Scattered Thoughts – Hanabi, queen of complicated relationships

     Only rarely anime romances stray away from the usual formula that ultimately ends the story with a shy kiss or just the joyous action of holding hands. Sure, it’s the ride that matters but sometimes you just want to get something that goes beyond the everyday tropes. And so to the fray comes Kuzu no Honkai with its straightforward breach of the usual barriers. It can be that only the bare fact of showing the more mature side for me acts as a factor making the show look very good. Sure, you can argue that you don’t need to go that far and introduce so many difficult relationships without (possibly) enough time to explore all of them, but I want to overlook that. It’s another question how much realism is in the story, but regardless of the answer I’m very glad that I started watching the show, and not the last positive factor deciding was the complexity of the relationships between the characters and their exploration. You needn’t look far – the very main girl Hanabi can be an example of the mess that happens between people. Let’s stick with her and dig a little deeper.

Before going further I must say that all the thoughts crystalized after the fourth episode of Kuzu no Honkai so in the long run not every idea may retain some meaning. And, of course, beware of spoilers.

Narumi

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      Hanabi’s childhood friend, being a pretty much your usual osananajimi character, isn’t the most interesting guy ever, and he states that himself very clearly. Hanabi’s infatuation with him could be thought of as a whim of her childish side, but she truly believes her love. As far as osananajimis go, Narumi isn’t the worst of them all – he had plenty of time to take care of young Hanabi, standing as a big brother character, which makes Hanabi’s choice of her significant one a bit weird. Yet, I can totally believe that her helper, savior and friend at some point in Hanabi’s head became someone more important in absence of other suitable guys. Another factor that got the pair closer was the fact that they both have incomplete families, so sticking together seemed a logical choice. Thinking about the situation now, Hanabi still firmly believes her love, though so much time spent with Narumi treating her like a little sister has made Hanabi’s wish of being together seem more like an unreachable fantasy. She would like to get a resolve, but the fear of being rejected (especially since Narumi has shown some interest in Akane), leaves Hanabi pondering that after all she could live with her unspoken feelings, if only Narumi wouldn’t be snatched by someone else. Yet, even the appearance of Akane didn’t push Hanabi that much – she tried doing something, but that was not enough. Also, Hanabi still doesn’t want to lose her brother but that’s a price to pay in exchange for the possibility of getting a lover, and the price still looks too high.

Moka

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      Thinking about Hanabi and Moka is very interesting because these almost non-interacting characters have strikingly similar stories. Moka, just like Hanabi loves a more mature guy whom she has known for a very long time, but the guy sees her only as a sister because he already has someone else in mind. The main difference then between Hanabi and Moka is that the latter one isn’t afraid of expressing her feelings. I think that to a certain extent Hanabi, being a more cautious person, looks up to that but also at the same time despises Moka’s actions since she’s so childishly persevere even if her love is unrequired. This makes Hanabi feel that her choice of not approaching Narumi may be the right one, as Mugi certainly isn’t very comfortable and happy about Moka’s advances and generally being a nuisance. From here flows some part of Hanabi’s harshness towards her almost-rival – she understands that it isn’t very fair of her to do so, but even if Hanabi would concede the rights to Mugi, Moka would hardly be able to form her dreamlike relationship. Harsh treatment also drives Moka away from Mugi, so that suits both Hanabi and Mugi in retaining their relationship. Yet, the most significant factor is that Hanabi actually enjoys being superior, thus becoming similar to Akane. Moka’s helpless shout that Hanabi only uses Mugi isn’t wrong per se, it’s just that Mugi also uses Hanabi for the same reason, and for such a girl like Moka their actions probably would be incomprehensible, even if she understood them.

Mugi

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     It all started with a simple wish by both sides to be able to talk to someone about their unrequired feelings and to get rid of loneliness. Mugi was already familiar with his past senpai’s stance of being just friends with benefits and nothing more, so he was content just sharing a secret with someone who also needed some help in the same department. Hanabi, being less experienced and more strangled by her loneliness initiated the relationship on a whim almost as a joke, but Mugi complied, suggesting that they’d think about each other as a substitute. The relationship ended up being one where you can talk about your problems, knowing that the other doesn’t care very much, and also get some material to imagine what a true relationship would feel like, even if at some moments both Hanabi and Mugi just want to see the world burn. Akane getting along with Narumi bolstered the pair’s bond, as their problems became mutual. When Hanabi eventually learned what a person Akane is, her frustration became even bigger – she is unable to reach Narumi while the attachment to Mugi was achieved incredibly easily. If the one Hanabi loves had been Mugi, she would be already happy. Hanabi wishes she could behave so casually with Narumi without her fear of being rejected. Also getting more intimate with Mugi is far simpler than with Ecchan. Both are able to be what they truly are without being forced to behave as best they can in front of their special ones. Even if in the future the couple will be able to become to each other something more than a substitute and a makeshift friend, now Hanabi is aware that she is still rather independent and doesn’t want to force all her problems and thoughts on Mugi. Hanabi feels that for her Mugi is needed (as she is for him, though probably to a lesser extent), but if things change, she won’t hesitate to ditch him aside but now Hanabi still cares enough not to share the least bit of Mugi with Moka.

