Aku no Hana – 13 (Fin)

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While snooping around Nakamura’s otherwise normal room Kasuga finds a notebook in which she has recorded all of her encounters with Kasuga, up until after they vandilized the classroom. The rest is blank until the last page, where she laments not being able to go over the hill. Nakamura barges in, tells Kasuga to get out, then runs again. Kasuga chases her and they both trip and fall onto each other. Kasuga’s life flashes before his eyes in reverse, followed by all his interactions with Nakamura. He then starts to see flashes of a possible future with him, Nakamura, and Saeki in which his deviancy expands. He tells her to make a new contract with him, and “leave the den of shit.”

As Nakamura said to Kasuga before they trashed the classroom (loosely translated), “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries.” Remembering that, we were confident that Aku no Hana was not going to end on a happy note. This is a series that loves to torture its male lead and make him squirm, to the point where whenever he feels joy or bliss, or things start to look up, a big alarm goes off: “BOWL OF CHERRIES.” As in life isn’t; not for him. He’s a miserable angsty teen grasping wildly at some kind of justification for his pathetic existence. Just because he thinks he was put on this earth to make sure Nakamura wouldn’t be alone, doesn’t make it so. But still, his obsession with staying by her side is a kind of love, a itch he must scratch.

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How to end a highly controversial anime, not just for its dark source material, but for the way it was translated to animation? With a highly controversial ending, of course! After the initial reveal of Nakamura’s room (we should have known the door wrote checks the room couldn’t clear!) and the following chase that ends with them on the ground, time starts gettin’ all whimsical and shit, full of callbacks to previous episodes, but then goes beyond the first episode and to flashes of his childhood, and then…the classroom arrangement returns and things start to get really weird. The episode ended abruptly with the message “END OF PART ONE.” So were those flash-forwards a montage previewing Part Two?

We hope so, because it looks like things get a lot bleaker. Just because you’re devoted to fulfilling the role your admirer laid out for you, doesn’t mean things are going to get any easier for anyone. While we would have liked to see more of what happened after Kasuga asks Nakamura to form a new contract, we can hopefully look forward to all that being addressed in detail in the second season. Until then, it was a very weird, very powerful, very dark ride. Aku no Hana reminded us why we love anime: you can watch months and months of the same old stuff, and then boom, something totally different comes along, fiercely marching to the beat of its own drummer, never apologizing for anything.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Another possibility: rather than a teaser, everything that happened in that future montage happened, and won’t happen again. What we saw was a highly condensed result of Nakamura entering that contract with Kasuga.
  • Among the disturbing images we see in this montage: burning books; hanging panties around the walls; Saeki cutting her hair Nakamura-short and continuing to obsess over Kasuga; Kasuga holding her down; someone bleeding down their legs; Nakamura passed out; a policeman flashing his badge; Nakamura scratching the shit out of Kasuga’s chest, and other assorted mayhem.
  • Was the present Nakamura embarassed that Kasuga was in his room, learning of her secret notebook? She seemed pretty damn mad he was in there, so we don’t think she ever intended anyone to see it. That being said, she didn’t exactly take great pains to hide it.
  • In her notebook we see pretty much the same cheerfully deviant Nakamura that we saw when she was doing the things she wrote about. There’s a naked earnestness to her; what seemed like a mocking or patronizing manner with Kasuga was actually genuine excitement, concern, and anticipation.
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Aku no Hana – 12

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After staying up all night writing his essay to Nakamura, Kasuga tries to offer it to her while she’s walking home. She refuses to take it or speak to him, so he reads it to her as he chases her, until a car nearly hits him and she gets away. He rushes home to find Nakamura’s address, and when he goes there to drop the letter in the mail, he bumps into Nakamura’s dad, who invites him in and for dinner. Kasuga asks to use the toilet, but comes upon the door to Nakamura’s room. He turns the knob and enters…

“Girls can be difficult,” says Nakamura’s dad, who lives in a small flat, we’re assuming it’s his mother’s, who lives with him. He divorced Sawa’s mother when Sawa was just five, and he still can’t understand what’s going on in her head. Not that having a stable mother figure would have changed the way Nakamura is (daughters – and sons – are just as likely to equally “hate” both parents during their teenage years), but we’re a little relieved she doesn’t live in squalor with an abusive/drunk father. By all outward appearances, Sawa and her small family are like night and day.

