I nicknamed this anime “Misery and Tongues”, and anyone who has seen it will know exactly what I mean by that. To deal with the misery bit first, it’s a series that focuses on unrequited love, and how physical attraction and love are not the same thing.
The main character is Hanabi, who is in love with her teacher Narumi. When she was growing up he was one of the most important people in her life, almost like a brother to her, although they are not related. He was living next door and ended up as a kind of surrogate part of her family, being taken in by Hanabi’s mother for meals when his own mother died. There is a big age gap and Narumi doesn’t see Hanabi in the way she wants him to, although he does care deeply for her. Almost mirroring their situation is Mugi, who is in love with young teacher Akane, and further complicating matters is the fact that Narumi has fallen in love with Akane. Losers in love Hanabi and Mugi end up becoming lovers, to comfort themselves and use each other as fantasy replacements for their true loves. It’s all a bit twisted.
Throughout the series more levels of complication are added to the picture. Both Hanabi and Mugi are the subject of others’ affections. Hanabi is loved by her best friend Sanae, giving the series a yuri element, while Mugi is loved by Noriko, who has put him up on a pedestal in her mind and has a fantasy of Mugi as the prince to her princess. When yet another layer of unrequited love is added, with Sanae’s cousin showing up and clearly in love with her, things really do get a bit silly, and I thought the series went far too far with all the love triangles. We didn’t need that many!
The big problem with all this is that virtually none of the characters are likeable and they are all making themselves utterly miserable. There’s probably truth in this, but it doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience. Hanabi and Mugi are clearly using each other in a twisted way that is inevitably going to lead to confused feelings. Akane is a horrible piece of work, thriving on the attentions of men and then dispensing with them as soon as she gets bored, getting a kick out of taking men from other women. Sanae realises Hanabi will never love her in the same way, and yet pushes for a physical relationship until she eventually realises how unhealthy their friends-with-benefits things is. Noriko can’t handle the realities of a real relationship, and instead just wants her fantasy of a prince. The series seems to suggest that it’s OK for her to withdraw into that world, and that’s what makes her happy, playing out fantasies in her head instead of accepting the reality that her prince doesn’t exist. It’s all a bit sick, and there is endless sleeping around with other characters as well. Only Narumi’s storyline is lacking the misery of all the other triangles, because he loves Akane unconditionally. He realises what she is and what she does, and that doesn’t change his feelings. He wants to be with her, even if she constantly cheats on him. He just loves her, and that’s it. I suspect a man such as Narumi is a fantasy just as much as the prince that Noriko wants Mugi to be, and I was torn between respecting his unconditional love and thinking he’s a fool. But it’s a bit of positivity amongst all the misery because being the subject of such true love does change Akane for the better, and she sure needs that to happen.
As for the “tongues” part of my nickname for this series, the fanservice is really bizarre. There is virtually no nudity apart from underwear shots, but there are endless sex scenes and barely an episode goes by without several scenes focusing on people exchanging saliva in close-up. It’s like the people making this were obsessed with tongues. I’m far from being prudish and am rarely bothered by fanservice, but I found this all pretty revolting and if it was designed to excite the viewers then all I can say is that it’s a very odd kind of person who would be turned on by all those endless animated tongues. Ew.
But that was just an irritation. The main problem with this anime was that it was so steeped in misery and virtually none of the characters are likeable. It was very hard to care about any of them. That’s a shame, because the background animation is beautiful and the music is great, so a lot of care went into this series, and also I do think it has some important points to make about the right and wrong paths that people take when they are slaves to love or led down the wrong path by their physical impulses. The last few episodes do finally get on with the business of exploring the nature of love and resolving all the love triangles in a mature way, and the lazy fanservice fades away in favour of wrapping up the intertwining plot threads; for those final few episodes this does become a vastly superior series to the one that it was for the majority of the run. There is a lot of promise here, plenty to think about, and some interesting ideas, but it all takes far too long to get to the point. That’s a shame, because with a bit less misery and far fewer tongues, this anime could have been something very special. RP