This is review number three hundred and eighty five. This anime is part of the Winter 2017 lineup, and it’s a noitaminA anime. Oh, I haven’t had one of these for a long time. The show is called Scum’s Wish, and it’s a twelve episode anime about, well, a lot of things, to be honest. It’s like a weird mix of sexual energy and fluffy romance. This review is also kinda long, so let’s just read on.
The anime is about Hanabi Yasuraoka dating this guy named Mugi Awaya. They look great together, but they have a secret. Hanabi has had a long crush on this guy named Narumi, while Mugi feels the same for this girl named Akane. Both Narumi and Akane are teachers, and they sorta like each other. Hanabi and Mugi know this for a fact, and they decided to be something about it. Hanabi and Mugi would date, and they’d pretend they’re actually with the person they want. In reality though, both are just stand-ins for people they know they can never have.
Taking the Pants Off
Oh gawd, there is a lot to unpack here. This anime is both amazing and pretty damn awful. I appreciate what it’s trying to accomplish, but the overall experience is really just dull. I literally just finished the anime as I type this, and I don’t know what to feel. I’m trying to understand it from different angles, but the show is really just a mess. The story is boring, and the characters kinda loses you at the end. I want to relate to them, because the premise is relatable, but I just can’t. The more the show progresses, the more I wonder what in the actual hell is happening now? It’s like a love story, but it’s not really one. It’s like a weird impressionist piece by an angsty teenager that thinks this is how people handle unrequited love. Yknow, they have tons of monologue that kills the story. I don’t f*cking know. I don’t know how to review this anime. It’s just a really weird experience. Before I try to dissect the story and all of its questionable content, I want to talk about the cinematography.
In terms of the directing and the animation, this show is a big triumph. It has that big triumphant feel to it, because it has done something utterly remarkable. It made sex scenes look good, and anime hasn’t really done that great a job of that until Scum’s Wish appeared. Even Hentai can’t really make sex scenes look sophisticated. I have one particular hentai that made me cry, but the girl was still being ganged up by dudes in a bathroom in that anime. I also remember the best looking Hentai I’ve seen play a really sappy love song about togetherness and true love while the couple has public sex in the pool. Animation just doesn’t really come across clean in forms of love making. I kid you not, the closest thing I’ve seen to have a good balance of intimate romantic foreplay and filthy sex is this awful anime called Virgin Night. It had good motives, but it didn’t really work out. A lot of shows have good motives in tackling the filthiness of most Japanese stories, but the pit is really just too big to jump over. This was my biggest criticism of Yosuga no Sora. Let’s ignore the incest and focus on the thing the anime tried to accomplish: the sexed up nature of adult VN stories. There are tons of VNs that have good yet really mature stories that are just relegated to filthy Hentai shorts. Yosuga no Sora was the first to really just go all out and they failed on that task. Granted, the incest killed the intrigue, but I always believed that if they just made the sex look more sophisticated then it could’ve opened doors for more studios to try adapting adult VNs like Yosuga no Sora. Sadly, the idea died because sex is really just hard to present in animation.
And then the first episode happened. It was just foreplay, but it was really good foreplay. Ok, wait, even I was grossed out by what I just typed. I’m talking about the animation and the cinematography. I’ve seen the manga, and it’s really the same. There are close up shots of the girl experiencing the thrill, constant open tongue kisses between the two characters and the girl is slowly undressed. It was filthy as f*ck, but it looked really really good. This is what Yosuga no Sora should’ve done, I said to myself, because it just looks really awesome. The foreplay looks inviting while it also has a balance of matureness to it. The characters’ innocence shows while the smut appeal of the scene permeates. I kid you not, from this scene alone, I instantly loved this anime. This is a triumph. This is a milestone. This is a cause for celebration, because a standard has been established. Sex can now look good in anime, and I sure hope other studios take the challenge. An anime jumped over the big pit, and it is amazing. We can finally introduce the absolute insanity of adult VN in its really disturbing forms, because some of them just aren’t right. You think School Days was bad, you have no idea how f*cked up it can be. I’m excited just thinking about it.
