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?
Aku no Hana was published in English as The Flowers of Evil by Vertical Inc. from May 8, 2012 to October 14, 2014. The publisher has been rereleasing the series in omnibuses since October 31, 2017. It was published in Italian as I Fiori del Male - Aku no Hana by Panini Comics under the Planet Manga imprint from November 9, 2013 to February 7, 2015, and in Spanish as Las Flores del Mal by Norma Editorial from September 26, 2014 to July 22, 2016. It has been published in French as Les Fleurs Du Mal by ki-oon since January 12, 2017.
I will mainly write about why I love the scenario and characters and why I preferred the second part, the one which has never been adapted into anime. For this purpose, I am going to spoil the whole story, so don't read this unless you have finished the manga.
I moderately liked the beginning of the manga because I did not really understand what the characters wanted (the MC in particular) and it seemed to me that they were acting irrationally. The escalation of catastrophic risk taking was fine but not enough to make me love the manga and I think I was right because the
rest of the manga gives a new meaning to this part which is in fact a mere introduction.
To me, it tells the story of boy who is introvert/asocial but not deeply abnormal and who cultivates his uniqueness because he fails to fit in. He believes that if he can't be as good as a normie than the other normies, it means he has a different/superior fate and he convinces himself that his "thing" is poetry, something the others can't understand. He finds a place for the pretty girl he fancies in this thinking pattern, calling her his "muse" (which is quite ridiculous). The MC is therefore at first pretty unhappy and lonely but comfortably confined in his simplistic relation with the rest of the world and vaguely in love with some girl he doesn't really know. This distance between them, which should be a source of pain, actually comforts the idea he has made of himself and make the situation more coherent and convenient than if he tried to seduce her.
When he gets closer to her, it is in fact natural that it doesn't go too well: he is still asocial, he doesn’t know how to fit in by her side and he doesn't have much to say to her. I hadn't understood it, reading the first chapters (I couldn't tell if it is normal, if we are supposed to understand later, of if I am a bit dumb, but however I understood later). On the other side, Sawa gives him an opportunity to increase his uniqueness, to improve his pattern which keeps him away from the others. She is genuinely different, way more than him, and even offers some new categories to add to his pattern (the concept of perversion, the concept of "shit-eaters" (misanthropy in fact) and the concept of "other side") which he tries to match with his understanding of Baudelaire's poetry. When he rejects Saeki to turn to his tormentor WHOM HE DOESN'T EVEN UNDERSTAND, I thought it was dumb, but it's actually very coherent. To this selfish interest is apparently added the desire to help Sawa, to offer her the company of someone who is like her and who can understand her, in opposition to Saeki who is a normie et doesn't need him. However, we clearly feel that he never completely succeeds, that she remains more special than him, that he never understands her and can't really save her, which creates a malaise during this whole part of the story which I find retrospectively delicious.
Then comes the chapter of the summer festival: she betrays him, pushes him away and tries to die alone. He doesn't understand, neither did I at the moment, but it's actually simple: she's thanking him for all these efforts he made for her which have mitigate her misery for a little while but wishes that he keeps living because she understood that he was less abnormal than her and that he could find his place in the world with some efforts, unlike her. The MC only understands this in the end and I only completely understood it at the same time he did. But what makes her so different? Why would Sawa be so desperate while he wouldn't? Is she right to think this way? She's right, and the reason is simple: as seen in the last chapter (which, in my opinion, was not necessary to understand this, but it is an indisputable confirmation which puts an end to any hesitation), she is genuinely, clinically crazy. I don't know anything about psychiatry but it must be some form of schizophrenia. Her perception of the world is biased, everything she says or do in the whole manga is irrational. She's desperately crazy while the MC is merely a bit different from the normies.
For some years, he won't get out of the illusion that he was different like her, that he was able to do something for her, and he will live in the nostalgic remembrance of their relationship and the incomprehension of Sawa's final act. It all changes when he meets the third girl whom he will seduce without giving up his particularity but without persisting in withdrawal. He will understand that he can be normal too, even if he has a passion apparently rare in his environment (literature), and finally give up his dumb pattern which was his shell during adolescence. Then comes my favourite passage: he meets Sawa, who almost didn't evolve, unlike him, again and, after a night of horseplay, reminiscent of the horseplay of their adolescence, she tells him not to ever come again because he is not like her.
