Story & Art: Mengo Yokoyari
Translation: David Rowe-Caplan & Megan Denton
Lettering: Erin Hickman
What They Say:
Can one person change another…? When someone says it’s impossible, is that only because they failed…? But people never stay the same, no matter how much you may love them the way they are. As new lives open up for those around them, Hanabi and Mugi must pick up the pieces of their shattered hopes. When they finally find a way to walk forward, will it be hand in hand or…?
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
The time has come to say goodbye to our precious love-hexagon as Scum’s Wish brings us its eighth and final volume. And with most of the prospective relationships out of the way, we’re really only left with good, old Akane. Akane made it relatively apparent in the penultimate book that Mugi had essentially no chance of winning her over, but what’s clear about the final volume is that it’s not really about that anymore. Mugi has pretty much accepted that Akane will never love him, but the idea of her changing who she is is the one thing still keeping him going at this point. Her other love interest, Kanai-sensei, is the complete antithesis of this. In a way, he sort of shakes up the entire story by actually not wanting to change the woman he loves. He goes against the main theme of the story’s final arc and, as a result, he comes out on top. The result of this, however, is less of a celebration and more of a wake-up call for everyone else.
Akane and Kanai, who many would have considered the least compatible and/or likely pairing in the entire series, are the only ones who survive (Romantically, not literally) at the end of it. And while this ending may seem rather odd at first, its thematic implications for the rest of the story are actually quite fantastic. There are two huge takeaways from this: First, you can’t force someone to love you and you can’t force them to change. Second, and this one will be a bit blunter than the other, teenagers have a damn hard time falling in love. Mugi even goes as far as citing the old phrase ‘First love never comes true,’ during the final conversation between him and Hanabi. This single sentence paraphrases the lives of everyone in this book falling in love for the first time. Of course, not-so-coincidentally, the two characters who find ‘love’ (If you can even call it that, knowing Akane) are the two oldest characters. But it’s not like these themes alone are enough to sum up the ending of Scum’s Wish.
One more thing we see a lot of in this volume, and through most of the series now that I’m thinking about it, is the inability for people to say what’s on their mind when dealing with relationships. The most powerful example of this is a lengthy exchange between our two protagonists as they embrace each other one last time. And while there is absolutely no dialogue during the exchange, their thoughts run wild and consume the pages, virtually echoing one another in their desires and fears of letting go. But, if there’s anything they’ve learned over this hell of a school year, it’s that they can’t survive unless they move on. So even if Hanabi and Mugi truly love each other, the toxic foundation of their relationship would only evoke sad memories should they continue to prolong it.
And speaking of moving on, do you know who we see one last time? That’s right- undisputable best girl, Sanae Ebato, as she swoops in and saves Hanabi from a crowd of flirtatious boys. And while this scene might [?!] not be the happy, yuri ending I have longed for, it’s a cute reiteration of the idea of moving on. Ecchan even went as far as cutting her hair; that’s like, the universal sign of a girl turning over a new leaf. It’s not just Ecchan either. There are plenty of other examples of this in the last two or three chapters alone that go on to create a rather definitive ending to Scum’s Wish. Every story has been wrapped up- some in happier ways than others. Some, like Hanabi and Ecchan, have the chance to enter a new stage. Others, like Mugi and Hanabi, however, are better left untouched so that life for the two of them may carry- unblemished and unharmed by the sad reality of first love always being unrequited.
Scum’s Wish is a fantastically dark and painfully depressing soiree into the downsides of love that starkly contrasts what you’ll typically get from anime and manga. Its determination to have you feel the despair of its characters rings true through all eight books, creating an experience that is both intimate and nostalgically regretful. This is a series designed to make you feel something. It wants you to harken back to the days of your first love and it wants you to connect with its ageless themes of coping with grief both physically and mentally. With alluring artwork and excellent, character writing, Scum’s Wish accomplishes this and then some. And just as I did for the anime, I wholeheartedly recommend this series to any fan of drama, romance, or dark, brooding storytelling.
Series Grade: A-
Volume Content Grade: B
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: August 21, 2018