Aku no Hana

Title:Aku no Hana
Flowers of Evil
Keywords: , , , , , , ,
Notables: HIKASA Yoko
ISE Mariya
Takao Kasuga was a young boy engrossed in the works of Baudelaire. Driven by irresistible impulses, he laid hands upon the gym uniform of Nanako Saeki, the girl he secretly had a crush on. But that act dramatically shook his fate, at the hands of Sawa Nakamura, the girl who caught him in the act… Where will such building passions unique to youth lead in their small, insular town? This is a tale everyone has or will experience in their lives, a forbidden tale of youth recorded in the valley between anguish and joy.
(Summary Courtesy of Anime News Network)

Spring 2013 13-episode anime premiered on April 6, 2013.
Animated by ZEXCS.

The title is taken from Baudelaire's volume of poetry "↗Les_Fleurs_du_mal" (French for "The Flowers of Evil").
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 9 7 8 8 9 8 Ggultra2764 [series:2702#1552]
Aku no Hana's been the Spring season's most controversial title among anime fans and a great deal of that has to do with the anime's choice of animation style coming in the form of rotoscoping. I might as well address this issue before remarking on other aspects of the anime. Rotoscoping's been a controversial style of animation for years. While the style allows for one to animate more lifelike characters and movements, there are acclaimed animators that don't consider it a legitimate form of animation since live-action shots are animated over in order to accomplish the style and such animators think it kills creativity in the medium. Personally, I think rotoscoping made for an excellent fit for Aku no Hana considering the mundane story it depicts with Kasuga's ordeals with Nakamura and Saeki. The style helps to better depict the dull routines of everyday life seen through Kasuga's eyes and allows the viewer to become immersed in the experience with him. The style also helps enhance a number of the title's uncomfortable moments with Kasuga and Nakamura's interactions. Going for a more conventional style of animation would have killed much of the effect this series would have to immerse the viewer in its story.

Backgrounds are depicted to be photo-realistic with realistic details and color that are quite pleasing on the eyes. Character designs are just as realistic with believable facial details on characters that make them actually look Japanese instead of the typical doe-eyed, rainbow-color hair designs of conventional Japanese animated titles. The designs are a bit rough in early episodes, but gradually improve throughout the span of the series. The animation, though, is a bit of a mixed bag. It's clear the makers of Aku no Hana are working with a TV budget as there are points where character designs are rendered still in movement, particularly during classroom scenes. However in major moments of the series involving Kasuga and the two girls, movement is quite fluid and there aren't too many instances of this leading to degradation of quality from the rotoscoped characters.

Moving on to the title's story, Aku no Hana is prominently focused on Kasuga's interactions with Nakamura and Saeki pushing his fragile teen mind to the breaking point. The kid behaves much like any teen would at his age as he tries fitting in with friends, yet is feeling out of place with what society considers "normal" as he retreats to reading books. The series is pretty much a psychological drama that gets into Kasuga's head as he thinks about his interactions with the two girls, each representing a different world that he considers to be out of his grasp with Nakamura being the deviant outcast and Saeki being the popular girl of the class he has a crush on. The former plays enough of a big role in messing with Kasuga's head when she believes him to be a fellow deviant like herself and pushing him to do twisted acts involving Saeki after Kasuga steals her gym clothes in the title's second episode. I don't come across many recent titles that offer this level of depth in exploring the mental condition of a teenage boy getting ripped apart mentally by two girls his age. Only issue I have with the plot is that it looks like the series lacks a proper ending with the abrupt way it concluded and dropping hints that things would get worst for Kasuga in his present situation, likely teasing viewers for a possible second season.

