Sep 22, 2017
WithMyCigs (All reviews)
“Carry me. Past that mountain.”

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 . . .