Let me start this review off with a miniature literature lecture. Charles Baudelaire was a crazy French poet who was an aspiring lawyer but decided to drop it all and become the archetypal struggling artist. He borrowed money extensively and spent them on booze and whores. Of course, he burnt out and died from overdrinking alcohol but he left behind a grand literary legacy. His poetry was vulgar, decadent and entirely brilliant, inspiring a movement called the Symbolist movement.
But rather than focus on Baudelaire, let’s focus on another poet called Rimbaud (Takao also reads him). Rimbaud became and avid fan of Baudelaire. He was a
young teenager and felt trapped in his parent’s home. He frequently ran away from home and eventually moved to Paris to join the Symbolist movement there. The most important thing he preached was the theory of the voyant. Rimbaud believed that a true poet (the voyant, or seer) could only achieve the pinnacle of his art with what he called ‘the derangement of the senses’. He believed that a poet had to achieve every kind of evil and suffering, to make his own soul into a monster. He saw Baudelaire as the first voyant in the whole of poetic history. Of course Rimbaud took the same path of decadence Baudelaire took. His poetic career only lasted 5 years, yet he wrote works that are widely read by the French public even to this day. After his 5 years in Paris, he spontaneously decided to travel to Africa and in the end became an arms dealer. He died of a sickness he caught overseas.
Finally let’s go to an era that’s closer to our time, around 1940s – 1950s in America. A group of Literature students in Colombia University felt sick to their stomach about the actions of the US government and about life in general. Of course, I’m referring to the Beat Generation. Allen Ginsberg’s famous “Howl” and Jack Kerouac’s famous “On the Road” became a cult classic, leading to the rise of an entire new counterculture movement altogether. The most important thing is that the members of the Beat Generation were influenced by Rimbaud. When one reads On the Road reads up about the lives of Beat Generation writers, the main theme running among them all is spontaneity and anarchic freedom. They aimed to flout the rules and societal norms as much as possible and to lead a life of utmost chaos.
After reading a couple of the reviews posted on this manga, I see the same things repeated again and again. I see people reading it as a manga about Femdom and they claim the plot is unoriginal because the “sadistic girl forcing the guy to make a contract” has been done before. On the other hand I saw the work as a completely differently thing altogether. Of course it requires a certain mindset to see this perspective.
There are those people who take a look at the society they live in and genuinely hate it to the very core. They see people who live lives of unhappiness and die unfulfilled. They get the impression that everyone is socially isolated from everyone. They see people indulging in stupid pleasures like dirty jokes and momentary experiences like karaoke sessions. They think chasing after stuff like wealth and cars are just another form of escapism and self-delusion. They dream of running away to Woodstock in the 1960s and spending 3 days of freedom and drugs and rock and roll. They dream of following the footsteps of street artist Banksy and spraying paint and art all over the walls of the city. They think that people are only truly free when they are free to run around in fields, to scream, to have cathartic moment after cathartic moment, to ride On the Road without limits and without care. They don’t like the obligations they have towards society and think it’s a complete waste of time, to live such a myopic lifestyle.
Of course, all this is like simple Anarchist theory. You can read more about these sorts of theories of human freedom in things like the works Situationist International and the movie My Dinner with Andre. What I see Aku no Hana as is a portrait, a representation of the burden (and it is a huge burden) and yet simultaneous beauty of leading the lifestyle of sin Baudelaire and Rimbaud once led. Nakamura isn’t just a sadistic BDSM queen; she’s a representation of that lifestyle, a symbol. Takao submits to her because the sheer thrill of their exploits is a form of exaltation. Likewise, I was drawn towards the glimpse of that lifestyle, two people doing things I could never have done and looking so unbelievably joyous in their carnage.
Normally I classify works under two forms. One is a work that is a beautiful illusion, a work of fiction that is perfect in every way for escapism and sentiment, drawing out simple emotions. Things like melodramas and thrillers and comedies fall under this territory. Then there are those that have glimpses of direct, real lived experience within them, those works that can give you bits and pieces of life. These are the works that will enrapture your soul and depress you because they capture just a mere iota of a full experience that you know is currently out of your reach or force you to confront a dire reality. Things like Welcome to the NHK, Subarashii Sekai (by Inio Asano), Synecdoche New York, All About Lily Chou Chou, Fight Club (to a small extent, it’s more of a thriller).
It didn’t pick up though until that first event in the classroom. The ultimate glimpse of pure anarchist delight embodied in the two dancing adolescent youths. There’s a certain mindset that you need to have before entering such works, the mindset that you are both lonely and damned, the twisted romantic view of life. Aku no Hana is a work for dreamers. The first step is to not see the main characters superficially as a mere twisted couple mimicked in many other stories but representatives of different aspects of humanity. Anarchy, conformity, angst, spite, jealousy, rebellion are all present.
Seeing past all the standard critiques, it’s not a matter of clichés or characterization at all, in the end it all comes down to how much you empathize with that beautiful vision of anarchic self-destruction.
