Scum's Wish
Episode 3

by Jacob Chapman,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Scum's Wish ?

"Show Me Love (Not a Dream)" is the super-fitting title of episode three, where Hanabi finally begins to understand the feelings of her fellow scum and finds herself not consoled, but terrified by the pressure that their needs have put on her already overburdened heart.

That phrase about affection from people you don't love being "disgusting" just keeps returning to bite poor Hanabi in the ass. But this time, she isn't focused inward on her own hypocrisy, but outward on her best friend's breaking heart. It turns out that Ecchan's forceful confession during their sleepover wasn't just an emotional dam breaking; she took a deliberate gamble in the hopes that Hanabi felt the same way that she did. Ecchan admits that "at first I just thought I hated men or didn't know what love was supposed to feel like," assuming that Hanabi might be in the same stage of lesbian denial because she clearly doesn't have feelings for Mugi, despite being firmly defensive of their loveless relationship.

Of course, Ecchan could never have guessed the bizarrely complicated truth, which makes the situation all the more tragic. After Hanabi finds herself unable to reciprocate physically, Ecchan curls up away from her and whispers "I'm sorry if I disgusted you." Hanabi spends the rest of the morning and afternoon to follow in a stupor, hating her own words. She knows that she can't imagine the depth of pain and embarrassment Ecchan must be in after what happened, but this only makes Hanabi hate herself more for thinking only of herself and then being unable to return Ecchan's feelings. Even as Hanabi's scope of empathy begins to widen, she's only going to use it to punish herself for being unable to solve other's problems instead of seeing forgiveness in these sympathetic situations.

This becomes all the more obvious when she recovers from the shock of that sleepover long enough to go visit Mugi. She barges in while her boyfriend is napping, catching him at that awkward moment when mini-Mugi is busy doing a systems check. Hanabi's curiosity about Mugi's equipment seems to surprise both of them, and Hanabi realizes with further shame that this kind of relaxed endearment just doesn't for her happen around Ecchan. "Is it because she's a girl?" she wonders. It's too early to say, but at the very least, whether Hanabi isn't into Ecchan because she's straight or just because Ecchan isn't her type, something tells me she hasn't written off "trying" to be into her.

That's because she's already decided to dive into this tactic headfirst with Mugi. If Hanabi can "make" herself love him, then all that guilt she feels building up over her rejection of Ecchan while using Mugi for sex will just go away, right? Hanabi was okay being "scum" when she thought it only affected her, but she's beginning to understand that her actions have consequences, so she thinks that by denying her own self-worth even further, she can at least do right by other people. She's sexually comfortable with Mugi, so if she goes through with the motions, the emotions will probably follow, right?

It's yet another self-absorbed kind of selflessness that will only hurt everyone around her even more, so we'll just have to see how she handles this "real" relationship with Mugi going forward. Before that, we finally get a look at all this from Mugi's perspective, and his own story is much like the others: painfully relatable in a way that the world tends to tell people is "abnormal." In a world that tells guys to lose their virginity as soon as possible and that any sex is good sex, Mugi had his first intimate experience too early for him to really handle it. He was laying the hottest girl in middle school, model-thin with huge boobs and a cool "just one of the guys" personality, but he chose to tell nobody not only because she swore him to secrecy, but because he was ashamed of how it made him feel. Mugi was genuinely frightened by how much she wanted him, for sex and only for sex, making him feel used and misunderstood with no way to refuse without somehow diminishing his masculinity. I mean, who would turn down a girl like her, right? In the end, their physical relationship only left him feeling hollow, when she moved on to a different high school with a casual "well we had some fun didn't we?" reaction that took open stabs at Mugi's attraction to his adult tutor instead of her and ended with her apologizing for "stealing his adolescence."

Thinking back, I can't really remember who first proposed the fake relationship thing between Hanabi and Mugi, but if Hanabi did push harder, I'm sure that's just another trunk of baggage on Mugi's growing stack. While Hanabi hates herself for saying "no" to the unwanted advances of others, Mugi hates himself for being unable to say "no" even when he might not want sex, a feeling that the world has told him boys just don't have. So now we have a girl who wants to fake emotional intimacy with a boy to escape her fear of it with others, and a boy who's forcing himself to be sexually assertive in a fake relationship to get back the self-worth that was stolen from him by someone who treated Mugi like sex was all he was good for.

It's a recipe for disaster, but the episode ends on an even bigger bombshell: Mugi's tutor isn't the angel he's made her out to be! She's seeing Hanabi's teacher in public but seeing her former students in private, much younger and possibly even underage men. Of course, Mugi is in denial over this, perhaps because he envisions his tutor as a chaste being outside of his own sexual fantasies as a coping mechanism. Heck, that might be the reason he's attracted to her in the first place! In a horrible twist of irony, this would not bode well for Hanabi if she wants to push their sexual relationship further to try and make the emotional part real; it would have the opposite effect on Mugi who is currently separating love and sex completely as a band-aid for dealing with what happened to him. Oh what a tangled web indeed.

It's a bad situation all around, but strangely enough, some good did come of it. Before she started really considering the feelings of Ecchan and Mugi, all of Hanabi's hatred was focused inward, leading her to think the best of everyone around her who wasn't "scum," even a shallow classmate who asked for her advice on how to best string along two different boys at once. However, now that she's seen Mugi's tutor cheating on the man she loves (and how it affects poor starry-eyed Mugi), Hanabi feels a burning surge of hatred for the woman she thought was "better" than her. Hatred in and of itself may not be a good thing, but it's the smallest glimmer of a sign that Hanabi is starting to care about her own self-worth in a positive way, if she can feel hurt for Mugi and self-righteous in confronting the one who hurt him. (The music even reflects this with a forceful but not ominous swell in the score.) Something tells me Ms. Minagawa will be much more important going forward, so I'll start using her actual name and acknowledge her as another speck of "scum" in this growing cast of misfits who have so much more in common than they realize.

By its conclusion, episode three of Scum's Wish went from a well-written look at adolescent sexuality to one of the most emotionally insightful romance anime I think I've ever seen. I've heard the artwork in the original manga isn't very good, but I can see why it succeeded in spite of this, because the prose is phenomenal. Each line of narration and dialogue is so incisive and clear, able to communicate extremely complex emotions with impressive brevity and a striking degree of self-awareness that makes each character's feelings easy to understand on an intimate level. (And on a lighter note, even the less serious dialogue is frank and charming, like Mugi's response to Hanabi's concern that his cum wouldn't wash out of her clothes. "Of course it washes out! Can you imagine if it didn't? Hotels, man.")

I don't have any idea where this story is going overall, but I will reiterate that the only way for these characters to move forward is to come to an honest and sympathetic understanding of one another's true feelings. That held true for the four students at first, but now I think it may even extend to the two teachers who are nowhere near as stable as they first appeared.

Rating: A

Scum's Wish is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

Jacob prefers the term "morning glory" to morning wood. You can follow Jake here on Twitter.

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