You know I usually like to wait for an anime to finish before I review it, but the latest episode of Kuzu no Honkai has convinced me it’s not worth the wait. I still maintain my earlier statements about the show, namely that’s the most interesting romance anime I’ve seen in years, but that interest is no longer particularly positive. It’s not all that negative either, mind, but compared to before it’s a downgrade. There will be spoilers, you’ve been warned.
Kuzu no Honkai had two major selling points, it disregarded all the usual anime romance baggage and skipped straight to the bedroom, and it returned to the bedroom with surprising frequency, and most of the main characters were either terrible people or in the midst of very self destructive behavior. For this the show still has my attention and I do hope other romances learn from Kuzu no Honkai and get some couples in bed. But honestly I’m bored with whatever narrative Kuzu no Honkai was trying to tell, and given the aimless rambling of the show overall I’m not sure it ever had much vision or direction to begin with. But before I dig into that I want address certain me-specific complaints have nothing to do with technical skill in writing or animation, because context is important despite what morons on the internet may think.
Kuzu no Honkai is not for me. Even disregarding any technical problems it has I have a hard time rooting for anyone in the twisted love tree filling out the series. Ecchan has my allegiance more than anyone but she’s hardly given the time needed for to be really interesting as a person instead of just being the hottest girl and also a lesbian, making her best girl by default. Ostensibly I should be projecting myself on Mugi but fuck that guy. I don’t get him at all, his only characterization that I have any connection with at all is how he doesn’t want to fuck the blonde girl with twintails who wants his D because they’re childhood friends and he doesn’t want to ruin her purity or special-ness, for lack of a better term. I get that. But loving broken, weak and manipulative girls, loving someone even more after see how they cynically use their assets to fulfill their shallow lifestyle? Get the fuck out of here. I’m not just disconnected from Mugi’s desires, they actively turn me off in a big way. Likewise I sort of like Hanabi and vaguely want to root for her but the love of her life is totally boring. Kanai is abysmal, he’s a bland boring fuck who can be boiled down to generic good guy A, and the fact he serves as a big brother figure to Hanabi makes the whole thing one step removed from the incest romances popularized by OreImo, and fuck that garbage. At least she actually likes a good person, that’s a step up from Mugi. That’s enough ranting for now, let’s get technical.
Kuzu no Honkai is kind of balls at pacing. The passage of time is largely unclear, for example I had no idea Mugi and Hanabi hadn’t seen each for months because until Hanabi said so in a random cafe scene, there were no details establishing that at all, and it’s common for episodes to suddenly cut to dramatic or emotional moments out of nowhere without always explaining how the characters got to that point. As a man who struggles with getting from point A to point B in a story despite having really well defined points in his own narratives, or rather attempted narratives, I feel this in particular is a weakness. I appreciate the desire to just cut to the scene you really want to show, but if I thought that was good enough I’d have finished a fucking book by now. But what exacerbates the problem is that feels like the show isn’t going anywhere. Characters have random sexual encounters and some make deliberate moves on other people but a lot of the time they just seem to be listless and directionless. There’s too much going on that never goes anywhere meaningful. It’s like watching filler if filler looked decent and was low key. This isn’t helped by the characters.
Most of them suck. They generally range from boring to deplorable, and not deplorable in the fun if dark sense employed by Youjo Senki, but deplorable as in people I really don’t like for their shallow or twisted values. The twin tail girl is obnoxious and serves no purpose, she poses no threat to Hanabi, let alone Akane, where Mugi is concerned and she has nothing to teach either main character about themselves. Likewise Ecchan has that weird cousin who wants to bone her (gross) and has a persistence that is outright annoying making him come off as a pain in the ass if not a creep. Again he doesn’t pose any threat to Hanabi’s relationship with Ecchan and he teaches Hanabi nothing she hadn’t already figured out for herself. Then there’s the random dude who used to fuck Akane and wanted to fuck Hanabi, again almost entirely useless and a total waste of time. He was only interesting in so far as Hanabi considered trying to win his affection to get back at Akane, but that didn’t happen so what’s the point?
