First Impressions: Scum’s Wish/Kuzu no Honkai

The first episode of Scum’s Wish makes a case as a contender among the top series of the season. With that said, my initial run through the episode was marked with dissatisfaction at the character and the explicit nature of the piece.  The art style itself was great, with some neat manga-esque panel framing to show a wide range of character expressions during specific moments. There’s an irregular, pencil like quality to the aesthetic that’s overall pleasing to look at, perhaps hinting at an unfiltered experience of the character’s reality. The show utilizes the split window well, highlighting the conflicting nature between mind and body. This is a nice touch in a series whose major draw is the exploration of unrequited love. The part that’s problematic with Scum’s Wish is that its theme is forcefully shoved down our throats, making it a point to narrate what exactly the protagonist is feeling during every single moment. Sometimes the narration works, but for the most part it’s heavy handed and distracting. Those moments don’t really allow room for input or introspection. It’s dictating exactly what you should be thinking at all times.

Our mopey, insecure protagonist Hana is in love with her homeroom teacher and childhood acquaintance whom she calls her older brother, Kanai. Rather than ever fessing up to him, she complains to her classmate Mugi, who is equally just as bad as she is. He pines over his tutor who is now also a teacher at the same school. They then make a pact to be each other’s replacements for their unrequited love, but they must never fall in love with each other. They both appear to  be lame, lifeless dolls that rather complain than fix their problems.

Both characters are largely unlikeable, at least at present, with hollowed-out expressions that paint them as empty husks. Much of their interaction entails wallowing in a pool of self-pity instead of taking any risks. Rather than putting themselves out there, they seek to protect themselves in the comfort of each other’s embrace. Then again, that’s what it means to be human; No one wants to be hurt if they can avoid it.  This is exactly the type of relationship these two have. When they’re not moping, they both seem disinterested in what each other has to say. Honestly, they’re both downright terrible people. Hana makes it a point to not just reject an innocent admirer who was waiting on her response for a week, she destroys him with vicious words. Mugi seems as though his involvement with Hana is one of mere self-satisfaction and curiosity. When Hana is on the bed crying about her love life, he tells her not to get the bed wet. I’m sure somewhere down the line Mugi will show some complexity to his character, but all we’ve manage to see so far is him being a jerk.

Even with the unlikeable characters, the show itself executes its statement on the nature of desire versus with deft precision. Scum’s Wish doesn’t hold back on its depiction of the lustful moments between its Hana and Mugi. You could see them getting lost in the intimacy, with drool dribbling from their mouths as they pull back from a kiss. However, Hana’s narration make it painfully clear to us that it’s not all ecstasy. Hana’s thoughts linger somewhere in between pleasure and misery whenever she’s with Mugi. Sometimes, she has a hard time with pretending. Her conflicting thoughts pose some interesting commentary on relationships: “If one of us is feeling lonely, what’s wrong with wanting the other to hold you?” The show captures the Hana’s emotional confliction to excruciating detail. It’s not as simple as just pretending and that’s what makes the series genuinely interesting. There’s a lot to be said here about relationships and love, making this series easily stand out amongst the est.

Overall, Scum’s Wish shows an immense amount of potential. While the series’ characters are not particularly charming at first glance, they act with purpose. The theme is the strength of the show. However, I have to mention that the character’s boring personalities became somewhat of a setback in my  initial enjoyment of the first episode. Though, their flaws were largely overlookable.

As an aside, ending theme song powerfully demonstrates the tone of the series with brilliant execution. It starts off with a girls slow yells (there’s something captivating about the raw emotion present in the shrill of her voice)as if in agony, building up to a beautifully sounding chaos with some trippy repeated imagery. I can’t recommend it enough.

 

— Palpable (`・ω・´)

13 thoughts on “First Impressions: Scum’s Wish/Kuzu no Honkai”

  1. Hmm… to be honest, I don’t even see what’s making them so “terrible”. The line after villager A grabbed her after she turned him down was harsh – fine. But other than that? Teenagers nowadays are no better, the way I see it.

