I remember after watched a movie called “Requiem for a Dream” a few years back, I felt devastated for an entire week. The ending hit me so hard that after finished that movie I had to walk around my area for 2 hours in the middle of night to settle my feeling and I thought to myself, “What’s the point of being too hard to the characters, those who have feeling and dreams just like any of us?” Then it hit me immediately. The movie is an unflinching look at the bad side of drugs and how it corrupts people. People like you and me. I finished Scum’s Wish feeling the exact same way. Scum’s Wish is an anti-romance series, a show that excels on portraying ugly aspects of romance relationship and the line of that love versus physical love. I don’t blame you if you feel emotionally-drained watching this series. It was supposed to be that way and for all the dark sides the show evokes, Scum’s Wish always give more thoughtful and honest treatments than most of other anime out there. The way the show handles the bright side of love though, couldn’t pull so much punch as it aimed for.
I do believe the title “Scum’s Wish” really give you an idea of what this show is about. The “Wish” part of the show is its exploration of unrequited love. This unrequited love trope appears everywhere in the show to the point it could be considered as a deconstruction. All these feelings so pure and strong it begins to be eaten over by desired; hatred and obsessions. In Scum’s Wish, everyone falls hopelessly in love with another person who don’t return their love, become blinded and damaged by that obsessive love and in the end, they had to leave that love to move on with their lives. “If it’s a special kind of pain, they’ll be able to become stronger”. Scum’s Wish argues that it’s a painful process to let go with the love of your life, but it’s a necessary step in order to grow up and become a fully-formed person.
But it’s the “Scum” part that gives makes this show provocative and controversial, for all the right reasons. Unable to let go of those one-sided loves, the characters of the show start to use physical means to get what they want. The show keeps progressing its confidence take on the line between physical desires and emotional desires, on how the characters keep using the former as the substitute for the latter, but end up being lonelier and more suffering. Also in Scum’s Wish, all characters really self-aware on the muddy situations they get themselves in, but charge forward anyways. They know what they do will fill them with regret and disgust, but they continue to do it for their own selfish gains, be it to escape from the frustration that they can’t be with the one they love, trying to get every little moment they could out of the loved one, or just use physical attraction as an approval of their power – hence Scum. Those moments where the characters struggling with themselves, most notably Hanabi’s young version loathes current Hanabi are one of the darkest, yet effective sequences of the show.
For a show that has little action and with a mundane high school settings, the visual presentation and the direction of the show are surprisingly very solid. I agree with most of its visual choices, ranging from the using of panel like in manga that represent both multiple perspectives and establish the space between our characters; the stylized key frames that make us feel like time has stopped in those moments; the text screens that represent more as a visualize of characters’ thoughts; the constant use of visual motifs like fallen rose pedals, characters facing the bright, more innocent selves that detailing the increasingly corruptions of the cast. The music; in particular, stands out in Scum’s Wish, as each segment has a different distinctive musical score that really help elevating the mood of each sequence.
The characters in the show are unfortunately a mixed-bag for me. We have really strong leads of Hanabi and Mugi who constantly have to deal with their personal issues, and the show successfully keeps peeling their skins for more nake, more vulnerable of themselves. With a show that aims more on pushing provocative themes than actual characters’ study, there are some characters of the cast are decidedly presented as one-dimensional from the start. Both Akane-sensei and Moca fall comfortably in their usual character’s stock, one is a bitchy bitch who love attention from men and jealousy from girls, the other is an elegant princess who dream for the prince to come. The show presents them as cliché in order to deconstruct how flawed their ways of thinking are. When they shrug off that extreme side of theirs, however, they become stronger and happier in the process. Moreover, I find Ecchan love towards Hanabi one of the most complex and appealing romance in this show. While the female cast if this show is consistently great (even with limited time on screen, Mugi’s senpai still come off as a painful and conflicted character. Strong character’s writing here), the male cast unfortunately doesn’t develop fully enough. Four-eyed sensei drags the show down and he feels more like a walking stick than a normal person; that guy Takuya is portrayed in mostly insensitive light that I feel he was more a trash bin with all the bad traits male inhibits; and Atsuya’s role in the show feel awkward and a bit forced towards pulling Ecchan out of her mess.
While the way this show handles its dark, twisted web of broken romances is effective and thought-provoking, the last third of the show it loses some of its impact as the show tries to resolve all of its relationships. With things are messy and complicated as they are, the ending feels a bit too clean and sometimes overreached. I can’t buy that love between Akane and Narumi for example, I feel like Hanabi and Ecchan can’t go back as friend, bot with that short time span and I feel the ending of Hanabi and Mugi, while appropriate, is underwhelmed. The best strength of Scum’s Wish is its ability to grab you and never let you go, but its impact is lessened greatly towards the end.
As a whole, Scum’s Wish is still a solid drama. Not so often in this medium we see a more realistic and dark aspect of love and romance like this one. The fact that I keep comparing this show to other movies really speak to this quality of Scum’s Wish: the show is structured and presented more like live-action TV show than an anime one (in fact, the live-action drama is currently streaming as we speak). For all of its devastating and depressing details, at its peak Scum’s Wish manages to pull many raw and naked emotional punch that many other shows don’t dare to address. Scum’s Wish is ultimately a painful and uncomfortable experience, but that what growing up is all about.