Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aku No Hana (Flowers Of Evil) Review

"Beyond the edge of the world lies only darkness, driving you mad"

Oh man, what a trip this was.

Out of all the anime to begin airing throughout the course of 2013, Aku No Hana was by far the most unusual. I remember reading the description of the series and the feeling of my brain oozing out of my ears due to the confusion I had endured within that twenty second time-frame. But that description alone brought no justice to what was soon going to grace the TV screens of many unsuspecting Japanese citizens. Ladies and gentlemen, please strap on your seat belts because we are about to embark on a 13-episode flight with major turbulence and no pilot.

Aku No Hana, based on the manga by Shuuzou Oshimi, puts us behind Takao Kasuga, an introverted middle-school boy. Takao lives at home with his parents, who seem relatively normal. Both Takao and his father share a passion for reading, which ultimately leads to Takao's father lending his son a copy of Charles Baudelaire's "Le Fleurs du mal" or "The Flowers of Evil." For those unfamiliar with the content of "Le Fleurs du mal," keep it that way if you know what's good for you. For after reading the book, Takao's behavior changed. And by no means was that change for the better.

The next day in school, Takao wanders into his classroom after school and winds up stealing the gym clothes of his crush (Nanako Saeki.) However, he was not alone at that time. He was spotted by another female classmate (Sawa Nakamura) and called out on it in private. Fearful of this act of deviancy escaping unto his classmates, Takao joins into a "contract" with the girl who spotted him. But this is no ordinary contract, this girl aims to break him down, piece by piece.

What the description of this anime on various websites will NOT tell you is that it is the journey into the terrifying minds of several different deranged teenagers, struggling to grow up and live normally. It strays from the typical character advancement that is commonly depicted in currently-airing shows, and focuses more on the dark undertones of what confused children can wind up doing without the attention or the help they need. The beautiful thing about this show, however, is just how completely dependent our three main characters are on each other.

I have dissected the anime into a few key components to better illustrate the different aspects of it.

Music: 9/10
I fell in love with the soundtrack of this anime the second the first opening song came on. Being so unlike anything I've ever heard in an anime before, I was extremely taken aback. Each of the three main characters winds up getting their own opening song, but the best part of this is that the lyrics within their respective songs all apply to the internal conflicts the characters face in some way or another. The BGM during the actual show will make you feel incredibly uncomfortable, while as the ending song will creep you the hell out and leave you suspended in mid-air until the next episode. This soundtrack was almost perfect.

Characters: 9/10
Never before have I witnessed characters as dark, and yet realistic, as this. Takao is a boy struggling to fit in, trying to cast away his problems and live a normal life. But he keeps getting sucked back in by Sawa Nakamura, an isolated and incredibly deranged girl that knows no boundaries and will say whatever she wants to say to whoever she wants to say it to. All the while, Nanako Saeki is sitting on the sidelines and internally disintegrating. My favorite part of this entire series was just watching her character basically destroy itself from the inside out. It was truly fantastic.

Art: 6/10
Here is the falling point of the series. The art within Aku No Hana is completely rotoscoped. Or in other words, it looks like shit. Being so different from the art in the manga, this aspect drove many viewers away within the first five-ten minutes of the show. Character's faces don't appear until they are closer to the imaginary camera, lines are constantly fading in and out, it just doesn't look good. HOWEVER, it is just this that makes you feel so much more uncomfortable while watching. The characters look so incredibly odd and the rotoscoped art style displays real facial expressions, rather than typical animated ones we have seen time and time again.

Story: 9/10
I've always been a fan of darkness when it comes to a story. I enjoy the feeling of a somewhat ill-hope for characters that, deep down, are terrible people. And watching these characters fall deeper and deeper into darkness is what makes Aku No Hana astounding.

Overall Score: 8/10

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