Outright romance anime aren’t usually my thing. If I remember it correctly, the last series of such that I’ve watched is Toradora!, more than five years ago. But despite my small interest for the subgenre, there’s an intriguing edge about Scum’s Wish (also known as Kuzo no Honkai) that compelled me to watch it.
Like most romantic dramas go, the plot revolves on the development of a central couple’s relationship. Here, that would be high schoolers Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya. They date. They become intimate. Their decision to enter into a relationship is out of love. But there’s a twist: it isn’t out of love for each other.
Both Hanabi and Mugi are desperately in love with other people, and both have no chance of having their loves requited by the object of their loves. Hence, the relationship they have is a farce, created to satisfy their loneliness. In intimacy, each of them pretends that the other is the person they love. It’s what makes their “love story” quite unsettling, yet fascinating.
A recurring theme throughout the anime is the idea of using other people to fill one’s void – emotionally or sexually – or letting other people use oneself for the very same purpose. This isn’t only explored through Hanabi and Mugi’s relationship, but with their interactions with other characters. Every character in this anime is dealing with one “love” issue or another, and their disturbing solutions are to exploit others or be exploited by others.
If it isn’t obvious yet, yes, this is definitely for mature audiences. Hence, it’s uncomfortable to watch sometimes, especially when it gets borderline hentai-y. But setting aside its racy fan service content, there is gratification to be had in a psychological level. As the narrative explores whether Hanabi and Mugi’s fake relationship will eventually develop into a real one or will it implode, it continually raises provocative and sensible questions about falling in love.
In the end, after letting its 12 episodes marinate in my head, I didn’t immensely like Scum’s Wish. I didn’t think it was as rewarding as a whole as I wanted it to be. Nonetheless, it proved to be riveting in its parts, and I appreciated how “different” it is from traditional romance anime.