Of course, like Kasuga, we still know very little about the details of Nakamura’s life, despite this introduction to her family. But assuming there’s no hidden unpleasantness, perhaps at this point it is Nakamura – Sawa – who is being backed into a corner by Kasuga, like she did to him. She pushed him so hard to be the deviant she wanted him to be he ended up disappointing those unrealistic expectations. Now he’s pressing hard to remain a presence in her life – any presence – as long as she doesn’t feel alone. Without necessarily intending to, he’s tearing down her walls of swear words and silence and scowls. And she fears those walls falling as much as he feared his.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The “chase scene” was pretty fun/chaotic. And having seen how fast Nakamura can run from previous episodes, we knew Kasuga wouldn’t be able to keep up, car or no.
  • Sawa’s granny is almost painfully nice.
  • That beer pour made us really want a beer, which made us wonder why they didn’t go for more product placement.
  • Another episode that ends before Kasuga walks through a door? C’mon now, Nagahama-san…you’re killin’ us!

Aku no Hana – 11

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A month after being picked up by the cops on the hill, Kasuga has not spoken to either Saeki or Nakamura, keeps to himself, and talks little. Kinoshita makes him apologize to Saeki, and they formally break up. Going to be without eating and after vomiting, Kasuga dreams of taking a long walk into a field of flowers of evil. There he finds Nakamura, who tells him she’s disappointed in him for not breaking all of his walls. He wakes up, destroys his Baudelaire portrait, and begins to write a letter to Nakamura.

In a series full of tense “aftermath” episodes, this one was not the strongest, taking place a full month after last week’s events; a month in which not much at all seemed to have happened.  Instead of saying much of anything, this episode focused on painting the picture of Kasuga’s new bleak, hopeless, pointless existence. Saeki walks past him, classmates mutter around him, and Nakamura into trouble and invites ridicule, his mother cries and his father watches TV, but Kasuga has simply checked out. After he and Saeki officially break up, he is resigned to a lifetime of loneliness, “like a desert tree,” unable to escape the city he hates.

And then Kasuga has a dream. He’s content with living the rest of his life alone, but the dream asks the question: What about Nakamura…that crazy outcast girl who saw him take the gym uniform of a girl he worshiped? The girl who became his shadow, and the obsessed architect of his deviant renaissance? The girl who saw something in him, even if it was dark and sinister, that no one else did? Saeki might not ever have even approached Kasuga if he hadn’t defended Nakamura when she was being accused. Nakamura may well want to be alone, and not want pity or help from the likes of Kasuga. But he’s not going to leave her alone.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • And so ends the best run of high-rated episodes since the likes of Tempest, Sukitte Iinayo and New World. This episode wasn’t bad, but it was lacking compared to the previous seven.
  • The scene with Kasuga excusing himself from the dinner table as formally as possible was long and slow, but effective, perfectly encapsulating an excruciating ennui.
  • (Non-dream) Nakamura’s only line is to insult the whistleblowing swimming instructor. We have to say we missed her this week…like Kasuga!
  • With Saeki, you truly do get the feeling she jumped into a relationship too fast, learned a lesson, and will move on. But…will she?

Aku no Hana – 10

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao, Saeki Nanako

Kasuga and Nakamura ride his bike into the mountains, but he gets tired and it starts to rain, they stop by the side of the road to rest. Saeki excuses herself from dinner and goes after them, and finds someone who saw where they went. As they lie down to sleep, Saeki finds them. She asks Kasuga why she can’t understand The Flowers of Evil and why he likes it so much. Nakamura tells her about all the deviant things he did and even strips him down in front of her, but Saeki doesn’t care, as long as he loves her.

Nakamura gets on Kasuga’s bike and starts off. Kasuga runs after her but Saeki yells at him and he stops. Nakamura tells him to make his choice, but he tells them he is empty inside: he can never love like a normal person for Saeki, and he can’t be the deviant Nakamura wants him to be; he doesn’t deserve to choose either of them. Saeki drops the book in resignation, and a teary Nakamura stomps on it. The police pick the three up and they share a ride home.

