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Scum’s Wish – Episode 8

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today it seemed like the perfect time to return to the tangled drama of Scum’s Wish, as I doubt even Hana’s storming emotions can dampen the glory of this fresh spring day. Though to be fair to our poor girl, it actually seems like she’s finally making some positive personal decisions. Her misguided quest to find satisfaction in the possessive, amoral cruelty of Akane has ended; just as Moca has begun to embrace her more mature instincts, so has Hana remembered that she is still innocent in many ways, still wishing on shooting stars and hoping for a fairy tale romance.

As a result of last episode’s awkward twin dates, both Hana and Mugi have come to a decision: before the summer is out, they will confess their crush to the actual object of their affections. Obviously there is no way those confessions can go well; Hana’s relationship with Kanai is more one of a surrogate little sister than an equal lover, while Akane seems too incapable of empathy to genuinely love anyone. But nonetheless, ripping off the bandaids of their lingering obsessions can only be good for their future relationships, so I can only hope summer doesn’t offer some fresh reason to conceal and marinate in their hopeless feelings. Let’s get to it!

Episode 8

We open on a light-saturated establishing shot, with those reliable cicadas in the distance further emphasizing the arrival of summer. A little odd that I’ve become so accustomed to cicadas being used as a general signifier of summer, given I only hear them in anime

And then an immediate reminder of this being a Masaomi Ando production via the screen-in-screen cut of Hana marveling at all of her study materials. I don’t think every director should be as ostentatious about these partitions as Ando, but it’s surprising to me how few other directors employ similar tricks, particularly when adapting manga. I suppose it’s the opposite of naturalistic, and naturalistic direction aping the styles of live-action cinema is more of what’s in vogue these days, particularly among the mainstream shonen titles

Naturalism has its merits, but having it be the defining aesthetic goal of a medium imbued with such inventive visual possibilities seems like a mistake. Tomino loves screen-in-screen partitions, and Yuasa is always happy to fuck with the alleged “cinematic reality” of his productions

Hana and Mugi are hanging out and lamenting their summer homework. Though they initially treated each other as emotionally distant replacement lovers, at this point they’re just comfortable friends. The strength of a relationship is not defined by its energy or vitality in moments of excitement or crisis, but by moments like this – are you comfortable sharing a long, dull afternoon together?

Mugi announces he’s going to declare his crush after finishing the homework, and Hana hastily declares she’ll do the same

“Sweet Refrain”

The imagery of this OP seems more pointed all the time. Hana attempts to share her body with a variety of partners, but it’s Mugi who’s there to gently touch her cheek when she wakes

We drop in on the shaggy-haired Atsuya, who is apparently an associate of Ecchan’s

Omigod, Ecchan has a Scum’s Wish-branded baseball cap

Apparently they’re cousins, but of course Atsuya is also in love with her. Couldn’t possibly have one healthy, amicable relationship in this series, could we

Well, I guess there’s Moca and her embarrassing dad. Love those two

Atsuya’s shaggy hair provides an immediate brush of characterization; he’s always nervous about eye contact and being too direct, so he hides behind his hair

Apparently he confessed to her years ago, and she slapped him in response. But of course, he’s maintained a flame for her ever since. As always, the feelings of these characters are so clearly defined by the contours of adolescence – a point where childhood still seems present and the future seems impossible to imagine, a point when you can really believe that the current conditions of your life might carry on forever. Healthy adults can accept rejection and move forward, because they understand life is defined by change, and new opportunities are always presenting themselves. On the other hand, inexperienced adolescents can truly believe in things like “destined love,” because they’ve never had to grow beyond feelings they once held as sacred. In emotional terms, they’re not too far off from that kid recovering from a dentist’s anesthesia while asking “am I gonna feel like this forever?”