I should also write more about Saeki and her friend Kinoshita who suffer a lot because of the MC's mistakes, they are two very good characters, but the essential point is here: a MC who doesn't fins his place and cultivates his difference; he believes (wrongly) that he can help a truly different (crazy) girl and persists in this way despite his failure without ever finding any satisfaction; it takes a lot of time for him to get over it but finally becomes normal while she remains in her desperate situation from which no one can get her out, and anyway from which the MC won't ever try to get her out anymore.
Shuzo Oshimi dedicated this work to “all the boys and girls who have ever suffered the torments of puberty.” But the “torment” Kasuga experiences is not due to the blackmail of a sadistic girl who witnessed his moment’s indiscretion in swiping his crush’s gym uniform. It’s in the blossom of that flower that no one hears, the desperate cry from within that no one understands – the flower of evil.
Aku no Hana’s first 6 volumes relate a chain of twisted events as the reckless decisions of three young teenagers lead to one outrageous happening after another. Desperate to find what is
dear only to them, each one wrestles with the inexorable desire for individuality. In delusional fervor they acknowledge their own perversity, and before the insurmountable heights of reality they face their own mundanity.
After a three-year time skip, volume 7 begins the story of a quiet, listless boy who has lost faith in his own significance but somehow cannot let himself enjoy the ordinary after all that has passed. Kasuga has spent his whole life running from himself and reality, clinging to one distraction after another in exhilaration bolstered by secrecy. The fantasies he spent his late childhood pursuing beckon with seductive charm, while the tangible world, with all its joys and losses, hovers just within reach.
In some ways, Aku no Hana as a whole is a visceral experience. It claws the depths of raw, subconscious desires, and awakens unarticulated and barely-acknowledged feelings of grief and longing. But it is simultaneously imbued with symbolism, with every image purposeful and infused of meaning. It can be experienced in a few hours of fervent page turning, or dissected with an intellectual scalpel.
The manga itself matures with Kasuga, abandoning outlandish incidents for less flashy, more satisfying ones in the second half. The artwork, too, improves greatly, becoming more proportionate and losing its unbalanced overemphasis on eyes and screams. After the glamour of the first half, there is a vague sense of loss in these volumes, which echoes the absence of Nakamura and the extraordinary in Kasuga’s life. This segment of the story draws the reader in as gradually as it draws Kasuga out of his indifference. While the first part offered its readers and its characters the attraction of the bizarre, it ultimately could not deliver the fulfillment of the second with Kasuga’s ordinary struggles with the demons of his youth.
There is something both painful and beautiful about Kasuga’s loss. As he claws his way into adulthood, he wrestles with those he hurt and those who hurt him, striving to let go of what he pursued with such passion as a child. Even so, with the end of one world comes the beginning of another. It is as though Kasuga and Nakamura were half blind to the beauty of the real world as children, and now simple backgrounds are replaced with gorgeous detail and shading, including sunlight that radiates vividly even from the colorless page. Kasuga is now able to find value and enjoyment in what seemed meaningless to him before.
And like a long lost friend, the flower of evil returns in dreams and moments of creativity, safely contained within the confines of the words of a notebook . . .
Aku no Hana fills me with despair, not because of the subject matter that it covers but because it's a classic example of the "Death Note" phenomenon that happens a lot in anime and manga: a particular work starts off with an interesting concept, ends up becoming insanely addictive as shit gets more and more intense until finally, all of that momentum is lost with a major event happening that kills your buzz and you're left feeling more unsatisfied than a sexually frustrated wife is with her impotent husband. Aku no Hana is a good manga but if you're expecting a completely fucked up story
all the way through, you're going to find yourself SORELY disappointed.
Aku no Hana is split up into two parts: the first 33 chapters cover Kasuga's life in middle school along with all the demented things that end up happening to him until a time skip occurs. The remainder end up covering Kasuga's life in high school post-timeskip along with his attempts to become a well-adjusted individual. I'm just going to rip this bandage right off from the start: the first 33 chapters are nothing short of addictive, to say the least. The entire tone of the story was completely morbid and it just grips you the moment you pick up the first chapter.
Nakamura has to be one of the most captivating female leads I've ever come across, not because she's elegant and charming but because she's BATSHIT INSANE!!!!! She's essentially the entire reason why I couldn't put this manga down whatsoever. You know your manga is gonna be good when one of the main characters ends up calling a teacher a shit-eater and ends up scaring him in the first chapters. As the story progressed, I kept wanting to know what the hell would go down between Kasuga and Nakamura and the events that went down left my mouth agape in pure shock and awe.
