I feel it is safe to say taboo has a solid footing when it comes to the medium of anime. I recently discussed age gap, but even beyond that there are plenty of series that show teacher-student relationships, incest romance between siblings, harems galore, actually, I would say taboo is so well footed that there are more instances of it occurring than not. Even with the questionable ethics of series that embody these taboos, I never really minded them. I love the imouto genre and cheered for Mafuyu, the teacher, in We Never Learn. So being this well-versed in otaku taboo storytellings I was curious if anything can still make me cringe, take a step back and say ‘no, I’m not digging this’ Turns out, there is, and it happened this season.
Koikimo, It’s Disgusting to Call This Love is a series I have been more than vocal about, and not in a good way. Typically speaking I don’t drop series, if I do it is more along the lines it goes on hiatus and I never get back to it when it picks back up. So even though I was watching Koikimo weekly and hating it, I stuck with it, completing the final 12th episode sometime last week, so I figured I’d write about it.
It is no secret age gap is the big gimmick in Koikimo. For those who are unaware, the story follows 17-year-old high school girl Ichika Arima. Ichika one day happens to rescue stumbling fatigued businessman moments before he was about to drop down a flight of stairs. This man, sadly, was 27-year-old womanizer, Ryou Amakusa. Giving him her lunch, Ichika quickly goes about her day, neither of them really thinking that much about the encounter.
Then Ryou goes home to discover his sister, Rio, best friend just happens to be the same girl that saved him, Ichika.
Wanting to thank her for her help Ryou offers the single thing all the women he has ever met want, his body, a notion Ichika quickly declines in an act of disgust. Being rejected we assume for the first time ever, Ryou falls head over heels in love with Ichika, setting a chain of events where he will do anything in his power to have her. And that is the part I hate.
I have said this before in some of my other posts but the whole age gap between the two, I don’t much care about. Yeah, it is a little weird, I mean generally speaking it is frowned upon for a 27-year-old to date a high schooler but I have seen a lot weirder shit in this medium. No to me, the most frustrating thing was how everyone in the show treats Ichika like crap. Not a single moment do any of the characters from her best friend Rio to her own mother ever take into account the possibility she doesn’t want to be courted by this older man. Hell, she goes as far as to say, multiple times, she wants nothing to do with Ryou.
The way Ryou goes after Ichika, alone, would be annoying but I could tolerate it. But when you add Rio telling her older brother deeply personal stuff about her best friend to give him an upper hand. A mother that doesn’t find it odd at all this older man is sending her 17-year-old daughter a ton of shit. A slew of Ryou’s friends who support him when they discover he is crushing on a high school girl, it just becomes too much.
Really only two people think it is remotely weird, Ichika’s classmate Tamaru who also has a crush on her, and Amakusa’s father, who tells his son to stay away from Ichika.
Because of this narrative, the story plays out over 12 episodes of what feels like victim-blaming. Ryou is every bit a narcissistic stalker, one that Ichika has told many times that he is a bother, she wants nothing to do with him, and to stop sending her stuff but he just simply ignore her. Even as they slowly start to become more friendly with each other Ryou time and time again throws Ichika’s feelings out the window for his own selfish needs, putting her in situations she doesn’t want to be in but no one seems to care.
That is the point that made me hate Koikimo, Ichika is the main heroine, she is immensely important to the story but she never had a say about anything in it. Everything was decided for her by sheer gaslighting and aggressive persistence and it wasn’t cute and did not make me feel good about the ending. I keep coming back to this one scene because I feel it screams the loudest of the dynamic to the duo and how generally fucked up it is.
Tamaru confesses to Ichika in the middle of the series, an event that puts Ichika in a strange spot. By this point Ryou’s constant pandering has started to wear on her, it doesn’t help that she isn’t sure about love in general so she isn’t confident in what to tell her classmate. Sure she likes him enough, they are friends and they share an interest but she doesn’t know if what she feels for Tamaru could ever be love. Clearly bothered by this Ryou keeps prying, asking what is bothering her even though Ichika says very clearly it is none of his business and it is something only she can decide. Of course, this ends with Ryou saying fuck your feelings I am going to torment you until you tell me every little thing that has ever bothered you irrelevant to what you have to say about it.
Then Ichika apologizes for it, she tells Ryou, a man that has been hounding her, getting intel about her from his sister, befriending her mother, sorry for keeping something from him that at any point was ever any of his business.
This made me extremely uncomfortable in a lot of ways. Anime is weird it always has been, hell one of my favorite series this season was a bully anime Nagatoro. But when we look at a show like that or the sadodere tag in general we understand the narrative it is trying to create, the bully moments are usually counter with cute sweet moments and very important to note, at no time does Naoto flatly tell Nagatoro to buzz off and leave him alone. Something Ichika does many times.
To be blunt I just don’t think it’s a good platform to build the medium on. The show is full of manipulative, victim-blaming harassment and it does so in a world where we haven’t as a society gotten the proper footing on how we should treat women. Maybe that makes me a white knight, I don’t know, I just don’t think it’s good a representation even as fiction and it definitely should not validate any behavior such as Ryou’s in the real-world setting.
I hated Koikimo, maybe I am justified to say so, maybe not. If you loved it cool, honestly. I love anime, I love the community and my take is mine alone, so you crazy mother fuckers over at anitrendz voting the Ichika x Ryou as the top ship, keep shooting your shot, but I gotta disagree on this one.
As always, thanks for the read!