Aku No Hana is the new series directed by Hiroshi Nagahama, who had previously worked on Mushishi, a very positively received series that brought Nagahama some well deserved intention. With Aku No Hana, Nagahama aims to similarly terrify and fascinate us, so can this show live up to its director’s standards, or will it fizzle out into obscurity? Kasuga Takao is a quiet and introverted boy takes interest in few things, namely books and Saeki Nanako, the girl of his dreams who he describes as being his muse and femme fatale. In particular among his literary interests is Les Fleurs du Mal(The Flowers of Evil), a work by Charles Baudelaire that was controversial in its own time for its depiction of decadence and depravity. And so, Aku No Hana follows in Baudelaire’s footsteps by similarly causing controversy with its art direction, which immediately takes precedence over all other aspects of this show. Through the use of a process called rotoscoping, Nagahima manages to create a look that is more reminiscent more of a live action show than an anime. If I’ll be honest, I was a bit turned off by the art initially, and that is something that most people will experience. However, if one looks past the art, then he or she will find a fascinating and intriguing show underneath, as I did.
This is a show meant to be taken seriously, and the art only adds to that. I really doubt that this show would be able to work with conventional artwork, as it is set on dealing with disturbing topics that would feel out of place without this realistic style. The characters are not necessarily pretty, which falls in line with the inner sort of wickedness that is present within much of the cast. A subtle touch of repeating certain sequences also works to build up the monotony of normal life, and a daydream sequence helps us to understand the escape from reality that literature provides Takao. Complimenting the art is the soundtrack, with consistently helps build tension throughout the episode and explodes when events come to a head at the conclusion, cresting with an eerie closing theme that is every bit as twisted as the rest of the show. Building tension seems to be a skill of Aku no Hana, as I was consistently on edge for the entire duration of the episode, a feat that is impressive in itself. Trust me, this is a show that doesn’t fade from your mind the moment you finish. It has a staying power that is disconcerting. I shouldn’t be so interested in such unsettling characters, but that is the strength of Aku No Hana. With its art, it manages to create a feeling of realism that makes you believe that such people could exist in the real world, and for just the first episode, that is quite the achievement.
The art direction that I learned to enjoy over the course of Aku No Hana’s first episode might also be its greatest weakness. Most will not be able to watch this show based solely on the art, which, as I previously mentioned, is more realistic than normal animation. It works for Aku No Hana in particular, but I can see the problems that will likely plague Aku No Hana over its run. The characters are not exceptionally beautiful or handsome, and while I enjoyed that aspect, it could be distracting to others.
However, I think that the plot and the atmoshpere of Aku No Hana will eventually make the art a nonentity in terms of the popular opinion of Aku No Hana.
The only real gripe I have with Aku No Hana is its theme song. Juxtaposed against a quiet and realistic introduction to this series is the unnecessarily loud theme song, which has appropriate lyrics, but a jarring shift in tone. I think that Aku No Hana could have benefited from a softer and slower theme song that allowed the show to build tension through the opening.
Aside from a few minor complaints, I really found Aku No Hana to be an enjoyable series. With the blooming of the evil flower within Takao at the end of the episode, this series looks to be at a point where it can only improve from here on out. This is an original and dark concept for an anime that is just different, for a lack of a better word. Whether or not this turns out to be a satisfying series or not remains to be seen, but what is certain is that Aku No Hana will not be leaving my mind anytime soon.