This is review number two hundred and fourteen. This anime is part of the Spring 2013 anime lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Aku no Hana or The flowers of Evil. It’s a dark tale of romance and going through puberty. It’s also the most controversial anime of the lineup for reasons involving this thing called rotoscoping. Is the anime good? Well, I hated it so much I forced myself to read the manga so decide for yourself. Let’s read on.
The anime is about this timid boy named Takao Kasuga. He is a quiet person that loves to read books. He has a huge crush on this girl named Nanako Saeki. He is his “angel” and a completely beauty that he just worships. One day, after school was over, he saw Nanako’s gym clothes left in the classroom. They just had gym so the clothes smell like her. In the heat of the moment, he grabbed the clothes and went home. He was feeling guilty over what he has done and felt more pressured when their homeroom teacher announced that someone stole Nanako’s gym clothes. While he was in a guilt trip, he was approached by a girl named Sawa Nakamura. With her fierce eyes and devilish smile, she told Takao that she saw him steal the gym clothes. If he doesn’t want the rest of the world to know that he is a pervert then Sawa’s him of just one thing. He must form a contract with her.
Taking the Pants Off
This must be the most talked about anime of the Spring 2013 lineup. The obvious reason is the odd choice of using rotoscope to animate the show. If the goal was to give intrigue to the manga then I think the show did that nicely. The preferred method seems to be completely bastardizing the original material. I mean that in a good way. This anime is certainly unique but the approach to the original material is completely questionable. As I write this, I am still not sure exactly what I feel about the show. I hate it but I also enjoyed it. There’s something you need to know about me though. I am anti-manga. I do not read them and I cannot build enthusiasm for them. For the very first time, I read a manga and I can honestly say that the anime version of Aku no Hana is tilted in its logic. It’s a big risk the anime took and such risks should be done flawlessly or else the whole thing is just pointless. I’ll rant about the visuals of the anime later on. As a supporter of the vision the manga was aiming for, that the anime didn’t capture, I shall be posting the manga and the anime screenshots side by side. Decide for yourself if you prefer a deep and profound thematic experience the anime put forth or a dark and twisted romantic psychological story about kids experiencing puberty and slowly embracing their so called “flower of evil” that the manga smartly put forth.
The anime has a simple story. It seems to be fixated on this boy named Takao who is going through puberty. The familiar phase of being rebellious and unsatisfied with the status quo was one of the things Takao was going through. He is a very timid guy though who is overly conscious about himself and how others perceive him. That’s why his life went on a tumble when this girl named Sawa started blackmailing him. He must do whatever she told him or else she will tell people that he is a disgusting gym clothes sniffing pervert. Sawa seems to take pleasure is seeing this guy squirm like a worm on a hook and forces him to do some pretty crazy things for her amusement. Takao would always just take the blunt of everything Sawa would throw at him but he also tries his best to stand up to her. It’s not easy when you’re a timid guy like him though. Upon closer inspection though, it seems that this manipulative girl (with an adorable face in the manga) seems to be a lonely person seeking companionship in a place where no one can meet her needs. Well, no one does until she met Takao. The anime would soon be about Takao and Sawa slowly building a relationship as their odd contract commences.
Things take a weird right turn though when Nanako, the girl Takao has a huge crush on, started reciprocating his feelings. As the anime progresses, Nanako and Takao would form a relationship as well. It came to a point where the story was hinting at a love triangle. Takao is stuck between the very goddess he has been worshipping all his life or the same lonely soul that he finds comfort in. He doesn’t have to choose for long though because we have a very persistent girl on one hand and a highly manipulative blackmailer on the other ready to pull the strings attached to him. Takao must learn to grow as a person and decide on what path he wants to take. It’s easier said than done though.