This review may sound like it comes from a complete sociopath (Most likely. I had Fleurs du Mal and Rimbaud's Complete works before I even knew of the manga. Also I'm one of those hopeless dreamers who plans to live some kind of struggling artist life in the future) but this is just a single perspective that may perhaps change some people's views when engaging with this manga (I hope).
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 . . .
This manga is crazy. I'm sorry, actually, allow me to correct myself, this manga is FUCKING crazy.
So you thought School Days was fucked up, you haven't even begun.
I'll start with the flaws, because they are apparent. First of all, the story isn't the most original thing you've ever heard of. You have a boy who has a crush on a girl and is forced to make a contract with another girl because he is caught stealing the first girl's underwear. It doesn't take a genius to realize where the romance is going to be placed. The characters aren't the most developed characters ever and they
aren't actually very three dimensional. The art is average, which is not a bad thing but it isn't a strength. In fact, if treat the manga as a morally psychological manga, that is based on Les Fleurs du mal, it falls a bit short as the themes aren't expressed with enough emphasis.
Still, and I might be overstating this, but I believe this manga has dwelled itself in a specific sort of "art" that we rarely see in stories. Most stories try to use pleasure as the appeal to the audience. What I mean is that while we are experiencing the story, we gain a sense of pleasure through it, which attracts us to continue. Whether that attraction is through the thrill of action, the calm slice of life scenery or just plain hentai lust. On the other hand, this story has decided to use discomfort to attact us, and we keep reading because we are enjoying that feeling of that "discomfort". It's not the easiest emotion to explain, which is why I end up describing each chapter as "weird" or "Oh Shit!". This discomfort isn't the same as what the Romans got from Gladiator fights or what we feel when we watch SAW, as they produce a thrill which attracts us, instead we are enjoying the feeling of being "trapped" and "pressured", maybe even disturbed. Still, its great when we finish and we can sit back and realize, "Fuck yeah, that isn't me!" Unfortunately, the characters are relatable enough that when we sit back and think about it more, we realize that we see ourselves in them.
What I do praise is the way the story is so fast paced, that when we feel trapped because of the characters, we have no time to relieve ourselves before they get into an even deeper mess. Of course, its better to not have to wait for it monthly to fully experience this effect. Things happen in each page, and there are barely any pages wasted on metaphoric dialogue or drawings of the random scenery unless they somehow make a big impact. Big events happen in each chapter and the story moves at an extreme speed. Such pacing doesn't work for all mangas, but for this one, I can definitely say it does.
I'm not going to lie, some people are not going to enjoy this. It seems to try to become something deeply psychological, but falls short because of the rather unrealistic personalities of the characters. Still, let me ask you this, do you feel good when you read this? And if no, then why are you continuing?
I actually think this manga could be labeled as a "horror-manga" because it all plays out like some sort of demented never-ending nightmare. Not the sort of nightmare where you're chased by a serial killer, mind you. But rather the sort of nightmare where you discover that you've forgotten to wear clothes to school. (I would name the genre "social-horror")
The set-up is wonderful! Kasuga Takao is a somewhat pretentious boy who considers himself different (and perhaps better) than other people because he's reading difficult french poetry. His favorite book is "the Flowers of Evil" by Baudelaire (thereby the title of the manga). One day he
coincidentally finds the gym-bag of the girl he has a crush on and in it her sweaty, recently used gym-outfit. When looking through the bag he hears someone. He panics and runs home with her gym clothes! Unfortunately another girl from his class, Nakamura, saw this. Being a complete sociopath, Nakamura sadistically begins to blackmail Kasuga.
I don't think I should describe the plot more than that. This manga is unique and the story is its strongest point, but Aku no Hana does have some other flaws. The art is good for the most part, but the expressions can be a bit over the top at some times. Still that's not a big problem, it often has a needed comedic effect, but I can't help but find Kasuga a bit annoying when he's constantly exploding in embarrassment! Still other expressions are pure gold, Nakamuras sadistic smile never quite leaves you. Another problem with the art is that it does good when the frame is zoomed in, but often peoples bodies look awkward, unbalanced and wrongly proportioned when you see them in full frame. (not always though)
But nitpicking on the art isn't very productive. A bigger problem for the manga is that at times the character motivations seem a illogical, if you're a person who easily take issue with that, you're probably going to have some problem with this manga. The characters themselves aren't very lovable, but the situation they're in and the friction between them makes things interesting so the manga doesn't really suffer from that.
So: Is it any good? Well, that's not an easy question. I enjoyed it, and I feel sort of guilty, but also confused as to why. I always wanted to continue reading, I wanted to know what happens next. That's a good sign, perhaps that's what's most important in determining if a manga is good. But why? Why did I wish to read on? I think there's three reasons. First of all (here's the reason why I feel sort of guilty), I think it hits a sort of sadistic sweet-spot, it's the same kind of fun you get from watching failblog, a mix of "haha!" and "oh god no".
