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In the end it’s about
feeling and momentum
“I’m not sure which version of the truth I believe here, but I am fairly certain I know how the rest of this series is going to play out.”
We’ve finally reached the point where things are getting real for our young friends with benefits. Hanabi and Mugi have begun to feel awkward around each other because they have begun to develop actual romantic feelings for each other. Of course, neither one of them seems to want to confront this truth head on. In fact, they’re so mutually hellbent on confessing their feelings to their crushes that in certain moments it’s hard to tell if they’re trying to distract themselves from their budding romance or if they want to just close this chapter of their lives before they embark on a new start together. Or, maybe they both have been smitten with other people for so long they don’t know how to love anyone else. In pursuing the same emotionally unfulfilling course, they’ve walked the same road and shared a kind of intimacy that’s driven their hearts together in an oddly ironic way. Hanabi and Mugi have a synchronicity of purpose, if not motive, and that’s why it all goes wrong. But more on that in a minute.
So we finally meet Atsuya and confirm that Sanae (Ecchan) isn’t the only person in her family with unhealthy obsession issues. It’s hard to tell why Atsuya’s in the show, except to possibly remind Sanae how unhealthy her low self-esteem issues are. Oh, and he tries to logic his way into her pants, which comes of as more than a little creepy. Hopefully he’s not there to serve as a consolation prize when Hanabi inevitably leaves her for a real and fulfilling love. Sanae needs a more layered characterization to stay interesting in my opinion, and hopefully Atsuya’s arrival on the scene will herald a much-needed moment (or several) of reflection for her that causes her to rethink her desperate need to be a prop for another woman.
Moca shows up just long enough to show that she’s over Mugi and no longer going to pretend to be something she’s not. I’m glad they showed her doubling down on her resolve from the last episode because it reinforces the fact that she’s arguably the only emotionally sound person in this whole show. By the way, remember when I wondered if Mugi would have an ounce of Moca’s courage if he were faced with the object of his desire? Well, about that…
I always felt like there was something hidden underneath Mugi’s somewhat distant demeanor. In a show full of people who shout, yell, and cry about their love and heartache, he seemed content to just follow his very believable if semi-dramatized teenage hormones. Unlike Hanabi–with flashbacks and pensive gazes that illustrate her love of her Onii-chan–Mugi has had comparatively less screen time spent actively longing for Akane. But when the moment of Mugi’s truth arrives, he follows his previously established very plausible teenage hormones.
There’s a few ways to read this scene. One way might suggest that Akane has finally decided to let Mugi into her stable of playthings and he plays along in a way not unlike Sanae (despite his surprisingly emotional outburst). Another interpretation of the moment would suggest that Mugi sees himself as some sort of knight-errant bent on “saving” Akane from her inability to feel love or self-value. This is what the show wants you to believe is happening, in my opinion. For her part, Akane seems to be at least somewhat moved by Mugi’s passion. Sure, it could be an act, but it’s not everyday one of her playthings calls her out for the mask she wears. A third reading, one that might seem a bit unkind, would indicate that Mugi intends to change Akane by screwing her into a sense of self-worth. I’m not sure which version of the truth I believe here, but I am fairly certain I know how the rest of this series is going to play out.
One prediction I’ll share: Hanabi may have been gently refused by her Onii-chan for now, but eventually he’s going to see Hanabi as a woman once she begins to drift away from him. Hanabi will have to choose between the love she’s longed for or the love she didn’t expect. In any case, the fallout from this week should offer us insight into whether Hanabi can find a way out of her loneliness that doesn’t end up hurting her in the long run.
I can’t imagine you’re her anymore.
Josh Dunham (@Josh_Dunham)
“ Akane would have made a better main character than Hanabi.”
Scum’s Wish throws everything at you: complicated age differences, sexuality and gender dynamics, morality of behavior in a relationship, and now incest. Problems seem to appear not to challenge the characters and promote growth, but to cause them discomfort in a manner that stops just short of being sadistic. Indeed, you could say that the true villain of show is the plot, not Akane. Both of these issues are embodied in Atsuya, Ecchan’s cousin, who is head over heels in love with her. Their relationship is lazily defined by incestuous taboo when it could instead just represent unrequited love from a male perspective, which would have rounded out the show’s focus.
