Scum’s Wish, Vol. 1

By Mengo Yokoyari. Released in Japan as “Kuzu no Honkai” by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Big Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by David Rowe-Caplan and Megan Denton.

This story begins in a very cute, heartwarming way, but I suspect the reader is not going to fall for it. The ‘scum’ in the title is the clue, and there’s also the cover art, showing our heroine, Hanabi, with her shirt mostly off, winking and sticking her tongue out at the reader. So when you discover almost right away that they’re actually both in love with their teachers (hers at least is her childhood “big brother” figure that she grew up with, but as always teacher/student romance is accepted far more by Japanese readers than Western ones), you aren’t particularly surprised. Mugi, the guy, and Hanabi are pretending to date while they pine away from someone else. And, because they’re both giant pots full of teenage hormones, they also take care of each other’s physical needs – there’s explicitly no going all the way, but there’s lots of making out and physical contact to a disturbing degree. It’s fascinating yet sordid.


I mentioned on Twitter while reading this volume that it’s like an evil mirror image of another Yen Press title, Love at Fourteen. That one also deals with a first time student romance, and also features an awkward teacher student relationship. But while equally realistic, and occasionally has the odd crisis, it is for the most part cute and heartwarming. You like these kids and want them to be together. Scum’s Wish shows us a relationship of convenience that isn’t good for either one of the couple, but you still end up rooting for them, as while they’re not all that sympathetic, they’re both very likeable. Hanabi especially grew on me, especially when it became clear that she was not going to be a meek and passive victim here. She’s actually somewhat cynical and snarky, something she tries to hide from her teacher whenever possible, and can be quite possessive, not just of her real love, but even of her fake one.

Towards the end we also meet a new girl who seems completely out of place to the somber, bittersweet anti-love story going on here. I loved her to bits. Moka first appears in a flashback where we’re getting an otherwise depressing but well told backstory for Hanabi, and we see her as a spoiled brat princess sort. Come high school, that hasn’t changed. If anything, she’s got a bad case of Eighth Grader Syndrome, demanding to be called Moka instead of Noriko and describing Mugi as her Prince Charming come to take her away from all this. You’d think she would be horribly wrong for a series like this one, but she actually releases the tension that’s built up from the start, and I find her nuttiness soothing. I also loved Hanabi’s casual threat to her, not letting her even get a toehold in between the fake relationship he’s built up.

I’m not sure that I’m going to love where this goes, and I fear it will be one of those sorts of series I call ‘potboiler’. But some potboilers are fascinating for all the right reasons, and Scum’s Wish caught my eye from the start and didn’t let it go. Good art, too, capturing the sensuality and furtiveness that most teen romance writers tend to forget is the majority of what’s going on there. Definitely recommended, provided you don’t mind feeling you need to wash up afterwards.