Scum’s Wish – Episode 4

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be returning to the torturous drama of Scum’s Wish, wherein basically everyone is having a lousy time not being with the one they want. Our misguided leads started unhappy and have only gotten worse, with their preposterous hopes for a “relationship of surrogates” predictably falling apart the moment it began.

Though they are united under the vague umbrella of each wanting someone they can’t have, it’s already clear that what Hana and Mugi want from each other is quite different. It seems Hana is beginning to realize the impossibility of getting together with Kanai; having observed Ecchan’s own hopeless crush, she now sees the emotional burden her desires are placing on others. If not for Akane’s presumed infidelity driving her forward, she’d likely be happy to honestly date Mugi in a totally healthy, non-displaced-affection sort of way.

On the other hand, Mugi probably shouldn’t be dating anyone right now. It’s clear that his relationship with Mei messed him up pretty badly, with her push for sexual contact leaving him uncomfortable with any sort of physical relationship. What Mugi actually needs is a therapist, but this is anime, and so presumably those feelings will be synthesized into chaos by the trauma-to-drama pipeline. That’s the shit we’re here for, so let’s batten down the hatches and get ready for a storm as we return to the world of Scum’s Wish!

Episode 4

And at last we open on Akane’s perspective, beginning with the incredible self-descriptor “it could just be that I love myself too much”

Is Akane just going to be an incredibly messy, selfish person with no redeeming qualities? God I hope so

“I don’t like anything that labels you.” A classic “have your cake and eat it too” sort of line, the desire to command and control others without in any way being beholden to that person in turn

“Being wanted just feels so good.” I love it. Everyone else opens with all the painful emotional background for their current feelings, and Akane is just like “that’s right, I am That Bitch”

“My friend was interested in him, and I thought they’d be a good match. But something about how perfect that would be didn’t sit right with me.” AKANE LIVES FOR CHAOS

Honestly, as someone who’s too far past high school to fully respect its histrionic romantic drama, I have to love a character who’s just like “I am terrible and will now cause problems on purpose”

“The feeling I had wasn’t guilt. It wasn’t a sense of superiority, either. I thought that I would rather die than be exploited like her.” It seems like toying with the feelings of others is a way she affirms her power and control over her own life

“I suppose that was the day I realized how much I enjoyed exploiting people.” In a story that spends so much time emphasizing how other people have circumstances you couldn’t predict informing their behavior, I appreciate this supplementary counterpoint of “some people are just plain terrible”

“Loving someone other than yourself. That’s something I can’t imagine.”

“There isn’t anyone out there to prove that this is someone to be desired.” With no romantic desires of her own, Akane uses the feelings of others to guide her ego trip. She intentionally picks partners who are desired by others, feeding on the sense of claiming desired prey, and loses interest once they’re fully hers

As a result, the only reason she likes Kanai so much is because Hana so adores him. Oh my god, what a perfectly awful woman

So really, Akane is actually more engaged with the girl she’s toying with than the man she’s actually dating. It’s not the romance she craves, it’s the suffering

“Hanabi. You haven’t realized you belong on this side.” Ah, this is so delicious. Akane actually sees a kindred soul in Hana, someone who can just as effortlessly revel in the doomed affections of everyone around her. Definitely a connection there between Akane’s feelings and the feelings that prompted the original fake relationship – no one believes they can find earnest romantic love, but they hope to at least find kinship with fellow “monsters” like themselves. Hence ‘Scum’s Wish,’ I suppose

“This is all your fault. After all, Kanai-san isn’t my type at all.” Yes, but apparently Hana very much is

And now we’re getting Kanai’s side, as he waits in the music room for Akane’s planned finale

“Love, hate, I’m not really one for strong emotions either way. People like me are honestly pretty boring.” We’re getting a wide spectrum of perspectives, but the guiding principle is that every one of these people is fully consumed by thoughts of romance. When are we gonna jump to a new focus character and have them be like, “man, I sure do love waterskiing”

I joke, but I do feel that to some extent, the myopia of perspective inherent in a romantic melodrama like this limits its reach as any sort of earnest character study, since all the characters have such narrow personal priorities

Apparently, Akane reminds Kanai of his mother. Wonderful

In all regards, he seems precisely as simple as everyone else is messy and complex

Akane’s timing is perfect; Hana arrives just as Kanai declares his feelings, letting Akane fully savor her expression

I like how each episode of this show essentially comes with its own representative weather patterns. Last episode was cool and overcast, perfectly evoking Ecchan’s lonely feelings, while this episode is all muggy summer heat, with the light saturation and focus on sweat naturally complimenting Akane’s messy powers

Brutal moment of Hana actually praising Kanai for doing what she could not, and outright declaring his feelings

“I was scared that he wouldn’t be my brother anymore.” For as much as this sucks for Hana, it’s clear that her feelings for Kanai aren’t really romantic, either – she just doesn’t want to lose a key member of her family. Nice pencil sketch effects for this portrayal of their old relationship, with the loose linework and sepia tones conveying the sense of a treasured memory

She almost goes to Mugi, but decides not to burden him with her suffering, and is instead caught by Ecchan

“Please forgive me for not knowing.” Akane believes Hana is secretly like her, because that’s pretty much how all assholes think – that everyone is fundamentally no different from them, most people simply “perform” virtue for the sake of the crowd, and thus the assholes are ultimately just more honest than others. Of course, this isn’t actually true at all, most people genuinely do care about others, and it actually does tear Hana up that she can’t be the person Ecchan wants her to be

Ecchan is so desperate to have her that she’ll embrace even this false intimacy, a lie that Hana no longer has the strength to push back against

“Ecchan, I can’t see your face like this.” Even though this is what Ecchan wants, Hana can’t really recognize this side of her

And as they join together, the rain starts to fall. Once again, Ecchan is tethered to these melancholy rainy afternoons

“Just tell me if you don’t want to do this.” They’re doing a terrific job of making this the most uncomfortable sexual encounter possible! Nothing “sexy” about it at all, just two unhappy people trying to make a fundamentally broken connection work

“You can’t say no to me because you don’t want to lose me.” Ecchan quickly diagnoses the precise weakness that kept Hana from admitting her feelings to Kanai, her fear of losing what she currently has

And once again, Hana starts imagining Kanai

“Today was the first day you took advantage of someone’s feelings.” Hana imagines her inner voice of reason or morality as a child version of herself, which certainly says something about her overall view of this situation. She’s still young enough to see her childhood self as a genuine ideal, while her current deviations from that image define her as “scum.” But of course, our child selves are only so spotless because they’ve yet to engage with the complexity of the world. Just like with her “pure” feelings for Kanai, what Hana most craves seems to be a return to the simplicity and comfort of childhood

Having embraced her similarity to Akane, Hana vows to beat her at her own game

And Done

Oof, what a goddamn mess. Well, things are going roughly as well as I expected for Hana, as she compliments her first fake relationship with a fresh new one. And this time, she’s even hurting a friend she deeply cares about, and likely ruining her bond with Ecchan forever! Terrific work by our hapless protagonist, but in the meantime: oh my god Akane. What a delightfully terrible person, what a fun compliment to our stew of mixed-up teenagers. I was so glad to learn that Akane isn’t also adrift in a sea of tormented emotions, and that she’s actually having a grand old time embracing her inner chaos demon. Genuinely terrible people make for such fun dramatic irritants!

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