It’s just wishful thinking on my part though. I don’t know why I’m hung up on it, but speaking of School Days. I think a lot of people will compare the characters of this show to those in School Days. There is a sense that every character in the show are terrible people, and it kinda reminds me of the last two episodes of School Days. I remember it vividly because I slept through most part of that anime, and then we just suddenly see Makoto in bed with a girl. They then had sex at school, and Makoto’s personality just changed completely. The characters in Scum’s Wish are kinda like Makoto. No, they don’t get killed and get their heads chopped off. They actually just sleep around casually with each other. Too casual, like with no real reason sometimes. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s dial it back a bit and talk about the premise first.
The show follows a couple who are popular because they are two beautiful creatures dating each other. What others doesn’t realize though is that they are only dating each other to fill the loneliness they have over the fact that they have a one sided love on two people that also like each other. It’s a cute premise, but the characters also labeled themselves as “scum” for doing it. They’re using each other as replacement for the ones they actually want but can’t physically have. I’ve seen the manga as well (because I want to see how the sex happens there), but I have a big problem with this “scum” idea. Are they really scum? Sure, they have a chance to really convince us but scum feels like too big of a word for two people just fooling around. In general, the premise is about unrequited love but the anime is fixated on this scum thing. I’m such an awful person because I’m only kissing him while I imagine my crush’s lips instead. Boo hoo. I can actually relate to what these characters are going through, because it is a relatable thing, but the author seems to try to make this simple concept complicated as well. The romance feels detached, because the show wants to make something big out of this very small thing.
Anyways, the premise doesn’t really go anywhere. It does follow the two main characters trying to live with their unrequited love, but the episodes mostly follow a general theme of people with unrequited love. I also love the approach of focusing on a character’s point of view, because it just makes the entire thing more relatable. It starts with the two main characters talking about their adoration for their crush, and the anime even dedicates some flashbacks to why they love the person. As more characters enter the story, their point of view is focused on and the show explores their adoration towards a person as well. The fun part is that every character deals with unrequited love in a different manner. While some would sulk and feel devastated over the fact, some would do something about it. Some would fool around with other people, some would hug their crush tight and never let go, some would be satisfied being friends, and some would even act mean spirited towards others. This is actually my favorite part of the show, because I’ve been there. I’ve known people that liked me, and I would take my bitter rejection to bitterly reject them as well. It is cruel, sure, but it feels good. I feel bad typing that, and I hope to gawd she doesn’t read my blog. Either way, unrequited love is a really beautiful thing to talk about. People experience it differently, and they handle it in their own way as well. Unrequited love doesn’t mean that the world is over though. It just means that you’ve fallen flat on your face, and now you must find a way to get back up again. Sure, getting back up will be hard but you’ll really only learn from it so it’s an experience you’d be glad to have.
The anime has a shoe-in theme to explore, and it eventually comes full circle when all the characters are introduced. It reminds me of Durarara’s approach to a story. They explain how each character connects, and it leads to an exciting climax. Scum’s Wish had half of that. It did explain how each character connects, like this girl is dating this guy but he likes this girl who likes a different guy, but it had no exciting climax. In fact, it had no solid story at all. After episode six, the anime became really tiresome and it just went around aimlessly. There is no clear goal in sight, and characters really just bounce around. This girl slept with that guy, this guy slept with that girl, and then this girl slept with that girl, and nothing really happens. After spending time with someone, a character would sulk. They would monologue for twenty minutes about how love is like this and they feel bad for doing that, and it is just exhausting. Nothing really happens, and the anime soon becomes unrelatable. I don’t understand. This is how people deal with their unrequited love? They sleep around and then feel bad afterwards? If only it was that easy, and this is where the anime lost me. What happened to your beautiful theme? Is it still there? The episodes are kinda bumming me out now.
