Anime Review: Scum’s Wish

By Drew Hurley 10.04.2019

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Scum's Wish (UK Rating: 15)

There's a ton of romance series out there, and they tend to fall into age-old, cookie cutter themes and story arcs. Whether it be the shonen harem or the shojo love triangles. That's why it's always a breath of fresh air to see such an original love story. This is the tale of a bitter love of replacement; of two teenagers, unable to be with the ones they love, making a pact to be together, a fake love, having everything but each other's feelings, as they continue to pursue who they really want to be with. This complete collection of Scum's Wish contains all 12 episodes of the anime adaptation, coming courtesy of MVM.

The two teenagers at the heart of the story are both in love with their teachers at their school. First up is Hanabi Yasuraoka, a high-school student who has long been in love with Narumi Kanai. Narumi is now her homeroom teacher, but he was once just her friend. She's always had a crush on him and when he started teaching at her school, she thought something may finally happen. She soon finds out that her unrequited love has found someone else, though; the new music teacher at her school. That music teacher, Akane Minagawa, has her own messy situation - a boy named Mugi Awaya who she once tutored.

Mugi and Hanabi find out about their similar situations and bond over it in a weird way. First by complaining about the person taking away their loved one, then by defending their loved one, and then by fooling around together… Teenagers. Hormones. "Pretend I'm him," Mugi tells her one day. This purely physical relationship is an outlet for them both, allowing them to open up to each other about how they struggle with seeing the object of their affections every day, while also giving them an outlet for their… teenage needs.


 
Things would complicated enough just with this situation, but they get so much harder for the pair. For Hanabi, this comes in a familiar form. Hanabi finds out she is the target for another's unwanted affections when she discovers her long-time friend, Sanae Ebato, has long held a torch for her. For those unfamiliar with Japanese names, Sanae is a girl's name - adding in a homosexual element for the relationships. Hanabi once rescued Sanae from a train-molester, and the pair became close friends, something that helped Sanae realise her truth.

For Mugi, there's more than one complication. Since Mugi was a little kid, his friend Noriko Kamomebata played at being his girlfriend. When they were little, it was commented on how they looked like a little prince and princess, and that notion became an obsession for Noriko - more in love with the idea than Mugi himself. Not to mention Mugi has a senior who once used him for sex, way before he was old enough to do something like that.

While Hanabi is the protagonist of this story, it gives an opportunity for many characters to actually tell their side of the story and be developed. Having episodes dedicated to them, narrating their own stories, through monologues and soliloquies, they bemoan their situations and open their hearts. It gives real depth to the developments. It does feel a little rushed as an adaptation, with the hits coming one after another, over and over, with little chance for the characters to really breathe, but, in a way, it just makes each of the events more impactful. In particular, the truth behind Akane is absolutely shocking.

There are few series that have such a realistic representation of teenage love - emotional and physical. There are many scenes where Hanabi and Mugi are fooling around, stumbling through discovering themselves. This isn't ecchi. It isn't glamorised or gratuitous, but it's utterly not safe for work. There are plenty of graphic scenes and some occasionally disturbing ones.

This adaptation launched in Japan in 2017 and it looks great. It's coming from Studio Lerche, and while that studio is relatively new, it has produced a number of big name series in recent years. From the original Danganronpa anime adaptation, to the wonderful ecchi of Monster Musume, and the recent adaptation of French Shonen Manfra Radiant. This has the usual soft tones and palette of a classic Shoujo, and yet it plays with the twisted thoughts and the damages of the characters by overlaying dark shadows that creep over the scenes of the characters' thoughts and monologues.

This release comes with a new English dub produced at the tail end of last year, and it's filled with new, up and coming voice actors who have been much more prevalent in recent releases - as the old guard is moving on to other roles in the industry, like writing, ADR direction, and more. These new names are quickly becoming familiar; for example, Avery Smithhart, who takes the starring role of Hanabi, has only been acting in anime for a few years but has already become recognisable from her roles in Flip Flappers and Princess Principle. The Japanese cast meanwhile has plenty of recognisable voices. Mugi is played by Nobunaga Shimazaki, known for playing the titular Baki, Yuno in Black Clover, Haruka in Free, among many more.

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
This one is going to be divisive. Scum's Wish is a truly heavy show, playing with themes and containing scenes that will hit close to home for many - a dramatic, mature, and dark romance that explores the complications of love in many forms. It can be a hard watch at times, but it tells a story that is worth it. One of the truer representations of unrequited love out there.

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