Cross-posted from my work at TheDigiQuest.com
Love is complicated. It’s an age old saying that will never lose its meaning and in one way or another, we’re all searching for it, or something like it.
Scum’s Wish is the story of that complication found in love and the emptiness left behind when your love isn’t reciprocated. When you can’t have the one you love, can you find comfort in someone else? In a replacement?
Hanabi Yasuraoka is in love with Narumi Kanai. Mugi Awaya is in love with Akane Minagawa. One day, these two souls come together, the thread that connects them: unrequited love. A relationship built on loneliness, each hoping the other can curve their desires for emotional and physical intimacy while, in the process, finding a way to help each other get the ones they truly love. This is the scum’s wish of Hanabi and Mugi.
Scum’s Wish is the anime adaptation of the manga by the same name, created by author Mengo Yokoyari and animated by Studio Lerche (Assassination Classroom, Danganronpa). Blending beautiful artistic design, stunning music (the opening and ending songs in particular are incredible), and intense melodrama, Scum’s Wish presents a story that manages to shake the drama/romance anime genre.
The series attempts to be a mature take on romance and sexuality while taking itself seriously each step of the way, never breaking into fan-service territory or dismissing itself through comedic relief. It strays away from the majority of commonly used tropes found in romance throughout manga and anime to create a far more meaningful experience, a refreshing presentation in an industry too afraid to tackle less savory subjects, even when it can be uncomfortable to watch.
While Scum’s Wish tries to look at it’s romantic threads in a more “mature” light, it is by no means a fully realistic interpretation. And, that’s okay because it brings a realistic take when it counts. Most of the individual relationships between characters (Hanabi and Mugi’s support system, the unrequited love between each pair, etc.) have some relatable merit but fall apart when weaved together in this communal trash fire. The series draws a complicated web connecting an unrealistic amount of unfortunate and horrible people, creating an imbalance between the way it takes itself seriously and how seriously we as the viewers can take it.
In a way though, some of it makes sense. We’re primarily taking a look through the lens of teenagers, where drama is more likely to cultivate itself for no particular reason other than it can. We’ve all been there. Scum’s Wish feels more like it’s telling a collection of small dramatic stories and attempting to work them together. That’s where it detracts from the realism and feels forced at times.
There are a few too many relationships being juggled in Scum’s Wish that cause it to feel overbearing. That being said, it’s additional complications still manage to add to the exciting, over-the-top melodrama as we become interested in if and how this fire can be put out.
As with any romance story, the driving force of Scum’s Wish is it’s characters. From beginning to end, we see Hanabi grow from an innocent character, driven by her love for Kanai, to someone who flirted on the outskirts of darkness but came out stronger for it. We come to understand Mugi’s true feelings about his situation, past and present, and uncover what he’s willing to put himself through for his desires. Ultimately, they came together as an escape, pushing each other until there was little to nothing left. In the later half of the series, we see how it all unravels and neither the world nor those around them stop because they’re caught up in the drama, in the facade they’ve created.
Each character is given their chance at the limelight long enough for us to understand their story, even the more minor characters. Ecchan gets her important moment with Hanabi, Moca gets her single episode to shine bright, and we even see Akane take control of the main character helm for a few episodes to see her motivations and stake in all this, even if her story-arc is a bit shaky and questionable. By the end of the series, however, each of six characters still manage to get a satisfying end-cap to their stories and while not all find what they set out for, they find something important along the way.
Where the series tends to struggle is it’s focus on weaving complicated and vague exposition rather than relying more on the character’s actions. All the pieces have been laid out in front of us, but the exposition attempts to justify their reasoning beyond what is necessary.
On more than one occasion, we see character’s having long internal discussions about the dark path they’ve taken. As we see Hanabi relinquishing herself of her child-like feelings, we’re greeted with momentary visions of her child-self frowning upon her, etc. The exposition can be very heavy handed at times and would do better to let the viewer draw their own conclusions about their feelings.
There’s plenty for people to get hung up about in Scum’s Wish. It’s one the more enjoyable series I’ve watched in some time, but it’s far from being without flaws. The story ends up taking some twisted turns here and there, nearly sending it on a trajectory that would have surely killed it in the middle. By the end, I can’t say I’d actually call it a “mature” story but it does add romantic realism to a genre padded down unreliable protagonists and comedic relief.
Scum’s Wish highlights that its less about the where you want to go and more about what you’ve learned on the path you took. We watch as Hanabi walks down a winding road, relinquishing innocence but still managing to retain who she is to the bitter end and using her experiences to persist on. Life continues on and so will Hanabi.
I’d argue that the full package presented in Scum’s Wish, from the melodramatic story and telling of it to the stunning animation style, is why you watch it. It’s definitely why I watched it and will do so again in the future.
Scum’s Wish is far from perfect in it’s cynical take on the the romance drama genre. However, it’s compelling melodramatic story/characters and beautiful transition into anime form manages to overshadow it’s individual flaws in the end. It’s an enjoyable and refreshing series from start to finish and is something I recommend to anyone looking for something a tad… “different”.