I’ll also come out and say it: I wanted to give this anime a perfect score. When I reach the story of the b*tch that sleeps around with guys, I was really impressed. The story, the characters and the animation is coming together beautifully. It’s perfect at the moment, and I was seriously nervous over the fact that I might give a smut anime a perfect score. I honestly want to, but it still scared me. Sadly, the anime did reveal its flaws around episode seven and above. The biggest problem I have with this anime is that:
It had too much bed scenes.
The one thing I considered a triumph for this anime eventually made the entire experience unbearable, because it just had too much of it. It had too much sex scenes, too much kissing scenes, and too much foreplay without the story balancing it out. I was honestly craving for a good story around the latter half of the show, because it desperately needed some meaningful exposition to give the show depth. As I watch this show, I always kept asking “why?” The characters would do things that would make no sense, and I guess you can say the actions only make sense to the characters themselves. That’s stupid though, because romance should be relatable. Even smut should be relatable. The audience needs to understand that, yeah, the actions might be stupid because the characters are confused. Sadly, this show never really makes the effort of explaining the characters’ actions. Are they confused? Are they just trying to forget? Have they devolved into sex fiends like Makoto from School Days? I don’t know. Their monologues don’t help as well.
This show would beat us up with constant monologue about how this character loves this character, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. I think one episode focused on the main girl trying to take bitter revenge on the slut character, but it doesn’t really lead to anything. The characters would circle around so much that it becomes frustrating to watch. It’s like the show itself can’t decide on what to do with them. I remember one dramatic scene of the main girl pleading to be friends with someone, and the entire scene stings. You do not want to hear the “let’s stay friends” crap from the person you love, and the scene had weight. One problem though. They literally just spent the night having sex, and I don’t understand. Is the main girl so dumb that she doesn’t understand that what they did kinda ruffles the whole “let’s be friends” thing? How much of an assh*le are you as well to say that after literally being pleasured by the person just the night before? Um, this is relatable unrequited love? What the hell?!
I do believe the anime shifted tone towards the second half. Instead of unrequited love, the theme is about casual sex and how there is no such thing as such. It explores that nothing is really just for fun, and you do give something of yourself towards the person you’re having casual sex with. There’s also this argument that you lose a part of yourself the more you do it with others, and I guess it’s a nice theme. It’s not a clear one though, because the show is really just aimless at this point. It had a lot of casual sex, so make what you want of it. It just really looks like the show can’t transition properly, because it didn’t build up on its premise and now it’s lacking the foundation to do anything beyond bed scenes. It’s both sad and frustrating, because it had a solid premise starting out. The whole idea of finding real relationships while navigating through the one sided ones sounds really good. It gives us hope that there is someone out there for us, and we just gotta keep faith. Yeah, the anime has no idea how to do that. It actually ended with that blurry message, but it would’ve been better if it was actually explored properly. It tried to be something it’s not, and it just muddled the entire experience.
It goes back to that “scum” thing. The show is trying to point out that the characters are scum, but it’s not really handled properly. Sure, some characters do mean things but nothing too far. I mean, given how casual Japanese actually are, the actions the characters does aren’t really that bad. So you sleep around with people, big whoop. The anime tries to make the whole thing grand though, like it wants to point out how scum the characters are. They aren’t. They’re human, and nothing more. Even if they killed each other and cradled their crush’s severed head while on a boat, the characters are still humans just experiencing love. What else is there to tell? I honestly think the story is trying to point at something more, but I really don’t get it. It’s trying to paint this ethereal thing about the characters that is just really frustrating to watch. The anime has every right to do that though, but it really needs a good story to back it up. It needs some strong scenes to back up this ethereal thing the characters are talking about. It needs something solid to really convince the audience, because there is nothing ethereal here. There’s nothing divine or soul numbing. They’re just horny and confused people sleeping with everyone. It’s insulting to spin it any other way.
