Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana)

While I'd love to say this post is about the old Mountain album of the same name and how kickass the title song from that album is, this post is actually a review of the anime based on the manga which is in turn loosely based on French poet Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal (which you can guess means The Flowers of Evil). While Mountain's song Flowers of Evil and album are not inspired by Baudelaire's work, the Marilyn Manson song The Flowers of Evil is so that should let you know things are going to be weird in this show. 

Now this anime is obviously not the manga and the characters look nothing like they do in the manga. Why? Well, the anime was filmed using the process of rotoscope. That means that the Japanese people look like actual Japanese people because they are (gasp!). For some reason I don't understand this has drawn a bit of criticism. No, it doesn't look like the manga, but so what? I like things to look a bit different every now and then. I mean, I've seen enough green-haired girls with anime eyes and anime hair that I honestly can't tell 'em apart anymore. But the red-haired girl named Nakamura in the anime adaptation of Flowers of Evil? I'll remember her for a while. Because she looked real and not as prettified by the animation process. In fact, this entire show has a real grimy and ugly look to it. 

It's an experience and not just something you can draw because you own the How to Draw Anime book. Of course, I was the kid who owned the How to Draw the Titanic book when I was younger and you can learn a lot more by drawing real people then you can fake people, I can tell you that. Drawing real people is hard as hell because there are less lines and everything is less defined. Even the nose is a pain because half of the time it doesn't even look like it's there. Whereas in anime drawing all you have to do is make a check mark and boom, there's the nose! In anime eyes can just be horizontal lines for the far away scenes. In real life the lines aren't visible (and technically not even real lines) from far away and that's why a lot of the characters look more and more like blobs in this show the farther away from the camera they are. 

The animation isn't pretty, okay? But hey, people aren't pretty. Chances are even Charlize Theron has ugly toes or something. And that's kinda the point here and the point of the whole series so far. If you are so consumed by how something looks then you are obviously not focusing on what it is

The anime has a slow pace, too. But the pace works because these seemingly ordinary and everyday events cause a sense of underlying dread and what starts out as a teenager just doing awkward teenager stuff suddenly becomes so much more important. When Kasuga Takao takes Saeki's gym uniform because he secretly liked her and felt that was the closest he could get to her, the situation was presented like we were watching a pedophile sneaking into a daycare center or something. It was the END OF THE FUCKING WORLD!!!!! Let's be honest, while what Kasuga did wasn't right, it still wasn't the end of the world. It's just an awkward teenage guy being an awkward teenage guy and doing awkward teenage guy stuff. 

Things become even more sinister when the strange and ill-tempered Nakamura catches up with Kasuga later and tells him that she saw him steal Saeki's gym uniform. She tells him that she will spread his dirty little secret to the whole world if he doesn't "take her to the other side" or "take off his mask."

And that's kind of what the whole show is about. Everything that happens between Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki essentially happens not because Kasuga stole a gym uniform but because Nakamura threatened to blackmail Kasuga because he stole Saeki's gym uniform. So who's the villain here? Tough to say, I guess. But Nakamura really is a crazy bitch more so than an awkward teenager so I'd volunteer her for that position. 

The show is comprised of 13 episodes and not once does it seem like anything other than heavy and bleak and depressing. There's no fanservice or comedic filler. It's all pretty much a dirge and trudge about darkness and distrust. It's slow and hypnotic and relentless. 

The music is kind of like the animation, too. Listenable, but herky-jerky. Catchy, but not glossy. There are four opening songs and all of them are actually a part of the same song by a band called Uchujin. 

The ending of each episode is creepy as hell. Super, super creepy. Not sure I can even call it music as we all know it, but it's memorable. Look up "Aku no Hana ending theme" on YouTube and tell me if you've heard anything like it. Then try going to sleep after hearing it. 

My only gripe with the series is that the last episode is either a preview of things to come in the next season or it is a hazy and non-coherent blob of the possible future for each of the characters. I didn't pay too much attention because I didn't know if I was seeing any major spoilers for a possible second season or not. 

I hope there is another season, but with people getting pissy about the show's animation or pace it's tough to say if it will. But it's really good even with the jumbled final episode and the "controversial" animation. This show is a breath of fresh air for those out there who are tired of seeing Dragonball Z get repackaged over and over again. 

Just give it a chance. 

And another thing... I kind of hope this doesn't get a dub. It'd take away from the realism to see a Japanese guy speaking perfect American. This show is all about the surreal but that would take away from the experience, I think. 

But if this were remade in America using the same rotoscoping method then that would be interesting to see. 

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