Scum’s Wish Review: Depravity and Desire

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Scum’s Wish is a melodrama romance. But if that isn’t usually your thing, don’t let it deter you.

The romance genre in anime is one that comes with a lot of negative connotations attached to it. Rom-coms have a tendency to make almost no progress and leave on an unfinished ending, while romance dramas tend to be burdened with unnecessary melodrama governed by the whims of a character’s emotions.

Scum’s Wish navigates intimacy delicately. Source: Scum’s Wish.

However, I feel that melodrama gets a bad rap because many older fans are disconnected from that time in our lives when flaring emotions dominates our teenage years. These feelings are deeply explored in last season’s big melodrama, Scum’s Wish.

To outsiders, Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya are the perfect couple. In truth, however, they are simply consoling each other’s loneliness. Hanabi is in love with her childhood friend, Kanai, while Mugi is in love with his former tutor, Akane. To make matters worse, it appears as though Kanai and Akane might have a thing for each other. To relieve themselves of their lovesickness, Hanabi and Mugi decide to engage in physical intimacy as a replacement for a real relationship until they can win over the ones they truly love.

I’m actually shocked at how blunt and straightforward this series is in portraying sex, a topic that’s almost never addressed directly in anime. Everything except the actual nudity is on display, and it uses this bluntness to create enticing, yet extremely uncomfortable circumstances.

It’s clear from episode one that there’s something fundamentally wrong about the way these characters are approaching sex. Rather than a culmination of intimacy, they’re using it as a substitute, and the series deftly portrays these relationships as hollow and broken without beating us over the head with the point.

Sex and desire are ever-present in Scum’s Wish. Source: Moeronpan

Hanabi’s and Mugi’s desires for intimacy are so potent that it practically radiates out of the screen. These emotions only amplify the more we learn about their tragic pasts. Their back stories also excel at crafting characters that feel real and alive, rather that stock archetypes acting out a drama script. Most of the situations that come up feel very believable based on the character’s personalities, and that is a primary element in creating a good melodrama.

Where does the Scum’s Wish anime fall short?

However, there are still a few notable bumps in the road of this narrative, particularly with Akane. Put bluntly, she is manipulative and sadistic – but that’s not really my problem with her. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed watching her be kind of evil because they set up her character so well.

My problem is they spend almost two whole episodes towards the end of the series focusing almost entirely on her. Yes, she’s an integral part of the series, but she’s not set up as the focal point. Hanabi is practically missing for those entire two episodes, so when she comes back in for the finale, it feels more than a bit disjointed, and the steps they take towards resolving the Akane conflict come close to breaking my suspension of disbelief.

The series also loves internal monologues… a little too much. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s a trope that’s inescapable in the world of anime. My problem is that every single revelation that these characters experience is coupled with a dramatic internal monologue. This is one area where the show does get too melodramatic, though I do applaud it for going all the way and never shying away from the tone it’s going for.

Fortunately, Studio Lerche’s work on the animation, in particular the directing of Masaomi Andou and Keiko Kurosawa, crafts some insanely magnificent pieces of artwork. The colour direction in particular is intense and potent in almost every moment of emotional prominence. Every brushstroke in the more intense imagery is worthy of note, and the character designs are strikingly beautiful.

However, I have a bit of a bone to pick with the use of different split screen techniques in this series. While it does have its proper moments of conveying symbolism that would have otherwise been absent, other moments feel like they go way overboard. This is something I’ve noticed with the previous two NoitaminA block dramas, Battery and The Great Passage, as well.

Striking visuals make the narrative even more powerful. Source: Cyber Space and Time

On the sound end, Masaru Yokoyama returns for yet another soundtrack this season, and his signature rolling piano melodies take flight with almost no effort. Yokoyama’s seamless style of composing is a perfect fit for this series, and, while there aren’t any tracks worth zeroing in on in particular, it’s still a solid OST to cement the foundation of this show’s tone.

Scum’s Wish is not a perfect series, especially as it nears its conclusion. However, the fact that we’re getting a romance anime about actually being in a relationship and the series actually finishing where the manga ends is more than enough to celebrate. If you’re into melodramas, this is an absolutely must-watch. If you’re wary of this genre, then it’s still a great place to start.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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