Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’re diving back into the thorny drama of Scum’s Wish, a show whose second episode was kind enough to answer basically all my complaints about its premiere. After the show’s first episode presented the world as conceived by Hana’s melodramatic mindscape, the second was quick to puncture her bubble, complicating the situation with the introduction of Moca and Ecchan. With a strong social irritant like Moca in the mix, Hana and Mugi are both revealing new facets of their personalities, becoming more convincingly realized with their every argument.

Meanwhile, Ecchan seems like an emotional disaster area in her own right, and is blitzkrieging her way into the drama lips-first. Hana hasn’t demonstrated romantic feelings for anyone but Kanai, but given her feelings for Kanai are a childish sort of puppy-love in the first place, it’s hard to say where her story will turn. Both Hana and Mugi are reveling in adolescent fantasies of idealized, “destined” romances, and both of them are in for some hard lessons as they develop into their young adult selves.

When we’re young, we treat every romantic event and feeling as iconic and significant, because we benefit from the rush of novelty and the absence of experience. Currently, each of our leads believe their crushes are the only choices for them, because they have been the only choices up until now. But with other suitors intruding on both of them, the insubstantiality of “destiny” will make itself known soon enough. The question then becomes, with so much of their identity wrapped up in their infatuations, who are Hana and Mugi when you set those feelings aside? I’m eager to see our leads grapple with these questions, so let’s get right to the action!

Episode 3

Grey clouds and falling snow greet us in a letterbox format, implying a somber memory of some kind

Ecchan was harassed by a molester in a train, and was saved by Hana

Interesting seeing how the letterbox format interplays with Andou’s ever-present shot-in-shot tricks. The partitioned shots inside of the letterbox format look a little clumsy, but this sequence’s best moment actually uses them to great effect. Just as Ecchan is feeling cornered, the letterbox format is replaced by a pure black screen with falling snow, which is then punctured by Hana’s intrusion. Through this, the show visually amplifies the sense of a rescue from a moment of entrapment, with the literal bars of the top and bottom of the screen being pushed away by Hana’s entrance

This sequence also makes great use of black-and-white photography, which makes total sense for Andou’s style. Andou’s shot-in-shot tricks tend to evoke the sense of manga panels, and the best manga are able to use negative space to keen dramatic effect. Here, the austere black or white backgrounds combine with the shot-in-shots to evoke manga’s style of pacing through negative space

More neat tricks of framing. The two descending from the train is presented as a panel that breaks the letterbox formatting, with its vertical formatting emphasizing the sense that they are descending onto the platform. By recreating the sense of motion that manga can evoke through panel arrangement, Andou is able to create a sense of forward momentum without much actual animation

The moment where Hana grabs her hand, and tells her to embrace her feelings, is portrayed in full color. A classic yet ever-effective trick, presenting the person who draws you out of your shell as literally bringing color to your world

“Hanabi never let go of my hand until we arrived at the exam site.” It’s interesting how we only start to actually know Hana once we get outside her own headspace. Hana herself is completely preoccupied with her romantic situation, but those around her can appreciate the ways she is considerate, snarky, or something in between

“That was my first love. Until then, I’d assumed I just hated men, or that I wasn’t interested in romance.” Ecchan is experiencing the same situation as the main two leads – because this is her first love, it is essentially the Definition of Romance for her, and she will accept no substitutions

Hana rants about the mercenary diner pair to Ecchan, who thinks “Hanabi, you’re so pure” in response. Oh boy

Again though, Ecchan is far from alone in possessing an unrealistic perspective on her crush. All of our leads are loving ideals, not people. Each of them has fallen for their “savior” in some way, attaching all their anxieties and hopes of youth to the fulfillment of these destined loves

Ooh, I love this shot. With the two facing each other in bed, Hana asks “what’s your crush like?” as the screen partitions into the two of them in the center, and the falling snow against darkness to either side of them. This transition emphasizes their closeness, pushing them together in the screen while simultaneously calling back to the snowy scenery when Ecchan first fell for her

And so Ecchan goes for the kiss

She can tell that Hana isn’t truly attached to Mugi, but that’s tragically the extent of her insight

Hana reveals the true nature of her relationship, to which Ecchan responds “then why couldn’t it be me?”

