One look at how the characters’ eyes were drawn by Yokoyari Mengo, especially on Yasuraoka Hanabi’s and Ayawa Mugi’s, and people can conclude that Yokoyari-san’s work, クズの本懐 (Kuzu no Honkai; Kuzu= Scum, Honkai=Wish/Long-held desire; Scum’s Wish), which ended its run last March 31, definitely gives a gloomy vibe to those who have come to encounter (read and watch) it, whose setting revolves around broken people struggling against the misgivings on the dark side of romance.
The story’s gloomy but brave setting is definitely not for those innocent, optimistic, and still-pure younglings. But still, everybody can trace the innocence of the youth with the characters of this story. However, the story is not that kind to tell you on how the realization that ‘not all stories ending in happiness’ can turn even the purest of people into the most twisted of creatures. The path of being astray is not a compulsory path but a choice that people make, given their situations which act as devils whispering to their ears. Some gave in while also some resisted.
Although the series iterated that none of the characters were drawn from real human beings, the actions of the characters, whether they were really imagined or not, were so generic that they give flesh into these characters and project them into somebody that we have known in the past, whether it was that person or ourselves, stirring the memories that some of us may be trying to hide. And speaking of actions, it is not only the sex scenes (of course, the director and the creator managed to make it pass the allowable standards, or else, it is hentai) that makes the story twisted, but also the motives and thoughts that drove these people into doing those actions.
The primary mover of this action is the human state called loneliness…the feeling of being alone despite being with people. There is this list that all people have but generally don’t want to reveal: the people that we want to be with, and the people that we don’t want to be with. The deprivation of the former is what causes that human state, which is accompanied with sadness, anxiety, and depression, driving people into endless longing, yearning, wanting, and being helpless.
That loneliness is what causes our protagonist, Yasuraoka Hanabi – who has been in love to her childhood friend and now homeroom teacher Kanai Narumi – and Ayawa Mugi – who has been in love to her former tutor Minagawa Akane – to engage into a fake relationship on the backdrop that Narumi is in love with Akane and that the two have been seemingly dating.
Together, they act as each other’s replacements to their unrequited loves, satisfying their needs to quell their loneliness, either emotionally – ranging from being each other’s confidant up to imagining the other as Akane/Narumi – or physically – ranging from French kissing up to doing wonders with the hands, such as handjobs, fingering (My bad. Ecchan is the one doing this to Hanabi while Mugi is the one doing this to Moka), and groping. Remember, these actions were not like in the ero-doujinshi(s) where the motives were not explored and where the developments were sudden. They were driven by the feelings that were shown to have long been building up and the desire to feel connected.
The story was not that simple and the introductions of the other characters brought complications as Hanabi and Mugi would soon find out that they were not the only ones on the shorter end of the stick of romance, that they were not just on the receiving end of the pain due to love, but also they were also the ones giving pain to others.
This is the first time that I encountered a homosexual relationship (not an implied one) as clear as daylight in anime with the involvement of Sanae, who Hanabi affectionately calls Ecchan, in the story. To be honest, her story slaps me in the face with the realization that train chikan (molesting in the train) is a real thing. And that instance which has brought that slapping hand to my face is what triggered Sanae’s affection to Hanabi, which has brought another slap in my face as I realized that this is not a first time that I encountered such string of events which lead to romantic affections (For my readers: please take note that what I mean with ‘encounter’ is ‘read’ or ‘watch’.)
Her relationship with Hanabi was a heavy and physical one… Sanae’s sexual fantasies turned into reality as Hanabi, who has just witnessed Kanai-sensei’s confession to Akane, let her do it – an act which both parties kept asserting as their own one-sided selfish desires. As a way to spare themselves from the greater pain due to guilt, they argue amongst themselves on who it is to blame. Both of them claimed to have used their weaknesses to satisfy their desires – which is actually both true. It is just that both of them don’t want to acknowledge it, due to pride (which acts as an anaesthetic to the pain) and the consequence that they have to end their friendship if they do. Hanabi wanted Sanae to be on her side, because the thought being actually alone amidst their loneliness scared her. Sanae on the other hand wanted to sever ties (temporarily) so she can have the space into restraining herself from wanting more from Hanabi.
In the end: selfish desires -> Twisted actions -> Exploitations -> Complications.
Probably the most exploited character in the series (because in Ecchan’s case, at least she has reaped the merits), Noriko, who wanted to be called ‘Moka’ (Mo Kawaii = cutest), has to go to such extreme lengths just for the prince in her princess fantasies, Mugi, to look at her and actually give some alms of affection. The way that Noriko…janakutte…Moka imagines herself as a princess made me recall what Yoon Seul from Secret Garden said:
The thing about women is, the most common of women can become a queen, and the most rarefied woman can become a maid – according to how she is treated by the person she loves.
Because of her love to Mugi and a remark that she received when she was young, she lived with the ideal that she was a princess and Mugi was her prince. But most ideals were just mere ideals. We couldn’t convert them into reality most of the times. If it were to materialize, then that meant that tremendous efforts were given. And if it involved two people, mutual and concerted efforts were required. But that did not happen on Moka’s case.
We improve ourselves thinking that things will run through smoothly if we do. But miscalculations are the spirit of us being flawed and imperfect creatures. Our expectations are not always met. Moka has miscalculated Mugi and his heart. Therefore, her efforts has betrayed her by not giving the only thing that she asked.
