Brief Thoughts On: Metamorphosis

The magic numbers 177013 have become something of a meme in anime discourse. The numbers refer to the ID number of Shindo L‘s Metamorphosis on Nhentai; a doujin with a dark storyline that people began spreading around. Partly as a way to prank those who are looking for good hentai comics and partly as a genuine recommendation. I put off reading it for a long time to see if the hype would die down, but now its continued popularity has convinced me to check it out.

PHOTO: Saki breaks out in tears watching other girls have fun together while she eats a snack alone.

Metamorphosis is about a plain-looking girl called Saki Yoshida. She wasted away her middle school years in social isolation, not making any friends and quietly resenting those more popular than her. Heading into high school, Saki decides to turn her image around. She begins practicing with make-up and fakes an interest in fashion.

Initially, her plan works out. Her new looks draw attention and she begins to make friends among her classmates. However, it also draws the attention of less-upstanding folk. A young playboy called Hayato preys on the still-insecure Saki, charming her with cheap flirtation. And through Hayato, Saki is dragged down into a world of drug abuse and prostitution.

PHOTO: A transformed Saki casually chatting while surrounded by other classmates.

Before getting further into the story, it has to be said that Metamorphosis looks amazing. Shindo L is a phenomenal artist, capable of drawing sex scenes that have a lot of frenetic movement to them. This energy is combined with appealing character designs and good variety in the kinds of scenes that are presented. It could be argued that it’s too over-the-top for its own good, however. Metamorphosis goes for drug-fueled sex marathons right from the get-go and feels obligated to maintain that same level max-level ecstasy for every sex scene thereafter.

The story, on the other hand, didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped. Saki’s tale is certainly a tragic one, but the way it’s told makes it evident that Metamorphosis is still beholden to limitations of the medium. Saki goes from being a normal, everyday girl to drugged-up casual sex in the span of only 10 pages. It feels desperate to keep throwing in sex so people don’t stop reading. The downtime where plot could happen or we could get emotional scenes is thus rushed through, which makes it difficult to really feel invested in the drama.

This is a shame, because Metamorphosis was pitched to me as the doujin that will make you cry: “You come for the sex scenes, but stay for the story.”

PHOTO: An old man strokes Saki's thigh while he drives around, commenting that she shouldn't be nervous while with him.

There are some severely fucked-up moments throughout, yet many of these are still presented as appealing and sexual. You can just skim through the book and treat it like any other high-quality doujin; again because the plot bits in-between are too short to feel significant. There’s one bit where Saki has an orgy in a bar, wakes up robbed amidst a pile of trash, reminisces about previous sexual encounters, then walks back into a building to immediately start up the next sex scene. It’s so excessive that it becomes hard to appreciate the sad undertone this is meant to convey.

The infamous ending is naturally an exception here and may startle a number of people enough that they go back to actually read the plot leading up to it. It’s an ineffective and shocking moment, but it and other big turning points in the plot feel too strenuous. It’s impressive by the standards of hentai doujins, but it lacks the build-up, believability, and depth of character to really compete with actual drama anime & manga. It’s not even the best drama hentai that I’ve seen, or even the best story by Shindo L.

If you were wondering if the “meme hentai” was worth reading, then I’d still say yes. Its story might not be the best, but the erotic content is far above-par and its shock moments at least make it a memorable experience. At the same time, I hope it can act as a gateway for people into exploring doujins and hentai more thoroughly. To get you started, I highly recommend Shindo L’s Fragile and Tough.