Kasuga Takao is a boy who loves reading books, particularly Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. A girl at his school, Saeki Nanako, is his muse and his Venus, and he admires her from a distance. One day, he forgets his copy of Les Fleurs du Mal in the classroom and runs back alone to pick it up. In the classroom, he finds not only his book, but Saeki's gym uniform. On a mad impulse, he steals it.
Now everyone knows "some pervert" stole Saeki's uniform, and Kasuga is dying with shame and guilt. Furthermore, the weird, creepy, and friendless girl of the class, Nakamura, saw him take the uniform. Instead of revealing it was him, she recognizes his kindred deviant spirit and uses her knowledge to take control of his life. Will it be possible for Kasuga to get closer to Saeki, despite Nakamura's meddling and his dark secret? What exactly does Nakamura intend to do with him?
#1: "Hana -a last flower- (花 -a last flower-)" by ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY (eps 1-4, 6, 9, 11-12) #2: "Hana -a last flower- ver.Z (花 -a last flower- ver.Z)" by ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY (ep 5, 10) #3: "Hana (花)" by ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY (ep 7) #4: "Hana -a last flower- ver.X (花 -a last flower- ver.X)" by ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY (ep 8)
DISCLAIMER: FOR THE SAKE OF THIS REVIEW I WILL BE OPERATING UNDER THE ASSUMTION THAT THERE IS AN UPCOMING SECOND SEASON. The anime said there would be a part two and I’ll trust that for now. If there is no season two then I'd have problems with the conclusion and the score would have to be lowered. But the anime created interest in the manga, they haven't exhausted the budget, they previewed pt. 2 scenes that they've supposedly finished, some of the most powerful scenes have yet to come, etc. At this point, it seems very safe to assume there will be a second season even if the anime sales haven't been great.
Ah, adaptions. The bane of all manga readers. Understandably, this is simultaneously claimed to be one of the best and worst anime adaptions there is. It has attracted much criticism and ridicule due to the huge change in character design, but this change was actually approved by the mangaka and I would tend to agree with him that it was good stylistic choice.
For some reason, fans think all anime characters, besides the comic relief ones, must be attractive. They can’t take ugly characters seriously or treat them like humans, but they have no problem falling in love with cute bug-eyed alien creatures. That’s superficial to a disgusting degree.
The characters are often ugly, but why does that matter? Do you hate all movies with unattractive actors? Not all actresses look like supermodels, nor do the vast majority of women, so why should all anime characters be beautiful? I actually didn't like how, in the manga, Nakamura was meant to be ugly or plain, but the mangaka drew her attractive. It's like the manga version of "Hollywood Homely." When I read the manga, I was kind of annoyed that something like that tried to evoke a masterpiece like "Les Fleurs Du Mals." In the anime, I wasn't offended by the reference, and it heightened my appreciation instead.
Aku no Hana is a work about descent into decadence, libertinism, and the meaning of freedom; mental and physical. Should the characters really be moe? Is it really important that their eyes cover half of their face? This adaption took advantage of all of the manga's squandered potential. This is exactly what a good adaption does, rather than following in every folly of its predecessor.
One thing that should be noted about the realistic nature of the character’s faces is sometimes they look better than others. Like a real person, some of the screenshots will make a character look ugly and some will make a character look normal, although normal is ugly by anime standards. The point is that you shouldn’t assume all the characters are ugly based on a couple unflattering screenshots. They’re not poorly designed, they’re real.
I love the collision between realism and minimalism in the character designs, additionally contrasting with the fact that the city is one of the most realistic I've seen in anime; kind of emphasizing the insignificance of humanity more subtly than the manga ever did. It should be noted that the fact that the city seems to be "decaying" or in poor shape is a reference to a major theme of Les Fleurs du Mal. This animation captures the atmosphere really well and if it was done differently it would have flopped thematically. It had an interesting and creative artistic direction that had a clear purpose to it.
There is much of symbolism and depth to the art, just as there is in the general plot, and it is arguably the best aspect of the show. The animation seemed a bit choppy at times, but the art was generally flawless.
The atmosphere created by the art was enhanced by the incredible OST. The first OP perfectly captured Kasuga’s character, the second OP Nakamura’s, the third Saeki’s, and the fourth was like a victory lap that captured the very essence of the anime. The BGM complimented and accented the atmosphere perfectly while the ED always kicked in with genius timing, changing subtly as the series progresses, culminating in it playing for half of the finale and a new ED coming on at the end. The ED is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard. All in all I’d say this is the one of the best and most fitting anime OSTs out there. It certainly has to be the only OST I’ve heard that’s influenced the atmosphere of a series and my opinion of it to this extent.
