Aku No Hana – First Impressions

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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? TheGood Aku No Hana00006 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.

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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. thebad Aku No Hana00007

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.

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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.

9 thoughts on “Aku No Hana – First Impressions

  1. That ending theme song is one of the creepiest I’ve heard in an anime series, I agree with you about the opening theme, it just seems… off, and a bit of an odd choice for the series. There’s no visuals in the opening to focus on either, so the song is literally all you get unless you like to read the credits.

    • First off, thanks so much for being the first commentator on one of my posts. That means a lot to me!

      On the topic of the theme songs, you hit it right on the head. For me at least, the opening theme usually sets the tone of the show, and Aku No Hana’s just did not fit with what the show had set out to do. It was a generic sounding theme that added nothing to the episode. If anything, I think it detracted from my enjoyment of the show by taking me out of the somber opening scenes.

      Still, I think that the ending theme completely redeemed the opening’s shortcomings by completely perverting something that sounded like it could have been a children’s song and turning it into an appropriately creepy ending to a disturbing show.

      • You’re welcome – you write very compellingly. 🙂
        That’s a really good point about the ED feeling like a children’s song gone horribly, horribly wrong… or in this case horribly right given that it works so well with the tone of the series.

  2. Wow, this is a really, really good review. I agree with most of your points, and I think I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts about this show better. Good job!

    I really doubt that this show would be able to work with conventional artwork

    I beg to differ with this point; this show would probably still be work out if they adopted the art style from the manga. After all, it was the original source this anime was based on to begin with. However, what I really like about the choice of rotoscopy is how different and interesting it makes this show become, which you have already highlighted.

    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.

    True, I was kinda surprised by how the opening song popped in, but I like it a lot. If you look at it in another manner, it provides a temporary relief from the tension, but at the same time can help build suspense.

    I liked your review a lot and I’ll definitely be sticking around for more coverage of the following episodes of aku no hana.

    • First off, thanks for reviewing! It really helps my confidence to know that people are actually reading my reviews!

      But back to the topic, I totally understand what you’re saying about the artwork. I just personally felt like the rotoscoping added so much to the anime that it was really indispensable. And as for the theme, I can also see what your point is. The sense of not really knowing what is coming next is amplified by the opening, so in a way, it is somewhat appropriate, although I still think that it could have been improved.

  3. I totally agree with everything you said in your review. I hate how people are judging it solely on the artwork, which for me is beautiful. I don’t know, maybe I’m just fed with the moe style, but it’s not just that. Aku No Hana’s really good – it’s so…dark and lifelike.

    • Yes! The thing that bothers me the most is when people judge a series based on one aspect. An anime is so much more than just the art, especially in Aku No Hana. And like you said, the artwork has a certain beauty to it anyways. It has this dimension of realism that can’t be achieved by the ordinary style that every other anime these days uses.
      Also, thanks for commenting on my post. It means a lot to me!

  4. So far there are things I like and don’t like about this series. The art is fine, it is what it is, and it certainly captures the same kind of disheveled look and shambling walk that I see in live-action Japanese TV and movies with high school boys. I don’t know if I agree that it couldn’t work with a different art style, and there are some things about it that just scream “Cheaping out!”, like the river being full framerate video with a filter. But that’s the style we’re getting, like it or not. It’s also a bit jarring that these kids are described as middle-school kids, when they look much older, and that might be a downside to the rotoscoping style.

    My bigger problem through the 2nd and 3rd episode is how just idiotic Kasuga is. I can understand his imp of the perverse causing him to go back for Saeki’s clothes. But why is he carrying them around, still, in his bag? AND acting suspiciously? At least try to play it cool! I give him half credit for trying to clear Nakamura, but he even wussed out on that. I’m willing to give TV characters a lot of leeway, but man is Kasuga stupid.

    Basically, if something makes me stop watching the show, it’ll be the characters, not the animation.

    • I honestly have no answer for that, but hey, I suppose that it adds some tension(as unnecessary as it is). I never really thought that Kasuga was really that smart to begin with, but yeah, his actions are amazingly bad and ill advised. Hopefully, Aki No Hana can recover quickly within the next few episodes and pull it together. I haven’t read the manga yet, so I’m not really sure what happens, but I have faith that it’ll recover at some point.

      Thanks for replying!

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