Think of any media and you can probably pinpoint at least one romantic relationship within it. If you’ve found one without any romantic connections then your highly likely to be watching an anime that contains friendships or familial relationships.
A quick google search will tell you that humans are wired for connection with each other. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but almost everyone has a connection with someone. If it wasn’t such a big part of our existence why would we be trying to help people combat loneliness?
We’re a lot more likely to draw on our own experiences to connect to what we’re watching. Do you relate to that awkward high school relationship? You’ve likely experienced it yourself, or recognise it from friends. Does the parent-child relationship hit a chord? Maybe it resembles your own family relationships.
By definition you cannot empathise with a situation unless you have experienced it yourself. Relationships are one of the easiest roads for any media to traverse to get us to connect through empathy with their characters.
It wasn’t until I watched Scum’s Wish that I started thinking about the portrayal of relationships in anime. That was the first time I had seen a show that really made me question the different types of relationships that are shown in anime.
Every single one of the anime series I’ve watched this year contains some sort of relationship. Scum’s Wish was the first that highlighted how alone people in relationships could be. When Hanabi and Mugi choose to start a relationship, neither of them are choosing the person. They’re just two people taking comfort in the fact that they’re not alone in their unrequited love.
The rest of this post will contain spoilers for Scum’s Wish.
'Adult Style' Relationships
Scum’s Wish really highlighted how PG a lot of the relationships in anime are. Don’t get me wrong, that is not a bad thing by any means, however as an adult I sometimes like to see the more grown up side of relationships portrayed. Not every relationship in our lives are with “the one” but a lot of times we’re presented with the illusion that these people had no one before and won’t need anyone after.
It was such a difference to see a more abstract take on relationships. When the teacher, Akane, chooses to sleep with her students, it’s just because she can. She doesn’t feel anything particular for them, she just wants to feel something and sex can provide that connection for a while.
Mugi has something similar in his history. Being used by someone provided him with the emotional detachment to be able to use Hanabi, who in turn used Sanae. The used passing on the feeling to someone else.
Scum’s Wish really showed how behaviour can be passed on from one to another. In this situation it’s the emotional detachment for a physical connection, other emotions can be similarly infectious.
More Than The Ending
It’s not that the end of a show isn’t important, it is. However, when the show ends we don’t have to feel like our main characters go on to make each other happy. In a more adult orientated show it’s okay to leave that open door. A show can just accept the characters fixed this particular problem but still have so much more to learn.
I would be really interested in seeing some other shows that had this sort of take on relationships; others that think outside the box. Relationships are so much more than the one ‘happy ever after’ side we often see in our shows.
Scum’s Wish is not perfect, and I’ll look at its flaws in my review of the show. However, the fact it could show sexual relationships with respect to the female characters and not shame them for wanting a physical relationship is a really strong point in its favour.