Secondly, I sort of related to it (in a slightly far-fetched way). Kasuga's paranoia about people thinking he's a pervert, his underdeveloped personality and emotions, his will to just run away from his life, I think these are things many people have experienced at some point in their life. Though I think I would relate to it way more if I was the same age as him. His reactions are sort of illogical at times, but as I said in the beginning, it plays out a bit like a nightmare. It's like the entire manga is a manifestation of paranoia about people judging you as a pervert! And that's a theme I think most people would find interesting, especially if you haven't sorted that out yet. (though this manga will absolutely not help you sort it out!)
And with that I touch on the third reason I enjoy this manga, the confusing reason; It just sort of fascinates me! I'm not sure why, it's the same sensation I get from watching weird art. Something about this manga is just beautifully disturbed, almost surreal. This manga is funny and awful at the same time. I'm not sure it's "good", but it's definitely not boring. I don't know who it's written for, but if the set-up intrigues you give it a shot! You're in for a strange ride...
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.
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 :)
Note: this review is written in the hindsight of seeing both the anime and the manga, and my feelings are a product of the combination of the two. Please keep this in mind. I was introduced to this manga through the anime which at the point I am writing is still airing.
Aku no Hana is a dark coming-of-age manga that explores very deeply into the Japanese "psyche" that is 変体 or 'hentai'. It is very important to note that the translation of hentai is not the common association of 'pervert' in a sexual manner, but rather "deviant". (While watching different subtitles from different subbing groups
I noticed that sometimes the distinction is not made.) It breaks away entirely from what people both inside and outside of the anime bracket imagine to be a show set in high school, supposedly exploring the "normal" life of a teenage school boy. It instead illustrates a school life that is 'slow and awkward and horrifying and at times incredibly disturbing, where old cliches are either torn apart or transformed into something poisonous.'
The art at the start of the manga is truly nothing special, it is rather generic and at times a little goofy. To start with, having begun the series via the anime, I found the manga hard to read as I much preferred the sophistication and originality of the illustration in the animation. However, if one compared the latest chapters to the first, the art styles are barely comparable - Shuuzo has truly grown along with his manga. Despite this, it is still, for the most part, nothing exceptional.
However, as explained in the previous paragraphs, there is a great deal of the manga that is hugely disturbing, and many of the scenes that are particularly graphic or what could be described as "trippy" are illustrated astoundingly. I'll allow you to see for yourself, rather than attempt (poorly) to explain myself further.
If not for the story, the characters are perhaps the strongest part of this series. The main protagonist is Kasuga. Despite his flaws, it is incredibly hard to not find yourself very attached to and feel deeply sympathetic for. For much of the manga and the anime, as is obvious from the start, he is just a shy, honest high school boy who wants to be worthy to someone and be good and virtuous. His character is so fully written and laid bare before the reader, it is a wonder to devour him, page after page. Much of Kasuga's personality can be described as stressful, or anxious, and both the anime and the manga do a miraculous job of transferring this emotion onto the viewer - I have never read or seen anything that can make me feel as strongly as the character does.
Contrasting beautifully with Kasuga is Nakamura, whom can probably be described as the antagonist of the series. She is deeply twisted and bitter to the core, a hater of the world and everyone in it. After seeing Kasuga's theft of Saeki's gym clothes, she creates this questionable image of Kasuga in her mind: the image of a disgusting, sick pervert. A true deviant. Whether or not this image of Kasuga is true is perhaps the main question that the manga seeks to answer, and indeed one for the reader too.
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"
Aku no hana has an somewhat interesting story setting, but nothing original or something out of the ordinary.
The protagonist steals the gym cloths from the girl he likes and is seen by a quiet girl in class.
He's the typical spineless, crying guy, who is getting blackmailed by this evil mysterious girl in his class to do all sorts of stuff for her, just to prove that he is a real pervert, while he continuously tries to prove that he actually is innocent and a good guy.
So the story seems really predictable this way, that this mysterious girl and the protagonist will end up together instead,
or that he will confess his evil doing to the girl he likes and who then will get hurt, but forgive him eventually.
But this is not the case, oh no.. not at all. This girl is beyond ordinary, everytime you think that the climax has been reached, she pulls you deeper into the abyss of discomfort and agony, she tries to bring out the protagonists real self, which is reflected in the dark books he always reads.
Many manga's try to portray insanity, but often fail to do it in a way you can understand them and feel with them, this manga however i believe, has achieved this.
It has a scene where you really felt it build up, the insanity, where reason and logic didn't matter, a quite powerful scene.
So if you ask me if the plot is well written? I would properly have to answer, not really. If the art is good?It's actually quite poor. Character designs? They're stereotypes slightly different, but become something different, so they're somewhat interesting.
Did i enjoy it?Oh yes, i certainly did, i sat on the edge of the chair sometimes, it really entertained me.
So if you look at every little aspect logically and try to break it down, this manga is nothing special, yet, somehow, becomes very entertaining as a whole.
If you're someone reads manga because you enjoy the stories of the protagonist and being led on by the emotions of the characters, atmosphere and settings and stuff then probably this review won't be helpful to you.
Before the review, some Q and A.