Honestly, it took me a good hour to write down that plot of the anime. The problem was the pacing of the show. It’s very snail paced. The manga had a different speed but they’re almost identical. The only difference is that there was no heavy focus on the artistry of various scenes and settings. The visuals seem to add more to the pacing of the show that really slows it down. Forming an idea of what the anime was aiming for was a bit hard because clearly, it wanted to go on a more cinematic experience. I actually appreciate that but it changed a lot of things that made the original material very special. It bothered me so much that I forced myself to read the manga. A cinematic approach instead of a detailed progression of the narrative is not that big of a deal. If the source material is indeed amazing then you can do whatever you want with the anime. Tatami Galaxy and Mind Game are examples of these. Those anime were more of an artistic cinematic experience than anything that relies on narrative from its original source. Aku no Hana was aiming for this as well. The problem was the story was too crucial to alter. Despite the anime capturing every scene of the manga, the progression of the story wasn’t the same. The biggest problem is that lack of sexual tension between the characters. The appeal of the abusive relationship of Takao and Sawa was built upon the fact that a very hot girl has a submissive dude in her palms. This was not the case in the anime.
Given the choice, which one can give a more sexually suggestive vibe?
Think really hard.
The characters also took a huge hit in the anime. The biggest gripe was the fact that you cannot clearly connect with the characters. The rotoscoping technique gives the characters an unnatural vibe. Yes, they do look human but they seem too human to act within the specified roles of the story. In the anime, Takao looks like an ordinary shy dude that is being blackmailed. This was not the case in the manga. He was submissive. He was scrawny and weak that even a girl can dominate him. He looked like a cornered rat with the way those anime eyes turn soul-less every time Sawa asks him of something batsh*t crazy. This cannot be translated with the rotoscoping approach of the anime. They eventually took the beauty of the character and stripped him nude. So all the monologues and self-reflection that Takao does seems to be only half the potent it had in the manga. I am really kicking myself for comparing the manga and the anime but you should realize how much was changed in the story and the characters. I normally don’t do this and hope to god never to again.
Sawa was just heartbreaking. Seriously, the playfulness of her character was nicely captured by the anime but she was portrayed by some weird girl with red hair. She is a petite girl with a defined body and a cute small face. She is not some big girl with fat thighs that awkwardly smiles as if she wants to eat you or something. The main problem was that she was the poster girl of the show. Whenever you speak of Aku no Hana, Sawa’s dark yet cute demeanor should be the first thing you should remember. Think of Gasai Yuno for Mirai Nikki. Sawa had the same impact. You spend the majority of the time figuring her out while she does her best to dodge every possible expectation you expect from her. The one in the anime looked like a dude. I mean that in the most offensive way. She looked like a really bad cosplayer desperately emulating Sawa’s persona that she simply cannot capture. Her teasing is also lost in the anime. She does a lot of playful teasing in the story that comes off as nothing but bullying in the anime. For godsakes, why did the author agreed to this? What ever happened for pride of f*cking ownership?
For Nanako, I’ll admit she is beautiful. The one in the anime was sexy and the very definition of a chick you want to bang because she just sends off this signal that she wants to be jumped. She is realistically hot and that is a wonderful plus in the anime. There is a problem here though. Nanako is supposed to look young, not mature. The reason her young look is important is because she was the symbol of innocence in the story. The progression of the story got skewered and her innocence was something that was slowly consumed by the darkness. You cannot feel this in the anime. All you feel is one hot chick chasing after one guy for reasons that seems too obtuse understand.
It’s a damn shame. The characters were really the most important part of this anime and you cannot fully connect to them. The rotoscope did some changes but it was also Mr. Hiroshi Nagahama’s heavy focus on the visuals that really affected the story. There are ways to tell a story with beautiful visuals without ruining both but it seems that Nagahama was too busy reliving Mushishi’s glory. I’m sorry. I’m just really disappointed by the anime. Rest assured, I have good things to say about it but the story was really butchered in a way I just can’t forgive. The sad part is that the anime was really on the nail with the progression of the manga. It made sure every single panel was animated and I love that about the anime. I wish things would’ve been different though. The idea of another season of this really just bums me out.
Sight and Sound
Rotoscoping is honestly not a problem. The characters look weird. That’s really the only downside. I’ll expound on that later. The animation is absolutely amazing though. One of my biggest gripe in anime is that the eyes often don’t blink. The movements in this anime are precise. Every shifting eyes, every batting eyes and every blinking fast eyes are nicely captured. They really feel realistic and the animation captured even the tiniest of human mannerism and posture that normal anime standards can never do. There is a level of sophistication in the animation that is pretty admirable. Rotoscoping seems to be something new though so it doesn’t feel right at first but honestly, it took me two episodes to get used to the anime. There was something refreshing with the rotoscoping style and I definitely want to see it again. I want something made from an original anime though and no more ruining pretty faces, for god’s sake.
