Metamorphosis is one of the most notorious hentai manga out there and for a while, it seems like everyone was talking about it, and for good reason. Otherwise known as Henshin, Emergence, and 177013, the story is about a nerdy young girl’s high school debut going horribly, terribly wrong, and that’s a generous way to put it. It is the classic story of the messy path to adulthood in a vile, modern society and it is told in an oppressive grimdark style.
“I suddenly realized how much I had grown to hate myself.”
Saki is a naive young girl that just wants to fit in and finds herself drawn into a world of drugs, sex addiction, and prostitution. Saki’s loss of innocence at the hands of the people around her causes her to lose her identity and she descends gradually to the darkest places imaginable. She falls further and further into a life that she doesn’t want as she loses the support of the people around her. At its core, Metamorphosis tackles the tragedy of vulnerable people suffering from abuse or addiction that fall between the cracks.
Now this story is still hentai, and so naturally it has its limits and the amount of graphic content is going to be excessive. I’ve seen a few people describe the story as realistic and taken as a whole it’s far from it. It takes a certain suspension of belief for one to assume that an individual at every step will make self-destructive choices, whether or not it is out of desperation or genuine self-loathing. Not to mention, literally, every other person in this story is despicable and one abuse after the next is layered on with every interaction that she has with others. Despite that, there is value to the horrors that Saki experiences because there are pieces that ring true to actual victims of abuse.
I think it’s interesting that the author made note that when choosing the official English title for this manga, Metamorphosis was selected because the author was inspired by Kafka. The same Kafka and his existentialist classic, The Metamorphosis. The similarities between the two pieces of fiction about the downfall of man and the tragedy of life without empathy are apparent. How quickly a person can go from being a regular member of society to becoming a reviled burden of that same society is a common theme.
“You were the seed of my rebirth.”
Do I recommend this manga to anyone? Absolutely not, especially for those that are faint of heart. This wasn’t the most graphic piece of literature I’ve ever read but it’s up there, and it’s very hard to swallow. Was it an intelligent hentai manga with a purpose albeit a lot of problems, yes, and I can appreciate it for its merits. It is a story that asks the reader about the value of empathy and reminds us that even those that are suffering and at the lowest of the low are still human.
Warnings: sex, sexual assault, rape, bullying, drug use, verbal abuse, violence against a pregnant woman, miscarriage, death