As Anime Detour, my “first love” convention, draws near, I find my free time increasingly taken up by the pursuit of new anime and manga series. While I’ll watch just about any genre of anime that comes out each season, I’m especially drawn to slice-of-life dramas, especially of the high-school-romance variety, of which there is no shortage . . . ever. With that said, Scum’s Wish has made a unique impression on me owing to how well it excels at what it’s trying to do, which is to show flawed, damaged characters diving recklessly but believably into the world of romance and desire.
The opening minutes of the first episode quickly establish the premise of the show: students Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya are each in love with a teacher at their school—teachers who seem to have fallen for each other. Unable to confess their feelings, and believing their love to be futile, Hanabi and Mugi decide to form a fake relationship in which they will act as proxies for the objects of each other’s desire, swearing an oath not to develop genuine feelings for one another and to break things off should either of them actually end up with the one they are truly after. As the plot unfolds, other characters reveal their own hidden affections for the protagonists. During a sleepover, Hanabi gives herself up to her best friend, Sanae, to assuage her friend’s loneliness, while Mugi begins to lust after his childhood friend Noriko. Things continue to spiral downhill for everyone involved, and viewers should prepare for an emotional thrill ride of pain and passion.
Scum’s Wish lives up to its name by offering a look at the darker, “dirtier” side of adolescent desire, in which lust masquerades as love and jealousy as devotion, and the characters use relationships as a substitute for self-worth or a way to find sick gratification in stealing away someone else’s love interest. While some viewers may find this material triggering, and I do advise caution to those who have experienced such things, I find the show’s subversion of the typically innocent and sweet romance arcs found in most school dramas to be more than a little refreshing, and there is something deeply cathartic in the characters’ varied reactions to the complex and confusing emotions they are experiencing. Due to the subject matter, there are many sex scenes over the course of the show, though they are handled tastefully and veer more toward implied sexual acts rather than explicitly showing anything (which would push Scum’s Wish into adult territory).
Although the cast is relatively generic, made up of archetypes recognizable to most anime viewers, the character development and pacing in Scum’s Wish are nothing short of inspired, and the soundtrack expertly punctuates the more intense moments of the series, while the opening and ending sequences treat viewers to memorable music as well. The opening, “Uso no Hibana” (“Spark of a Lie”), is super allegro with a heavy percussive beat that communicates the fury of teenage hormones, with 96neko providing the rapid vocals. “Heikousen” by Sayuri is slower but still uptempo for an ending song, and it’s paired with visuals that I can only describe as kaleidoscopic erotica.
The series itself makes efficient use of its time by placing windowed shots of the characters and other important details over a wider backdrop, sidestepping the issue of slow-moving, static shots that are often present in these shows, and as a result there is a surprising amount of plot packed into 12 episodes.
While the content is not suitable for everyone, and the plot takes a number of twists and turns that many viewers may find themselves uncomfortable with, those who are interested in a more mature, complex take on the school-romance genre could well find their next favorite in this series.
Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai) is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime through the service’s Anime Strike channel.