They say anime has to be beautiful to get one’s attention. We are so caught up at the time where anything considered ugly will get hated. This isn’t the case for this one.
Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana if you’d like to call it) has been on my Plan-to-Watch list for some time until I got a recommendation from Jon for this year’s Anime X-Change. Now I dived right into this blindly not knowing what’s to come even with the slight heads-up. After finishing the first part of the story in the span of 4 days with some breaks in between, I am still trying to process from what I saw. Never in my time of keeping up with the medium has fucked me up so bad and it felt so thought provoking.
The gist is simple: a boy named Takao has a crush on a girl named Saeki, the top-notcher in class. One day he stole her gym uniform to give into the pleasure of her scent. He then gets caught by another girl named Nakamura.
What comes next? A series of unfortunate events that will make your stomach churn and you might even stop finishing the story with how gut-wrenching it is. When I had two episodes left, I even bathed myself in preparation of its ending. I remember seeing not everyone is willing to complete it because of the anime’s visuals. The original story is adapted from a manga but if you compare the two, this is how you do an adaptation.
The anime deals with the bleakness of mundane life. It nailed the moody atmosphere, from the heavy usage of gray and dark blue to the occasional green, and at best, the characters themselves. They used a method called rotoscoping to further raise the point of telling the audience: “This is real life.” And that background art, I love how it’s still clinging on to any form of life while everything else is decaying. Most shows these days depict the setting as clean and inviting, even on places that is supposed to be rough around the edges. In this one, we’ve got a glimpse of isolation in the most tiniest of details.
I bet the production was even slower than usual since they had the time to do a live-action frame-by-frame setup then traced it over with the specific art in mind. Had this been done in the original manga artstyle, it would contradict its intention from the visual language alone. Why? The three central characters carry a specific trait in their personalities. And anime is a visual medium after all.
Now, to the meat of the story. Oh boy.
Trying to understand a person’s willingness to be manipulated was the most interesting and hardest part for me. Takao has low self-esteem, his friends shuts him out of the group, his parents are doing the bare minimum of reaching out, and to hit the nail in the head, he’s so shallow in committing in a relationship. And I love it! Seeing him getting pushed as far as he could handle there was a possibility I’m thinking where: “How can he not kill himself?” Nakamura at first was doing how an abuser does to the victim, until it revealed her reason by the end of the season. Saeki on the other hand, I could say she’s collateral damage while trying to stay sane from all of the shit they’ve gone through.
It emphasizes a major theme: you are not special. Nakamura’s violent tendencies is only one part of who she is since it’s her way of communicating. Takao views that reading hard-to-understand novels from psychology authors especially Baudelaire makes him better than anyone else. Saeki’s first time being in an actual relationship only to be broken in the end was a major oversight despite having a genuine connection only in her point of view. When it showed that one scene in the classroom, they depicted the best representation of a toxic relationship dialed to an 11.
I’m sure Takao at one point would be finally sick of being with Nakamura even if she was the one who started this mess. In between moments without her, everything is slow with only himself going by the small rural town they live in.
After it’s all over, everything felt empty but whole at the same time. That’s how compelling this series is. To top it all off, the ED is one of the best uses of a theme song in a TV anime. Hearing other EDs that do try to be as bleak as possible sometimes takes away the experience of seeing a traumatic event in the episode. Here they used the song to the show’s advantage. Just don’t play it in the middle of the night at 3AM with no one in the house until you hear a slight creak at your bedroom door.
Would I recommend this? If you’re willing to get your soul crushed. And it doesn’t hold back. It’s not for everyone but this is for those who want a gruesome take of a coming-of-age. But if you can’t, there’s always the manga. There would be some elements that would be lost in translation but I understand if you prefer it that way. The anime is truly one-of-a-kind with how it doesn’t look like a typical show. It was ahead of its time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my dose of chocolate to get that sugary feeling back for a moment.