The plot seems a bit generic in the description, but unlike similarly premised titles, it is not a hentai or a comedy and it plays out very differently. The show is more about presentation than plot, but the plot is still engaging, unpredictable, and unique.
The characters were among the stronger points. Kasuga’s development was the entire point of the show (it appears to be a bildungsroman) and it was very well done. Under the guidance of Nakamura (a great character in her own right) we see him go from a mindless puppet who can only spout out the thoughts of others, but longs to be unique, to a free individual. At first he can only express himself in Baudelaire poems, poems he clearly doesn’t really understand, but looks down on others for not getting although he doesn’t really want anyone else to read them either. This whole concept infuriates Nakamura and she tries to “break down his walls.” Later, even in the classroom scene, he’s just writing what Nakamura says. It isn’t until he faces the prospect of losing her that he really manages to form a thought of his own, in an incredible scene and finale episode.
Nakamura helps him, and seems to treat him like dirt, but she also needs him. Her character is very interesting and the changes to how the audience views her over time were well done. Saeki is a foil to her character and there are many parallels and contrasts between them, both subtle and overt. She wants to understand Kasuga, but she can’t. She would accept him no matter how he is. Some of her character developments towards the end and alluded to in the preview/flash-forward were very unexpected and her character is as complex as any. All of the side characters are also interesting and serve their purpose well.
Enjoyment would be the hardest category to score. I enjoyed it more like I would enjoy a horror movie than a thriller, romance, or comedy. My eyes were not glued to the screen and sometimes it was hard to watch. I couldn't take it in more than one episode at a time, which is a testament to how powerful the atmosphere is. The whole thing was slow paced and tense and chock-full of second-hand embarrassment and humiliation. You really feel for the characters, and as they are dejected for most of the anime, you will be too.
This anime is arguably the best of its season and the best in years, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people. If you appreciate the decadent literary movement, if you thought the manga could be better, if you aren’t bothered by unattractive characters, if you’re looking for something different or more realistic, or if you are just open minded then this anime is for you. read more
Whenever people watch a film or show, regardless if it’s anime or not, they want to be enticed into a deep and complex world that is full of mystery and wonder that they can solve for the benefit of their own humanity. It seems as though Aku no Hana was meant to be something that was going to be the “change” some people were looking for in the wake of entertainment controlling the masses. But boy did it fail at doing that on almost all accounts.
To get this out of the way, no the animation is not horrible. It is flawed yes, but not to the extent where it should be castrated out of someone’s psyche after viewing the first episode. For starters, the animation that the studio decided to use is called rotoscoping, a style of animation where people are filmed in live-action and animators draw over the film frame-by-frame. Considering that this is the first anime show to do this style of animation, how is the quality of the rotoscoping? Not too well that’s for sure. The lip-syncing is atrocious, the facial expressions are devoid of any expression and don’t fit well with the emotions that the characters are trying to convey, and given how low the budget was the animation isn’t very fluid in most places. Though with these flaws mentioned, the show isn’t necessarily unwatchable due to the animation being average so it gets a slight pass in this department.
With this in mind, however, the art design of the backgrounds in the show’s setting are truly spectacular to look at. How the buildings are drawn from every tiny detail of rust and grime in the more darker places of the town are something to behold. It fits very well with the tone the show was trying to capture and it’s effectiveness is fairly good. Another thing that also improves on Aku no Hana’s tone is the music. With it’s subtle ambient and minimalist influenced sound, it’s one of the most beautifully crafted scores that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.
On a technical level, the show is mixed with good music and art but really average animation, but how does it compare to the narrative and writing? Not to well that’s for sure. For one, the characters and how they are written are not at all well developed or fully realized with any thing that is happening with the plot. To address this even further, the relationships between the protagonist named Kasuga with our two main heroines Nakamura and Saeki are as well put together as one could get from a highschooler’s attempt at writing a story such as this, a bad one at that. What makes these characters so bad in terms of a writing perspective is just how poorly paced it is in giving us a clear indication that Kasuga has a bond with either Nakamura and Saeki. With Kasuga and Nakamura, there is no chemistry whenever they are on screen they just play off as a couple of degenerate who spout out vapid angsty monologues towards one another.
Kasuga himself is not an enticing protagonist to be on-screen. Just because you make him this Holden Caulfield type of character where he is obsessed with a dark poetry book doesn’t make him have anymore depth than any other character in the show. Are we to sympathize with him just because he acts all pessimistic with the world around him with his pseudo-intellectual jargon? Not if it’s done with careful precision in Kasuga’s own archetype, which in reality is not the case whatsoever in Aku no Hana.