The show consistently uses this black mass motif as a symbol of their ugly feelings, but I feel like the “ugliness” here is self-assigned. Whenever they step past the bounds of what they believe is acceptable behavior, their vision is blurred by this darkness, this weight of guilt

In the morning, Ecchan’s absence is visually palpable, as we look down at Hana on the edge of this mostly-empty bed

Walking to the store, Hana reflects on her own words: “there’s nothing more revolting than the affection of someone you’re completely uninterested in.” Already, her simplistic romantic principles are being complicated by experience, as she is forced to reckon with having someone she unequivocally respects voice these “revolting” feelings. Of course, even back when she first said it, Hana was in large part talking about her own feelings. All of these leads are their own jailers, condemning themselves for their ostensibly shameful but ultimately pretty normal feelings

“I had no idea that being the object of someone’s desires was so heavy”

Moca passes by, but Hana is too mired in feelings for a fight

“If she does that, she’ll end up with neither, right?” Hana is quick to realize the hypocrisy of all her earlier declarations, now that she finds herself and the people she cares about in the same situations. It is easy to believe you are driven by firm, unaltering principles before you’re actually forced to engage with the complexity of the world. Nothing destroys absolute confidence like a dash of experience

“I’m no better. I’m just running away, too.” Unfortunately, rather than reaching the conclusion that “it must be normal to have these feelings,” she instead decides she is also a damned soul

A flashback to Mugi four years ago opens with “I probably still don’t know what love is.” It seems clear that Scum’s Wish’s author is staring down at this narrative from a point of significant distance, looking back on high school’s trials with fondness and perspective. That’s a great relief to me; nothing turns me off to a narrative faster than realizing its author is trapped in the grievances of perpetual adolescence, or the even younger “violence equals dramatic seriousness”

Back then, Mugi was in a relationship with Mei, a frail-looking girl whose “skin was cool to the touch”

“I was scared. Scared of you.” Back then, Mugi was overwhelmed by Mei’s intensity. Once again, Scum’s Wish proves the merits of its refreshingly frank approach to teenage sexuality, which allows it to explore the fine, messy details of how we grow comfortable with our own bodies

Mugi wakes up with a boner to see Hana staring at him

Interesting paneling trick here, as Hana and Mugi are set next to each other in adjacent squares, which partially overlap in what they depict. Thus, Hana shifting over on the bed can be portrayed as her literally invading Mugi’s space

“You’re hard.” This author sure does love to revel in these uncomfortable moments, these brief panics of negotiating comfort levels. Sex can be a lot messier than fiction tends to portray it, particularly when you’re having these conversations for the first time

Back in a flashback, Mei states that she’s too stupid to apply to high school. Some gorgeous background scenery here, as the sun sets over the river

“Sorry for robbing you of your adolescence.” Mugi was introduced to this world a little faster than most, courtesy of Mei’s fascination. But while Mei saw their relationship as casual, it was serious and formative for him, leaving him adrift once she broke it off. Perhaps it was the lingering regrets of this relationship that led him to obsess over the “pure, perfect love” of his distant tutor

“We should stop this.” “Why?” “I won’t be able to stop.” With Mei serving as his defining sexual experience, Mugi is actually fearful of going any further. Her forceful advances scared him, and given she abandoned him after that, he’s unlikely to ascribe any sentimentality or meaning to having sex

“If you can’t stop, then don’t.” Mugi is used to sex being “taken” from him, so Hana’s willing participation stops him short

“I guess I’ll never learn. I’m just a toy for adolescents”

“I can touch Mugi so easily. But in that moment, I was too scared to touch Ecchan”

“Mugi, I want to try to love you.” Even Hana herself is exhausted by the way her feelings are pulling her apart. Her fanciful “destined love” of the first episode is already crumbling under the erosion of experience

“Does it really come out?” Not too many anime out there discussing the difficulty of getting semen stains out of clothing

They run into Akane with some guy at Denny’s. The guy gets pretty handsy

Hana’s getting a bunch of great fatigued reaction shots this episode

Mugi knows this guy is another former student of hers, but doesn’t suspect anything, because he seems fundamentally incapable of actually assessing Akane

“Why can’t he see things like I do?” Unsurprisingly, there’s already a major disconnect in what Hana and Mugi each want out of this relationship. Mugi is still looking for an emotional surrogate, while it seems like Hana may actually be outgrowing her stasis, and hoping for a genuine relationship with Mugi

“I may have been trying to give Big Bro away to someone better. But now I feel something different, something seething. This is hatred.” It seems like Hana knew her crush was hopeless, and was secretly ready to let go of her feelings – but now that she knows Akane is two-timing the man she loves, she’s genuinely angry

And Done

Well isn’t this a fine mess we’ve found ourselves in. Scum’s Wish continues to surge forward with admirable momentum, complicating its initial paradigm pretty much as soon as it’s been established. At this point, my fears from the first episode are long behind us; the show has substantially expanded its perspective beyond Hana’s headspace, and even more importantly, Hana’s headspace has evolved just as quickly. Hana seems to already understand that her initial ideas of “destined love,” as well as her scorn for the relationships of others, were all built on a foundation of no fucking evidence whatsoever. She’s learning quickly, and possesses the necessary humility to admit her faults and hypocrisies. Unfortunately, it seems like Mugi is still mired in his simplistic adoration of Akane – though given we haven’t actually seen the roots of their relationship, it could be that Mugi loves her even while knowing exactly who she is. Either way, we’ve got a delightfully messy confrontation ahead of us, as Hana and Akane cross swords for the first time!

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By admin