In Honor of Valentine's Day's yesterday, here's a romance involving a hateable fat kid and a dead childhood girl.
At least, that’s what Masahiro Murai has convinced himself at a time where he’s simply a loser. For Masahiro, who grew up with a deadbeat dad and lost his mom to suicide, the difference between being a loser and the biggest loser is the difference between the size of New Jersey compared to the size of Texas.
It’s also the difference between getting stepped on like you don’t exist, to having to bend down and lick your classmates’ shoes. For Mashiro, that’s good enough.
At least, that’s what he had hoped.
Mikoto Yamaguti’s Scumbag Loser is a romance that also desires to be a horror manga. Think of almost any high school romance manga — for my example, I’ll go with Nisekoi — and then mash it with either Parasyte or Tokyo Ghoul. That’s Scumbag Loser. Scumbag Loser however tells a dark love story between classmates growing up: the aforementioned Masahiro, and his crush, Haruka Mizusawa.
Nisekoi involved two kids who had to lie in order to keep the peace between two factions, and maintain that lie while deceiving people they cared far. Scumbag Loser takes that concept, then mixes it into a blender full of pus.
See, Masahiro was a fat, unsociable kid in grade school, and his classmates took advantage of him because of it. This also includes Haruka Mizusawa, who insulted him whenever she found herself alone with him. She also generally came to his aid whenever he was being bullied, and out of everyone else, was the only one who actually talked to him. At one point, she even yelled at him to look her in the eyes when she was chastising him.
So unexpectedly, the turning point of this romance was when Haruka Mizusawa was killed. By Masahiro’s dad.
Many years later, Scumbag Loser shows our protagonist Masahiro looking at pictures he took on his phone. He takes the time to criticize two girls that are “spreading their legs for guys,” a smelly office worker, and a rapist/murderer. The reason he can tell that’s who these people are is because of his special talent, which is his sense of smell.
He’s saying all of this aloud while smelling the panties of his dead childhood friend in his room, which has posters of a digitized version of Haruka around his age (he’s 16). As in, he spent time altering his dead childhood crush’s face.
Some pages later, we get to the “biggest loser” in Masahiro’s class, Yamada, licking the shoes of a bully. From there, the twist happens — said “biggest loser” announces to Masahiro that he has a girlfriend.
For normal people, this is good news and nothing to sweat about. For Masahiro, this is life or death. That’s right, he’s most likely like a lot of people his age: caring about saving face, pride, etc. The extreme version however means he really doesn’t want to be the one licking someone’s shoes. After all, he’s just “some dude” in his class — his odious tendencies are only known to us, the readers. Yamada meanwhile is not just fat, but also smelly, unkempt, and anti-social.
“And that guy of all people has a hot girlfriend?” Immediately, Masahiro has already convinced himself this would make him the biggest loser in his class. He even imagines the class doing horrible things to him. That’s when he boldly lies to everyone that he has a girlfriend too: her name is Haruka Mizusawa.
Needless to say, his desire to never be considered utter garbage has put him in a position where anyone could expose him. That’s why it doesn’t take very long for the lie to be just that, a lie, the very next day…
…When Haruka Mizusawa shows up.
No one in his school realizes this of course, but Haruka is dead, and has been for a long time. After meeting with the fake he confirms this is true. The sane thing to do is turn her away. Instead, he gets on his knees and begs her to be his girlfriend.
Why? Is it because being an abject loser is that abominable to him? Or was it out of his desire to be with her after all this time?
Throughout Scumbag Loser it tries to answer this while also being a vicious monster story. Throughout the work a “colorful” cast of characters considered “losers” by certain social standards show up, and they all manage to shape the story one way or another. Different types of love is expressed, from obsessive, to tough, to some that’s entirely delusional.
Whether or not it does a good job of expressing this is up to the eye of the reader. For me, the monster aspects are what makes it stand out of the pack, but I feel it wasn’t incorporated well enough to be compelling. This probably explains why the climax of Scumbag Loser is messy — visually of course (as in, people getting ripped apart, etc, blood all over the place) but also narrative wise.
So if you do check out Scumbag Loser, please note, it’s definitely one of the messiest romance manga published in English. Or if nothing else, it can get pretty scummy.