Scum’s Wish Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 293 minutes approx.
Love or lust – there a difference? Ordinarily the answer would be “yes” be we humans are curious beast and often tend to get things like this easily mixed up. At what point, do we find ourselves not knowing what it is we are looking for when it comes to affairs of the heart if we can’t make this vital distinction?
Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya are a pair of high school students with secret crushes – Hanabi is in love with Narumi Kanai, her older childhood friend, now homeroom teacher at her school; Mugi is yearning for Akane Minagawa, the new music teacher and Mugi’s former personal tutor. In a cruel twist of fate, Narumi and Akane seem to be getting close to each other, breaking the hearts of their teen admirers.
Overcome by their feelings and mutual suffering of their lost loves, Hanabi and Mugi enter into a bold pact – they agree to become lovers under the pretence of being a proxy for the other’s crush, not falling in love with each other and, to end the relationship should their original love ever become reciprocated. What could possibly go wrong?
At the risk of sounding like a grammar Nazi, the apostrophe in the title should be place after the “s” as the entire cast are pretty much “scummy” people with rampaging carnal desires. Based on the manga by Mengo Yokoyari, Scum’s Wish will polarise opinion, not only for its lascivious themes and tawdry content but its askew take on morality.
It’s uncomfortable viewing for many reasons, least of all the ripple effect of the wish fulfilment pact on the people around Hanabi and Mugi. As much as hearts are broken, lives upset and relationships ruined, this is a real journey of discovery, albeit a painful one, providing some potent life lessons for the audience too, as odd as that sounds.
Most remarkable of all is for a series based around sex, there is no nudity or majorly explicit imagery. There are panty shots and undressed bodies but the most prurient sight is the sloppy, saliva drenched tongue wrestling to give things its peccante naughtiness. Yet, as salacious as this sounds, it is the mature approach that stands out in capturing the inelegance of teenage lust with the sensitivity of an adult drama.
For Hanabi in particular this marks her first steps into her sexual awakening as the least experienced cast member, making the pact between her and Mugi her idea something of a naïve fantasy she didn’t expect to be agreed upon. She gets close to going all the way with Mugi but hits the breaks many times, and to, his credit, Mugi is understanding, but is this fear on Hanabi’s part that her first time is not with Narumi as she imagined or simply her getting into something she may be able to get out of?
Sticking the conventions of the genre, both Hanabi and Mugi have people for whom they are objects of tacit desire. For Mugi, it is the brattish Noriko “Moca” Kamomebata, his childhood friend who dreamed of living as a princess with her prince charming Mugi. She is the closest thing to a trope in this series, with her small stature, pigtails, and needy, petulant behaviour.
Ironically, whilst her sophistry in claiming her love for Mugi is real because she’s known him longer than Hanabi, she is at least correct about its veracity. Unfortunately, Mugi might not be so eager to reciprocate yet he won’t use her as a willing substitute to satiate his urges for Hanabi and Akane – like many high school hunks, there are other girls…
Hanabi’s secret admirer is her best friend Sanae Ebato – yup, there’s some yuri to add some extra spice for you horndogs! Unlike Moca, Sanae is more mature and sure of her emotions, but assumes a predatory role opposed to the simpering “one day my prince will come” reverie of Moca. Again, it all sounds gratuitously lurid but it is pivotal in helping Hanabi understand her desires and nature of her sexuality.
There are many plot developments and shock revelations that are just too juicy not to discuss yet this would mean spoiling them. To say they shake things up would be an understatement; some may even deem them a contrivance but within the context of the story being told, their importance in discussing the various paths to true love and the casualties of perfidious promiscuity becomes evident.
What this means is plenty of thought has gone into understanding the characters, the situation and the complexities – socially and personally – of adolescent desire and sexual awakening. The juxtaposition of the adults who should know better acts as a warning of how powerful and destructive sex can be, and how it can define and redefine what it means to be loved and be in love.
Animated by studio Lerche, the visuals are a lustrous blend of detailed artwork rendered in a bold but warm colour palette, occasionally employing some Shaft-esque techniques like split screening. There are touches of comedic facial pulling and the odd sweatdrop, otherwise the artwork is quite sober in not overwhelming the gravity and drama of the story, whilst the sex scenes are more tame erotica than sleazy.
How much personal mileage there is will depend on how much one can relate to or stand the cast. Each character is flawed, prone to making bad choices for bad reasons which we may never understand. We get angry with them, baffled by them, empathise with them, and appalled by them; but most importantly, we feel something by the end.
It’s hard to preach about show that doesn’t preach on its subject itself, so the best conclusion I can make is that Scum’s Wish represents the best and worst aspects of anime in covering this provocative topic, yet as a character study of a universal human trait, it demands our attention. Definitely not for everyone.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – *** ½
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