Nakamura and Saeki are two other characters that unfortunately are not spared in terms of mediocre character writing. The romantic development with Kasuga and Saeki is rushed to the point where we only get to see very few inclinations that they are a couple. We get two awkward dates and a moment where she invites him into his room. Not only that but Saeki’s reasons for liking Kasuga are not at all convincing to the slightest degree. With all of the things Kasuga did, or forced in this case, to Saeki’s property, any normal girl would easily never speak to him again but just because the writers want to keep the story going they’ll just have to hope that any person with a half a brain would buy into this. No explanation for Saeki’s reasoning for liking Kasuga, no nothing.
Then there’s Nakamura, Kasuga’s “sidekick” in the show. As you might predict, she is about as explained throughout the show as any of the other characters. This is, of course, the intention because Nakamura is something that we should be weary and suspicious about whether she’s evil or not. Once she forms a contract with Kasuga, the only thing we really get out of Nakamura is that she is nothing more than the show’s attempt at pouring out empty melodrama into the mix to make the plot try to seem too deep than what it already is. Her primary goal to the plot’s theme is never given any deep context other than the fact that she thinks the whole world is bullshit and it should be destroyed. Look, if you want to give me an existential angst plot device at least try to deliver a better explanation than just a one-dimensional written one. That way the character can be portrayed in a reasonably sympathetic light, unfortunately Nakamura just doesn’t cut out to be a deep convincing anti-hero with how poor the writing is.
While the tone of the show is solid, the atmosphere itself tries too hard to be frightening to the point where it almost does the opposite effect of what it was originally trying to impose. It happens whenever there is a faint rumbling noise in the background that’s supposed to resemble a heart beat that is hardly effective at all in establishing a mood or whenever the music starts to grow in it’s dynamics with a dark droning noise that is unsettling in a bad way. What’s funny is that some of the build up of the tone in some of the scenes are not necessary and fail to capture any fear at all. Once you do it multiple times throughout the course of the show it loses it’s momentum quickly and all your left with is just a empty white noise in the background.
It’s not often I get to talk about the actual “acting” rather than the voice acting in this show. The acting, while good in a few areas, is often overly dramatized and doesn’t reach to that level of greatness of any drama TV show that you could be watching right now. Actors constantly spout out their lines and try to carry out as much emotion as possible in scenes that don’t seem as though it was needed in the first place, such as one that involves a bathroom area.
Not to mention of the numerous plot holes that really drags down the plot as a whole from making it convincing to anyone watching. Normally plot holes can be forgiven if they are very small to where they are not noticeable to ruin the flow of the show, but with Aku no Hana there are so many coincidences that can easily be accounted for lazy writing such as no one noticing the blackboard writing being blocked out the day after the vandalism scene, any one could have easily deciphered what the saying was in two seconds flat.
In the short scheme of things, Aku no Hana is just a failed experiment that probably never should of been fully realized given to it’s source material. In all honesty, the original manga’s story is quite fascinating and if only they hired more competent writers to fill in the wide gap that crippled Aku no Hana’s chances of becoming a fascinating psychological drama. It wouldn’t be a shock to call this a “wasted opportunity” given how the creators were ballsy in making it with the rotoscope technique; it just goes to show when you want to do something “different”, you might want to focus more on your writing structure than your artistic integrity.
Aku no Hana is by far the most controversial Anime of the Spring Season 2013, receiving by far the most hate and still having quite a big fan base that does like it. Which one of the two sides arguing against each other is right?