The major dilemma with this approach is that when the plot is resolved, it isn’t through actions taken by the characters. Once all 12 episodes have ended, the plot will be ‘defeated’ simply because there is no more run time for things to get worse, and that all too frequent feeling of ‘oh shit, gotta wrap this up’ will kick in come the series’ twilight episodes. This will force disingenuous character growth in place of natural progression, undercutting the relatability of the story and dashing the interesting moral quandaries against the rocks.
Visually the show has already peaked, but there were two instances of aesthetic different-ness that caught my eye. As Mugi confesses his feelings for Akane he gets lost amidst panicked thoughts, faded memories, and gushing emotion. He thinks himself inferior to the maneater, perfectly depicted by a Final Fantasy homage with Akane as the final boss.
Small details like Mugi wielding a stick and Akane’s flame-adorned hair add to the charm of it all. She truly feels dangerous and almost venerable, while he appears helpless and inexperienced. It’s the exact emotion of the scene encapsulated in a stylized image.
Another present surprise was the VCR simulation effects emulating nostalgia. It’s an interesting choice given the age the viewer would have to be to associate those emotions with those visuals. I would typically consider the audience of anime in general to be too young for said association, but perhaps Scum’s Wish skews a little older. But this comes with it’s own problems – why is the story tapered for a younger audience? Surely an older audience would more easily identify with someone their age with more life experience. What is truly frustrating is that such a character is already present in the series. Akane (and potentially the beloved Kanai-sensei) would have made a better main character than Hanabi.
I’ve loved as hard as I can
Pat “Suri” Price (@suribot)
“Everyone in this show is, to some extent, a terrible person.”
Can I take a moment to laugh about Ecchan’s hat?
The only place the series title exists in-universe is inside Hanabi’s head. She sees herself as garbage at the start, and her desire for her brother’s affection is her wish. Even if she had talked to Ecchan about this, she gets a hat? “Hey, yeah, this hat is like, the metafictional representation of this one girl’s angst and I want to date her.” It’s just very goofy in a show that has been anything but. It almost distracted me from how much I hate Kirishima Atsuya upon my first impression.
Pretty much everything about Atsuya makes him seem like a good person and friend, except for the fact that he has been insistent on dating his cousin (Ecchan) for at least a year. She’s repeatedly shown no interest. She smacked him the first time. She informed him that she’s interested in a woman (Hanabi) and that he has no chance. She even goes as far as saying “I probably hate men” in order to communicate that the proverbial door is closed. Still, he’s persistent, suggesting that, as she doesn’t hate him despite his being a man and doesn’t like Hanabi because she’s a woman, he still has a chance. I hate this. I hate everything about this. These are actions and words I’ve seen from some incredibly unpleasant real people in my life, and the fact that he is otherwise portrayed as a person Ecchan likes as a friend rubs me the wrong way. Then again, Ecchan’s advances on Hanabi at this point are unwanted. Hanabi asked her to stop. Ebato Sanae said no. Atsuya’s behavior isn’t really that different from her own. Ecchan’s is worse, in fact, as she has acted on it and plans to continue doing so. My gut reaction stems from my own experiences I suppose, and it’s important to recognize that. Everyone in this show is, to some extent, a terrible person. Except, maybe, for one person.
Now then, let’s address the confessions. Hanabi and Mugi decided, once and for all, to tell Kanai Narumi and Minagawa Akane how they feel. When they’re both rejected, that they will be able to move on with their lives, perhaps even with each other. This is the plan. Mugi confronts Akane. He tells her that he knows about her lies, her broken narcissism, all of that. He gets swept away by her empty words, unable to resist the opportunity to get what he wants. He wants to be the one to change her, to be the first person she actually loves. Not exactly a rejection, but I sincerely doubt it’ll go the way he wants. If Akane had shown the slightest remorse for her actions, the faintest hint of wanting to be a better person, there might be a path forward. She hasn’t, though. She loves what she does. She revels in it.
Hanabi’s confession with Kanai Narumi, the man she loves and sees as an older brother, goes as planned. He takes her seriously right away, treats her with the utmost respect. Kanai supports her, but cannot return her feelings. Hanabi is okay with this. He is probably the only person in this show who I could safely say is good. From the viewer’s perspective, nothing about him is broken: he’s functional, he is kind, he’s supportive. It’s fairly of easy to see how Hanabi’s feelings manifested, honestly. Even so, she’s wanted to move on for a while. She’s able to change for the better because she wants to. She just needed the support from Mugi. She was able to do this because she can tell herself “I am not alone.”
Who’s to say if that will remain true, though?