The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Aku no Hana

Title: Aku no Hana aka Flowers of Evil
Genre: Drama
Company: ZEXCS
Format: 13 episodes
Date: 6 Apr 2013 – 30 Jun 2013

Synopsis: Kasuga Takao is a typical quiet high school boy. He secretly adores Saeki Nanako, the prettiest girl in his class, although he has never confessed his feelings to her. One day after school, he spots Saeki’s gym clothes left behind in the classroom. Succumbed to temptation, he steals them and hides it in his room. Unfortunately, his theft is spotted by Nakamura Sawa, a notorious female classmate known for her rebellious and antisocial behavior.

The Highlights
Art style and character design: Controversial … for better or worse.
Storyline: Dark and absorbing but too draggy.
Use of rotoscoping: Adds another dimension of realism.
Conclusion: Abrupt cliffhanger and a tad too much preview.

High school days are said to be one of the unforgettable times in an individual’s life. A phase in life where one transforms from a child to an adult, for a lot of people it is a mix of sweet and bitter moments. While there are some people such as myself with high school stories not particularly special to tell anyone about, there are a few with stories so bizarre yet real that it feels like a non-fictional story told through a novel. Aku no Hana is such an example, a twisted tale about a few ordinary high school kids in an ordinary town whose lives are forever affected by the actions of a single not-so-ordinary girl. While the show has a few narrative setbacks, it has moments of brilliance and a sense of realism that is unmatched by any other anime series.

The main talking point of Aku no Hana straight from the onset is production studio ZEXCS‘ controversial character design and art direction. Starkly different from the manga designs, it has drawn strong reactions from viewers both in a positive and negative sense. While some viewers believe the new art style does the source injustice with ugly character designs, others including myself believes it serves a worthy purpose. The use of rotoscoping and purposely crude visuals gives the series a unique touch of realism, making it feel as though one is watching an animated live-action series instead of a conventionally animated one. It is a risky move to deviate from the original art style, but had it taken the conventional art route and stayed faithful to the source, it would have rendered the show more mundane and less intriguing.

Aku no Hana‘s story is the strongest aspect of the show. It is not a groundbreaking story per se: protagonist Kasuga is a high school boy who lives a boring, normal life in a small town but slowly becomes deviant with the help of a certain not-so-normal classmate. It is a story with familiar premises, but what makes the show riveting is the storytelling, which vividly captures Kasuga’s every moment of gradual descent into depravity. It immerses viewers into the psyche of each character, especially Kasuga and Nakamura’s respective submissive and aggressive personalities, and the complementary gloomy ambience makes the series all the more captivating.

The main criticism I have for Aku no Hana involves the execution of the story and the narrative. The pacing can be awfully slow at times, which makes the story a little dull occasionally, and some scenes get stretched out way too long. While there are some which get stretched out to marvelous effect, such as the climactic one at the end of episode 7, there are others that are poorly executed. A whole five-minute scene featuring two people walking in shame is just too long, and the intended dramatic effect gets lost as a result. All in all, the execution could have been more consistent and better managed to make the series a more pleasurable experience.

Despite its setbacks, Aku no Hana is still one-of-a-kind series. It is a dark drama that can get a little too close for comfort due to its controversial visual approach, but it’s nevertheless used to resounding effect. The final episode reveals that the story has yet to conclude with snippets of possibly the aftermath of this season, and while this raises the possibility of a sequel that leaves me wanting more of the series, the cliffhanger ending leaves a slightly unpleasant aftertaste and the preview is a tad condensed. Even so, Aku no Hana is a psychological roller coaster ride that demonstrates how the coming-of-age phase of one’s life isn’t always as sweet as one can hope for.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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