    In order to enjoy this show, you will need to have a modicum of empathy – and I feel more pity than revulsion towards them. You’ll see, they don’t have it easy ^_^; … and for me, this show is among the most interesting character studies in the business.

    1. That’s a valid point to make about teenagers. You’re right about needing to empathize with the characters to enjoy the story, but I don’t think that means you necessarily have to like the characters. I still feel strongly about the characters while relating to their situation.

      Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first episode. I say they’re terrible people because of how they behave towards each other and others thus far. They approach each other out of a need of self-preservation more than sympathy. They wear their jealousy quite obviously. Is it relatable? Of course. Maybe the series intends for the characters to be portrayed like this at the beginning to show the fallible nature of people in love. Now, this can change as we learn about the character’s emotional states, but for now, that’s the impression I was given. It didn’t help Mugi’s case that his character wasn’t as explored as Hana’s. I’m sure this will change though.

      The character study is an interesting aspect of the show. I’m looking forward to seeing their emotional growth.

      1. I need to be careful how to respond here because I don’t want to spoil you – and I implore you not to give in to the temptation to spoil yourself by reading the manga 😉

        Let me play advocatus diaboli here: IMHO their “deal” is fair, not “terrible”. Rewatch the key scene from timecode 19:48 onwards (and note the _wonderful_ haunting piano+strings piece in the background which grows in intensity up to the pinky promise – this piece has been written for this very scene alone, and this kind of attention to details has become rare). Why “fair”? Because both sides know exactly what they’re doing. Noone is fooled, and it comes with an exit clause. Which I consider better than finding comfort in a pure “friends with benefits” relationship which might be misunderstood.

        Both are emotionally bleeding and trapped – more details will be arriving soon. Sure they are jealous, that is the natural reaction to an unrequited love. And I can understand what they’re feeling, trying to do and why. Reason is that this anime has “first person inner voice parts”, with Hanabi in ep1. This will happen with all characters over the course of the anime (several of which we haven’t met yet), with the exception of only one single character in order to have a bombshell effect in the second-to-last episode.

        This is why I actually _like_ the characters: They are exceptionally honest and self-aware, as their inner dialogue will show. They know their flaws and they don’t fool themselves, even though they might wear their masks for the rest of the world. Whether or not what they do is right/smart is debatable and up to the viewer to judge, but it is properly developed motivated. And a welcome change from sugary-idealized shoujo or dumbed-down harem.

        So, I hope you’ll give the show some more time. First, I couldn’t believe that they’d try to animate this source, especially for public TV. But now that I see how much effort and skill they put into it, I’m thrilled and looking forward to the rest of the show.

        1. Heh, I appreciate the restraint on the spoilers. I’ll refrain from spoiling it myself, don’t worry.

          True enough, that’s a fine a point to make. Now that you bring it to my attention, Hana does voluntarily visit Mugi at his apartment. Her visit and the pinky promise pretty much seals the deal that it is fair. Originally, it kinda felt like Mugi was almost manipulating her into the situation. There was an awkward tension in the whole moment. Hana’s discomfort was far more obvious than anything else. Mugi didn’t show much emotion at all. But then your argument made me realize that he was just answering in kind to Hana’s playful flirting. In the end, those moments are supposed to be awkward to show how much they’re truly hurting. And it seems like Mugi might just be putting up a strong front. We’ll have to see as the series progresses.
          I’m excited to know that there’ll be more first person narratives in the future. That’ll be great for the developing empathy for characters like Mugi. I really want to like him, but there’s just not enough to go off yet. I’m sure the show intends to transform him emotionally just as much as Hana’s.

          I may have made it sound a lot more dire, but make no mistake, I enjoyed the episode. I have to admit, I’m drawn to emotionally-driven narratives with insightful characters. I definitely feel the burn out of watching the stereotypical rom coms of the past. This will be a welcomed change of pace.

      1. Yeah I was curious. Told him it was getting anime adaption and he said he avoiding. Then I asked for details.

        I might still watch to get inspiration for drawings. Idk. Right now a bit drunk.

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