Kasuga and Nakamura wanted to weigh anchor and shove off without any trouble. They were both sick of the city and the people in it, had no good reason to stay, and finally wanted to see what lay beyond the hill. Unfortunately, they allowed themselves to be seen by one too many witnesses, and the mountain proved too much for the un-athletic Kasuga, especially having Nakamura in tow. Their great deviant adventure stalls in its infancy, and isn’t allowed to start back up. Nakamura muses that over that hill could be the end of the world, and until they actually get there, for all intents and purposes, it is.

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This week Saeki showed what she was made of by not allowing Kasuga to run away so easily. Other girls may have given up on him after all he’d done to and kept from her, but she loves him, and to her none of that matters as long as she gets to be with Kasuga and understand who he is. Only Kasuga doesn’t understand who he is either. In his climactic speech where he refuses to choose either, he speaks of hiding behind Baudelaire & Co., trying to convince himself he wasn’t normal by pretending to understand literature. It isn’t until he’s between the two girls, faced with the choice of one, that he completely tears himself down in an effort to make himself undesirable to both.

This desperate attempt to snap them out of their obsession with him looks like might’ve worked, on at least a superficial level: Saeki says “Fine, forget it”; Nakamura, shockingly, starts to cry, finally betraying genuine emotion to him. Then the cops arrive, shine a blinding light on the emotional spectacle (record scratch, anyone?), and stick Kasuga between two girls who were stripping him down and pulling his arms out of their sockets a few minutes ago, but now they won’t even look in his general direction, as he’s rejected them both. But lengthy and devastating monologues aside, it’s likely far from over between these three. Fortunately for us!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Aku no Hana – 09

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao

Even knowing that he stole her uniform and vandalized the classroom, Saeki doesn’t want to break up with Kasuga, and asks him to reconsider. The next day he stays home sick, Saeki confronts Nakamura, who tells her about the contract to bring out Kasuga’s inner deviant. Saeki stops by Kasuga’s house, but he won’t let her see him, so she yells up at the window that she wants to understand him. Kasuga’s mom finds the ink-stained clothes, and Kasuga flees to the riverbank, where Nakamura is waiting with his bike, suggesting they spit town and ride “beyond the hill.” Saeki sees Kasuga’s mom frantically asking people if they’ve seen Kasuga.

Kasuga can’t understand: how can Saeki, his paragon of virtue, grace, and purity, possibly be okay with his actions? We know that she was more mad about him not being honest (even saying she was a little happy about the gym uniform, which…wow…). But now that Saeki knows about his deviant side, he can’t bear to be in her presence, not just because he feels he doesn’t deserve to be, but because he doesn’t want to infect that ideal purity. Saeki wants to know more about him, but he doesn’t seem interested in knowing more about Saeki, because the more he does, the more that idealized version of her in his head is broken down. The more she learns, the closer she wants to get to him.

But after the confrontation behind the school, Kasuga and Saeki remain apart, with their only encounter coming with Kasuga hiding under his covers (not his best moment) and her below his window, hoping he hears her. Contrast this distance to how close Kasuga and Nakamura get in the end, and how intimate her movements around him are, mounting his bike fully expecting her doll to get on with her and ride them out of the “shithole town” where neither of them could find their place. Meanwhile, Saeki and Kasuga’s mom wander the town, both lost without him, not caring what he did to them, and desperate to find him. But he may already be beyond that hill. Like Kasuga’s vision of Saeki, their visions of Kasuga may only be mirages.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • That close-up shot of a student miming a machine gun targeting the deviant…yikes. Hope that’s not foreshadowing!
  • This episode marks the first time we see Saeki and Nakamura without Kasuga around.
  • Another of this show’s many nice little details: The sound of the gravel when Saeki leaves Kasuga’s house.
  • When Kasuga put his incriminating ink-stained clothes in the washer, we thought he’d, you know…switched the damn thing on!
  • “Is that your mom? She looks retarded.” Nakamura really has a way with words, doesn’t she?
  • Saeki gets her own sad walk!

Aku no Hana – 08

Kasuga Takao, Saeki Nanako, Nakamura Sawa

Kasuga and Nakamura walk home hand in hand. Kasuga can’t sleep. Saeki is outside the school to meet him the next morning. They enter the classroom together, and Kasuga discovers all the ink obscured his name. A school meeting is called and the school is dismissed for the day. Kasuga retches behind the school, but Nakamura tells him he should be proud for breaking through one of his walls. Then Saeki confronts them, and Kasuga says they should break up. Saeki recognizes the drawing on the classroom floor from the cover of The Flowers of Evil and asks Kasuga if he wrecked the classroom and stole her gym uniform.

