Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be diving back into Scum’s Wish, the Masaomi Andou-directed adaptation of Mengo Yokoyari’s thorny adolescent drama. So far, the show has offered plenty of Andou and plenty of drama, as high schoolers Hana and Mugi pine after the crushes of their childhood, while consoling themselves with the bodies of each other. It’s a deeply unhealthy state of affairs, a fragile disaster waiting to happen, and I’m eager to see it all come tumbling down.
More immediately, though, I’m mostly looking for this episode to add some distinctive human texture to our four leads. So far they’ve largely been defined by their romantic feelings, which doesn’t really tell us much about them specifically; we know Hana and Kanai clung to each other as a result of their missing parents, but that’s about it as far as character motivation is concerned. What we might need is some general group activity or event, something for each character to react to in their own way, and thus establish their personalities outside of the context of their romantic feelings. That’s my main narrative hope, but either way, I’m looking forward to munching on more of Andou’s delicious compositions. Let’s get to it!
Gentle piano keys lead us back into the hallway at school. This whole show possesses a sedate, dreamlike atmosphere that makes it seem like the characters are almost sleepwalking, strongly emphasizing their sense of emotional detachment from the world around them. Andou’s screen-in-screen shots greatly assist this effect, as they significantly diminish the number of full camera cuts, which allows for smoother, intentionally less energetic cinematography. But this effect is also amplified by the music score, and in particular, the show’s consistent use of faded colors
Hana’s waiting for Mugi after school. Everyone else assumes they’re in a normal relationship, because why would anyone assume otherwise?
We meet a red-haired girl, who Hana refers to as “Ecchan,” implying they already have a degree of closeness
“We haven’t walked home together much this year.” Another context-loaded line, implying they were closer friends in the first year of high school. You don’t have to relegate information like this to overt exposition if you’re good at writing purposeful, context-laden dialogue!
Our fake couple walk away, followed by a slow pan back to Ecchan, implying she has some issue with their relationship. We rarely consider how much we have naturally internalized regarding cinematographic implications; cinematography is a language unto itself, and languages must be learned. Fortunately, we now grow up with TV and film dramas surrounding us at all times, meaning we instinctively know that a long held shot on a figure like this implies tension beneath the surface
Mugi leans in for a kiss, and suddenly the pigtailed angel-girl from the OP shouts “anything but that!” Alright, let’s get some rivalry going
This OP feels too manic for this show’s material – something more somber seems appropriate for the show’s actual tone
Ah, she’s Mugi’s childhood friend from the same apartment building. Continuing with the trend of “fated love” being a love you’ve been harboring secretly for years
The embroidered edges of these flashbacks are a nice embellishment, implying the beloved, rose-colored nature of these memories
Her name is Noriko
Upon hearing that she and Mugi looked like “a prince and a princess” together, Noriko took that to heart, and basically rebuilt herself as a princess-like person. The distance between all these characters’ expectations and reality is so vast; they’re all expecting perfect love to arrive on a white horse, and see any relationship that isn’t their “destined end” as a cheap compromise
Noriko Kamomebata, or “Moca.” Her defensive, clingy stance behind Mugi already makes me like her; in a story so filled with hopeless, unrequited feelings, a gremlin who is willing to fight for what she wants feels like a breath of fresh air
A cast like this truly needs irritants like Moca, though. Many people, particularly passive folks like Hana, will simply stay in their comfort zone unless forcibly removed. Moca may well serve the role of someone like Oregairu’s Yui, stirring the pot and forcing the others into action
“Moca is short for Most Cutest Angel!” Yeah, she’s good
“You’ve always been a pain, haven’t you?” “And I remember you being an awful person.” See, we’re already getting more texture for Hana. Forced to interact with Moca, she moves outside of dreamily reflecting on Onii-chan, and embraces a grumpy, downcast, and emphatically human behavior pattern. The idea of “opposites attracting” in a narrative sense is likely just a natural consequence of how characters who spark friction tend to bring out the most personality in each other
“You just pretend to be nice in front of him, right?” And Mugi agrees. Yeah, this episode’s answering my initial complaints in a hurry
Mugi says that Hana’s meanness is “part of what makes her who she is.” And Hana gasps at this, having presumably never been valued for the “ugly” parts of her personality before. Hana loves Kanai as an ideal, and tries to act like an ideal herself in her interactions with him – but Mugi has come to know her actual self, and actually likes that self. This is a key moment for Hana, as she is first introduced to the idea that she might be lovable even as “scum,” even with her feelings and intentions laid bare
“Thanks. I like everything about you too, Mugi.”