This anime was directed by Hiroshi Nagahama who is well known for Mushishi. I’m sure you know what that anime is about. It’s very slow paced because the emphasis was on the beauty of nature and the simplicity of scenes given a highly sophisticated take. The slow pace was to capture the pace of real life as it is translated into anime. I’m a fan of his style but in very small doses. He has an outstanding eye in taking mundane things and giving them a greater appeal. This anime has strong emphasis on the setting. The things you see when Takao goes home, the silent street of this lonely town, the beautiful imagery of the houses and the buildings the characters move in. As the characters go about their everyday life, the scenes really become special and they give off a laidback feel that is pretty amazing. This is Mr. Nagahama’s great style. The use of different camera angles to add intrigue to certain shots, the precise movements despite the lack of things to animate and the dead silence that covers the entire anime is something this great director seemed to have mastered. This kind of artistic approach is not for everyone though.
Majority of the scenes in the anime involves the characters sitting in bed or walking from school with nothing but dead silence to accompany it. They don’t add anything to the narrative and some of them even stall the progression. One example is when Takao entered Sawa’s room in the later parts of the anime. Takao opened the door. In the manga, he immediately spots the notebook that progresses the story. In the anime, he opened the door, different shots of the room is focused on that takes about six to seven minutes before he touched the notebook. So if the manga had a slow pace, the addition of those different shots that should establish setting doubled the slow pacing in the anime. It will get boring in the most uninteresting way. Towards the second half, were the story should’ve reached a climactic buildup, I was still not sure were the anime was headed. Did it enter a dark route? Is it now romantic? I can’t tell. All I can tell is that pot of dead flowers on the road looks absolutely pretty.
Rotoscoping did damage to the anime as well. The characters look awkward. Yes, they have realistic looks but the animation looks pretty poor. When they talk, their mouth often doesn’t match the lipsync. I can get over the fact their face often don’t capture the emotion they convey but damn it, how hard is it to lip sync movements? The characters really can’t capture the emotion in the manga and that is a major minus for rotoscoping. I also don’t like the fact that the characters don’t have faces when they are in a long distance. They did so much to make sure the animation is precise yet they seem to half ass things that are pivotal to the story. I really hate how they gloss over parts of the animation that actually mattered. To be fair, there are certain scenes that look amazing in rotoscope like when the characters run, the scene is so natural while they pass over really detailed backgrounds. Scenes that demand high quality movements are nicely presented by the anime but majority of the scenes involve talking. These scenes aren’t as outstanding when it’s done using rotoscoping.
The anime had a lot of OP. I honestly do not want to go over them one by one. They are all pretty outstanding though. They have this great personality as the singers nicely convey the emotions in the song. They are all pretty catchy and they have unique instrumentals that I rarely hear in anime. It’s very infectious and whimsical in its special way. The OP sequence is simply the credits with a white background and some cute borders.
The anime’s ED is “Hana -a last flower-” by ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY. I love this song, if you can call it a song. It’s very minimalist and it involves nothing but a girl going over the lyrics with an uneven pacing. It’s very chilling and creepy yet oddly mesmerizing. The nice instrumentals accompanying it gave the song a nice beat as well. I heard the original version (it’s on youtube) and the one in the anime is more mesmerizing for me. The ED sequence is again, credits rolling. It ends with the flower of evil with its eyes staring at you. It’s cute. This is also my favorite part of the anime. Seriously, it’s very well done and deep in its own profound way.
6/10 “As an impartial reviewer, the visual artistic experience of the anime doesn’t compare to the well thought out pacing of the manga so I whole heartedly say, experience the manga instead.”
This is all a matter of preference. I did not like the anime. Individually, there are things to admire but as a whole, the anime felt a bit weak. I am a fan of a good story though and I think my love for such element I want to see in anime, that isn’t in this show, might’ve affected by view of the anime. If you truly want a deeply cinematic and artistic experience then go watch the anime. If you want to enjoy the spiraling dark progression of the story then you should try the manga instead. If you like dark romance stories then try this anime out. Getting used to the characters would be a challenge though.