This unexplainable message the anime is getting at is honestly not a first for me. The anime’s story actually reminds me off Aku no Hana in how it tries to paint something else beyond a simple concept. Oh, the flowers of evil. How scandalous. The rotoscoped disaster talks about how the characters are evil, and they’re maggots for living out their life not conforming to the norm. Except they’re not. They’re just confused teenagers with identity crisis. Why are you trying to paint this picture that these kids are incomprehensible monsters craving evil things? So she blackmailed someone, who cares? The characters don’t even cross that uncomfortable line between normal and yandere that justify the whole “flowers of evil” concept. In fact, the most f*cked up thing that ever happened in Aku no Hana is that other chick losing her virginity by forcing herself on the guy or something. Maybe I just don’t get it, but please someone explain it to me. This grand way of depicting something that is really just a simple thing doesn’t register with me. It just comes off as pretentious trash, and it really just test my patience more than anything else. You have a story here and you can actually reach that “flowers of evil” concept, but it just feels lazy when you don’t do anything convincing. Scum’s wish is generally the same. How are they scum? Convince me.
I do hate one character though, and I do think he is scum. The other main character, Awaya, had three chances to actually have sex with a virgin, and the dude chickened out three times. It’s infuriating, because I don’t think that can actually happen. The guy foreplays, gets the girl excited, pleasures her enough for her to be naked, and all he has to do now is put it in and he doesn’t. He talks about how it’s wrong, but the dude has no problem actually having sex with two other girls. What the hell is wrong with you? I do believe he can back out, but not when you’ve done so much work. Why would you walk away now? It doesn’t make sense. Why are you so stupid? The annoying thing is that there was never any deep reason for him to back out three f*cking times. He’s just really stupid, I guess. How can I like a character after he’s done something stupid like that? Seriously? Like, gawd, what was the point of all that?
I don’t want to talk about the characters beyond Awaya. They’re all pretty, I guess. Story-wise, they suck though. When the show reaches its second half, I swear, I think the author just hates its readers. The only character that gets a resolution is the one that least deserves it. Like really, the author hates us. We got invested, but it was a trap all along. I do think the only logical character in the entire show is this red headed girl though. I don’t want to say much, but I think her decisions made more sense that the rest of the cast. There was even another character pointing out how dumb she’s acting, and I honestly wished we just dedicated the entire second half on them. I was behind her 100% through and through, because she was really the only one that processed her entire experience in a realistic and relatable fashion. Gawd, these characters suck.
This anime is presented by Studio Lerche, and it’s a big departure for them. They mostly do generic action, but I don’t really know what happened to them. I’m not updated with my sh*t, but their list of works seems to suggest that Scum’s Wish is different from the bunch. And oh my gosh, I love the new noitaminA intro. Who are those characters in running chairs? Adorable. Anyways, Lerche is trying new things and I love that. I hope they do more slow paced romance, because they can make it work. Also keep Masaomi Andou as director. This guy is amazing, because he literally made the manga come to life. The panels are moving, the pacing is close to the real thing and the author’s obsession with Yasuraoka is captured nicely. The story sucks, but that’s a manga problem. This guy hasn’t directed much, but I am very impressed at how he gave life to the manga. He did something special with this anime, and I seriously appreciate it. I hope he can work his magic on more romance stuff, because he does seem to have a knack at directing slow paced shows like this one. Given how much buzz this show got, I do think Studio Lerche will keep him around for a long time.
Sight and Sound
This manga is illustrated by Mengo Yokoyari, and her art style is just amazing. It doesn’t need much elaborating, because the entire anime is her style made to motion. She puts a lot of emphasis on facial expressions, and she really loves Yasuraoka for some reason. I’m guessing she’s a self-insert, but it’s a common thing in manga. Some characters are favored a lot by their creators, and I’ve seen it happen in Nisekoi as well. The blond chick is basically a poster for the entire manga. Mengo’s design is very detailed though, and it is insane how much work she puts in making the characters look pretty. The wonderful thing about her design is that they look cute but also very mature, so the idea of the characters fooling around isn’t that big of a deal. Her proportions are great, and they just stay consistent throughout. They even look good during those dirty scenes. Mengo’s style shines during the intimate scenes. She is actually the one that paces the foreplay that makes the anime a triumph. Her close up scenes is nicely presented because it tells a story that just looks inviting. The guy licks the girl’s belly, and the scene just looks really well done. Her knack for really good facial expressions becomes a strength during the intimate scenes as well, because very little is actually seen. The faces tell the story, and I just love it. Drawing a face in the height of pleasure is something I can’t even imagine yet alone translate on paper, and yet here is Mengo just making it look easy. The monologue also works great with the intimate scenes because it just paces the whole thing just right. You can’t rush it, because some characters talk too much, but you’ll soon be engrossed in the whole activity as well. You’re like a dirty voyeur knowing the characters secrets, and that is just complex storytelling. Do you know the best part of this entire thing is? The anime actually captured Mengo’s style in animation.
