The first post and we’re already a fair bit into January… I should probably start by saying thank you to Irina again for mentioning me in a batch of great blogs. Also a big thank you to Amelia for nominating me in her post for the Mystery Blogger Award. I don’t know if I’ll quite make a post for it at the moment, but I’m still really grateful all the same!
And, of course, another thank you to everyone following my blog, new and older. I hope I can exceed your expectations in this new year. Now, onto the article.
Anime isn’t a medium that distances itself from mature subjects.
We can easily turn to Neon Genesis Evangelion or Serial Experiments Lain for examples. More recently, Death Parade and KADO: The Right Answer come to mind. However, none of those four are the type of mature I’ll be talking about today. In this article, when I say mature, think something more the lines of romance. Nana and Bloom Into You are great examples of this; both shows which I loved from beginning to end and deserve their own individual articles.
Even then though, I haven’t specified enough. We’re moving a bit farther into the general label of “mature romance” and stepping into passion and sexuality.
Kuzu no Honkai is a show that aired in 2017, met with mixed opinions, not for the quality, but rather the subject matter. It was too painful to watch and even disgusted people. Relatability is a term people love to throw around and, in the literal sense, wasn’t there at all; people found themselves unable to empathize with the characters.
For more background, the translation of Kuzu no Honkai is Scum’s Wish. It tells the story of multiple characters who yearn for a person they can’t have. Instead, they mutually use each other as substitutes for their true love. Things get more complicated when same-sex relationships and relationships with large age gaps are posed, making the characters internally conflicted about their perceptions of love on multiple fronts. Unrequited love ultimately describes the entire show.
Today, let’s have two topics. Let’s talk about Kuzu no Honkai and the tactful use of sex scenes.
The entire cast of Kuzu no Honkai is filled with characters that people would describe as scum and it’s fitting. Only one person really escapes the title throughout the entire series and still gets flak for how he acts.
In this scene, Hanabi confronts her teacher about how she has loved him for the longest time but could never express it. It’s only now that she can tell him, strong enough to confront her own feelings and conclude that long lasting unrequited love.
*Note that they are not blood related; however, they did grow up together which is why Narumi Kanai (the teacher) views her as a younger sister.
As you can see, the conclusion of this unrequited love isn’t them getting together nor is it them abolishing love. Hanabi said herself that these feelings in the moment and what they do aren’t romantic, but it’s still love. It’s not passionate, it’s compassionate. It’s moments like these that really define the series. She hasn’t found love. She has understood what love is and entails.
Kanai is the man who I said escapes the title of scum. He accepts Hanabi’s feelings as gracefully as he can, understanding that this confession doesn’t require a response. Hanabi already knows the answer. This is just her proclaiming it.
What’s interesting is that Kuzu no Honkai is full of sex and it isn’t the kind of anime to shy away from showing it. But was it necessary? Did animated sex scenes benefit the narrative it was trying to tell? Could implications and clever cuts do the job just as well or better than what we were given? I don’t believe so.
Showing these characters in bed pushes them past the point of no return. More than that, it’s very symbolic of the point of view. The sex scenes are beautifully drawn, more so than the day to day life we are frequently witness to. Its allure captures and entices them to do horrible things, guided only by their emotions. Some scenes show a fiery orange glow while others dim it to an abyssal blue.
The actual sex isn’t neglected either. Take this scene:
Mugi has to ask “How do I get this off?” He says it in an extremely monotone voice, bereft of any excitement or passion. The scene is temporarily paused by taking off a ribbon. Remember, most of the characters are in their first relationship. They’ve never had sex before and it’s indeed incredibly awkward. Moreover, he actually isn’t into having sex with Moca. He goes so far as stripping her to only her underwear before realizing it. Even in the POV of Moca, I’m sure the blue tint would still be there because she knows this is all meaningless. There’s no fiery passion that takes hold of both of them. There’s only the empty night sky filled with stars that have already decayed.
Look at the colors used in this scene and how bright they are:
It’s the exact opposite of the scene with Moca because Mugi believes he loves her. What’s great and terrifying is how warm it is without the lighting being harsh. It gives a feeling of comfort and safety: what he sees in Akane.
Before I move on to how you should incorporate sex scenes in writing, let me conclude my thoughts on Kuzu no Honkai.
It was a heart wrenching series that I kept up with as it aired. I always questioned how far it would go and asked if it would step even further than it already had. In retrospect, what’s amazing is how the anime discouraged people from watching it solely through subject matter. At a certain point, those people felt that the story wasn’t one they watched solely for entertainment. It had become something else entirely. Its saddeningly mature story and beautiful art can still drive me to tears two years later. Despite it not being exceptionally praised and even hated by some, I’ll always remember it as a well written bittersweet anime.
Now that we’re through that, let’s talk about how to implement sex scenes in writing.
Of course, the style will vary depending on what you intend to convey. After all, if you plan to write a sex scene, everyone knows at this point it’s not about the sex. And if it is? Well, that’s a post for another day (Which I fully intend to write).
That’s why, before you even start writing, you need to ask yourself if that sex scene is necessary. For what purpose does it exist? Is it to show another side of the character? To show how close two characters are or aren’t?
Most importantly, ask yourself if doing it another way would be better. Sex is an easy way to show intimacy but if that’s all you want to express, cuddling is actually better. I’m not joking either. Two people having sex is just life. Two people cuddling together is endearing and cute.
You don’t need to show intimacy through physical contact at all either. Everyday things which seem like routine can be made into thoughtful and affectionate acts. Imagine a couple who lives together. Their routine in the morning is to have a nice breakfast. To show how close they are, maybe they know how they their significant other takes their coffee.
If you want to go a bit further (And still use coffee for some reason), imagine that same couple. This time, one of them has to quickly travel and visit their family. The other person still in the house accidentally makes two portions of food, forgetting they’re alone. It’s simple to understand and effective.
If you’re sure you want to include a sex scene, I recommend being familiar with literature from both sex’s POV. It makes a huge difference and it’s very noticeable when the author only knows their own mindset.
The vocabulary you want to use should be a mixture of both literal and symbolic. I assure you, trying to describe everything literally is incredibly off putting. It’s better to read a comedically metaphorical scene than a disgustingly literal scene. Inevitably though, you’ll need to include terms for genitals. What terms you use are up to you, but keep in mind that things can turn comical very quickly. There’s a fine line between medical vocabulary and colorful words that’ll take you many rewrites to find. Just go with whatever comes to mind the first time and come back later.
The best piece of advice: including all senses, should be paid strict attention to here. The warmth or coldness of a person’s touch is frequently used. The lingering smell of shampoo in someone’s hair, the sweet taste of their lips, and soft exhales all serve as basic tools you’ll want to utilize.
The first time you write a sex scene, it’ll be tough. When you read it back, it’ll sound awkward. At times like that, just remember that it’s no different than writing a dance.
You don’t and shouldn’t describe everything that’s going on. Keep in mind what you’re trying to express.