Watching drama is what I enjoy doing the most and, well, Kuzu no Honkai – otherwise known as Scum’s Wish – is an anime that delivers the dramatic rollercoaster that is unrequited love and, undoubtedly, takes it to the next level.
The two main characters, Mugi and Hanabi, seem to be the perfect couple, but that is far from the truth. What is true, however, is that they share the same pain – the people they are in love with, aren’t in love with them. Hanabi has been in love with her neighbour and childhood friend, Narumi, for as long as she can remember, so when he becomes her new homeroom teacher, she’s absolutely delighted. Narumi is soon noticed by Akane, the music teacher, which displeases Mugi who’s been in love with her since he got tutored by her. A chance encounter in the school hallway unites the two lonely souls of Mugi and Hanabi and, as they spend more time together, they decide to use each other as a substitute for the ones they truly love.
It may sound a little confusing and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were completely lost by now, but it does get a lot easier to follow the above scenario when watching the show itself… Even with the additional characters that are introduced to throw some spanners into the works. However, I do hope you can tell that this is not your typical romance story. For one, there’s arguably not much romance at all. As the English name suggests, people act quite unpleasant – selfishly using people to try to get to who they truly desire. Because of this rather negative plot line, it’s only natural than people won’t like the show. Just by looking at the reviews on MyAnimeList, you can see that many people see the show as “75 % of sex scenes. 25 % poor scenario” to directly quote one review, but for me that isn’t the case.
Many complain about the amount of sexual content within the show yet, whilst there is a lot of scenes with sexual content in them, it’s not as explicit as many people initially think it is. Not only that, but I took these scenes as times where Hanabi and Mugi were not only participating in sexual experimentation as I’m sure a lot of teenagers do, but as times where they were figuring things out. They’re young, perhaps even naive high school students who are dealing with quite mature, adult situations that they’re arguably unsure on how to deal with them. At the end of the day, they want to feel loved and, well, it is as intimate as one can get with another. Of course, I’m not saying that you have to appreciate these scenes. I understand completely that they can make a viewer feel extremely uncomfortable, but I personally loved how they portrayed it all. There was never any genitalia on show and although it was explicit, this made it much more tasteful than other examples of similar situations.
Enough about the sex. Let’s actually discuss the anime. The animation in Kuzu no Honkai is incredible, with the art style being, without a doubt, one of my favourites. I just love the pastel colour palette, particularly as it suits the tone of the show itself. The lack of bright colours really does bring out the melancholic tone that is present throughout the show. Another aspect I really love about the stylistic choices in the show, though, is the visual novel or manga panel-like sequences that appear from time to time that focus on different aspects of the scene that is currently being played out. The close-ups of features, expressions and more really do add to the tone and aesthetic already laid out by the colouring and the animation style. Whilst others may have a complaint about how some of the characters look the same, I can’t even find fault with this. Personally, I believe the fact that they look similar, or rather ‘bland’, just adds to the realism of the show. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the show is entirely realistic, for reasons I won’t go into in case of spoiling the show, but I have no doubt that people do go through similar situations that are presented here.
As of the soundtrack, I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to that. Although I wouldn’t perhaps listen to it in my spare time, each piece of mostly piano-led music that was used in the show fitted perfectly with what was going on in the narrative. Where they needed to build tension, the music built tension. Where they needed to convey happiness or sadness, the music did just that. Masaru Yokoyama simply did a brilliant job with the composition of this soundtrack. The opening theme of the show is quite unique in sound. With vocals by 96neko, an utaite known for her husky lower range, the OP is immediately recognisable and its fast tempo without a doubt makes you nod along as you become hyped for the upcoming tempest that you just know is going to happen as soon as it finishes. Perhaps more recognizable is the ED, which is sang by Sayuri, yet another vocalist known for her unique vocals and instrumental sound.
The voice acting was good, but that’s all I can really say about it. No once particularly stood out to me as being ‘great’, but they all conveyed each character as each character should have been conveyed. Each voice actor managed to bring the characters and their personalities alive as much as they needed to. Chika Anzai (Grand Blue, Hibike! Euphonium) brought the emotions behind Hanabi’s shy and quiet personality perfectly, no matter how stifled or passive Hanabi was at the time. Yet, if I’m perfectly honest, there isn’t really much to comment on regarding the voice acting, for this is where I become a hypocrite and do actually agree that the characters are bland. Sure, they’re realistic, but their personalities aren’t exactly the most expressive, excluding perhaps Ecchan – Hanabi’s best friend – and Akane, and, well, that makes it just a little bit harder to judge the voice-acting.
But let’s go back on that again and be a double hypocrite, because the characters aren’t bland at all. (By this point, I really do hope you’re still keeping up with me…) Each of the characters have their own dilemmas, even the side characters, and they are fleshed out as much as they need to be. The character development within Kuzu no Honkai was spectacularly done and I can only imagine that it’s fleshed out even more in the manga. As someone who loves character development and character backstories, this made me very happy indeed. I don’t really want to delve into each character’s stories and personality here, as I know I’ll just end up spoiling something, but all of this really does make Kuzu no Honkai one of the more developed anime I’ve seen in a long time. That being said, I do think that the characters’ actions can be a little extreme at times, often unnecessarily so, which certainly made an impact on my final rating.
Another reason why the rating isn’t as high as I was wanting to give it, is the ending. For me, the show didn’t show any signs of pacing issues at all – it was going at a pace that I could enjoy for the sake of the quickly paced drama, but it was also going at a pace slow enough for the characters to remain developing throughout the series. A pace which is, usually, hard to not only get in the first place, but also one that’s often hard to maintain. However, we then get to the ending and this is where the show is let down slightly. In my opinion, the ending seemed a little rushed. I had so many questions completely unanswered by the last episode about so many characters that I couldn’t help but be disappointed.
I certainly didn’t mean to be hypocritical in this review, but the show is that complex that it’s hard not to be. Kuzu no Honkai is by no means suitable for everyone. It was the most controversial anime of the Winter 2017 season for a reason, if not the most controversial anime of 2017. The synopsis is what dragged me in and I stayed because I wanted to know what happened. There’s a variety of characters and, even if you think they’re “bad”, they’re all designed to make you purposely hate them. When I picked this show up, it wasn’t tagged as ‘ecchi’ but ‘psychological’ and I still firmly believe that it should be tagged as such. Even if the ecchi tag scares you, just try it out. It’s far more tasteful in my opinion than most ecchi shows and certainly isn’t as explicit as the shows I’ve seen and heard about. The people may be trashy, but the show certainly isn’t as trashy as people make out and it explores several important parts of teenage and young adult life that we’ve all been through before..
Kuzu no Honkai is available to watch on Amazon Prime! (UK and US only)