Not to sound unsure of myself, but I would like to briefly note that my opinions and thoughts on this particular criticism of Kuzu no Honkai to be somewhat incomplete. It’s more of a gut feeling that I had watching the anime and having experience with other forms of dark, introspective series. This argument is something I don’t actually have too much evidence for, as some of the things I’ll go more into detail about can be debated against with ease. Consider this a messy opinion piece, something that I feel is present without the sort of solid foundation to legitimize its bearing on the quality of the series.
And I felt I needed to say this before I go on, as I feel it’s important to be honest with my readers about how I feel during such debatable pieces as this one. Too often I wonder if people who make extraordinary claims and back them up with such flimsy details aren’t conscious of how it makes them appear. Call it my own pride, but if a claim I make sounds sketchy even to me, I feel it should be noted before it’s said. It could also be a defensive mechanism because I’m too honest and I’d feel too bad about “deceiving” people.
Now then, the claim in question is that Kuzu no Honkai is too naive. The manner in which it tells its story and the way it introduces sex as a means of showing the emptiness of the characters is incredibly simplistic and immature. Sex itself is something of a hot topic within the world of anime, but the fact that Kuzu no Honkai has it so prevalent within itself shows some lenience that rarely comes from mainstream anime. Unless, of course, the sex is used for laughs and giddy temptation. Really, one simply need to look at the ocean of harem anime, or anime that simply have characters show sexual attraction to those around them.
One could praise Kuzu no Honkai for portraying sex in an artistic or mature way, however I would disagree. The way it portrays sex is simply a refreshing spin within a medium where sex is taken too lightly. To have one go through a marathon of To Love-ru, High School DxD, and Sekirei, then watch Kuzu no Honkai, one would definitely appreciate the change of pace. It’s not only limited to these types of anime, either, where sex is a blatant device to entice viewers, but others where even the prospect of holding hands is considered too risqué. A fellow blogger once made an intriguing point about how Kirito from Sword Art Online‘s quick path to OP status was a refreshing spin from the typical Shounen protagonist’s zero to hero approach. While that may be true for certain eyes and times, it’s something that doesn’t always work to make characters or stories better (further referenced for my disdain for SAO), as is the case here.
Through another perspective, there’s the fact that while sex is led up to and hinted at, sex is never actually shown. Natsu no Zenjitsu shows plenty of sex, and not just the interpretation of it, but the act of it. The sights, sounds, movement of characters’ bodies and faces. Kuzu no Honkai‘s use of sex is little different to me than the way ecchi uses sex; both are used for enticement, only Kuzu no Honkai‘s intentions aren’t to lure viewers to drop their shorts, but to drop their hearts. I found it humorous that, try as the characters might, not a nipple was shown, never anything past foreplay, and the characters, despite how empty they seem to be portrayed, have enough humanity within themselves to cover up at the last moment. This could almost sound like a positive for the show’s characters, though not so much for the argument. This gave an air of the author knowing this would be shown on TV at some point, so they cut their losses and went for what would be most suitable for the general mass, instead of pushing it further.
Something that could be used in association with the previous point is the anime’s penchant for telling, not showing. While not always the case, there’s definitely a lot of telling within the plot, particularly by whoever is the focus of the individual development. Whether it be Hanabi, Mugi, or Akane, (though usually more Hanabi and Akane) the dialogue is definitely something one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by. Whether this overwhelming is good or bad depends on the viewer. For me, it was obviously very bad. Too often I felt what was being told to me was very clear based on their prior actions and train of thought, something I feel the series took too much advantage of. Watching Kuzu no Honkai was like listening to a teenager in high school monotonously overexplain the story of their first Facebook lover. Lots of angst, lots of self-reflection, lots of crying/cringing, and not a break in sight.
Through the use of sex, this tell-a-thon mixes in with the fact that sex is never actually shown. It combines with the type of storytelling that relies on the viewer to fill in the blanks themselves, taking sex at face value as a symbol of one thing depending on the situation. It would be really nice to see the characters actually react to the sex, rather than the build-up to sex. Many times the characters fantasize about the idea of sex and what it would mean to them to have sex with the one they love or “love,” but fantasizing about sex and having sex are two completely different beasts. Not just foreplay, either. If Hanabi is wincing and in tears at having her genitals fondled, I would like to see her reaction to actually hitting the home run. That sentence sounded incredibly disturbing. Still, it would be intriguing to see if she continues to fight her overwhelming negative emotions or if she’d abandon them and simply let it happen at the expense of comforting pain. If only I had that chance.
On its own, Kuzu no Honkai is a decent series with an intriguing premise that can stand with the best of teen dramas. What the series lacks in subtlety, however, it more than makes up for with dialogue straight from an early Linkin Park album. Its dedication to its craft is admirable, though many (including me) could be easily turned off by how painful the amount of depressing self-deprecation the characters spew at themselves, to the point where they can’t take it seriously. It doesn’t surprise me that the series is so highly-acclaimed, taking into account that the average anime watcher is in their teens and are attuned to sensitive jargon. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the series could’ve been if it hadn’t been directed so heavily at only that demographic.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.