Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil)

This was quite a ride. I was not expecting something much from Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana,) but the results were fascinating. The anime is an adaptation of a manga of the same name.

The anime starts with Takao Kasuga, a student whose favorite book is Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal that has a crush on Nanako Saeki, a pretty girl he idolizes. Later, Takao stays late in school; before leaving, he finds Nanako’s sport class uniform and, as you can guess, the boy hesitates. He was about to put it back, intentionally or not, but there was a sound that made him run away from school, taking the girl’s uniform with him.

This is where the conflict begins. Takao believed he could get away with it and just give it back when no one’s looking. Bad luck shows up when one of his classmates, Sawa Nakamura, tells him she saw him taking the uniform, and if he does not want her to give him away, he should follow her orders.

The story goes beyond a boy stealing female clothes. Most anime shows with a starting point like that would be part of a comedy or something along the lines to give us a good laugh. However, Flowers of Evil is not the typical high school comedy or slice of life; it’s very far from being considered one of the mentioned genres. This is the first time, at least for me, that I see something on a screen an animation that presents the many conflicts of growing up, to fit in a society and their expectations; self-discovery is what the author is bringing to the table. If we think about it, being young is easy compared to being an adult, but it is also terrifying to see as we grow up how things are not going the direction we wanted.

As we really know what we want, our inner journey to personal discovery could be scary. And the series, indirectly, tries to tell you in its own way with a dark atmosphere that teenagers are vulnerable in a world where you must adapt, without a clear clue on how to do it, to be considered normal. Nothing is straight to your face, the images, the music, the silence, and the protagonists don’t grab your hand along the journey, but it is clear what the story is trying to tell you.

The general atmosphere are what grabs you from the first second until the end of the credits of each episode. Sometimes you just hear the sounds of the town, the anime wants you to pay all of your attention to the characters and what they have to say, perhaps its own way to discover yourself as well (as if you were a teenager) and remember when some of your decisions, meaningless as they had been in school, could mean the world when you wanted to be accepted but something, or someone, was there ready to make everything fall apart in a few seconds.

Everything adds to the general mood of the series. Its music is something you don’t expect, especially when the credits start rolling. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the feeling of uncertainty is present at every corner; the sole mention of an “other side” makes you believe there’s something deeper in the meaning of maturity. The choice of music at the end of each episode is strangely scary and yet beautiful. There’s an actual message, a poem about a flower; I recommend you look it up after watching the show.

Best choice is bad choice

The irony here is that the artistic choice of using a rotoscoped animation affected the show. Let’s be honest, most shows and movies that use that kind of animation tend to look weird or just bad (not all of them, to be clear). However, I don’t see the Flowers of Evil any other way. The animation, as bad as it could be, was the best choice for this. Rotoscope animation, along with the story, the music, and the characters themselves are a perfect combination of a story about the fear that comes from our natural cycle. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to look at it that way; I bet a lot of people have avoided the anime the instant they saw the type of animation used. Although I don’t blame them, judging something by just images is not a good thing, they might miss a great experience doing that.

A great experience hard to recommend

The anime is really good, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t regret a single second I spent in front of the TV watching the show. Sadly, it seems the anime was not very popular, perhaps for the animation, as I mentioned on the previous paragraph; this means it never got a second season, and it will never happen. I am talking about an anime that its thirteen episodes were aired in 2013.

I said it was one of my greatest experiences in anime, but it is hard to recommend when it is incomplete. At the end of the thirteenth episode we have a glimpse of a second season, something that never happened and never will. I guess you could watch it and see for yourself what it is about and then move to the manga to get the full story; but the music and the overall atmosphere from the anime is going to be missing. It is sad to see the anime incomplete.

If you want to watch Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil) Crunchyroll is your place. The anime is available for FREE (with ads) or for Premium users. Click here to watch it on Crunchyroll!