Disclaimer: There is spoilers for the entire anime and (presumably) manga. Mentions of mature themes such as sexual content is also included.
Now that classes have ended and I’m unemployed, I am taking it a little bit slow with my free time. I recently started on working a new afghan square for the month of July and watching various movies and TV shows on Amazon Prime. I stumbled across Kuzu no Honkai and while the synopsis made me skeptical, I decided to give it a shot.
Kuzu no Honkai is about two high schoolers. Mugi and Hanabi, who are in love with their teachers. It’s obvious they have zero chance with their love interests because they are interested in each other. Instead, they use each other to fill the void that their teachers wouldn’t be able to provide for them.
This made me think that it would be your stereotypical student-teacher love square anime. Somehow, the first episode hooked me in. I was caught off guard by how explicit Mugi and Hanabi’s relationship is portrayed. One of their first scenes together is them making out passionately at the side of their school after witnessing their teachers flirting with each other.
The first thing that came to my mind was the similarity with the movie, In the Mood for Love, where the main characters, Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow, pretend to be each other’s spouses because their spouses are cheating on them with each other. However, the similarities end there. Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow initially partake in this role play because they want to understand how an affair between their spouses could have possibly happened. Mugi and Hanabi just want to live in a little fantasy where their feelings are reciprocated by their love interests.
It’s clear to the both of them that they are using each other for their own selfish desires, giving each other what their teachers couldn’t. In fact, it’s mutually agreed upon. However, they aren’t the only ones who are using others for their own benefit.
Mugi’s object of affection, Akane, also uses others. Her identity is based upon being promiscuous and living off the desire of men and envy of women. Each fling she has makes her feel alive but they never really make an impact on her where it matters most. She uses these men to simply fulfill her own sense of worth and cement her role that she had made for herself. In the end, these men fill up a void in her but never to the brim.
Akane even goes to the length of playing with Hanabi’s emotions through seducing Kanai, Hanabi’s love interest. It’s even revealed that Akane had been calculating towards this since the first episode.
Mugi isn’t faultless either for he spends a day in a hotel with the woman he lost his virginity to. Since Hanabi is a virgin, he was not comfortable going any further with her. However, he was still craving that lust he has from their interactions and as a result, he turns to another woman. After that, he even accepts a date with a childhood friend that is desperately in love with him but who he doesn’t care for on the same level.
On the other hand, Hanabi also strays from her relationship with Mugi when he starts being distant and denies consummating their relationship. She turns to her friend Ecchan and although Hanabi is mostly straight, she gives into her desires and sleeps with Ecchan. Her reasoning is that since her relationship with Mugi had no real meaning, that this too would have no meaning either. Although Hanabi doesn’t see her love interest in Ecchan, she still uses Ecchan when she is craving the physical intimacy that Mugi doesn’t give her.
The feeling is reciprocal between Hanabi and Ecchan. Ecchan knows in her heart that Hanabi would never return her feelings of love but she takes advantage of Hanabi’s vulnerability to achieve her own selfish desires. In these moments between the two of them, Ecchan can pretend that their sexual relationship is a substitute for Hanabi loving her.
Ecchan isn’t the only one Hanabi tries to fool around with. Hanabi attempts to seduce one of Akane’s lovers in an attempt to mimic Akane but she ultimately fails. Hanabi mistakenly realizes that this is because Akane has such high self worth which makes people drawn to her.
In fact, this is something that all these characters have in common with each other. Affairs usually come out from a feeling of insecurity, which each of these characters suffer from. Akane is insecure in her own self worth and turns to others to determine and reaffirm it for her in the form of sexual attention. Hanabi, Mugi, and Ecchan use each other to satisfy their longings for others. They all seek external validation when they cannot validate themselves.
Surprisingly, the only character in the series that realizes this before all of them (and even then, I’m not quite sure the realization dawns upon them all), is Mugi’s childhood friend Noriko. When she comes to terms that Mugi cannot reciprocate her feelings, she turns inward to herself and is determined to make her own self happy. The reason why this is so surprising is because her entire identity revolves around Mugi for pretty much her entire life. She is painted as a fragile doll who has had her share fair of manipulation but she still manages to move on with her life after rejection.
The line that Noriko says in the above picture: “It means that the danish you get at the school store yourself can still taste good” initially confused me. It could be because of the awkward and wordy translation but basically what Noriko is saying is that you could still find enjoyment in other things even when faced with rejection.
This serves as a counterpoint against Digibro’s criticism in that these kids only seem to have their love lives going for them. I won’t deny that it’s true (Hanabi has no friends outside of the people she’s sleeping with, Akane catches men partly out of boredom, and Mugi and Ecchan don’t seem to do much either). However, this is exactly why their love lives became such a big deal and why it felt like the world was ending to them. They had nothing else sustaining them other than their relationships. Their quest for external validation was fruitless and they never felt any more whole than when they began. In the end, Hanabi did seem to come to this conclusion to her own after becoming involved in school activities and talking to more girls in her class, but I’m unsure if the rest of the cast did.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this anime. The animation was gorgeous, I appreciated the voice acting, and I liked how the ending was a tad bit unconventional, even if a little bit ridiculous (yeah, I’m looking at you Kanai). That said, this anime isn’t for everyone. It can be dramatic to the extreme, not relatable for everyone, and the sex scenes might be a tad too much for some. I’m a highly sympathetic person but also empathetic towards some of these characters. For me, it was a good experience that I felt like I needed. 8/10!