Love is a fickle thing. Almost if not everyone yearns for true love, to find that one person who loves them unconditionally and through thick and thin, and will stay with them no matter what hardships may come. But life isn’t as easy as that. In reality, something as simple as loving someone is…complicated, full of heartbreaks and unexpected turns that almost never have a happy ending.
With a title that’s translated to “Scum’s Wish”, Kuzu no Honkai plays out the tale of a pair of high school hopefuls who get together for the sake of fulfilling each other’s fantasies of embracing and loving their respective interest in hopes that one day, they will be able to actually hold the one that they love and not use a surrogate to satiate their desires.
Love and lust are two words that intertwine in meaning. With the entirety of its screentime (save for the odd comedic moment here and there) devoted to the varying relationships with its characters, Kuzu no Honkai plays as a downward spiral into each character’s lives with themes of love, lust, betrayal, desire, sex, and tragedy as the forefront of its story. Each character brings their own spin on the tale of true love and what it is that they want. As a result, the show brings about a kind of complexity that, while has varying results depending on the character, has a realistic feel compared to the idealistic happily ever after that we see with most romance series.
Each passing episode brings the viewer and its characters further and further down the rabbit hole, as more and more issues arise between its characters, and the more unsatisfactory parts of human nature rear their ugly heads. The main issue I see with the show is how suffocating it felt due to how strong the show’s scent of betrayal and scumminess became. The escalation with each episode felt less impactful with every step down into the abyss the show made. While watching, I never expected a positive return of redemption for anyone, but it became apparent that I was expecting something worse going to happen in the next episode, thus creating an oddly predictable pattern for a supposedly unpredictable plotline.
I find those that aren’t Mugi, Hanabi, or their respective love interests to have less than stellar stories to them, mostly because they’re a part of the story only to try and add a little more ‘depth’ to the whole debacle. I feel as though the show could’ve used without them and saved the screentime for other things since their character and development have only a slight amount of impact to the overall story.
In the end, Kuzu no Honkai is an intentional story about the detestable aspects of human nature. While extreme to a fault, causing a lot of its shock and interest to lose its value in the later episodes, Kuzu no Honkai gives us a more realistic spin on the tale of finding love. None of the endings are happy, every character endures some form of pain and suffering, and the only thing you can really say to it all is “Such is life.”
+ Consistent themes and storytelling
+ Realistic spin on romance
– Too heavy handed with how it wanted to play itself out
Kuzu no Honkai has a cast of characters with unredeemable qualities. Fitting with the scummy and detestable nature of the story, what we see is a group of people slowly unfurl their facades and show us (sometimes quite blatantly) what they truly desire.
Each character gets their own spotlight due to the cast’s small size, allowing each of their stories to be fleshed out with varying sizes depending on who is at the show’s focus. As standalone characters, almost no one is able to stand on their own two feet. Each character stands as a trait or a piece of the whole puzzle as both Hanabi and Mugi, our two main characters, act as the centerpieces to the interconnecting web of character relationships that exist at the heart of this show. As such, they’re shallow when alone, but deep and meaningful when together.
While yes, most if not every character is meant to be literal human trash, the difficulty from this fact arises when it comes to discerning whether or not the characters are meant to be symbols or characters. We have Akane, who poses as an innocent gal hiding behind a mask, Moca, the young girl who yearns to find her prince, and Sanae, who seems to be consumed by her desire to be with who she likes. They all have a story to tell, but they all feel so engrossed in their own themes and flaws that it’s hard to see them beyond different ideas clashing against one another when the characters come in contact with each other.
+ Complex character relationships
– Standalone, characters don’t have much about themselves
– Characters feel like symbols more than anything else
Produced by Lerche, Kuzu no Honkai has a very light yet expressive artstyle that gives the show an artistic look to the whole thing. Its light color palette and artstyle gives way to a great many forms of visual storytelling and metaphors that are used constantly to drive home the different internal turmoils and internal monologues that each character has in order to drive home the point of what their story entails. Not only that, but the show has beautiful portrait stills in a few key moments in the series, thus giving the show some very picturesque moments that capture the moment of a character in mixed emotion. These moments are few in number, but each is memorable and beautiful in their own right.
In addition, the show provides us with quite a number of scenes of intimacy, as the show uses a variety of camera angles and closeups while painting the scene of what is happening without being too explicit with it. Yes, the characters do have sex in the series. But what you see here is what I would describe as ‘tasteful fanservice’, as not only are these scenes actually key to the plot, but are done in a way that doesn’t feel blatant and conveys the emotion and feeling that the characters have in each moment.
+ Fantastic, light artwork
+ Stunning still moments
+ Tasteful fanservice (At least that’s what I would regard it as)
The soundtrack for Kuzu no Honkai, much like its artwork, drive home the feelings and emotions that the characters have in the moment. The entire soundtrack, from its OP and ED to its BGMs all bear a somber and yearning tone that reflects on the different tales we see. They aid in setting the mood of the series and honestly do a very good job at keeping the viewer engaged at the slow descent into the pit that the characters find themselves in.
Seemingly loved by fans and panned by critics, I see that there’s a clear divide on how good Kuzu no Honkai really is. If you ask me, Kuzu no Honkai was a difficult experience due to how thick and heavy Lerche laid on the drama and emotion of the series, and it became increasingly difficult to watch as the episodes came by. But honestly, that’s why I appreciate this show. It gives us the ugly truth on how life, particularly love, isn’t perfect and that the folly of human nature can overcome even the most basic of rational thought. While yes, I do believe that there were many parts that could be greatly improved upon, I still believe that Kuzu no Honkai has something to offer.
Did I like this anime?
It’s a bit hard to say. As a show that was intended to have very few redeeming qualities due to the nature of the story and its characters, it’s hard to say that I specifically like anything it did. I will say that I did appreciate the show and found it to be an intriguing watch, even if hard to view.
What didn’t I like about this anime?
In terms of specifics, I’m not a fan of the side interests of Moca and Sanae. I felt like while they did have something to offer, the show honestly could’ve done without their involvement, as the wrenches they threw were minor when compared to other things that were going on.
Would I recommend this anime?
Honestly, I would suggest watching this just for the sake of asking people to make their own opinions. As stated before, this show has created quite a polarizing viewpoint that has been seen as both good and bad. If you ask me, I feel like the show delivered on what it wanted to do, and that in and of itself is something that I feel should be commended. I wouldn’t particularly say I love or even like the show, but I don’t hate it and I feel like some people don’t give the show the credit it deserves.
In short, it’s complicated.