This probably doesn’t come as a shock to most people, but Netsuzou Trap (NTR) is almost breathtakingly bad. It is bad in ways most people probably never expected. It is a sterling example of how not to tell a story, before you even consider its exploitative nature and how it treats some relatively sensitive content.
Guess what? Spoilers. Also Content Warning: Rape and Abuse discussion
Its nearly impossible to list all the things that are wrong with Netsuzou Trap, since there is essentially nothing about it that is good or works the way it should. If I had to, I’d say that the basic concept at least has potential, but its clear by the end of the first episode that any of that potential will not come to pass.
However if pressed, the core problem with the show, the thing that would make all the other aspects fall apart even if done well is Hotaru. Hotaru is the worst. Well, she’s not the “worst” in the text of the show, she’s the second worst. She’s the worst in terms of the construction and purpose of the show.
To recap, for those of you (read: all of you) who haven’t watched it, the basic idea is as follows. Okazaki Yuma is your average run-of-the-mill high school girl who has an average run-of-the-mill boyfriend, named Takeda. Her best friend and childhood friend is one Mizushina Hotaru, who is dating a tall, handsome boy named Fujiwara. They hang out together, go on double-dates, its all just terribly cute. Except, Yuma is feeling pressure to have sex with Takeda, and as this builds, Hotaru has started to act weirdly. Touching Yuma and even kissing her!
Anyway, the basic idea is that Yuma and Hotaru start cheating on their boyfriends together, which is oh so scandalous and improper. And if thats just how it went, well, it’d be lame and exploitative but not terrible. The problem is that Hotaru is an emotionally abusive gaslighter. Hotaru is the one to initiate almost every sexual encounter with Yuma, but she’s also the person most pushing Yuma towards having sex with Takeda. She’s trying to pull Yuma in two directions, but when called on it, she denies and the turns it back around onto Yuma.
“Ah!” you may say “But Hotaru is being abused by Fujiwara, both physically and sexually!” Yes, this is quite true. And that’s bad. This is also why Fujiwara is the textually worst person in the show. He’s a violent, abusive rapist. That’s bad. However that would be workable within the context of the story, except the only difference between him and Hotaru is that he is violent and she isn’t. She’s emotionally abusive and at the very least makes unwanted sexual advances on Yuma, and in several occasions they definitely could qualify as rape.
So what we ultimately have is a story about a girl falling in love with an emotional abuser, being excused by the fact that said abuser is herself being abused. There is the potential to tell a powerful, complex story about how abuse leads to more abuse in a cycle that is difficult to break. This, this is not that story. This is not at all that story. At no point is it ever actually suggested that what Hotaru is doing to Yuma is abuse. And while Fujiwara’s physical abuse of Hotaru is called out (eventually…), his sexual abuse of her goes nearly unmentioned.
The final shot of the show is Yuma and Hotaru, kissing in the middle of the street, as if they have discovered true love. Despite their immediate previous conversation being about how Hotaru was just playing, and didn’t really mean anything by all her kissing, touching and so forth. Its just terrible, on every possible level.
Oh and for the record, Yuma is a perfectly pleasant girl who’s personality shifts drastically from scene to scene, and Takeda is a completely bland male shaped void that contributes nothing to the show other than being the person Yuma is technically cheating on but then breaks up with because she thinks she isn’t good enough for him, then uses as a sounding board to discover that she’s actually a lesbian. As you do.
Late news: just today it was announced that the Netsuzou Trap manga has abruptly ended. Good riddance.