Does this manga use the above elements properly to tell the story?
sure I guess...
Does it make you feel stuff?
Was it enjoyable?
FUCK.... NO... it was the equivalent of someone putting your brain into the dishwasher for 3 days and then raping it after.
The story was pretty standard... boy have crush on a nice girl, nice girl likes boy back,
boy dumps nice girl for another girl that was FUCKEN BLACKMAILING HIM, blackmailing girl leaves too, boy hooks up with 3rd girl... which is fine for a story.... IF THIS WAS FUCKEN HENTAI AND HAS A NTR TAG UNDER IT.
Art is basically 1995-2005ish art style... where the period of art was transitioning between traditional (faces with lots of detail, people looked more realistic) and modern (bi-shounen / bi-shoujo). ie. small eyes, round faces, lines to show blushing instead of tint.
The characters are IMPOSSIBLE to synthesize with. the decisions they make are SO FUCKEN STUPID it makes NEAR's [DN] deductions sound like they make sense. The main character dumped a girl he had mutual love with for a girl that's been black mailing for like X days. And the only role of the Blackmail girl is to call everyone else stupid and be a douche bag.
Enjoyment - I'm representing the rating using 4 bits in 2's compliment so 9 = -7
Boredom. It usually occurs from repetitive and seemingly uneventful occurrences in someone's life. In the case of Aku no Hana, that boredom is caused by living in a bland town full of normal people. So what happens when you finally get a glimpse of someone or something that isn't normal for the first time in a long time? You would probably do whatever it takes to keep that thing close to you and prevent it from being tainted by the boring pieces of shit that exist everywhere else.
As you can probably assume from that brief introduction, Aku no Hana is a dark psychological story. It
follows several middle school students in a backwater town in Japan as they grow closer and farther apart from each other throughout the story. Kasuga Takao is your typical middle school male protagonist. His only remarkable feature is his intense love of reading. His favorite book is "The Flowers of Evil" ("Aku no Hana" in Japanese) by Charles Baudelaire. One day, he forgets this book at school and returns to get it. After picking it up from his desk, he sees a gym bag lying on the floor in the back of the room. It happens to be the bag of the girl, Saeki, that Kasuga has a crush on. Kasuga hesitantly decides to pick it up, and, suddenly discovering his perverted nature, decides to sniff her gym clothes. Upon hearing a noise, he panics and ends up taking the gym bag home with as he runs off. He thinks everything will be fine, but soon enough he finds out that a strange girl in his class named Nakamura saw him with Saeki's bag. The situation soon escalates after the bag isn't returned and a pervert is supposedly spotted on the campus grounds. Now Kasuga has to decide whether he should return the gym bag or not as he gets caught up in a bizarre relationship with both Saeki and Nakamura.
The story of Aku no Hana is extremely character driven. It's puts the reader into the mindsets of each character and shows you the psychological stress and development they are going through. This is especially the case for Kasuga as most of the story is told from his point of view. Kasuga starts off as a very generic and annoying protagonist. He's wimpy, gets pushed around by Nakamura, has trouble speaking his mind, and ends up making his life worse with his poor and delayed decisions. I say he "starts off" that way because as the story progresses he develops tremendously. There is a distinct point in the story where everything changes in a matter of just one chapter, and Kasuga suddenly stops being annoying (at least in my opinion). Not to mention the character designs improve around that point as well. Saeki, Kasuga's love interest from the start, is a popular girl in their middle school. She's a good student, kind, and friendly. She's basically the exact opposite of Nakamura. Nakamura is antisocial, mean, and doesn't try at all in school. She sees the world in an entirely different way than everyone else, leading her to isolate herself from all of the boring "shitheads" around her. The final female protagonist is Tokiwa Aya who is introduced over halfway into the story, however she has just as large of an impact on the story as either Saeki or Nakamura.
Let me take a moment to mention this in particular for anyone who has seen anything about the anime of Aku no Hana. The art in Aku no Hana is great and is absolutely nothing like the rotoscoped animation in the show that lacks emotion as well as many other things. It also only adapts the very beginning of the story before it even gets great. The art in the manga develops over time and grows along with the characters. It's really incredible looking at the early and later chapters and seeing the leaps and bounds the art has taken throughout the manga.
One thing this manga executes especially well is it's occasional lack of talking. Some chapters have absolutely no words at all for around thirty pages. Instead, they emphasize the emotions of the characters perfectly through nothing but facial expressions, scenery, and physical character interactions (this is also one of the things that fails most in the anime adaptation). They are usually placed after important parts of the story and emphasize just how emotional and life-changing those moments were.
Aku no Hana is a thrilling psychological and romantic drama. It is enjoyable from start to finish and only increases in intensity as the story progresses. The character development, art and character design changes, and multiple climaxes throughout the story all keep the reader's attention glued to the manga. I personally enjoyed both the first and second half for different reasons. The story may have more climactic and thrilling moments in the first half, but the second half has greatly improved characters and art. I highly recommend this manga (certainly more than the anime) and especially if you enjoy psychological and/or coming of age stories.
