クズの本懐 (Kuzu no Honkai)
Seinen – Drama, romance, mature
4 Volumes / 22 Chapters (ongoing)
Hanabi and Mugi look like the perfect couple, but the two share a secret: they’re both in love with someone else, each using the other as a substitute. But they may not be the only ones struggling with feelings and relationships…
This is almost one manga where you yourself are the best — perhaps only — judge. If you don’t like the first chapter, then the subsequent ones where the series descends into further madness will not engage you. However, if you want to read a screwed-up-sort-of-maybe-future-romance, then Scum’s Wish will satisfy you.
While the manga may start off with Hanabi’s and, to a lesser extent, Mugi’s point-of-view, the series quickly starts expanding the cast and letting others take turns as narrator. Scum’s Wish often feels like a string of vignettes. However, rather than being poignant, the chapters mostly inspire readers to NOT be like the characters. Almost everyone here has an offbeat (at best) or unhealthy (at worst) view of love, sex, and/or themselves. Unlike other series where characters suffer from unrequited love, Hanabi and Mugi aren’t even settling for #2. They are both using each other because it’s convenient.
But as the manga goes on, others start detecting the lack of love between the two. These people start pursuing to be the main twosome’s second-best, and we also learn more about the motivations of a few more characters. There’s really only one or two “normal” characters here. While most of the gang at least have the excuse of being teenagers, one adult is easily the most narcissistic and manipulative of the bunch. The people in this world are pretty screwed up. I’m sure any psychologist or psychiatrist living in the neighborhood would never go out of business.
So, in essence, we have four volumes worth of reading about people who can’t let go of their first crush and the exploits of a master manipulator. However, just because practically everyone here is an example of what you should not aspire to be doesn’t make this a terrible manga. The fourth volume ends with hints Hanabi is about to challenge this person, thus adding even more madness to these screwed-up lives. The manga is still ongoing, but it is almost impossible for everyone to get a “happily-ever-after”. Maybe some characters will end up in a more healthy state of mind (hopefully so!), but unless this manga ends with everyone in a polyamorous relationship, someone is going to end up as a loser in love. This almost seems like the real reason to read this series. Rather than if x and y end up together, will z end up alone, or will the author introduce someone for z or pair z up with a and make b the loser? I can honestly say the ending is not already determined; almost everyone has a chance — albeit slim — of being with the object of their affections.
Shoujo manga, just like this one (despite being seinen), often focus on first times and the struggles of adolescence. However, if most shoujo manga are about the ideal romance, then Scum’s Wish is about the worst of reality’s relationships: people using and being used, insincerity, and convenience. While many shoujo present pining after your first love as the ultimate dedication, in this manga, it seems more like obsession. Only a minor character (talking about another relationship) points out some of the absurdity of chasing after a futile love. We as readers discover she may not be a truthful, unbiased narrator though; she may have secret desires after all.
The art is a nice blend of seinen and shoujo. This may seem like an odd combination, but not so much when you consider a) love and desire are both themes of the story, and b) the author is female. As a mature series, lots of ecchi and smut-type scenes are included, but the focus actually seems to be more on the dialogue during the titillating scenes. The art is easy to follow even through the multiple narrators and flashback scenes. Hanabi’s conscience is drawn as a version of herself, but I kind of wish her conscience was something a little more unique. Pond scum, perhaps? Paramecium? Or maybe a blob of darkness to represent her black feelings? Otherwise, the art is pretty sharp and clean. Yokoyari doesn’t make much use of screentones, but she does ink the pages well to add some visual variety to the pages
Honorifics are used. In an unusual move, the manga follows the Japanese name order.
This series is not for everyone, and it alone is not worth the cost of a Crunchyroll membership. However, Scum’s Wish is a decent quick read if you already have a Premium membership and want to psychoanalyze all the characters. I don’t think I would support a print release.
Each volume also includes a bonus story about a cat-person. I actually would read whole volumes of these stories. Are the main characters people with cat features, or are these cats personified as people? Either way, the side stories are quite entertaining despite having nothing to do with the main plot.
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