During Kasuga and Nakamura’s long moonlit stroll through town, tightly holding hands, they don’t just look like a couple who just had a lot of fun; it’s a pretty direct symbol that Kasuga has tied his fate to Nakamura. She has poked and prodded him into doing something that destroyed his old world – the one in which he could pretend to be normal – and created a new one. And when does creation not require a degree of destruction? Kasuga and Nakamura stay connected until the very last moment when they have to part ways to their respective houses. It’s the first time Kasuga is detached from her and alone in this brand new world, and the disorientation causes insomnia, and the dread is palpable.

His second long, silent walk is done alone. We have no idea what to expect, but he expects the worst: expelled, possibly arrested, and definitely detested by his whole school. As the school looms over him, he nearly bolts in fear, but Saeki is there to block his escape. Now he has to go inside and see what he’s wrought, and with her. And it’s just as devastating to Saeki as he imagined. Nakamura is satisfied with her classmates’ reactions even if the ink covered up Kasuga’s name. But while his other classmates don’t know who vandalized the classroom, Kasuga’s desire to share Baudelaire with his muse was his undoing here, and Saeki is welcomed into the fold of secrets along with him and Nakamura.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Whew…for a while there we weren’t sure there was going to be ANY dialogue in this episode. Nakamura finally breaks the silence nine minutes in: “Hey…I live over there.”
  • Kasuga attempting to wash away his sins in the early dawn. The ink goes down the drain, but his sins remain.
  • We can understand Kasuga getting so hopped up on adrenaline he wouldn’t realize he was covering up all his blackboard confessions with black ink, but what about Nakamura? Did she plan for the ink to prevent their instant implication? Saeki still found out, but only because of the book cover.
  • The atmospheric soundtrack continues to kick ass.
  • Saeki may have been overly naive to trust Kasuga, but she’s no fool; she probably instantly recognized the flower on the floor.
  • How in the hell is Kasuga going to squirm out of this predicament?

Aku no Hana – 07

Saeki Nanako, Kasuga Takao

Kasuga pays a visit to Saeki’s house to deliver her handouts. Saeki asks him if he has any secrets. Cursing himself, Kasuga tells her he doesn’t, and she trusts him. Kasuga tells Nakamura about his new sin, and how he wants to come clean to Saeki about the uniform. He and Nakamura meet at midnight and break into the school. When Nakamura balks at the plan she has for him to confess to everyone, she washes her hands of him. But as she’s leaving, Kasuga writes a confession on the blackboard, and does more when pressed. The two then tear the entire classroom apart.

Holy shit. Back from the forest, we decided to start playing catch-up with the show we most look forward to watching week in week out, and that’s Aku no Hana. The show told us it was only going to get better, and it did. Kasuga adds to his sins and the relationship between him and Nakamura becomes even deeper, more intimate, and more fucked-up, culminating in one of the tensest, sexiest, most powerful sequences we’ve ever seen on television, period. This series’ gutsy style and fierce confidence in the story it’s telling (almost bordering on arrogance) shines through, and its impeccable dramatic timing and moving, unsettling score were firing on all cylinders.

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao

In the end, all of the guilt and doubt Kasuga has bottled up finally finds a sudden and seemingly purifying release. What happens to Kasuga on that magical moonlit night definitely signifies another wall he has broken through. And it isn’t only because of the threat of being found out. Instead, it’s when Nakamura voices her disgust at the realization that he’s just like everyone else in the school and the world she hates. It’s when she releases him from the contract and tells him not to speak to her again.