Aku no Hana was 60% of the time the worst thing I've had ever read in my life.
The central theme that Aku No Hana proposes to analyze during its first arc is the mindset of a criminal. It is, till the very end, a character study, focused on creating a situation in which our protagonist faces the consequences of a certain action that he makes at the beginning of the manga and eventually reaches the realms of insanity.
This may sound like something really interesting to you if you ever stopped and spent some time trying to understand the mindset of a random criminal you saw
a particular day on television, and faced an endless and complex web of interactions and social factors which very predictably lead to the crime committed after hours of thought and research were spent.
But Aku No Hana will boil down all the complex social factors to "societal hatred towards perverts" and all the possible interactions to "random crazy girl." I won't say that there is no major factor defining the actions people make or that the show is "inherently wrong" or "being unrealistic" by making this choice.
But I couldn't buy it for 2 reasons:
First, the lack of characterization of the protagonist, which is a problem because the point that the story is trying to make is that particular circumstances can make anyone go insane, and yet it will not actually tell us how he was in the past, nor will it ever slow down for us to see how he would react to a situation that does not involve the plot. Telling us something about how the character interacts with the world could've been used to give more weight to the supposed changes that he went through when he started to mess up with the world he's inserted. The closest it got to that was making the protagonist stop reading books, but the way they presented it was so poorly executed that I burst out laughing.
Second, the way that everything is so heavy-handed. As I said before, the main social factor it deals with is "hate against perverts," but the story goes way too far in its presentation of this that it ends up looking like this is the only factor of that entire society
The story will go completely into self-deprecating territory and will stay there till it gets into insanity territory. Which is simply obnoxious... He'll just be lamenting non-stop, and then he'll just be crazy non-stop.
"Oh yeah... He is obsessively crazy now..." Not that every single thought he had since the start of his arc was about or tangential in some way to the same thing. There's no sense that he is changing simply because there is no characterization to break in the first place.
And to finish my problems with the first arc, I'm just gonna say that the art was utterly terrible at the start of the arc and is just terrible by the end of the arc.
All of my complaints could probably have been solved if our protagonist had been given a proper background at least... However, I suspect that this arc wasn't very thought out simply because it was never supposed to be the real story.
At the end, the couple of fuckers are about to commit suicide with fire during an event, and, to my disappointment, they are stopped by the people at the event.
And then... there is a time skip... and the story gets good. And that's when I realize the real story is about someone who went crazy, fucked his family, his life, his dreams, buried it all in a far away city and ran away... What I'm saying is that 60% of the story is that guy's backstory and that the real purpose of the story is about facing your past and finding someone you love, someone you can rely on.
And yes, the way that the story presents his struggles to live on a daily-basis is a great way of showing how a character can change. And that is the very first thing that we see: him searching for meaning in life again since his last crazy-spree through the mountains, and he finds it in this girl that he just happened to pass by in the library, and she's got a plan of writing a story, but she doesn't want to show to anybody, and she acts reserved even to her boyfriend, MC-kun is the only one who understands her, and just the random ideas of the story that she just PLANS to write in the future, is enough for making our MC cry, which is something that anyone...ANYONE that consumes any form of art seriously should be able to completely understand... I was moved...
I'll just conclude it all by saying that my score was the score of a man who was utterly ripped to pieces by his own thoughts since he finished this story... I had the worst experience with it followed by the best (in manga). I can't say for sure that this is a recommendation but, if you ever find yourself without anything else at all to read, go read Aku No Hana. This is a worthwhile ride that you can't find anywhere else. At the very least, it was for me.
What can be said about this manga that others haven't? I am not sure, so I will say it anyway.
It is basically what happens when a boy becomes so obsessed with a girl his life spirals out of control and he throws away everything he believes in or has worked for just to try and make her happy. The girl, is a sociopath who shows no emotion except joy when others are in emotional pain and has no qualms about leading the boy down a path of self-destruction because she simply doesn't care about the world or anyone (herself included) in it.
Some might say
the story is predictable and unoriginal, both of which I disagree with. It is original in that it takes the usual school romance and twists it until it is so distorted that you can barely see the resemblance to what it once was. Although it starts off much like your generic romance manga, it quickly becomes evident that you will be going for a ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat and keep reading. As for predictability, it is not in the least. Just when you think one of the struggles between the main characters has come to an end, the roller-coaster (if you will) dips right back down so fast you will never see it coming. The characters are also quite different than ordinary manga. While on the surface they appear normal and average, they have multiple levels of emotion, ideas about life and love, what it is to be human, and even self-consciousness. It will not be until the end that you can truly understand the depth of their soul and just how deceiving the initial appearance can be. Art is about average.
Life is basically a series of meetings of people who may have or not some effect on the involved. These effects can be minor or big, but, undoubtedly, they change people. For good or bad, meetings are one of the few things that can truly influence people. Aku no Hana shows one of such meetings and how it changed everyone involved for the worse and how these people dealt with it.