Story: The story of Aku no Hana takes place in Japan and revolves around Kasuga Takao, a quite normal boy, who goes to school, loves books (especially Baudelaire's "Aku no Hana") and has a crush on what is supposed to be the beauty of the class. One day he finds her sport clothes as he wants to get the book he accidentally forgot in the classroom. He takes them out and hears a sound. In the hurry he just takes them and leaves quickly. Later on the psycho child of the class, being Nakamura Sawa tells him she saw him stealing the clothes. From then on she makes him do things that...well are kind of awkward. The whole story is really well executed and as far as I know follows the Manga quite well (didn't read it). It is really enjoyable to watch and it keeps unfolding in directions that the viewer doesn't expect to go to. It was a good story, but no masterpiece! 8/10
Characters: The characters are the shining point of the show. Even though the only ones that get any focus at all are the three main characters that everything revolves around, they are that good developed that that is no problem at all! Kasuga Takao seems to be one of the most normal students we've seen in a while in Anime. He likes books, has a crush on a girl and doesn't have any powers or things he is really good in. That is until he gets seen by Nakamura stealing the clothes and his life gets more and more messed up, just as his mind. Nakamura Sawa is a psycho. That's what everyone agrees upon. But it is a kind of psycho, that seems more pleasant than the "I'll kill you all" type, and rather is someone that is claims himself to be a deviant and searches for people that are the same as she is. Saeki Nanako is the girl Kasuga has a crush on. She is a kind and good looking girl. I am not gonna talk a lot about her since I'd just end up spoiling. One must be said: The characters aren't likable at all! It is hard to really like them, but that is the point the series wants you to be in. It's a point were you can look down on the show from a spot a lot higher, which makes every single character a lot more human and makes their built up incredibly well done. 10/10
Art: Well....the first thing that comes to your mind while watching Aku no Hana is the character design, which looks to say it in a polite way different. It is not a bad thing to make them look this way, since it is just another point that makes you feel more distant to the characters. The point were the art fails is the animation itself. The characters suffer from either to much movement at the same time and you just can't seem to concentrate because the characters look as if they would tremble without a reason or they don't move at all. The amount of still screens in this show is incredibly high and makes the show feel as if it was something based on an incredibly low budget, which it probably is. Later on the Animation gets a lot better but still not good enough to make up for what they did within the first episodes, which makes the enjoyment go down by far and the hate level rise in the same way. 4/10
Sound: The Soundtrack of Aku no Hana is incredibly simple. It mostly consists of tones getting louder and louder which creates a suspense that really fits the show as something dark and awkward. Aku no Hana has one of the most memorable endings ever created. A song only sung by a computer voice singing about the flowers of evil definitely is really creepy and fits the whole show really well. Just as the 4 Openings do. Every single one of them is weird in it's own way but still it fits the show so well that by now I really enjoy hearing them on their own. The voice acting is nothing that really stands out. While it definitely is not horrible, it is nothing I do love. 8/10
Enjoyment: I have no idea how to score this...honestly! This show is nothing you will enjoy! However it is something that makes you want to shut down your browser and never open it again. At parts I couldn't watch an episode in a single sitting, but had to constantly pause it to calm down a bit, since my nerves were blank, but this is what makes this show so good! 9/10
Aku no Hana is not a show everyone will enjoy, that is for sure. It is hard to watch and if you aren't into thrillers or that kind of stuff you really should stay away from this, but if you like them or if it even interests you a little, go watch this and make your own picture of it. read more
I normally don't write reviews, but because this series got so much hate, I felt obligated to say something. I thoroughly enjoyed this series for many reasons. First I'll address the elephant in the room that got this series so much hate: the art style. At first I couldn't stand the art style myself. I thought it was going to ruin the series the minute I saw it, but to my own surprise I was completely wrong. After getting into the story, I felt the art style fir the show perfectly. By not having cartoon-looking characters, it made the show much more believable that these characters could possibly exist, which only makes the show even more troubling.
Next thing I want to address is the story. Right after the first episode, this show had me hooked. I found myself eager to watch the next episode right after the last. Even though it is not categorized as one, the first few episodes disturbed me more than any "horror" anime ever has. And don't even get me started on the creepy music when the end credits roll. Throughout the story, we see a boy who tries to be different from everyone else because he feels like he does not fit in anywhere. This made me feel like I was going to be faced with a boring protagonist and little to no character development. Once again, I was wrong. After Kasuga spends so much time with Nakamura, we get that hint that these two may slowly be falling for each other. I enjoy how the mood of the show changes along with the opening credits music throughout the series. At first, everything seems very troubling and eventually changes into a story of a boy who is trying to find himself. Because of Nakamura, he questions everything he has ever known, and even later admits he has been lying to himself for his entire life. Because of one girl, Kasuga's entire perception on life is changed and that is what I found so appealing about the story. I must admit, the last episode did kind of disappoint me and I'm really hoping for a part two. One of the only problems I had with this series was some of the dragging scenes. No, I do not want to watch a five-minute animation of Kasuga walking through the streets accompanied by sad music. Besides these minor problems, I really enjoyed this series and recommend to anyone who likes psychological anime.read more
Anyone old enough in the anime industry knows about this ongoing clash about moe. Will you join the side of the loving fans, or do the edgy haters fit you better? Take your time guys. I can do this all day.
On April 6, Dai Sato and Justin Leach stopped by The Japan Society to talk about the state of Japanese animation post Hayao Miyazaki. How has it been since his retirement, and is anime moving in a good direction? Or bad direction? Here's a recap of the event.