The wretchedness of human nature and the inclination of man towards selfish exploitation surfaced with Mugi’s string of actions as a response to Moka’s confession. Humans, when not faced with any repercussion, would exploit the weaknesses of others. Mugi was about to do that, but then he realized that he was about to lose Moka if he continued on. We would realize the value of something or someone when we were about to lose it or were already lost. In a flash of time, before making a decision, we would be weighing down all the factors and the consequences. Some ignored it and ended up in regrets. But some realized it and averted the disaster from happening. It was ironic for Moka to have found out her value to Mugi when Mugi rejected her.
Being exposed to the twisted side of romance at an early age – exposed early to the whims of lust by his senpai who became his fuck buddy – Mugi is scrambling on the dark on what purpose does romance and love really have as he has an unrequited love to the person that he described as:
“She does not fall to anyone…has no attachment to the affection she gets. She does not turn anyone away…but she does not chase after those who leave. Isn’t that really lonely? Ah. I love her so much. Did I really think someone like that would look at me at all? I’m so stupid. So stupid, foolish, and hopeless.”
He was always trying to define what his love as. He kept on drawing images and suppositions.
People always kept an ideal…or an image…when they were thinking of somebody. Remarks like “you have changed” would be expected if they deviate from the image being imposed on them as if they are compelling you to remain unchanged so that they can keep up and be at ease upon still “knowing” that person. And if they were to inevitably change, people would want to be one of the prime movers behind that change.
In the end, Mugi realized that all this time, he has imposed an image of Akane, which he interpreted as fragile and lonely and that is why he has desired to change her. It is game over for him when he realized that Akane has changed and it was not him that caused that change.
And speaking of that person, being branded by some characters and by some fans, as otoko-suki (slut)… Akane-sensei definitely stands out as the most twisted character of the series.
No matter how twisted they are, things have shapes. For a long time, Akane has been defining her shape and her value from the affection that she was receiving from men and from the seething jealously that was being directly to her by other women. It has become her life’s work, so the main reason that moved her into doing those has dissolved into obscurity, leading to empathy disconnection, which caused loneliness. She has struggled to look for a reason as she has kept on searching for a definite shape and value in her relationships.
The story departs from typical story and has actually give the character people despise the most the happy end. Some may be upset with that development. But just like Mugi, those who are upset, should be slapped by the thought that “people change”. People from all over the place were already condemning her and thought that she did not deserve redemption. Guess what? Everybody should have the chance to change. It is inhumane to strip them of their chances and treat them likes witches being burned in the stake as we drench ourselves with holy water, cowering behind the superficial act of being immaculate.
The change in Akane was all because of Narumi. His perception of romance is probably the anti-thesis of what she has believed in.
Akane believes that men were just creatures driven by lust, who just wanted sex. But Narumi believes otherwise, abstains from and reserves sex only for their most intimate moments.
Akane believes that there has to be a reason why people fall in love, probably wanting something in exchange. But Narumi believe that a reason is not needed when falling in love as he does not expect anything in return.
Akane believes that love is driven by the notion that the other party also feels the same. But Narumi has touched her with an unrequited type of love.
In the end, Kanai is the only one who did not exploit the weaknesses of either Hanabi or Akane. He is the one that I was mentioning earlier that did not give in towards the temptations of corruption and did not at all try to take advantage amidst the twisted actions committed by the other people around him.
Akane believes that people in love would become greedy with their demands and would hurt that person (emotionally) if they have to keep them close. But Narumi believes that such greed has to be moderated and let the people that they love as free as they can get.
Narumi’s counterpoint to the beliefs that Akane had has thrown her off from her balance. She was disturbed from her slumber. She was now exploring the uncharted territories of pure love., despite being ever-calculating. She finally finds connection on Narumi’s heartfelt gestures.
That leaves our main heroine Hanabi on the shorter end of the stick as this series had concluded. Maybe, the love that she was expecting was never there to begin in the first place. She treasured words that were never meant to be kept. She held hopes that should not be there in the first place. Believing on the it has to be him/her. Believing on fate. I no longer believe at such things. Yes. Emphasis is added on the thought that she has nobody else to blame but herself. Because she has feared solitude so much, she ended up hurting people and finally herself as her final expectation and hope with Mugi were not fulfilled.
Ah. In the end, still, I wanted to be the one to confort her. I’m a lonely person myself, with my unrequited love going nowhere. Oh. I remember. I have to remind myself that it is real love that we are looking for, not companions amidst our loneliness. Megumi-sama (from Saekano that is about to release its 2nd season this month), I am still at your care. She should talk to Hachiman(from Oregairu whose final volume is about to be released on the third week of this month). He had it worse.
The soundtrack selection complements very well with the theme and the series itself. Last song syndrome is definitely expected to surface upon hearing the opening song (Uso no Hibana; Sparkle of Lies) and the ending song (Heikousen; Parallel Line). Listening to these songs, even before watching the series itself, was already giving us warning on the gloomy but refreshing theme.
There was definitely a lot to write about this series (Writing further about Hanabi would spoil the whole series). I don’t want to give away the whole plot this time. There are still lots of heart wrenching scenes and developments that are intentionally omitted here. Not needing subtleties is definitely a treat or compensation for giving us a story like this. The characters’ monologues, conversations, and thoughts were already speaking for themselves. I recommend that people (those with a matured mind) should watch this series that is definitely up there on the slice-of-life genres.
As for now, I need to make a bitter smile again after taking a dose of despair from romance from that girl and from this series. T_T
Dekita! That’s my bitter smile. (It is also because that I finished writing this review ahead of my movie review on 5 Centimeters Per Second)