Aku no Hana (The Flowers of Evil) is a psychological manga written, created and illustrated by Shuuzou Oshimi, who also created Boku wa Mari no Naka. It began serialization in 2009 and ended in 2014.
Since 2012, it has been completely translated and published in English by the company Vertical Inc..
Kasuga Takao is a run-of-the-mill student with a regular crush, except for the fact he loves to read, particularly the French Symbolists, and the fact that his favorite book is Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. One eventful afternoon, he forgets his book at class and goes back to find it. Once he gets to the classroom, he finds not only his book but also the gym clothes of his crush, Saeki Nanako. Remorsefully, he brings both of these things home. Little did he know that, Nakamura, the "weird" girl of class, saw everything. She blackmails him into creating a contract between them, in which Kasuga should do everything Nakamura wishes. These events forever change the protagonist's life in unforeseen ways.
While the premise may seem traditional and a bit clichéd, the story from that point on is unusual and unnerving. It delves into aspects of humanity's nature in thought-provoking reflections on our own society, such as our need to follow society's rules while fighting our own bestial impulses. Moreover, the analysis given by Nakamura that "people are all shiteaters" and perverts is hugely impactful in a highly depressing way, particularly because of the image it evokes, similarly to Les Fleurs du Mal's movement, Symbolism.
Exploring the connection between Aku no Hana and literature it is evident the influence of the classics in it. The manga presents a lot of the tendencies the symbolism had, particularly the ideals of humanity's decadence and the focus on the effects of the things rather than the things themselves. This accentuates the connection of them and, at least to me, make it seem that Aku no Hana would have been more suitable to "traditional" literature. Another thing that points to it is the high lyrical value of some scenes and the character interactions themselves.
The main theme of Aku no Hana is the people's point of view of each other and how easily they are manipulated. This is made apparent particularly by the way Nakamura acts, always trying to take advantage of other people and toying with other people's emotions to reach her own objectives. The social aspect of the story is its most marking aspect and it creates a feeling of hate in the reader. This impact is very intense and even a bit unnerving.
Another point of importance for the story is how hard it is to overcome the past, as no matter what Kasuga does, he can't seem to forget that one year with Nakamura, even years later down the line. The trauma is perfectly represented on the sense of profound apathy that dominates Kasuga through part of his future, and could even be classified as depression. This realism makes the story even more impactful and shocking.
The characters aren't likeable in any way whatsoever, as they all have deep character flaws that hold a huge influence on their actions. Some of them are simply crazy and almost psychopaths that disregard basic aspects of humanity. However, this exaggeration serves to show problems with our own society and the way we lead our lives, in some ways.
The art of Aku no Hana is, specially at first, deformed, but that seems to be simply a way to accentuate the characters own mannerisms and humanity's lack of form. There also is a heavy usage of symbolism, particularly with the titular "Flower of Evil", and in that regard Aku no Hana nails it. The subtlety of it is contradictory, as it tries to send a very shocking message, but, somehow, it works, striking a vital balance between subtlety and impact.
This last point, again, makes it seem that a book format would have suited Aku no Hana better. Everything about it corroborates that, from the way the story is told to the contradiction of subtlety and shock-aspect. I was constantly reminded of that while reading it and, to be frank, it diminished my experience.
Aku no Hana is not a particularly enjoyable read, it is too shocking and thought-provoking for that, but it is highly appreciative of a trained eye to observe its details and criticisms.
It is not a series everyone would appreciate, that is a certainty, but those who understand it will probably be deeply impacted by its message. Sadly, it is too reliant on that to be a definite recommendation, as its is deeply ingrained in every aspect of the manga. This characteristic makes Aku no Hana a high-level read that needs an experienced reader with some knowledge of literature to be fully appreciated.
I confess that when I started reading Aku on Hana, I imagined that this would be one of the best manga of all time. I had it in my mind until I realized the psychomania of the female protagonist. Aku no Hana disappointed me in many moments. When I began to understand the story, soon after it began to look strange or even incomprehensible. From beginning to end I did not understand the story, even before the separation of the two protagonists. Secondaries are not even talked about. Completely erased and when they appear it is at some point sad or unhappy compared to a
I would very much like to recommend this manga, but I can not do that. The story does not allow me to go ahead with all respect to Aku's plot in Hana and to the readers.
Confesso que quando comecei a ler Aku no Hana, imaginava que este seria um dos melhores mangás de todos os tempo. Tinha isso em minha mente até quando percebi a psicomania da protagonista feminina. Aku no Hana me decepcionou em muitos momentos. Quando eu começava a entender a história, logo após ela começava a ficar estranha ou até mesmo incompreensível. Do início ao fim eu não entendi a história, antes mesmo da separação dos dois protagonistas. Os secundários nem se fala. Completamente apagados e quando aparecem é em algum momento triste ou infeliz comparado a um velório.
Eu gostaria muito de recomendar este mangá, mas não tenho condições de fazer isso. A história não me permite passar isso em frente com todo respeito ao enredo de Aku no Hana e aos leitores.