Love the use of saturated lighting against the rich, dark colors here, really amplifying the tension of the moment
“So I wouldn’t go around clinging to things that aren’t yours.” Damn, Hana. Yeah, this was an excellent scene for fleshing out her character a bit. These vengeful, petty parts of her, as well as her weakness to being genuinely accepted, all help me see her as a more rounded human being
When Mugi refuses to outright reject Moca, Hana claims he’s “just clinging to his sense of superiority.” She’s a little smart and a lot petty, and it’s a charming combo
“Are you jealous?” “Hell no, I’m just possessive.” Great answer
“I hate the time I’m just thinking about him. It hurts so much.” These characters always seem the least themselves when they dip into this melodramatic affectation. I suppose it’s sort of a common language of first love
“Because I always end up recreating him in my mind to fit my own needs. It scares me.” An unusually perceptive thought. Moca is frightened of precisely the sort of false, self-centered feelings that Hana and Mugi are embroiled in
Moca’s invasion of their lunch date offers some new renditions of Andou’s screen-in-screen tricks, as partitioned closeups on the characters essentially impose themselves over the screen, as if the characters themselves were pushing closer and closer to each other through their argument
“She’s just using you, Mugi!” Well, yes, but not in the way you think
Mugi correctly assesses that Moca is intimidated by Hana. Meanwhile, Ecchan observes from a distance
“Why do I have to help you with this?” “Because it’s hard to ask anyone else.” “What am I going to do with you?” Whether or not Kanai is aware of it, he’s consistently adding fuel to Hana’s feelings, implying they share a special bond like this
“I have to get Big Bro to see me as a woman, even if it’s a little bit.” What a self-defeating sentence
But That Damn Woman is playing piano next door, and Kanai is enraptured
Mugi and Hana shout their feelings into karaoke after school, the teenage equivalent of grumbling at the bar
Neither of them can sing for shit, which I very much appreciate
“Once you fall for someone, it has to be them.” Ah, first love
And another neat use for Andou’s partitions: portraying a hand hesitantly moving across the screen, the smaller shots creating a sense of uncertain, staggered motion
Neither of them can make a clean break from their old feelings, but their replacement fantasy is already starting to crumble
On the bus, Ecchan considers “what if the one being used is actually Hana?” So does she have feelings for Hana, then?
Seems so. She’s intensely conscious of Hana’s physical proximity
Ecchan is apparently Hana’s only female friend. Hana’s general isolation also plays a clear role in explaining her feelings and behavior; the more distant you are from others, the more you’ll cling to and deify the few relations you do have
Mugi also seems genuinely invested in Hana’s general happiness now, urging her to make more friends
These “new friends” explain how one of them is in a drama-rich love polycule of her own. How do these kids find the time to get their homework done
Hana asks which lover this girl prefers, and is perplexed by her “I can’t decide” response. Hana, with her fanciful ideas of destined love, cannot relate
Their assessment of romance is entirely utilitarian; it doesn’t seem like she possesses strong feelings for either of her partners
Ecchan ultimately reaffirms Hana’s view of romance, in a conversation that feels painfully unfair for Ecchan
“Why am I getting ready for a sleepover!?” Ecchan seems like a totally different kind of charming emotional mess. She’s a good girl Hana, don’t break her heart
Aaand then Ecchan kisses her. Alright, no breaks on this train!
Ahaha what, oh my god. That episode was so much! First off, my biggest request for this episode was clearly answered, as we received a wide variety of scenes that added some incidental characterization to Hana, Mugi, and a variety of side characters. At the same time, this episode also introduced love rivals for both our leads, establishing both Ecchan and Moca with remarkable efficiency. The two of them are already greatly expanding this show’s emotional range, deviating widely from the malaise of Hana to embrace a variety of tones and perspectives. As I’d hoped, Scum’s Wish’s first episode planted a seed that is already flowering, blooming with the addition of this episode’s dynamic secondary characters. An excellent second episode on the whole!
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