like walking into a world of twisted desires. It’s like going into a maze with endless doors and no way out. Behind every door is a truth or lie that brings anything but joy. However, I think the show does bring up a good point of showing the realism of love. Examples in this series can really happen to anyone and realistically, it does. It’s part of us being human as there’s no real answer to what love is. Or to put it simply….