When I first started reading this manga honestly I though it was pretty bad. It starts off as the boring "someone saw me do something weird and I'm in a lot of shit" cliché, but then suddenly after about the 7th or 8th chapter the story completely evolves and takes a completely different turn. At about this time the story stops focussing on all the weird stuff going on and shows us the the effect it has on the main character, Kasuga.
This manga really messes with your head and you even find yourself being able to relate to some of the feelings Kasuga experiences.
Being different, not fitting in, messing up and not knowing what to do.. as the reader you get to experience all these things and watch as the characters evolve and the situations change to the point where you wonder if they're still sane. And once you realise this, you begin to wonder when it happen, and how exactly things turn out the way that they did.
This manga always keeps you on edge. And I completely agree with some of the other reviews saying that this is a really fast paced manga. Something happens in every chapter and by the time you reach its end you are already turning the page for the next one. At times it can get weird, or disturbing and at other times its down right disgusting! But even so it completely sucked me in and by the end it just left me feeling a little disturbed as well.
Man, this manga is AMAZING. Simple as that. Thought-provoking, intense, realistic, meaningful, angsty, increasingly captivating.
I really hate to use this world freely but here i think i can say it with no regrets: in my opinion, this manga is a masterpiece. It‘s unbelievable, really, that i felt like dropping it back in the early chapters.
And boy, am i glad i decided back then to continue reading...! The truth is, Aku no Hana improved tremendously over the years. Both visually and plotwise. The gritty and sometimes painful-to-read start gave away to an insightful, intriguing coming-of-age story.
The characters also followed that evolution beautifully. Kasuga went
from a spineless, angsty emo to a mature, coolheaded shit-eater (no irony or harm intended here). It‘s truly impressive how much this guy changed over the series. Ultimately, how much he grew up.
Because this is what Aku no Hana is all about: it‘s the journey of a 14 year old kid who likes to read and sees the world as his enemy. He then meets two other weird kids, some tragic stuff happens to them and thanks to that he enters a 3 year "void" where he feels lost and empty. After that, he finds once again a reason to live (Tokiwa) and realizes he finally needs to grow up and face the ghosts/scars from his past, to crush that "flower of evil" that once bloomed inside him and almost made him throw away his life.
Aku no Hana is all about trying to understand yourself before you try to understand the others. It‘s a journey of self discovery at its core and the acknowledgement that coming to terms with your own nature is the only means you have if you wanna find the "other side" of the mountain (like Nakamura used to say in a really fascinating way, if you ask me).
Other random notes:
- I love how easily the mangaka can convey his intentions and what he wants to say to us, readers, with his beautiful artwork. You can feel it, especially at the end, how meaningful each panel is and how clear it is for the reader to connect to the manga‘s atmosphere and its characters. I think the manga developed his drawing skills a lot along the years he spent drawing AnH.
- Chapters 33-34, 44-45 and 48-56 (especially chapters 52-56) were incredible! I had a blast reading them!
- Also, i find it important to note that i wouldn‘t enjoy this manga as much as i did if i haven‘t read it in one go. I don`t think i would be able to handle the monthly pacing, 35 pages a month. This is the kind of story that is better read when you have a clear notion of what happened in the early chapters and only then you can connect everything that happened to what`s happening now. Then again, it‘s just a personal preference of mine, so pay no mind.
All in all, Aku no Hana is a wonderful coming-of-age manga that is incredibly well-written and i can't help but be mesmerized by how beautifully (sometimes in a painfully disturbing and nerve wracking way) it portrayed its characters and what happened to them while they grew up and discovered their own self and what life is about. It‘s all about facing that heavy notion that whether you like it or not, you‘re a shit-eater and you will always be one.
Nevertheless, it‘s not your condition as a shit-eater that matters but what you do with your life now that you have recognized how insignificant is your existence and how blunt and disconcerting reality can be.In other words, denying your nature would be the same as denying yourself and ruining the chances you have at being happy.
And just one more thing i would like to point out:
Someone wrote this in some website regarding Baudelaire‘s original work, and having read all the poems from Les Fleurs du Mal, i must say that it synthesizes really well what Baudelaire‘s work is all about. And now that i have read Aku no Hana, i still find it impressive how much of the original work ties in with Oshimi Shuzo‘s manga:
"Baudelaire emphasized above all the disassociated character of modern experience: the sense that alienation is an inevitable part of our modern world. In his prose, this complexity is expressed via harshness and shifts of mood. The constant emphasis on beauty and innocence, even alongside the seamier aspects of humanity, reinforce an existentialist ideal that rejects morality and embraces transgression. Objects, sensations, and experiences often clash, implicitly rejecting personal experiences and memories; only operations of consciousness (e.g., revulsion and self-criticism) are valued and even exalted.
Indeed, for Baudelaire, the shock of experiencing is the act of living."
Here is my take after reading all 58 chapters of Aku no Hana by Shuuzou Oshimi.
There are times when you accidentally stumble upon diamonds in this world; and I don't believe in accidents.
