Romance anime have a tendency to portray love as a series convenient events that lead towards the most beautiful love story you could ever imagine.
And mind you, the characters are all flawless too. Scum’s Wish has an entirely different story to tell. It’s more of a right time, wrong person; right person, wrong time type of situation.
The synopsis for Scum’s Wish claims it’s the typical story of “two characters help each other with their respective crushes, but end up falling in love.” It’s something we have already seen many times in other classic romance anime before. Scum’s Wish defies all expectations by having the main characters not end up together.
We don’t have to wait until the end of the series for them to realize they have feelings for each other. In fact, it’s precisely at the end of the series that they realize that finding comfort in each other’s arms is not real love. Therefore, Hanabi and Mugi don’t end up together. They don’t end up with anyone at all. Neither do other characters like Sanae or Noriko.
Can we feel bad for them? Scum’s Wish is about scummy people, and you’re bound to hate everyone in this show at some point. Romance anime usually sugarcoat every single aspect of its story, from the beauty of the characters to the purity of their relationships.
Scum’s Wish stands out from the rest by dismissing all of that and choosing not to glorify its characters. On the contrary, the series thrives on showing the ugly side of people. Characters can be selfish, jealous, prideful, and sometimes even manipulative. Some characters crave being desired, while others get hurt for being too naive.
This is one of the reasons why some viewers had problems with the series. Its view on romance is cynical. So much that sometimes it gives off the feeling of exaggerating plot points so that the audience will get the message that deep down inside, “everyone is f*cked up.”
But hey, all romance anime have a tendency to dramatize every little thing, so I don’t see the problem here. However, it is true that people usually watch romance anime because they want to be told a beautiful love story to believe there’s something better out there. In that case, Scum’s Wish would certainly not be the best pick.
Not all the messages in Scum’s Wish are pessimistic, though. Some characters do get their happy endings, and the series ends on a relatively hopeful note. Akane-sensei, the high school teacher, has been the most talked about the character in the series, and of the winter season as a whole.
Akane is what in this day would be described as a… well, something that we cannot write in here. Akane is selfish, lacks empathy, and lives to be desired. She likes going for men that are already wanted by other women to get a sense of superiority. The fact that she’s the one character that ends up getting a happy ending is bound to piss people off.
The series does make some effort to humanize her by later on showing her inner thoughts on how she wants to feel something real. On the other hand, Kanai-sensei (probably the only innocent character in the series), loves and accepts Akane for what she is.
Not ‘despite of,’ but ‘because of.’ Kanai never looks down on Akane for her addiction to sex, which ultimately causes Akane to realize that her sexuality could mean something more profound.
Another reason why some viewers were a bit reluctant to follow this series is because of how sexually charged it is. Despite taking place in high school, as a seinen, Scum’s Wish is aimed at a more mature audience. There are plenty of sexual scenes, but they are not explicit, and they are never added just for the sake of fan service.
The sex in Scum’s Wish feels surprisingly intimate, and heavily emotionally charged. In fact, most of the time the characters communicate with each other via touch, and with the audience via internal monologue.
There’s little room for actual dialogue, as the story is mostly told through the visuals, delicate editing, and soothing music. However, it should be said that, while beautifully done, these montages tend to get a bit repetitive after a while, which causes them to lose their charm.
Romance for teenagers is usually seen as something beautiful and mystical. Adults know that that’s not always the truth. Love can be painful, confusing, and bittersweet too. The reason why Scum’s Wish is either loved or hated is the same: it’s painfully realistic.
Perhaps it’s a bit exaggerated at some points, but the message remains the same: we are all flawed as human individuals, and romantic relationships can be a reflection of that.
True love is hard to attain, and something that doesn’t happen for everyone. Even less so while you are still in high school figuring out who you are and what you want out of life.