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Incest as Tragedy

October 31, 2009

densen1
Try not to cringe at the following statement: I love incest in anime/manga. Or more appropriately phrased, I love incest in anime/manga when it’s treated realistically and has heart. It’s kind of disconcerting to see such an incongruity between the silly, off-hand incestuous relationships in harem Anime and the more serious ones that are sure to pluck at your sensibilities, a la Koi Kaze, for example.

Still with me? Okay, good.

So cut through the scads of incest manga that’s actually hentai and you’re likely to find Densen Complex, a single volume collection of short stories that’s a far cry from the “endearing imouto” trope. Throughout the stand-alone chapters, there are themes as assorted as molestation, experimentation, and even gender identity. Keep in mind, they’re all fairly grim.


Perhaps the mangaka wanted to make a point in deciding to end the incest-heavy chapters with bittersweet, ambiguous endings, possibly in a half-baked attempt at profundity. A few open-ended pictures without context and scant dialogue here and there; it’ll feel like a cop-out if you’re not with it. But in any case, it’s a praiseworthy endeavor, and something I actually found myself enjoying when I was finished with it for a number of reasons.

densen2As I said before, what makes Densen Complex really come into its own is the reality with which some of the relationships are handled, save a few measly plot contrivances. Like in one chapter, a sister recounts how she used to “do what the adults did on TV” with her older brother. Now a young adult and having grown out of that “experimental” stage, she finds herself conflicted with feelings of longing and jealousy for him in the face of his love interests. When asked by a classmate to give a bag of cookies to her brother, she crushes them and talks trash about her in front of him. In trying to stifle her own emotions by dating other boys, she realizes that it isn’t enough to skirt the problem. Other boys just aren’t enough for her. There is, of course, an element of one-sided lust thrown in, which is essential. The sister’s lust for her brother stems from her early years of experimentation and how “good” it made her feel. She believes that only her brother can satisfy her needs – she idealizes him and craves him even more. The story is able to strip away that veneer of fake romantic closure that’s usual in other incestuous stories, how we’re force-fed an ending where we have to believe everything will just work out for the couple. Densen Complex subverts that.

So you can either take it or leave it with the ambiguous endings. I’d like to think that it wasn’t possible to make a concrete ending for these chapters, not because it was out of the creator’s hands, but because there were really no other available avenues to traffic into. A picturesque ending where the brother gets with his sister or the molested schoolgirl overcomes her inner demons wouldn’t make sense because it’s not true to life. These events leave their indelible mental scars for the probable years to come, causing a deep-seated instability. But at the same time, by not necessarily acknowledging a completely fatalistic dead-end for these relationships is almost like a quiet gesture of empathy, a subtle nod of support.

And that’s the overarching idea that compelled me – that falling in love with a family member is tragic. Sure, we might not want to align ourselves with this mode of thought because, frankly, we find it disgusting. But if you really look at the different dynamics of an incestuous relationships, it’s the easiest dramatic set-up. The characters at large are in a perpetual limbo where they’re constantly being torn from side to side by nature, law and the status-quo of society. How are they allowed to be in love when everyone in the world is against them?

In conclusion, we need more incest (in Anime).

Also, a floormate offered me a beer before I wrote this. I don’t even drink; I just took it to be polite. And I’m a complete lightweight when it comes to alcohol. So you can imagine I’m fairly drunk right now. I might have to come back to this post at a later time to edit it. H’oh, boy.

I wish people would stop being so nice to me.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2009 5:07 pm

    We do need more serious incest in anime. You should check out Hitsuji no Uta or Angel Sanctuary. Both of those have incest as a theme.

  2. November 1, 2009 3:17 am

    I love this post. It’s well put-together, thought provoking, just gorgeous. Cheers.

    I remember skimming through an incest manga that ended with the siblings having a baby. They took it to school with them and raised it and everything. They were happy as could be, and the parents were also okay with it.

    I was a little appalled. An ending like that just doesn’t happen. At least not in the world I know, where people get beaten to death for less.

  3. flory permalink
    May 12, 2010 11:21 am

    was thinking about this post for a while, and realised that it reminded me of Oldboy by Park Chan-Wook. don’t know if you’ve watched it (it’s one of my favourite films – must have watched it at least 6 times), but it’s very tragic, and the incest element is central to the plot so i won’t give it away. check it out?

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