Another major element of this series that was also somewhat controversial was its pacing and atmosphere. Aku no Hana devotes a good amount of time in some episodes to focus on the mood and atmosphere of a scene, mainly during major moments of the show or whenever Kasuga is in thought over whatever predicament he gets caught up in with Saeki or Nakamura. For the most part, the pacing and focus on atmosphere work rather well as they help enhance the discomfort and fear going through Kasuga's head as he contemplates things and shows how disconnected he is from "normal" people. However, the series usually gets in the bad habit of getting too focused on its atmosphere as it can unnecessarily focus on scenery shots for several minutes at a time at points and cause progression of the anime's plot to drag.

The music for Aku no Hana does very well at sticking out and flowing with the mood of the series. Its use in the series is minimalist, yet consists of haunting and tense insert tracks that go along well with the uncomfortable and mundane mood prevalent throughout the show's run. The OP and ED tracks are just as haunting with twisted lyrics accompanying the title's several OP songs meant to convey the mentalities of its main cast throughout Aku no Hana's run.

Overall, Aku no Hana is quite easily my favorite title of the Spring season for being bold enough to be completely different in how it conveyed its story and overall presentation. Some elements of its approach on presentation have their issues, but they don't completely hurt the experience of exploring the complicated and twisted world of adolescence seen through Kasuga's eyes. Not to mention that the slow pacing, focus on atmosphere and rotoscoped animation won't be for everyone. But if you're looking for something that is completely out of the ordinary for an anime series, Aku no Hana would be a definite watch for you.

Last updated Sunday, June 30 2013. Created Sunday, June 30 2013.
Unevaluated Stretch [series:2702#628]
(Three episodes watched):

After all the hype I had heard about AkuHana, I made certain that the sheet of paper on which I take notes about anime had plenty of empty space before watching episode one. But, to my surprise, I needed hardly any of it, because episode one turned out to be pretty unremarkable. The unconventional animation technique--perhaps film of real people later drawn over?--was the most unusual thing about the show, and made me wonder if it might have been made in Korea. Otherwise, we learn that Kasuga is a literary sort of guy, and has a fair number of friends. He also has a crush on the star female student of his class. There's also an odd, trouble-maker girl in the class. And that's about it. The embarrassing incident described in the synopsis above has yet to happen. What was the deal with the flower(?) sprouting an eye? So, episode one basically just introduces the characters and sets the stage. AkuHana gets off to a slow start and it is too soon to draw any major conclusions.

Episode two introduces the basic problem: Kasuga foolishly absconds with Seiki's gym uniform. It was hard to understand why he did such a thing even as he was strongly urging himself not to; it hardly seems like a careless act. Of course I'm not from Japan. The big problem is that troublemaker girl Nakamura saw him do it--or at least says she did. But otherwise the story didn't move all that rapidly in this episode either. Will Nakamura blackmail Kasuga? Will she force him to become her boyfriend? At one point I was certain that she would take the blame for the gym clothes in order to get Kasuga to like her, but that hasn't happened. Wasn't it obvious to Seiki that what happened in the school library was Nakamura's fault, not his? I still feel that Nakamura is too mysterious to decide whether I like her at all. The odd animation style sort of sends me the message that I shouldn't expect things to go as they would in most high school anime series.

Ugh--this show is getting ugly in a hurry. Kasuga may be genuinely losing his mind over feelings of guilt for the act of petty theft he committed. His mental health must have been pretty fragile if he could neither prevent himself from stealing the clothes nor maintain some sort of composure afterwards. It seems that the best he can do is take a fatalistic approach and blame everything on 'the devil'. But the last thing I want to watch is a slow, depressing descent into madness. And it's frustrating how helpless he is; he cannot for the life of him stand up to Nakamura, who I despise. Since we never really got to know him, I can't really feel sorry for Kasuga, and I don't see any sign that either he or Nakamura will ever manage to do anything but spin downwards to a tragic end. Saeki doesn't even count as a character. I don't want to watch a show about such messed-up people, so I am giving up on AkuHana.

Last updated Tuesday, May 14 2013. Created Friday, May 03 2013.

Other Sites
Official Japanese Series Web Site http://akunohana-anime.jp/

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