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Just use me
“Akane ran out of better angels a long time ago.”
What a magnificent mess our heroes find themselves in this week.
Hanabi wastes no time in screwing her life up even more after Akane’s coup de grace shatters what little self-confidence she has left. And after telling us that she plans to try and beat Akane at her own game, she spends most of the episode feeling miserable for her efforts. Important PSA: Any time your better angel shows up to advise you against a course of action and they don’t bring along your inner devil…you’re in trouble.
It’s become crystal clear that Akane and Hanabi fundamentally misunderstand each other. In their mutual vanity, they assume themselves each to be like the other. You can make the argument that Akane thinks she’s doing Hanabi a favor by breaking her heart. In so doing, she’s releasing Hanabi from simple delusions like love and revealing to her the freedom that can be found in stealing the affections of others. As for Hanabi, in her mind Akane plays a game with men and revels in dominating any man she chooses. But Akane isn’t some kind of sexual Machiavelli at all. She’s sick and in need of serious emotional counseling. What kind of adult gets a rush out of outmaneuvering a teenager to claim a sexual conquest? That isn’t the logic of a healthy person.
Hanabi might not believe it, but she’s the more emotionally adept of the two of them. She still has an inner voice that (futilely) tries to steer her away from making poor decisions in her love life. By the close of the episode, Hanabi’s feelings of emptiness and deepening melancholy offer some hope that she may be beginning to realize Akane isn’t a good model for her or anyone’s life. Akane ran out of better angels a long time ago.
Ecchan’s deepening obsession with Hanabi is beginning to approach Fatal Attraction-levels of derangement. She’s managed to delude herself into thinking that as Hanabi continues to spiral down into ever more superficial emotional connections with Mugi or other men that she’ll always come back to her. In fact, Ecchan’s refusal to let Hanabi back away from their friends with benefits arrangement calls into question whether she ever actually cared for Hanabi as a friend at all. On the other hand, if Hanabi hadn’t begun using Ecchan in the first place, maybe their friendship wouldn’t have metastasized into whatever warped relationship it has now become. We could circle around the questions of who the real abuser or victim in this relationship actually is, but in the end Hanabi and Ecchan’s relationship has become an ouroboros of mutually assured emotional blackmail and ruin.
And let’s spare a moment to reflect upon the one character in this whole show that deserves a bit of pity. Poor Moca. She gets a savagely raw deal in this show because she’s the only one whose notions of love are conventional, if a bit sheltered. We’ve caught glimpses of her desperation as she’s seeing her construction of Mugi as the ideal boyfriend crumble before her eyes. In truth, she doesn’t know him at all. How hard her fall will be when she sees Mugi in all his broken glory! Next week has all the signs of another train wreck.
What does it feel like
to play with people’s emotions?
Pat “Suri” Price (@suribot)
“Every single mistake these characters make feels like a mistake that character would make.”
This episode was a circus of bad decisions. Ebato, being presented with what should be the end of her relationship with Hanabi, instead says “nah” and decides that it’s totally not over. Hanabi, realizing the mistake of leading her best friend on, tries to push back before deciding that she should lead on a stranger in a misguided attempt at revenge on Akane (which Hana herself acknowledges will go nowhere). Mugi mostly sits this episode out before coming in at the final moments to make a mistake of his own by teasing the girl who’s been in love with him for years and half-heartedly asking her out on a date.
The thing about that I adore about Scum’s Wish is that every single mistake these characters make feels like a mistake that character would actually make. Hanabi opens up to Mugi, suggests that maybe they date for real. She’s beginning to come to terms with the fact that she won’t be with Kanai and that she should try and hold on to what happiness she does have with Mugi. Hana sees a chance at a healthy relationship, with someone who gets her, and she tries to grab hold of it. This is good! She’s trying to move on. The problem here is Ebato. Hanabi tells her that she wants to seriously pursue Mugi, and Ebato simply replies “And?” as though it’s no reason for them to stop. Hanabi seems to realize the hole she’s dug for herself at this point. She was trying to make her friend feel good, to give her what she wanted but ultimately only for her own relief and satisfaction. Ebato loves Hanabi. Hanabi does not feel the same way but allowed herself to be used by Ebato, knowing that it was making her best friend happy. Therefore, in Hanabi’s mind, she was doing something “good” that she could feel good about. Ebato, unfortunately for Hanabi, doesn’t want to back out of this.
I’d probably be more worried about the possessive portrayal of Ebato as a woman refusing to give Hanabi up if literally everyone else did not decide to make terrible decisions this week as well. After meeting someone who she knew to be one of the men Akane is seeing, Hanabi decides to try and employ emotional manipulation in order to steal him away. The fact that Hana has no desire for him is beside the point. This sounds very familiar!. Hana’s plan, though not immediately upended, doesn’t seem like it will work because she is kind of bad at intentional, direct manipulation. She even acknowledges that she’s operating from a point of weakness, desiring affirmation from others, where Akane operates from a position of strength. Akane has a sense of self-worth that Hanabi struggles to achieve. Honestly, I’m not sure what Hanabi is really trying to do because she seems to know her plan can’t work, she but wants to try anyway. Maybe she wants to have the kind of control over people that Akane does, even if she can only feel it for a moment. In the process, she might mess up the little bit of progress she’s made with Mugi. Mistakes abound, and I’m still excited to see where this show goes. Honestly, I’m beginning to think the less Akane shows up, the better. Intentionally inflicting pain might make a good antagonistic trait, but I think too much of that will just weaken the premise overall.
I deserve this punishment
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“Out of everyone, I am most excited to see where [Ecchan] goes.”
Scum’s Wish episode six feels like a drastic u-turn from the tone of prior episodes. Characters who are portrayed as overtly innocent and sexually inexperienced (it is important that we don’t conflate the two) are suddenly mean spirited and conniving. So sharp and inconsistent is the tone that it feels like someone off screen flipped the ‘bad’ switch causing all the characters to become apex predators in a manipulation game. In terms of storytelling, it is efficient to enact a cast-wide tonal shift in a single episode, but here it simply feels insincere.
One exception to this insincerity is Ecchan, whose character has become more defined. Her progression feels metered and realistically paced, as if she is episodes ahead in character development compared to the rest of the cast. She is my favorite character for this reason. Her emotional intelligence soars above the petty squabbling that absorbs too much screentime this episode. Out of everyone, I am most excited to see where she goes.
The cinematic validity of the series remains intact, though. Scum’s Wish continues to explore the use of manga panels as I have outlined in my writing for other episodes. While this week saw no new ingenious uses of the technique (which I blame on the drab plot progression), the use of lighting was beautiful. The scene where Ecchan embraces Hanabi is an excellent example of this beauty. Rays of the fading sun pass through the leaves, and everything is bathed in orange. Despite its other shortcomings, the show continues to stay strong visually. While I did not enjoy the first step in this new direct the story is taking, the overall path intrigues me.