I’ve seen directors change the author’s vision, because it’s just too damn hard to execute. I remember Yuu Watase’s Arata Kagatari completely ruined by the anime. They didn’t even bother to capture her ambitious angles and flashy fight scenes. The author’s intention is often just hard to execute, but here is Masaomi Andou completely taking the entire manga and animating it to a tee. It’s not a perfect adaptation, but it’s pretty close to one. When your criticisms stem from the manga’s weakness and not really the anime’s, then that’s a gawd damn close adaptation. Mengo’s close up scenes, her moody monologues, and her unique style of intimate storytelling is just captured really closely. In fact, the anime is paced as frustratingly slow as the manga and I just love it. Masaomi has so much respect for Mengo’s vision that he really wanted to give the source justice. Rarely do you come across a director that just understands the original source, and they’re often the best in the industry, in my opinion. The greatest challenge is the intimate bed scenes, but the anime nailed them all. They paced it in Mengo’s style, and they captured her panels. In fact, the way the anime moves makes it a little bit more superior to the original source. Masaomi even captures Mengo’s obsession with Yasuraoka, and I think that’s important. Sure, she’s the main character but Mengo’s illustration of the main character is a lot more special. The director understood this, and gawd damn it, I just love everything about it. I am just really bummed the actual story sucks. This anime has reserved animation though, since it’s all talking. The facial expressions are really the only thing that makes the greatest impact, animation wise, and the director did a great job of it.
The anime’s OP is “Uso no Hibana” by 96neko. It’s a really good song, and it’s basically about the situation of the main characters. They song is cynical about love, but it still wants it so it’s confusing like that. The characters are confusing like that as well. The rhythm of the song bothers me though, and you can tell the lyrics came first. The vocals are decent though, but it honestly could’ve been better. It’s good enough to capture the show’s spirit though. The OP sequence is pretty much a short montage introducing the characters and a small glimpse of the premise. It also contains that grandiose bullsh*t I personally don’t like about the show. I dunno. I just hate it. The anime’s ED is “Heikousen” by Sayuri. I love this song. It’s basically the same as the OP, but it has a unique energy to it. Sayuri’s vocals just carry everything, and it’s just really fun to listen to. The same lyrics changes meaning with just how Sayuri sings it, and I love that small detail. A romantic notion suddenly turns into an act of defiance using the same lyrics. It’s amazing. The ED sequence is pretty great as well. It’s the characters in a trippy kaleidoscope that, I swear, had too much Freudian symbols in it. It does capture the anime’s unexplainable intentions though, and I guess it illustrates how “scum” they are. This sequence explained it better than the actual story, in my opinion.
8/10 “The animation is an experience to be had, but the story will really sour everything good about it.”
In terms of story, the show sucks. I’ll give it a three because the first half is really well done. The entire unrequited love told in different perspective is really entertaining. It goes downhill when the casual sex was more of a focus though, and it leads to a really unsatisfying ending. In terms of animation though, this anime deserves a nine. It is just gawd damn amazing, and I urge everyone to try it. This kind of anime is pretty rare, and we might never see another show talk about casual sex as sophisticated as this one. It’s both mature and innocent, and you just don’t come by something like that every season. This anime is unique, and let’s celebrate it for that. I recommend it.