Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Kuzu no Honkai and Masamune kun’s Revenge are my kind of romance anime: unique, different, and realistic enough to make typical campus romance anime look like silly fantasy. They are both nasty, cynical, and take the ideal love of the romance anime and toss it out the window, Masamune-kun with its comedic take on revenge, and Kuzu no Honkai with its truthful take on teenage feelings.
Japanese Title: 望み叶え給え
Kuzu no Honkai succeeded Fune wo Amu in Fuji’s noitamina block. Also known as Scum’s Wish, the anime is based on a manga written by Mengo Yokoyari. It has been serializing in Square Enix’s seinen manga magazine Big Gangan from 2012, and has already published six tankoubon volumes. The manga is set to end this Spring 2017, but it is unknown if the anime will cover the whole story.
The series is being directed by Masaomi Ando and produced by Lerche, with series composition by Makoto Uezu, character designs by Keiko Kurosawa, and music by Masaru Yokoyama.
You can read more about the anime and browse all titles of the Winter 2017 season at our new Anime Info Page.
The story is not very complicated. Two teenagers, Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya, are in love with their teachers. Hana is head over heels for Narumi Kanai, whom she’d known since she was a little girl, since Kanai-sensei was a neighbor and a family friend. Mugi is in love with music teacher Akane Minagawa, whom he also know from his past, but we’ll have to wait an episode or two before we learn more. The two teenagers have always been in love with the two adults, but in as fate would have it, the two teachers, who are in the same high school as the teenagers, start dating. Frustrated and heartbroken, Hana and Mugi find solace and comfort in each other’s arms. What better replacement than someone who feels the same as you do.
The two protagonists are annoyingly adolescent. Mugi is finding escape in video games and is quite indifferent to the world around him, with his love for this teacher the only thing that seems to give him purpose. Hana is selfish and jealous. She thinks that the world owes her and that she deserves to be with onii-chan. They are deep involved in their respective fantasies, and it’s no wonder that they started spending more time with each other.
Contrary to typical fan-servicy romance anime, the teenagers are not governed by the rules of the Anime Kingdom: we don’t have accidental panty shots, shame-red faces, and virgin-like excuses. Both Mugi and Hana are your typical next-door horny teenager, longing for a physical connection that brings warmth and sexual release. The make-out scene is teen sexuality expressed realistically. In the most erotic scene of this season, the intimacy is enacted by Hana (you don’t see the female starting things very often) and is halted by Mugi. They are about to go full course with another person in their minds, something that they both know before they start kissing and touching. It’s dark, sad, and incredibly erotic. Disturbing as it may sound, our protagonists are probably making the best they can out of the cards they were dealt. They find a haven in each other’s arms and make a promise to be there for each other and ‘have everything but their feelings.’
Now, there are some possible outcomes that I can foresee with that promise in mind:
UMAI: When Kanai-sensei tasted Hana-chan mom’s food in the flash back sequence, he does what it’s expected in every food scene in anime: he says it’s delicious. I have always wondered how every bentou in anime and manga series is the best food the character has ever eaten, and I have always attributed it to subjectivism. I laughed out loud when Hana-chan said that it just tastes normal. A small testament to how grounded Kuzu no Honkai is.
noitaminA: I don’t know if I ever included noitaminA in the trivia section. NoitaminA (ノイタミナ) in case you didn’t notice, is the word ‘animation’ spelled backwards. It is a late night Fuji Television programming block devoted to anime. It was launched with the intention of expanding the target audience beyond the typical young male demographic. This is the reason that most titles chosen by the block are mature, psychological stories that will appeal to older audiences.
Roses: Roses must be a major theme of the anime, because they are all over the opening sequence. I don’t know how the theme is going to be translated in later episodes, but the beautiful flowers haven’t made any meaningful appearance in Episode 1.
Friends with Benefits: The term is usually applied to two friends who have a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved. It’s the ‘sex’ part that makes Mugi say to Hana that they are ‘friends’ but not with ‘benefits’. They are dating so that they can rely to each other, but they will probably not have sex. That makes keeping their promise not to develop feelings for each other easier, since any time sex is involved, it usually complicates matters—even when both people, like Hana and Mugi here, try to maintain communication and mutual respect.
I’m a terrible reviewer and I don’t want to sound modest. I usually take each title at face value, most of the times having no idea of the studio or the director, or of any connections between this and past anime. Yet, I have read online that the quality of the anime was a surprise because the studio in charge, Lerche, is not known for its high-quality productions. I went online to see their filmography and I was surprised to find a few anime I really like: Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School, and Assassination Classroom. It’s also a relatively new studio, active from 2011.
For me, it wasn’t the best premiere episode of Winter 2017 (that award goes to Rakugo) but it was certainly one of the most beautiful. The watercolor palette gave the episode that necessary gloominess that went hand in hand with the pessimistic premise, and the melancholic piano pieces enhanced the emotional value of each scene. I have to praise the unique directing that used captioning in a way that felt natural and effective. It’s too early to say if the narrative is going to hold, but the first episode left me hopeful.
I really like the focus on the two protagonists, a focus that doesn’t seem to stray away from them, even when the scene includes the subjects of their affection. Even Noriko, the blond ponytailed character, was introduced in a way that didn’t impose on the plot. I’m wondering if the series is going to have a continuous flashbacks added to the mix or will go in a linear model from now on.
Did you like the first episode of Kuzu no Honkai? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to read the rest of our episodic anime reviews for Winter 2017.
NEXT TIME: There is a Use for that Warmth (そのぬくもりに用がある)
P.S. I mentioned Masamune-kun’s Revenge a few times, so here is my review of episode 1: