Image source: TVアニメ「捏造トラップ-NTR-」公式 on Twitter
To be sure, those saying “NTR: Netsuzou Trap isn’t a typical example of a yuri anime” are correct. However, while the relationship between Hotaru and Yuma doesn’t currently match what I anticipated, I don’t feel the series is exploitative. In fact, the series seems to deal with a very important issue: the cycle of abuse, and specifically, sexual abuse.
A warning, it’s my belief that many of the actions I’ve seen in NTR: Netsuzou Trap reflect current and past abuse of the character of Hotaru. Some of it is shown on screen, so there will be some spoilers, but most of what I discuss will be my interpretation of what is implied. This is an important issue to discuss, but it may be particularly difficult for some readers to handle. This is especially true of those who have experienced such trauma.
Image source: TVアニメ「捏造トラップ-NTR-」公式 on Twitter
Given the short-form nature of the series, there’s not much exposition in the first few episodes, and viewers are flung into an ongoing situation. We know both Hotaru and Yuma have steady boyfriends, they are best friends, and Hotaru is incredibly forward showing her own sexual interest in Yuma. Hotaru’s attentions clearly cross the line into non-consensual conduct. Yuma’s feelings are conflicted, and she recognizes both a potential interest in Hotaru and the problematic aspects of her friend’s behavior.
Let’s be clear, Hotaru’s behavior towards Yuma is absolutely unacceptable. There are almost no examples where Yuma willingly accepts, let alone instigates, the sexualized behavior. Hotaru is participating, quite clearly, in sexual assault. Now, it might be easy to write off these scenes as exploitative fantasies geared towards the male-gaze, but I don’t believe that’s what is happening here. There are two major reasons I believe that dismissing NTR: Netsuzou Trap as exploitative misses an opportunity to have a frank discussion about the series’ display of how abuse begets abuse.
We know Hotaru is the victim of domestic violence. This is made plain by the scene on the Ferris wheel where Hotaru is roughly handled by Fujiwara, and she has to pointedly tell him, she’s “not always in the mood.” The entire exchange makes it clear that this is not a first time experience. Rather it is clear there is already a pattern where Fujiwara expects Hotaru to make herself sexually available, and that he expects to physically control her when she is. It’s also revealed that Fujiwara is just the latest in a long list of boyfriends Hotaru has dated.
Fujiwara is likely an archetype, not the originator of Hotaru’s abuse. It’s not uncommon in relationships where there is an abuser to be the most recent of abusive relationships. There are complex reasons for why victims of abuse may end up repeating the same relationship patterns, but it’s important to state clearly that this is not the fault of the abused. Ever. Hotaru may be looking for love in the wrong places, but it’s a fair bet she’s never been shown love from the right places, either.
Which brings us around to the most harrowing explanation for her abusive behavior towards Yuma, and the second reason the discussions around what we see in NTR: Netsuzou Trap are those that must be had. It’s critical we understand that what Hotaru is doing is wrong, but this doesn’t make Hotaru a bad person. Yuma has made it clear that whatever her feelings for Hotaru, Hotaru’s advances are not wanted. This is sexual assault, and Hotaru is the perpetrator. Yet, Hotaru is 16, and she has been abused. There are two victims here.
The way Hotaru approaches her fear of being abandoned by Yuma (since Yuma too has a boyfriend in Takeda, who seems like a decent guy) makes sense if we consider that her various experiences of abuse, and probably at quite a young age, were sexual. Hotaru is simply trying to act out the same behavior that was modeled during her own abuse, when her abuser likely labeled it as love and affection. The abuser (most likely a he but not necessarily) probably eventually did abandon Hotaru, even after telling her that if she did what the abuser asked, the abuser would be there forever. Hotaru may well be trying to prove that the problem wasn’t the abuse, but the abuser, and that if she can succeed in having a relationship with Yuma using the same behavior this will underscore that point.
The unpleasant irony of this being an anime held up as an example of “yuri” is that Hotaru might not be queer at all. Yuma might actually be queer, but Hotaru’s abuse (which probably comes less from real romantic and sexual interest in Yuma and more from a genuine friendship and fear of abandonment) may indeed set Yuma on track for her own pattern of abusive queer relationships (and domestic and sexual abuse in queer relationships is a real issue, and has been sadly under-studied).
For an anime that might not actually be about a healthy relationship between two girls who are both queer, it might yet cast important light on the troubling intersection of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and queer relationships. And that seems to be a counter to exploitation, rather than exploitative itself.
NTR: Netsuzou Trap is simulcast on Crunchyroll.