Forget all that typical high school romance crap, the shit that she and Kasuga end up doing together wouldn't be out-of-place in a perverted anarchist's wet dream. Vandalism, stealing gym clothes, shit-eaters, oh how I wish I was in Kasuga's place and I had a tank of kerosene. You keep wondering how the mangaka will top himself, thinking that there's no conceivable way that he can make things become even crazier but you'd find yourself sorely mistaken. This continues all the way until Chapter 33, which is where the manga reaches its zenith. Had the manga ended right then and there, Aku no Hana surely would've earned its place as one of the craziest and most intense mangas ever written. Sadly, the story continues.
The last ~25 chapters of the manga are a complete and total departure from the dementia that came before. Instead, it focuses on Kasuga trying to become a well-adjusted person in a world where he feels like he's an outcast. Surely, this kind of story had some potential but it was sorely squandered. For one thing, Nakamura is missing from the bulk of these chapters. Up until that point in time, Kasuga was constantly playing off of Nakamura and vice-versa. Their dynamic was made the manga exciting to read in the first place, so seeing Kasuga and his self-loathing without anything to balance it out just made the entire thing tedious to read through.
The tone shift in Aku no Hana came out of nowhere. This manga spent ~60% of its run as an incredibly fucked up high school drama and there was absolutely no hint or foreshadowing about this shift in tone coming at any point in time. If you're going to shift tones, why not make it more gradual? Time skips can work to great effect, but the way Aku no Hana set itself up made it so that a time skip wouldn't work whatsoever. Chapter 33 was the absolute climax of the manga! How the fuck are you going to do a time skip from something as intense as that?! How are you gonna go from Kasuga and Nakamura calling everyone shiteaters before doing something completely insane to Kasuga alone in high school hating himself?
For the record, it's not like I have a problem with self-loathing high school kids with fucked up pasts in the first place either. I adore the SHIT out of Oyasumi Punpun, for God's sake! Here's the difference though: Aku no Hana started out as this incredibly fucked up manga that ended up becoming more and more demented as it progressed. Punpun on the other hand was told from the psychological perspective of someone from childhood to adulthood and how he gradually turned into a pessimistic and self-loathing adult when he used to be a sweet, innocent, and optimistic child. As surreal and macabre as Punpun got, it was nowhere NEAR as demented as Aku no Hana was.
Now where does Aku no Hana stand now? Were it not for the final 25 chapters, it would've been something I would enjoy reading the shit out of. The ending was fair enough, I guess but honestly... I wanted to keep reading more of that demented anarchist's wet dream that had me hooked from the moment I started reading it. If you want to give Aku no Hana a chance, by all means do so. Whilst I did make that Death Note comparison, I should point out that Aku no Hana is nowhere near as bad as Death Note was once the Near and the SPK rolled by. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but for what it's worth, Aku no Hana was one hell of a ride from beginning to end. Anyway, that's all for now. Feedback is always welcome, and with that I'm out. Peace :)
"Criticism of criticism" or "Reading is a simple surrogate of one's own thinking"
Usually, the plot, based on the worrying of a teenager, problems in school, inferiority complexes and fear of recognition in love, does not cause much interest in the observer, primarily because of his banality. Often the problem of one boy or girl is offered, in which the author rests with all his strength and pulls it throughout the story, but here we will see a completely different picture, which, if not forced to love this work, but at least it will not waste your time.
Aku no Hana shows that reading means thinking through
of someone else's head instead of one's own, which is what happens to the protagonist of the Kasuga Takao. But for independent thinking, which tries to develop into something whole, into some system, nothing can be more harmful, as excessively strong influx of other people's thoughts,, because they, belonging to anothers minds, will never merge into one picture and will not give unity of thought, but rather, they form a pandemonium in the head and deprive the mind of any clear view. The protagonist understands this not immediately, but after some incident that happened to him, when he forgot his book in the classroom and came back to find it. However, he discovers not only the book, but also the sportswear of his classmate Saeki Nanako.
Such a premise may, at first glance, not cause any special interest in the reader, but fortunately, soon show how much he (the reader) was naive. If suddenly, during the reading, you try to anticipate any events occurring in the story further, you do not have to worry, Aku no Hana will completely destroy your ideas. After this incident, the plot will be unusual and will start to unnerving. Very soon, thoughts come to mind that, something unknown makes us reading more and more, causing interest in the characters all the stronger. I'm not a big fan of works of this genre, as in Aku no Hana, but somewhere from the tenth chapter, it was simply impossible to tear myself away. It is difficult to convey in words, when the genre of the work itself, does not cause much interest, but at the same time, it becomes unclear why you can not tear yourself away from reading.