“I’m not good with complicated issues. Maybe I’m just insensitive.” Honestly, his direct challenging of Ecchan’s one-sided crush is actually kinda refreshing

“I’m happy for you. And if you like her, then I like her too.” Yeah, cousin issue aside, he’s actually engaging with Ecchan’s feelings in a more healthy manner than most members of this cast would

“I don’t want to put any gender labels on you.” Ecchan doesn’t see Atsuya as gendered because he’s just her cousin, not a potentially viable partner, while Atsuya himself sees that as an opportunity to sneak past her gender preferences. What a mess

“Then, that still means I have a chance.” Another profoundly adolescent instinct – believing that romance is simply a kind of equation you can resolve by feeding enough of the right inputs into any given person. Even if Ecchan agreed to this, a relationship someone “resigns themself to” rather than embraces willingly will never make its participants happy. You’re not just stacking enough positive points to eventually win someone over; chemistry and attraction are either there or they aren’t, and no amount of needling or laborious efforts will generally fix that

Admittedly, our popular romance dramas often emphasize the importance of “winning over” your love interest, but that’s just because narrative drama requires conflict. And in the best romances, the chemistry is generally there from the start regardless, even if it’s accompanied by immediate disagreements

“We’re both serious students. We’re both honor students.” It’s clear that on some level, Hana actually revels in her allegedly sordid nature. She enjoys the thrill of apparent deviance

“You can imagine I’m her.” Hana feeling the need to reiterate their original arrangement emphasizes how she actually feels they’ve grown beyond it, how she’s now embracing Mugi, and not some transposed vision of her true crush

And Mugi admits to the same, saying he can’t see her as Akane anymore

“This was the moment I realized that I’d stopped comparing Mugi with Brother”

The screen-in-screen partitions are an excellent way of emphasizing characters’ preoccupations without words, like this lingering stare Hana aims at Mugi’s retreating back

“Summer is so short.” A hyper-awareness of the time until confession, spurred by her growing regret at the thought of abandoning this bond with Mugi

Messing with the aspect ratio similarly creates a variety of handy cinematic effects. Presenting this memory of Hana and Kanai in widescreen calls its veracity into question – is this a true memory, or filtered through Hana’s perception?

“If you remembered any one of those memories, I thought I could go on living.” Similar to Moca’s situation; the less you have experienced of love, the less you feel you need to be sustained

“No matter how warped or clumsy, I’ve loved as hard as I can.” A lovely summation of Hana’s winding journey

Hana and Mugi affirm their final preps as the sun sets over a playground, a visual double whammy emphasizing the end of their childhood

And now both of them are too infatuated with each other to even make eye contact

For once she doesn’t see this as a “betrayal” of the purity of her original feelings, but as a potential route forward. Even if she can’t consciously articulate it, she knows now that her feelings for Kanai are a weight dragging her down, an anchor she must move beyond

Of course, given this is Scum’s Wish, I expect this theoretically cathartic releasing of childhood crushes will actually end up being reciprocated, causing all the more agony for everyone involved

With Mugi about to actually resolve things, Akane swiftly maneuvers to turn this into an actual date, which will either dissuade him or at least prolong his suffering

“That’s almost hurtful. There’s nothing wrong with being pale and white.” Akane immediately fishing for compliments, and also directing Mugi’s attention to her body

“I liked her because I could never have her.” An insightful reflection by Mugi; an impossible love can feel safer than someone you might actually have a chance with

“You’re a promiscuous, deranged narcissist!” “Then why did you follow me here?” Oh Mugi. In retrospect, this might have been better handled via phone

“I want to be your first! I want to change you!” GODDAMNIT MUGI

Meanwhile, Kanai’s guileless response ends up reminding Hana of everything she loves about him. He’s accomplishing accidentally what Akane engineered by force

“I’m sure I can change. Because I’m not alone.”

And Done

GOD DAMNIT MUGI! You knew exactly what she would do! You knew that, the moment she realized she could no longer string you on at a distance, she’d claim you just to fuck up your relationship with Hana. You knew that Akane can only be handled from a safe distance, preferably in full hazmat gear with an electric fence between you. And you did it anyway! Gaaah, he makes me so mad, but it’s a good kind of mad – the anger of characters doing self-destructive things that they could never possibly avoid, the willing oblivion that Scum’s Wish so loves. With Hana and Mugi coming so close to genuine mutual understanding, this episode served as a clear-eyed articulation of who they once were and who they must become, only for Akane to fuck everything up in the most predictable way possible. Get your shit together, Mugi!

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