「(2人のストーリー」 (2-Ri no sutourī)
And with that it’s over. Kuzu’s finale certainly was a low key affair, passing off any further conflict or drama for a period of tranquil self-reflection. Every character surprisingly showed up—if only for a moment—from a proud and graceful Moka to a short haired Sanae and a noticeably tempered Akane. After all the pain and struggle for the cast to reach this point, I think it was a well-deserved glimpse into the relief and happiness coming from the various resolutions reached over the course of the show.
The stars this week though were of course Hanabi and Mugi, who did actually decide—mutually—to let their relationship go. Some may think it strange, but personally I found this bittersweet ending a fitting conclusion for both characters. As Hanabi reflected on, her relationship with Mugi was originally one of “need”. Both characters were initially lost and adrift, uncertain what they wanted, let alone how to obtain it. Their chance meeting and discovery of similar situations conceived of a synergistic relationship, where mutual loneliness, longing, and a desire for comfort were patched over through roleplay; both craved physical attachment, and their relationship provided that. Naturally such a setup does not account for change, so when Hanabi and Mugi grew as characters, the reason for their relationship came into question. Having found what they wanted, there was no more need for the roleplay, or even to stay lovers. That storage room chat between them showcased this best, where free from fantasy both simply talked, no longer needing the comfort of each other’s touch. While still hard and painful letting go, with their relationship having served its purpose, both Hanabi and Mugi ended things to focus on their new desires. For our two main characters, it’s no longer about the past, it’s about the future they wish to have.
Given Kuzu’s such dark beginnings, it’s hard asking for a happier ending.
When I came into Kuzu I was under no illusions about the material. This show reveled in provocativeness, whether that be the selfish side of relationships or the graphic—yet realistic—sex scenes. Personally I started watching more out of curiosity than interest, wanting to know just how far the show would take these aspects, and if a breaking point existed.
Instead of running off the rails, however, Kuzu surprised me with how well it used its premise. The darkness/corruption here always served a purpose, both structuring Kuzu’s various relationships and providing the foundation for solving their various intricacies. By flipping the traditional romance approach to desire (i.e. from a positive direction) on its head, Kuzu created a novel environment to explore personal change and its impact on love. Hanabi and Mugi of course are the primary example, where both began by desiring the impossible and came together initially for mutual comfort. Through their interactions, Hanabi and Mugi learned how to handle their desire and the accompanying loneliness, along with feeling out their true desires. For Hanabi in particular this was important given she had no previous experience with love, nor an understanding of what she actually wanted. The pain of her longing stimulated the change necessary for her growth as a character.
This does not imply all was good, however; it is arguable that Kuzu indulged too heavily in the darkness at times. Akane and Sanae of course are the main culprits, drawing the most contention due to their personalities. Although both proved necessary for seeing Hanabi’s growth and change through to the end, actions taken by them were noticeably divisive at times. Sanae’s arc for example invited a lot of discussion on “using” others, with Sanae’s initial aggressive actions off putting for some due to their blatancy. While Sanae later grew out of her “lust” phase—and offered a powerful image of strength in the face of failed love—it’s possible that Kuzu could have toned her down while still producing the same result. Akane too was unabashed in her behaviour, although the confusion and disgust here rested more with Narumi’s actions than with Akane herself. If anything the inclusion of Akane and Sanae both show just how effective Kuzu’s premise was by generating so much discussion. Both characters were provocative in some capacity, but both possessed poignant and realistic development deviating from the usual norm. Hell Moka ended up being one of my favourite arcs just for the realizations and development she experienced.
While certainly not the best that romance has to offer, Kuzu for me provided a unique experience which exemplified just how messy and irrational love can be. Every crush and relationship isn’t like Ore Monogatari, every misconception and misunderstanding isn’t always simple or easily fixed. Sadness and pain are persistent companions whenever desire is involved, for someone will always draw the short end of the stick. Having a show willing to plumb these depths is a welcome experience and a refreshing break from the Masamunes of the world. I might have had my doubts initially regarding Kuzu’s potential, but this show pleasantly proved me wrong and gave me a show I’m happy to have blogged. Lots of words were said, I definitely came to a wrong conclusion or two, but damn was it ever a fun ride. Here’s to hoping we can see similar romance series like this in the not too distant future.