by Jacob Chapman,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Scum's Wish ?
For most of her life, Noriko "Moca" Kamomebata was under a magic spell. As long as she truly believed that her love was pure, Moca could be a princess. She could charm people around her into giving her whatever she wanted, surrounded by a sparkling veil of "specialness" reinforced by the purity of her feelings. However, in a shocking twist of fate, this spell of pure love would be broken by a kiss from the prince of her dreams. In a moment of weakness, Moca steps out of the fairytale dream she idolizes and acknowledges her true feelings for the first time. Once she tastes the sweetness of Mugi's desire on her lips, there's no going back. To her horror, she realizes that she's not a princess anymore, but a woman.
Horror at the powerlessness of female sexual desire is definitely one of the biggest running themes in Scum's Wish, but episode 7 makes this contrast between the lies little girls are told about romance and the reality they struggle to conquer in adolescence as painfully clear as possible. In her mind, Moca was doing everything "right" to win Mugi over by playing hard to get. From her flawlessly adorable appearance to her coy but capable persona, she played the part of the girl that boys would do anything to have to a T. Most other anime series would play up this version of Moca as effortless, at best hiding some troubled past or quirky character flaw that the male lead can unveil in his endless pursuit of her affection. No matter where you turn in media, women who do everything "right" have the power, and men do all the chasing.
Of course, the author of Scum's Wish (and innumerable other women) would be happy to tell you that this is bullshit. Not only does micromanaging your appearance in an endless quest to play the princess make little to no difference in terms of finding romantic or sexual happiness, it's also not reflective of the emotional needs real women face. Moca has been burying her true personality and desires in the hopes that Mugi will eventually cave and pursue the "princess" she's become, but when it becomes clear that this isn't going to happen, her backup plan turns out to be even less realistic.
Moca hopes to maintain the illusion that she has all the power in this situation by going on a flawless dream date with Mugi before nobly letting him go. In perfect shojo anime tradition, she'll impress him with her grace and candor before sweetly smiling at the end of the night in acceptance that she's not the one. The night almost ends just like she planned it, but then the mask suddenly cracks when she realizes how badly she wants Mugi for herself after all. One kiss, and it's all over. Moca is beginning to understand that women are no more immune to the ugliness of desire than men are, and true love isn't pure for anyone no matter how hard you try to protect yourself from it. Pure love can only exist within the idea of being in love, several numbing steps removed from the reality of irrational emotions crying out for an imperfect person to touch you.
She's finally moved on from being in love with the idea of "princess Moca in love" to being in love with Mugi as herself. It's painful, it's embarrassing, and there's no going back, but at least it's an emotion. In her desperate breakdown, Moca is also able to accept that the "dream" she worked so hard to construct—the infantile feigned pouting for attention, planning that fantasy honeymoon in Paris, eating marmalade on toast for breakfast with the perfect cup of english tea—was emotionally vacant, and even if Mugi rejects her, she can't see herself going back to it just to wait for the next prince. Living the princess dream brought her neither happiness nor sadness, just an impossible plastic stasis that distanced her from all her real feelings. If the "real" Moca wants to beg Mugi to have sex with her just once, even if he doesn't love her, what else does the real Moca want that she's been putting on hold for an empty dream?
I have to admit that this is the first female POV in Scum's Wish that comes across on the same level of dampened intimacy as the inner lives created for the boys. While Moca's feelings and behavior make perfect sense for her character, her bluntly stated metaphors about the hollowness of the princess dream don't feel as personal as the inner monologues that followed Hanabi, Ecchan, or Minagawa. I get the feeling that Mengo Yokoyari isn't pulling as deeply from her own personal experience on this one; I would wager she's never been a Moca-type, which explains the episode's focus on grandiose metaphors for the loss of innocence rather than the simpler heartbreaking vulnerabilities she's able to pull out of characters like Hanabi. Our lead heroine only gets a few minutes of screentime this week, but her anxieties come through much clearer when she rejects Leftovers-kun's routine invitations to sex with just one desperate wish: "I want you to think I'm worth something." (I realize that Leftovers-kun has a name, but he seems like such a happy-go-lucky bonehead that I doubt he'll factor much into the story going forward, so he remains Leftovers-kun to me for now.) Moca's sexual awakening this week is still sympathetic, but it's also wildly more abstract than usual for this show, so Hanabi's almost able to steal the spotlight away from her again with nothing but raw honesty.
In any case, Moca and Hanabi have this resentment of their sexual needs in common for likely the same reasons. While Hanabi never held out hope that she could be a princess type, and Moca is just now realizing that she can't keep up the illusion, both of them associate this unattainable goal with the only way to be a powerful woman. They specifically beat themselves up for being "such a woman" when they feel the urge to reach out and take what they desire, because they feel that it's shameful and pathetic for a woman to do the pursuing. Little do they know that a "desperate" woman is the only woman Mugi can allow himself to want.
Even if it isn't true to how she really feels, Moca's successful guise of confidence and purity has actually been working against her all this time. Because he sees himself as damaged goods, hating himself for his own desires in ways that he blames on "being a man," Mugi can only seem to get it up around women who he perceives as "needing him" in bed. Moca's desperate for his attention, but this newfound honesty is coming after years of a relationship with Mugi as his perfect, untouchable princess. The poor guy does his best to give Moca what she wants in bed, but the idea of "tarnishing" her with his ugly sweaty sex drive is too paralyzing, and he can't even bring himself to look at her bare breasts without flashing back to the day he took his senpai's "innocence" away. (The reality that she took advantage of him is still too difficult for him to grasp, because guys can never be the ones who aren't ready for sex, right?) Neither of them leave the night satisfied, but at least Moca has started to let herself cry and start asking questions about what she really wants going forward.
The episode ends with another resolution between our fake couple, almost out of nowhere. They mutually decide to confess their feelings to their teachers before summer break ends, so they can get it out of their systems and start a relationship between themselves in earnest in the next semester. The arbitrary goalposts that Hanabi and Mugi keep shifting around to try and make their "fake" relationship into a "real" one are not going to help them solve the actual problems underneath all this. The Moca diversion was fine this week, but I hope the main couple stops avoiding each other next week so they can start to understand what's really been keeping them apart.
Scum's Wish is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
Jacob's never been a Moca-type either, but he always envied those kinds of girls as a child and found them very intimidating. You can follow Jake here on Twitter.
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