The premise of Scum’s Wish is one that certainly isn’t suited to everyone’s tastes, seeing as the plot here isn’t one with standard high school romance and love triangles. Instead, it’s centered around the notion of using an artificial relationship to make up for the lack of a genuine one. Its characters are mostly flawed individuals driven by yearning and sadness, whose actions can be seen as selfish and immoral, yet understandable. With a dose of sexual encounters and unfaithfulness as well, the end result is a story that – depending on your perspective – is either fascinating or repulsive.
Scum’s Wish’s main “couple” are Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya, high school students who have unrequited crushes on teachers Narumi Kanai and Akane Minagawa respectively. Narumi is Hanabi’s homeroom teacher and childhood friend, while Akane was Mugi’s private tutor. With the two teachers seemingly attracted to one another, the high schoolers turn to each other to fulfill their desires and smother their pain.
It’s an arrangement that’s a little more complicated than being friends with benefits. That’s because the emotions and motivations involved make it far more than a straightforward arrangement to have casual sex. In truth, the closest Hanabi and Mugi get to actually having sex with each other is during one failed attempt. Throughout their various other acts of intimacy, they often imagine the other to be the person they actually love. It doesn’t take long for other factors to further complicate things either. Two examples are Hanabi’s best friend Sanae Ebato and Mugi’s childhood friend Noriko, who have been harbouring feelings for Hanabi and Mugi respectively.
While the journey of these characters leads them into situations and arrangements that are likely to make parents shake heads, it provides a compelling look at how people wrestle between morality and selfish desires, as well as where they might draw the line. The scenes where characters get intimate aren’t just meant for purposeless titillation. Instead, they offer a close-up glimpse at the conflicted teenagers in their vulnerable moments. When they try to bind themselves to one another with fake (and metaphorical) chains, the question of whether those chains are as strong as those from a real relationship always crops up. Even if the answer seems like a sure “no”, is it ultimately worth it if it allows one to forget about reality during brief moments of bliss?
The teachers in Scum’s Wish aren’t untouched by imperfection either. Okay, maybe Narumi – who’s probably the most innocent and pure member of the cast – is. But Akane is revealed to be someone who can’t help but seduce men, and it’s something she seems to do purely for pleasure. Neither does she shy away from intentionally adding to Hanabi’s pain with her interactions with Narumi. Later however, the show reveals that her real reasons for doing so come from a desire to be desired, perhaps feeling that this is the only way of feeling self-worth. From a personal point-of-view, the attempt to humanize Akane or make her seem empathetic doesn’t work as well as the teenagers’ development. Still, it’s quite interesting nevertheless as it adds depth to her character and presents her as more than just a one-dimensional “villain”.
The art and animation aspect of Scum’s Wish is solid, somewhat surprisingly so since the subject matter led to the concern that the studio might not devote too much effort to it. While the characters don’t engage in vigorous motions, their movements do look smooth and they themselves are always pleasing to look at. Colour-wise, there isn’t a lack in variety but they’re presented in a muted form. This perhaps reflects the content itself, with its innocent-looking youths dealing with less innocent matters. The more fascinating aspect of the presentation comes from the usage of comic-like panels to frame some scenes. It’s somewhat unexpected, but does make for a unique and overall visually pleasing experience.
The music doesn’t stand out as much, but listening to it on its own revealed a surprisingly good soundtrack that suits the show’s atmosphere and subject well. Some of the melancholic ones are on par in terms of quality with the likes of Your Lie in April, which is fitting since they share the same composer (Masaru Yokoyama). The opening and ending songs are pretty catchy too, though the vibe they emit suggest a slightly more “typical” kind of show.
Love and intimacy can be a complicated matter, and Scum’s Wish crafts something thought-provoking and compelling out of that. Even when it ventures a bit into fairy-tale-ending-territory for some characters at the end, it doesn’t forget its own bittersweet depiction of life and ensures a fitting conclusion to a romance anime that’s unlike most others.