Neomo looks at two shows this year that raised some eyebrows concerning how school kids fall in love.

I tend to despair often when I see anime romance shows (both comedy and drama) where ecchi, tsundere girls, clueless guys, idiotic male best friends and bad jokes are all main focuses. When I see any show that breaks away from any show stereotypes, my eyes actually light up. After watching anime for so long, I just get…tired of the same-old same-old. Past attempts to make romance shows dramatic (and removing any kind of comedy) tend to flop most of the times…either that or they disappear off the radar within a couple of months.

Two shows this year have avoided that fate, despite being hidden away on Amazon.

In the Winter season, Scum’s Wish arrived with very little fanfare. An adaptation of a manga (that has recently ended), it tells the story of two students, Hanabi and Mugi, who decide to make a deal with each other: to be boyfriend and girlfriend purely with the intention of taking control of their passions for the two people they are unable to be with (both of whom are teachers at their school). Hanabi and Mugi act like any normal couple; they kiss, they hug, they walk each other home, but it’s all one big act.

On paper, the plot sounds pretty average, but it’s when, as we see the two teachers begin to flirt with each other, the show begins to take a darker and more mature tone.

The passion Hanabi and Mugi have for Narumi and Akane (the two teachers) takes over them, and they end up using physical means in order to ease their pain. The fact that their own friends have their own sexual needs only escalates their predicament. Hanabi soon learns that her best friend Sanae is hopelessly in love with her, while Mugi’s childhood friend Noriko has always had a crush on him. As time goes on, and the chances of them being with their teachers grow more and more distant, both Hanabi and Mugi decide to play around, and we as the viewer get to see all of it, warts and all. The frequent sex scenes in the show are directed to look very realistic, with awkward conversations mixed between French kissing and intimate sexual contact. Ultimately, Hanabi and Mugi grow to learn that, even with something as seemingly romantic as falling in love, you can’t always get what you want.

If you choose to marathon it, Scum’s Wish quickly becomes a very uncomfortable watch; right from the very first episode, it gets very awkward, and the kind of show that’s best to watch alone, and not with anyone else. In fact, I chose not to review the show for my column on OASG because I know I’d end up having to describe all of the steamy action that takes place. Ultimately, I think it would be accurate to call it an anti-romance show; an antidote to all the saccharine romcoms that have become a dime a dozen now. It shows us that falling in love can turn very ugly, and that there is a very huge difference between real love and physical love. What I have found interesting is that said saccharine romcoms seem to be appearing on our screens less and less now. Perhaps anime studios have begun to take the hint that audiences are beginning to get sick of them these days. Perhaps audiences want to see more than a bunch of ecchi, fan service, clueless schoolkids and plain jokes now.

Another show came in the summer that also broke away from the norm of school rom-coms, and ended up becoming another one of my favourite shows of the year: Love & Lies.

Set in an alternate future where high-school kids are assigned life partners when they turn 16, the show takes the naive and innocent Yukari as its protagonist. When he turns 16, he confesses to his lifelong crush Misaki, who to his surprise, has a crush on him too. Shortly afterwards, he learns that his assigned partner is someone else: Ririna, a girl living on the other side of town, who is even more naive about love than he is. They don’t hit it off at first, but they begin to accept each other’s company, and unconsciously grow closer, sharing personal information and calling each other by their first names (just like any atypical marriage). The show takes a more mature turn soon after Yukari and Ririna are asked to attend a bizarre lecture about sex, and are both led to a hotel room where they are encouraged to go to third base. This love triangle is only made more awkward when we as the viewer learn that Yukari’s standoffish best friend Nisaka is gay, and has a crush on him.

I wrote an article for OASG about it here, while it was at its halfway point. Sadly, the show ended rather ambiguously; we don’t know if Yukari chooses to follow his blind heart and be with Misaki, or follow his head and be with Ririna. I can only assume that the manga, which has recently been translated, goes into more detail. Love & Lies is different from Scum’s Wish in that the main characters are all rather naive and clueless when it comes to sex and romance, however that doesn’t stop them from asking and attempting to go further. For example, in the final episode, as Yukari and Ririna go to a hot springs with their families, the impression is given that the two of them want to do more than French kissing.

Both Scum’s Wish and Love & Lies were picked up by Amazon, and that could explain why both shows didn’t register as much on the anime-watching radar. Both Amazon and HIDIVE are very new at this anime streaming business, but by securing licenses to top-quality shows (not just these two, but many others this year), they have managed to build a lot of respect. People are still put off by the double paywall, but I think HIDIVE stepped in there, taking on licenses Amazon got and making them more accessible to viewers. Love & Lies is getting a home video release on both sides of the Atlantic, and I really want to see Scum’s Wish get a release. I loved both shows, and am still a little annoyed at how little coverage they have received.

Next year sees the long-awaited adaptation of the yuri manga Citrus. It follows fashionista Yuzuko as she transfers to a strict all-girls school, where she immediately makes an enemy of school president Mei…only to realise that she is to be her new step-sister after Yuzuko’s mother remarries. I’m hoping it will be very different to past yuri romance dramas, and that the relationship between Yuzuko and Mei will reflect events in the manga. I will be watching it this season, as I’ve waited a while for this.

So 2017 has been a year where shows have decided to ditch the long-lived school rom-com genre, and decided to take love and romance in the classroom much more seriously. It’s very refreshing to see, and after enjoying both Scum’s Wish and Love & Lies, I hope that more shows like it will get more attention…not just be confined to Amazon, but to reach out to a bigger audience, as it deserves it.

Scum’s Wish is available on Amazon. The manga ended in Japan with 8 volumes in March 2017; it has been translated into English by Yen Press, and is currently up to volume 5. It is also available digitally on Crunchyroll Manga.

Love & Lies is available on Amazon & HIDIVE. A home video release has been green-lit for the US and UK by Sentai Filmworks and MVM Films respectively. The manga has been translated into English by Kodansha Comics USA; volume 4 is scheduled for February 2018.

Citrus will begin airing on January. 06, 2018 on Crunchyroll. The manga has been translated into English by Seven Seas Entertainment; volume 7 is scheduled for February 2018.

12 Days of Anime is a series of posts from bloggers regarding the best, worst, or in between anime moments of 2017. Here’s the initial article from Appropriant inviting bloggers to take part.