It is difficult to put the experience of reading Aku no Hana in words but I would try my best to do so.
The story revolves on Takao Kasuga, a middle schooler and his beliefs, principles, dreams, and aspirations; how they were formed through his love for Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire, crushed by the perverted Sawa Nakamura and reassembled by Nanako Saeki just to be crushed once more
and cycle full circle.
Every chapter of the story is poetry depicted in images and it was gripping, tensed and immersive to the emotions produced by the interaction of the characters.
I would say that I have never read not experienced something like this as far as I remember so the impact was so powerful to me almost mirroring the impact of Les Fleurs du mal and the girls in Takao's life.
The characters a so well written that they feel like jumping out of every panel of the pages. They were so fleshed out and you can relate to the characters emotions and motivation to a certain extent even once in your life.
From page 1 up to the last chapter it kept me cheering and cursing the seemingly illogical decisions of each character. But in the end they were poetically concluded so my heart was at ease and contented.
I would like to talk more about this, but I would just be spoiling the experience at this point so I will let you do the honors.
I would give Aku no Hana an amazing 10 Evil Petals out of 10!
This might initially seems like the type of dirty "horrible things happening to horrible people" story, but I assure you that it's way more than that. Flowers of Evil is a story full of unexpected twists and turns, one that packed plenty of real life insight and eventually proved to have a considerable amount of compassion toward its complex characters.
The plot started by highlighting the relationship between snobbish and spineless middle-schooler Takao Kasuga and his enigmatic classmate Sawa Nakamura. Saying Sawa is odd would be a major understatement; she's a complete alien of a teenager, showing extreme disregard toward the most basic norms
of human behavior and hurling creatively-worded insults whenever she's forced into interaction. Their previous apathy toward each other underwent dramatic changes following a certain incident with some gym clothes, and together they embarked on the psychological thrill ride of corruption, perversion, and anarchy that makes up most of the story's early half (*the later half would take a significantly different direction, of which a reader should discover by themselves). While Takao is the main character, Sawa is the real crux of FoE. It's really uncommon how unpredictable and darkly compelling as a character she is, sporting the sort of complexity far beyond any 'crazy girl' archetype you may have seen. It's telling that even during the stretches where she's absent, her presence still looms large over the story and forced me (as well as probably most of the readers) to wonder about her, how she's going to react to the latest development, and when she's going to re-appear. It's a bit disappointing that in the end the manga doesn't delve into her as much as I wanted, although certainly understandable considering that it's above all Takao's story (*there's at least one chapter told from Sawa's perspective, which ends up being the most revealing and interesting chapter in the story, and that's saying a lot).
The title, a direct reference to Charles Baudelaire's poem collection and Takao's favorite book, is the main recurring motif in the story. These literal evil-looking flowers often appeared to illustrate Takao's downward spiral, but FoE has plenty of artistic appeal beyond that obvious metaphor. Shuzo Oshimi is really good at visual story-telling, often using the characters' expression and body language as a complement or in place of dialogue, which effectively accentuated the atmosphere in a way that most other manga about teenage drama couldn't compare. There is also a strong feel of authenticity; as Oshimi explained in his early author's note, the small-town setting is based on his own hometown and Sawa is inspired by a former classmate.
It's important to note that despite abundance of raging teenage hormone, there isn't a single moment where I could consider FoE as lewdy porn. Its emphasis lies on the psychological realm over the physical, and it's pretty impressive how Oshimi could portray simmering sexual tension and its manifestation without relying much on explicit graphic content or over-sexualizing its characters. It's unnerving material for mature-minded audience only, for sure, but it treated its subject matter seriously and tackled a lot of important themes along its way; small-town malaise, literature as a both a tool of artificial superiority as well as self-healing, mental illness, self-worth, teenage angst, and perhaps above all, fickle human relationship.
Human comes, human goes. Some will be forgotten, and some other will leave something; this is a story about a peculiar human being who would leave her indelible mark on you.
The unusual stature where the common manga gets uncommon to read is found in this story where all is centered around a book by a crazy French poet.
Story: The story was psychologically thrilling, i don't think many mangas offer the reverse situation where a boy got bullied by a girl in such a "unique"way. What's mysterious about the whole franchise is that, you get lost trying to understand the character mentality.There were some worthwhile plot twists, and you could exactly feel the aftermaths the of people who had gone through various dangerous phases in life.
Art: Art is very good, it was detailed on
the instances where it was supposed to be, and the characters were drawn perfectly.
Character: The most attractive element of the manga. The characters were extremely unique, especially Nakamura ; that's not a character you see every day and nor her mentality. You could initially see how the past interfere's with the character's present and future conditions.
Enjoyment: I relatively enjoyed this manga. There are many things out of the ordinary which is why this manga is getting famous day by day.
Overall: I'd say the manga engages a worthwhile moral to the society, you see the manipulation,mental break downs, and the stuff they do to alleviate their boredom (in Nakamura's case) and respect out of fear (in Kasuga's case) and the big picture involves where they had passed those phases and still dealing with them as as scars but recovering in the end.