Like melancholy come to life
Unrequited love is one of the most painful feelings you could ever be unfortunate enough to grapple with, and yet Scum’s Wish is one of the most beautiful anime romance series you’ll ever have the chance to watch. Though short, it’s extremely sweet, ironically enough, in all its bitterness. The tale of high schoolers who use each other as emotional crutches is gorgeously animated, told with a hint of cynicism, and cold to the point where you feel empty inside after viewing the first episode. But that steely realness is exactly what makes it so worth experiencing.
The series follows 17-year-old Hanabi, who’s decided she’s going to “date” an older student named Mugi. Both students play at love when it’s the most vulnerable and volatile, kissing and exploring their sexual boundaries when the mood feels right. There’s just one catch: They’re pretending the other person is someone else the entire time. Both Hanabi and Mugi are in love with individuals just out of reach, and they’ve chosen to use each other as simple replacements. It’s much simpler to use someone as a stand-in for someone whose heart you’ll never truly win, after all, or is it?
It’s a heartbreaking dirge that plays out slowly and deliberately, as both Hanabi and Mugi become entangled with others throughout the series, and while their thoughts toward the other person become less cold and unfeeling, the plot doesn’t tend to meander down the same road you might already be thinking of. Both of them become involved with relationships that promise more than the “façade” arrangement they’ve put together provides them with, but in the end that isn’t enough to soothe the mounting pain in both of their hearts.
At the heart of it all is Hanabi’s struggle as she looks deep within herself to try and figure out if she’s someone who can be satisfied by the veneer of love instead of the real thing. Between the occasional hilarious scenes, however, Scum’s Wish is a deeply psychological and sometimes disturbing tale that unravels slowly and uncomfortably. You nearly need to be a masochist to enjoy the type of sadness it very slowly injects into your being. I highly recommend keeping a few tissue boxes around as the series slowly crescendos to its final acts.
It’s also an extremely sexual series, a topic it handles with respect, though in several messy ways. There’s no “scripted” feeling to these would-be romantic dalliances, as they feel much more like moments culled from real life, and all the awkward, uncomfortable moments that accompany all the other memorable and loving sex you’ve ever had in your life. It’s lovingly detailed, but never feels exploitative, and it absolutely plays an important role in the series.
Scum’s Wish isn’t just impeccably written, it’s drawn fantastically with a gorgeous color palette and a beautiful bloom that looks and feels like melancholy come to life. There’s an irresistible gloom that permeates every scene, and it looks unlike anything else out on the market right now. It’s the equivalent of those “lo-fi vibes” and “music to do homework to” YouTube channels, and evokes many of the same feelings of longing, frustration, and melancholy. But it’s a hurt that feels so good and washes over you in waves that you wish would never pass.
If you need something in your life that’s not another cutesy shojo romance with predictable characters and storylines, embark on a journey with Scum’s Wish and prepare to lose yourself in its unforgiving world of uncertainty, confusion, and the sometimes depressing world of young love.
Studio/company: Sentai Filmworks
This is a review of the Scum’s Wish anime; for a review of the Scum’s Wish manga, click here.