I suppose you could argue the directionless, listless feel and story are reflective of how confusing teenage and young adult romance can be, but it’s fucking boring. Like if the Hanabi actually made a serious move regarding the random guy I was just talking about and it had some kind of impact on her as a character and to the narrative, it would be good, but nothing happens. Which is where episode 11 comes in. Episode 11 has more character development on it’s own than the lion’s share of the show and it really got me thinking that Hanabi and Mugi were the wrong people to cast as main characters. I mean it’s pretty simple what happens, Kanai clumsily bulls his way forward and somehow, perhaps because he’s the first saintly good guy to go for her, wins Akane’s heart. For Mugi and Hanabi all that does is put an end to their crushes, which is something Hanabi has already gone through at this point. I guess Mugi and Hanabi can hook up for real now but why bother? They haven’t been romantically involved for months and Hanabi seems to have zero passion for Mugi at this point. And unless this season is a split cour or double cour, then they’d only have one episode to get together anyway. Seems like a weak romance story to me.
Kuzu no Honkai should have been about Akane. I mean given how much screen time she has I think you can already argue that she’s more of a main character than Hanabi, but that’s what the show should have been. What if Kuzu no Honkai was presented from Akane’s point of view? What if it was about her fucking all these guys over the years in her aimless attempts to feel good and find some sort of human connection, which she somehow finds in Kanai? You could even have Hanab still play a substantial role, this time as someone actively trying to keep Akane away from Kanai because she think’s Akane isn’t good enough for him. I think you’d have a far more interesting show, one where all the sex is relevant to character growth rather than a gimmick. Because that’s how I think it’s been used by and large. It’s new and I’ve no doubt many others are happy to see characters with functioning sexual relations, but outside of a few rare exceptions it seems more like eye candy than anything else at this point. However in a story about Akane, told from her perspective, the fucking would be extremely relevant to the narrative and to her character. And I say all this with extreme confidence because Kuzu no Honkai has slowly and steadily declined for me since episode 2 when Hanabi and Ecchan get in some lesbian action, with episode 11 serving as the only exception to that trend. It’s the best the show has been in months and possibly the best it’s ever been.
Setting Akane aside, what assures me that Kuzu no Honkai will be end poorly is that where the fuck else can it go at this point? As discussed before Mugi and Hanabi have drifted apart, and I can’t see them hooking back up for an episode as anything other than failure. Moreover it’s annoying to have Mugi get so much screen time in last few episodes compared to Hanabi, because I’d rather root for her and I like her more and I think her story could have been much more interesting if we weren’t forced to follow Mugi’s hopeless twisted love story. I think another thing Kuzu no Honkai fucked up was the Ecchan summer house episode, that should’ve happened after Mugi went off to chase Akane for months, because then maybe, just maybe, Ecchan and Hanabi could’ve justifiably become a couple, something I’m far more interested in than any other relationship in the show, and not just cause gay girls (though that is a bonus), because they’re the two people I like most in the show as people. Hanabi could have her expectations dashed by Mugi, who flees the intended plan to try and keep Akane being a shallow, manipulative slut (for the record that’s how the describes her, I’m not hating on her right now, I think she’s actually had the funniest scenes and lines the show)… because for whatever reason that’s what he’s into. And in having her plan with Mugi ruined, Hanabi could have sought shelter in Ecchan like she did earlier in the show, but this time it could’ve developed in something genuine and lasting, not a one night stand.
All this is to say that Kuzu no Honkai has been a total mess. It threw all kinds of bedroom scenes at us to keep us distracted from the fact the story has been pretty shit. It’s had it’s moments from time to time but overall it’s been a boring, aimless little tale. Also the soliloquies have gotten especially awful in later episodes and some of the dialogue is similarly terrible. So few of the characters are given time to be interesting and of those with time most of them squander it on pointless scenes and sideplots which never amount to anything. As a general rule I don’t like to complain about wasted potential very often. By and large I find it a misguided criticism that attacks a work for not being something rather than judging what it is. But Kuzu no Honkai has been so directionless as a narrative, so vague in it’s intent that I feel this is a good case for the “wasted potential” complaint, because more so than anything else what this show needs to succeed is some kind of vision. Kuzu no Honkai is little more than a jumble of characters and ideas with nothing binding it all together, nothing making a narrative out of the disparate narrative elements. This really is the essence of wasted potential, it’s a show that does nothing with the tools it’s been given, rather than a show which just didn’t do what I wanted it to do. And for that reason, I’d be fucking floored if this series ends on anything other than a “meh” note. I’m certainly out of fucks to give for the show. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it and I’ll see you in the next one.