Sometimes you think you’ve got a handle on a season when out of nowhere a show emerges in an unlikely spot and takes you completely by surprise. Scum’s Wish certainly fits the bill, as this stark view of teenage love (I wouldn’t call it romance…) and unrequited love takes you along for its own messed-up ride.
16-year old Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya have a problem: the love of their lives are currently unattainable. Hanabi’s affection crashes on the rocks for Narumi Kanai, a life-long family friend turned homeroom teacher whom she also calls “Brother” (Yeeahhh…) Mugi’s attention focuses squarely on a former middle school tutor turned teacher (seriously, everyone becomes teachers it seems…) Akane Minagawa. Caught at an impasse of affection, the two find comfort in one another as “replacements” until their true love becomes available.
Scum’s Wish effectively constructs its plot by bouncing between the characters to have them share their own internal monologues and motivations. While Hanabi and Mugi claim most of the limelight so far, Narumi, Akane, Hanabi’s friend Ecchan and Mugi’s childhood friend Noriko all get a chance to invite viewers into their world. The characters so far are fairly limited, but certainly run the gamut of personalities.
Hanabi may come across as a brooding teen girl, but she’s actually very athletically talented and a good student as well. One of the ironies that is not lost on her is the fact that she is an object of affection for many, and indeed the realization that someone else cares for her the same way she cares for Narumi is a heavy burden for her once it comes to light.
Mugi seems like your typical attractive jock, but his tumultuous history with girls, including how he lost his virginity in middle school, has caused him to have some unhealthy concepts of his value to women. He recognizes himself as an object of desire, but sees his worth as skin-deep…a belief reinforced by his relationship with Hanabi, who wishes he was someone else.
Narumi is probably the most wholesome of the bunch. Having lost his mother at a young age, he envies Hanabi for having such a great mother to cook and take care of her. Since Hanabi’s dad left her mom when she was little, Narumi’s presence in her life filled a sizable void, and you begin to understand where her profound affection for him comes from.
Akane is introduced as a seemingly wholesome and sweet teacher nurturing a budding relationship with Narumi, who has fallen head over heels for her. As a recent episode has revealed, however, Akane is actually a bit of a sociopath. She loves having the attention and affection of men simply to see the women who pine for them be hurt by her actions. She has no real feelings for Narumi, but maintains the charade to inflict pain on Hanabi.
All of these characters have had their motivations and thought processes brought to light in the last 4 episodes, and I have to say I’m impressed with how well Scum’s Wish balances their respective plot lines.
One thing that’s striking about Scum’s Wish is its use of intimacy. Often times in anime we get the oversized-breasts-bouncing-in-your-face and/or the accidental trip and fall and place your hand on female characters boobs or genitalia as a means of establishing sexual awkwardness and tension. Some teen romance shows, like Orange, hardly breach the plane of physical intimacy and instead agonize over simple things like holding hands or a first kiss. Scum’s Wish dives head first into what it believes is a fairly accurate portrayal of how teenagers are intimate with one another, and does so in a tasteful way – well, as tasteful as it can be considering the main characters.
For example: near the end of episode 1, Hanabi and Mugi are hanging out when she decides to make the first move and put her arms around him from behind. One thing leads to another and eventually Hanabi is on his bed. Remembering that they’re only replacements for one another, Hanabi thinks to herself that she needs to be as quiet as she can while Mugi is touching her so that both of them can maintain their respective fantasies.
The touching itself is not explicit, as there has yet to be any full nudity (or even partial nudity). Most of the intimacy takes place under blankets; an effective curtain that allows the audience to focus on the tension and drama of the relationship rather than the aesthetic of two people having sex. These are teenagers engaging in physical intimacy with one another because A) It feels good B) They are fulfilling a need to be close to the one they love, even if it requires some imagination to put them there. The scene is hauntingly sad as a result, and manages to capture that emotion amidst an otherwise tantalizing situation. This is what I mean when I say that the intimacy is done in a tasteful way: you are less interested in the fact that teenagers are sexually engaged and more interested in what that act is doing to strengthen or hamstring their relationship.
Overall, so far Scum’s Wish is a compelling teen drama that has well-constructed characters and plot, as well as great animation. It has quickly emerged as one of my favorites this season, and I plan on keeping an eye on it weekly. You can find Scum’s Wish on Amazon Video of all places – but it does require a subscription to “Anime Strike” – Amazon’s first exclusive channel. The subscription is $5/month. You do get a 7 day free trial, so you can see if the library is worth it for you.