Akane

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     Hanabi’s relationship with Akane is very ambiguous. These two don’t cross their paths very often but with Akane’s advances towards Narumi the conflict is inevitable. At first, Narumi’s affection alone was enough to make Hanabi annoyed and worried, but it turns out there are bigger problems. Akane, being a master player guessed Hanabi’s feelings, while an accident at a diner revealed Akane’s cards to her counterpart. Thus both of them are aware of each other and are willing to have a game. Hanabi’s resolve to somehow eliminate Narumi’s and Akane’s relationship after learning about the latter’s behavior doubled, but what really shocked her was that Akane’s motivations are exactly opposite to her own (that’s also fitting as Hanabi is dark haired and dresses in darker colors). It was unthinkable for Hanabi to see that someone could so openly go against her own idea that unrequired love is gross and, well, really unrequired, as Hanabi herself has felt by her inability to respond to Ecchan. Akane sees Hanabi’s situation as an opportunity to show her superiority, to win someone and feel better than a girl she bested. That little talk before the bell rang told Hanabi a lot, and to some extent made her admire Akane a little as someone who can make her prey hers without a blink, while Hanabi isn’t able to get what she wants. To Hanabi’s disgust, she realizes that she actually likes being superior to Moka and in that regard the biggest difference between Akane and Hanabi is the former’s experience.

Ecchan

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     Ecchan’s confession for Hanabi was very painful. Her only present close friend without Ecchan is only Mugi, so any change in the relationship between the two girls risks destroying that cherished friendship. Hanabi is alright with calling herself scum for loving without an answer but she’s unable to retain her way of thinking or to add such label to Ecchan. Hanabi also feels left out as Ecchan, as well as Narumi were all able to confess while she doesn’t have the courage. As with Mugi, everything would be so easy if only she could see Ecchan not as a friend. With Ecchan’s confession the friendship inevitably was changed, and Hanabi feels sorry for Ecchan, wanting to comfort her and to be able to answer her, but that’s not possible. Ecchan sees that, but, being desperate, pushes forward. The outcome is very sorry – Ecchan can get the false joy of being closer to Hanabi than ever but knowing that it’s a lie. Hanabi still wants to give everything she can to Ecchan knowing that’s never going to be enough. She could exchange Mugi for Ecchan, but Hanabi isn’t willing to see her only real friend as a substitute for someone thus further destroying everything that their relationship still had.

Hanabi

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     As basically every character in Kuzu no Honkai (except Akane) Hanabi is very frustrated and unable to reach a certain person. Her other relationships are just a mess of entangled feelings, mixed between other characters, so I guess I can say that it has realism. Sure, you probably won’t find such a rich web of motives, wishes and actions very often, but it feels real enough. As Hanabi’s other relationships are basically houses of cards, some already crumbling and others not even built, she views herself very critically and is unhappy by choices she is given and outcomes of her decisions. It’s not very often that an anime character would be able to accuse others of something, and then to be able to understand that she’s actually the same and after the realization to be able to live with it. Hanabi despises her inability to overcome the fear of being rejected, wanting to continue the stalemate situation with Narumi, wants to help Ecchan, but understands that there’s nothing she can do, tries to drown her frustrations in the toxicity of the relationship with Mugi and overall sees no light in the end of the tunnel. Akane’s coming shakes her world to the core, as Hanabi with a possibility of losing Narumi realizes her similarity to a person she hates the most, and as with everyone else, our inexperienced girl just sinks more and more.

Even if I have read the manga, I eagerly await the upcoming episodes as Kuzu no Honkai continues to execute almost perfectly. Do you think my thoughts were more or less on point? If you have any insights, please share!

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3 Comments

  1. Overall, a pretty good summary! Well done!

    I tend to disagree with your Hanabi analysis a little bit. There is no toxicity in her relationship with Mugi – she is only disappointed that they don’t see eye-to-eye concerning Akane. Akane has turned into Hanabi enemy number one, and Hanabi has resolved to change to beat her at her own game…

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    Reply
    • Thanks! Well, the relationship of Hanabi and Mugi certainly isn’t the most toxic one in the show, but I wouldn’t call it healthy either. Both of the characters in such a relationship are cementing their present positions and making another barrier not to move on and maybe try to either reach their loved ones or (less likely) find someone more suitable. The bond between Hanabi and Mugi is based on negative emotions – frustration and self-loathing. Both of them offer each other little positive support and fight loneliness by basically having someone who is on the same level of hopelessness.

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  1. Akane Minagawa – onamae wa #43 | kyra desu yo!

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