The aspect of humanity is that anyone who differs at least slightly from the surrounding society will be considered strange, and also in some way stupid. However, those who would be worth listening to, people notice only when it is no more, this is the stupidity of people's as a whole. Nakamura understands this, because of what she hates her surroundings. Life for her, there is an incessant struggle with need and boredom, as well as with other people. She expresses the idea that every person must follow the rules of society, while struggling with their own desires. The idea that each person is in the system of society and that each, in fact, does not differ from each other with anything special, gives rise to the topic of what people are easy to manipulate, which is clearly shows Nakamura.
Deepening in the characters is stronger, you can see that everyone has a huge flaw in the character. Thereby, transmitted the realism of the series. And the difficulty with which the protagonist will experience his past, once again makes us understand that a person, usually, finds joys far below, but suffering is far higher beyond his expectations. After all, Kasuga almost never remembers happy memories, everything that will surround him in the future is suffering, although every single misfortune in general is a rule. So, all the events that happen to him and Nakamura bring him to the truth. It follows that we do not notice and do not delve into all that is done in accordance with our will, and in order to turn our attention, it is necessary that the circumstances come across some obstacle, which Kasuga faced. Therefore, I do not know the greater absurdity how to think that everything that happened to the protagonist is evil, on the contrary I evaluate this as something positive and even in some way I envied Takao, because what happened to him made him feel itself. And later he realizes that the agony of existence is promoted by many circumstances, and most important of them is boredom, it stands behind every perfect action.
Analyzing Nakamura's stance that all people are shiteaters and perverts, we can make up some phrase, namely "Everything that is natural, therefore, is bad, and that's why it is bad, which is natural." In other words, when evaluating any human individual, one must constantly keep in mind that the basis of it, is something that is imperceptible to the ordinary eye, something perverted. And it can be understood. After all, if you think and take into account that life, in its essence, is a state of need, and often disasters, where everyone must harass and fight for their existence, therefore she (Nakamura) can not accept a friendly face expression, but only occasionally gloating smile.
Taking into account the social component in Aku no Hana, one can reason as follows. What, be great person (Nakamura) and live among the miserable rabble, it's almost synonymous, these are two expressions for the same thing, people like Nakamura are almost always doomed to loneliness. I would like to disassemble each of the main characters in order.
The first is Saeki Nanako, who belongs to the category of those who can not move on, except in the company of someone else. She tries to hide the imitation through of the imaginary originality, which, in general, does not go beyond the order and presentation.
The second is Kasuga Takao, he is in general almost the same as Nanako, what attracts him initially to her, but he has the ability to judge and he still tries to walk on his own feet through by stupid reading of books which he not understand . In other words, "a fool is tailored in his own way."
The third is Sawa Nakamura. She is in some ways an exception to the whole society. Perhaps her position, in relation to everything is not correct, although I do not think so, but it primarily thinks on its own, and therefore, "a priori", stands above others. She genuinely does not care about someone else's approval, although, as it is learned later, she will be very glad to meet Kasuga, thinking that he is definitely of equal level with her, although this is completely wrong.
All this is evident in the actions of the characters. Nanako tries to imitate Nakamura, and Kasuga, in turn, runs after her, hoping to understand and realize what kind of person she is, although Sawa herself does only what she wants, which is certainly worthy of respect.
A happy ending is always very difficult to make original and I thought until the last that in this work everything will end if not bad, then probably the end would put a big question on the continuation of the fate of the characters. But everything turned out not so. In the manga is a good enough and full-fledged end, it can be called happy. Although taking into account all the things for which Nakamura spoke and tried to convey, to see her at the end of an ordinary, obedient and decent member of society is a little sadly. But we can not say that she is broken, because it should be understood that when someone stands at the top one, and others can not rise to him, then he should, if he does not want to be alone, to go down.
The conclusion to this series is definitely ambiguous. I can not advise this to any people, since in order to fully understand all that is said here, one needs to be at least a little familiar with the literature and even the language of philosophy as a whole. However, I can say with confidence that reading this, you will not waste time in vain, and what you will learn from this, and what position you will follow, this is not particularly important at all. Manga is read with interest, therefore, even if you do not understand the whole point of her message, at least you will touch a work that stands at the level of art. And if someone does not understand the essence of art, then he must stand in front and wait until the picture or voice inside, does say something to him.
And yet, Aku no Hana, written primarily for criticism, the untrained eye will not be able to fully appreciate the completeness of this work. However, anyone can try to somehow present his own vision of the picture.
"-... How easily the world leaves us helpless, lonely and continues its journey, like the sun and the moon, and other gods." - Gėtė. "Tasso"