Note: Updated additions will appear in blue.
If you haven’t already watched the episode, or randomly stumbled upon into this post, you might have noticed that the character designs are not your usual run-of-the-mill anime characters. Those huge eyes, no nose and perfectly proportioned anime characters that we’re so accustomed to seeing are nowhere to be seen and instead all I saw was 2.5D – a mixture between 3D and 2D.
To set the record straight, after watching this episode, I went back to the source material and read through volume 1 (6 chapters) of the manga, which is roughly 200 pages. I’m pretty sure this is done deliberately but it is interesting to note that this episode only covered half of the first chapter, which is roughly equivalent to 20 pages. What this translates to in layman terms is that for this particular episode, the pacing was very very slow. Before going into the contents of series itself I’m going to air my own thoughts on the choice of the character designs, because that was by far the most debated point in this adaptation.
What the art is this?
Alright, no-one expected this. Not even the author himself. From rumours online, not even the author knew about this change beforehand, some even say he is contemplating suicide due to how the adaptation “butchered” his work. The author knew and approved of it. How true is this piece of speculation? I leave it up to you to decide. Someone described this animation style fairly well and I’m just going to echo it here – It feels like watching a live drama that was directly converted into anime form. This technique is also known as rotoscoping. It certainly felt this way, given how the entire episode played out – how the characters were drawn, to the realistic-looking backgrounds.
Next up, I’m no arts student, nor do I have any artistic talent of any sort, so this might sound a little awkward coming from me but I find this “refreshing”. Controversial would still be the best way to describe it though, because this form of art deviates too far from the norm. If you ask me personally, I still would’ve preferred the manga (normal) version, but I could see why they went with this bold move instead.
When considering the nature of Aku no Hana and its primary genre – namely psychological, drama – the most important factor for this kind of anime to leave an impression is to leave a lasting impact. Further expanding on that point, do realistic-looking characters leave a deeper impression, compared to your usual fare of huge-eyed, no-nose, 2D-looking designs? Arguably the former. This 2.5D way of animating characters also allow animators to also accurately portray emotions that makes it all the more “real”, compared to the usually exaggerated emoticon faces that 2D characters tend to make.
Reading through the manga (all in the name of research), has made me realized that it didn’t draw me in as much as I thought it would, part of that would be because it is harder to get into the “mood” as opposed to the “live animated drama” version. After all that is said and done, I still find myself on the fence whether to continue with the manga or the anime version, simply because the anime is too different. To use an analogy, it is similar to saying how you’re sick of your old hairstyle and proceed to shave your head bald. It’s new, it’s different, it’s “refreshing”, but will people really appreciate it? That is the question.
The flower bloomed (Slight spoilers in this entire section)
Since this episode was so slow, it’s hard for me to talk about my general impressions without spoiling anything at all, so if you’re reading up to this point, you have been warned. Aku no Hana, as its name implies, heavily draws inspiration from its real-life counterpart: “Les Fleurs du mal“. As such, themes relating to decadence and eroticism is to be expected.
The outline of the entire story revolves around Kasuga Takao (Ueda Shinichirou) stealing the gym clothes of his secret crush, Saeki Nanako (Hikasa Yoko) on impulse. In that process, he is seen by Nakamura Sawa (Ise Mariya) and she blackmails the guilt-stricken Kasuga into “forming a contract” with her – essentially becoming her plaything (no sexual innuendo intended), forcing him to do sick and twisted things in an attempt to corrupt him.
Aku no Hana not meant for the depressed, nor for the fainthearted. While I haven’t read too far into the manga itself, I can tell you that Nakamura is a rotten person down to the core. Like a certain villain once said: “Some people just want to watch the world burn”. The same can be said to describe Nakamura, who revels in watching people fall from grace. Granted, the events that transpired are highly exaggerated and thus should be taken with a pinch of salt. I still can’t help be wonder how
far low Aku no Hana is going to take this to though.
Maybe there is the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe there isn’t. Since the manga is still ongoing (plus the fact that I’ve only read volume 1), it is hard to ascertain whether Kasuga will activate his man mode and turn the tables on Nakamura, though my bets are not on him. All in all, Aku no Hana is anything but positive in nature. There is no joy to be had, any hope that viewers might gain, is first accumulated before being snuffed out.
So why watch/read this then? Because without darkness, there is no light. Without despair, there is no hope. Alternatively, you can also (attempt to) be a heartless
bastard person like and read depressing stuff without being affected. In that regard, being able to differentiate between fiction and reality helps.
As of this update, I have finished reading the manga up to its current point. All I have to say is that the series gets much “better” later on. It isn’t as bleak as I thought it would be, though nonetheless it is still rather extreme. Then again, one could say that crazier things have happened in real life. The manga does contain mature themes, and I really wonder if the anime will tone those down. The story at this point is actually quite interesting, and I find myself being able to understand the psychology and where the characters are coming from. It’s an intriguing read, if one is able to stomach the darker aspect of the manga.