Thursdays on Anime Strike
Having both found peace with their unrequited feelings, Hanabi and Mugi agree to confess to their respective crushes, get rejected and move on, but things don’t exactly go according to plan. Meanwhile, Sanae reunites with her cousin for a bizarre round of romance counseling.
Leave it to Scum’s Wish to make what is arguably its traditionally nicest character into one of its most easily dislikable. If you don’t hate Atsuya for creeping on his own cousin, you’ll certainly hate him for being what appears to be the editorially mandated cure for said cousin’s lesbianism. Nevertheless, just as much as she isn’t exactly the precious saint some people make her out to be, his morals are just as ambiguous, to say the least. Does Atsuya want to provide the voice of reason, advising Sanae to give up chasing a phantasm and settle for someone more readily available, even if she doesn’t love them that way? Does he want to open her eyes to the fact that being attracted to a girl doesn’t mean she can’t like men either? Or is he actively trying to patronise and undermine her identity with a load of hogwash logic about how she obviously can’t be a lesbian if she has a male friend, and how her love for Hanabi can’t possibly be truer than his love for her, because he sees her as a person rather than as a label? There’s a bit of a discrepancy between the manga and the anime in that regard, but I regrettably can’t tell if this is due to the change in translator, or if the original texts are just different. In Crunchyroll’s manga translation, Atsuya asks Sanae whether she is in love with Hanabi because “she’s sexually attracted to her”, whereas in Anime Strike’s subtitling for the anime, he asks if it’s because she’s “given [Hanabi] a label”. While in the former, he seemingly wants to convince her that romantic and sexual attraction don’t necessarily have to overlap, in the latter he almost appears to accuse her of using Hanabi to validate her own lesbian identity, which isn’t just passive-aggressive, but outright spiteful.
Granted, the whole ‘label’ thing doesn’t have to strictly be about gender. Atsuya might as well be telling his cousin she doesn’t need to love someone just because she considers it some kind of moral obligation to herself. From how she’s written Hanabi and especially Noriko, Mengo Yokoyari seems convinced that unrequited love is little more than a “label” angsty teenagers slap onto the targets of their affection, not because they have any particular reason to be in love with that person, but because they think they owe it to themselves to do so – because they need someone to construct their entire identity around – even if said someone over time becomes more of an abstract ideal than a flesh-and-blood person. In his most sympathetic interpretation, Atsuya is Yokoyari’s own voice telling her characters that saddling the people they love with that ‘label’ – with the weight of their very existence – is no way to live, ironically provided by someone with a bad case of unrequited love himself. Regardless, that whole ‘crush on his own cousin’ thing makes it hard to interpret anything he says as entirely selfless. Dependable companion or manipulative, entitled “nice guy”? Apparently, being two-faced just runs in the Ebato family.
Different as the resulting exchange may be, however, the interpretation remains the same – unlike some of the other changes this week’s episode made to the manga. Luckily, each and every one of these interventions changes the source material for the better. Noriko, who in the manga pretty much vanishes after the events of last week’s episode, gets an lovely, wordless little sendoff abandoning her frilly alter ego, while the scene wth Hanabi and Mugi on the playground takes a surprising turn for the heartwarming as well. In the manga, Mugi’s hug continues in another one-sided make-out session, whereas the anime keeps things strictly platonic. It’s a bit of a tactical decision, mostly to better to accommodate the direction the manga seems to be heading in, but it ultimately works, showing us some of that genuine bond between the two we’ve up to now mostly been exposed to via expository hearsay and widely inappropriate slice-of-life segments. With Mugi’s questionable bedroom ethics implying far more about his feelings towards Hanabi than the show’s own lackadaisical assertions that he truly does love her, such an edit is necessary if Scum’s Wish ever hopes to make the two work as a legit couple.
The most integral change made is of a more structural nature, however. By rearranging the scenes it adapts, the anime pointedly manages to accentuate not only just how close their mutual decision to confess has brought Hanabi and Mugi to anything resembling closure, but also the sheer impact of Mugi’s betrayal. For once, Hanabi is entirely blameless for her own misfortune, and given how observant he’s been up until now, it’s hard not to suspect Mugi of knowing Akane wouldn’t turn him down from the moment he decided to humour Hanabi’s romantic suicide pact. Two steps forward, one step back, then, though I don’t believe the resolution quite leaves Hanabi in the same pit of nihilism she dwelled in two or so episodes ago. If anything, Mugi’s sudden yet inevitable betrayal serves as a reminder that the problems these characters face are of a far more fundamental nature than the contrived coincidences and misunderstandings that fuel so many other anime romances. It’s not just his libido Mugi is chasing anymore. It’s certainly a huge contributing factor, but if sex was all he cared about, Noriko wouldn’t be where she is now.
No, rather than his sole motivation, sex simply the most common catalyst for Mugi’s deeper-seated desire to dominate the people around him – innocent childhood friend or complete sociopath – be that by making them depend on him for sexual gratification or by being the one to help them on a more fundamental level. The end goal, however, remains the same: to matter, to be more than the tool, the face in the crowd he believes he was to Mei. Mattering is a way for Mugi to assert that power, that feeling of dominance he so craves. Yet, unsurprisingly, when your alleged altruism is based entirely on your own needs, you may end up doing more harm than good. It’s no coincidence that he only seems to care about the people he wants to matter to need when what they need is what he wants as well. If Mugi truly wanted to matter to Hanabi, he wouldn’t have ditched her like a sack of bricks the moment he came closer to his pièce de resistance. Then again, maybe a clean break from men was exactly what Hanabi needed. Losing Mugi may not have been what she wanted, but at least now there’s no one left to take advantage of her when she’s at her very lonelies––Oh.
- You’d think Hanabi would’ve paid the faculty office a visit by now to try and get Akane fired for her immoral conduct, but then again, logic isn’t exactly her strongest suite. I guess we’ll have to wait until Mugi inevitably fesses up about sleeping with her?
- I love how Hanabi uses images of whatever people’s names mean as their display pictures on her phone: for herself, she uses a sky full of fireworks (hanabi), Mugi is a field of wheat (mugi) and Kanai is, perhaps most fittingly, an anonymous default.
- You’d have to blind not to have noticed, but Sanae’s hat has “Scum’s Wish” written on it.
- I’m happy to announce that Scum’s Wish now has the official communist seal of approval. Yay?