Ironically, it’s when she gives him what he wanted: for her to just leave him be. In that moment of abandonment, earning Nakamura’s anti-respect and keeping her in his life is more important than Saeki or his own survival. He goes the extra mile to prove to the other girl in his life that he’s every bit the deviant he promises to Saeki he isn’t. And without simply coming out and saying it, his actions are an affirmation that Nakamura is right about Kasuga: he’s a horny, debauched deviant on the edge of frenzy, and perhaps most importantly, he’s not boring.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Stray Observations:

  • We’ve grown to love the crazy dirge that accompanies the end credits, and this week brought us an even bolder, quirkier, darker, more beautiful arrangement, using tablas for the beat and turning Kasuga and Nakamura’s classroom rampage into a hauntingly gorgeous dance, almost as if the characters and even the show had gone into some kind of trance.
  • Despite being rotoscoped from live action, the trope of the face turning pink when characters are aroused is carried through here, to good effect, as Nakamura has never looked happier or more turned on.
  • Saeki seems to think that there’s something going on between Kasuga and Nakamura. And she’s right, there is.
  • We reiterate, until something comes to light that suggest she may also have deviant side: Poor, poor Saeki.
  • Another sign Kasuga’s path to Saeki is almost un-satisfyingly easy: she has a very liberal mom that leaves him alone in her bedroom.
  • Those final five orgasmic minutes of the episode really were transcendent anime; one of the best sequences of cathartic release/letting the fuck go we’ve ever seen, animated or otherwise. Someone posted it to YouTube, but who knows how long that’ll last.
  • For a brief moment we feared that was Nakamura’s blood spilling on Kasuga’s face rather than ink. Thank goodness things haven’t gotten that dark…yet.

Aku no Hana – 06

Kasuga Takao, Nakamura Sawa, Saeki Nanako

The next day at school the class is abuzz with the news Saeki and Kasuga are dating, and Saeki comes right out and confirms it. Kasuga walks home with Saeki, eats lunch with Saeki, and they promise to take their time building a relationship. While having lunch with Saeki, Yamada and Nakamura, Nakamura passes him a note to meet her in the library after school. She tells him Saeki wants to have sex with him, just as Saeki walks by outside. The next day Saeki is absent, and Kinoshita gives Kasuga the day’s handouts to deliver to Saeki and warns him about hurting her. Kasuga hesitates to ring the bell to Saeki’s house, but Nakamura jumps him, wishes him good luck, and rings it for him.

I’ll be reborn as a decent human being and spend eternity bound in noble and sublime love with Saeki.

If Kasuga truly believes this is how things are going to down based on what’s happened so far, he’s even more devastatingly naive than we could have imagined. Of course, only part of him wants to believe this ideal scenario. The fact is, his life isn’t a book, and there’s more to him than that naive side. There’s the darker side within him, which he’s struggling with; the side with a voice we hear for the first time, telling him he doesn’t deserve an Angel. Building a relationship with Saeki with the gym uniform thing looming is not only untenable, but hypocritical to his claims. He cannot be reborn when things still tie him to the old, weak him who sinned. This week Kasuga reaps the rewards of becoming Saeki’s boyfriend, baffling and impressing their class and spending time with Saeki. Everything that’s good is out in the open.

Saeki also does her damnedest to play precisely the part Kasuga wants her to play: the innocent, pure Virgin Mary. She wants to take things nice and slow, and wants to learn more about Kasuga. But then Nakamura befriends her, and this is where we are on the same side of the narrative wall as Kasuga: did Saeki confess to Nakamura that she wanted to sleep with Kasuga? It’s pretty true to Nakamura’s character to lie about it, but perhaps Saeki really did tell her that, and Nakamura then decided to use that info as ammo in her Kasuga Project. Saeki has shown to be very much into Kasuga, so until proven otherwise, we’re going to assume Saeki does want Kasuga in that way, going against Kasuga’s idealized version of her. Just as she doesn’t yet know the whole Kasuga, Kasuga – and we – don’t know the whole Saeki. That will change soon.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Throughout this episode, even during Kasuga’s moments of joy, Nakamura is always at the end of a shot, in the back corner of the frame, just out of focus or partially hidden. Nakamura started out merely sitting behind him, now she’s virtually his shadow.
  • We’ll see next week if Saeki actually heard what Nakamura said to Kasuga, or if she mistook the scene as something else.
  • In hindsight Nakamura’s strategy of allowing Kasuga+Saeki relationship to go ahead looks like it’ll pay much greater dividends to a deviant such as herself than prematurely ruining it by dropping the bomb (her knowledge of the uniform theft). 
  • As long as Kasuga believes the uniform will destroy him, Nakamura will have power over him. It would be intriguing to see how he might theoretically go about turning the tables on her. Then again, she has nothing to lose.
  • There’s a quote that  accompanies an animated version of series.creator Oshimi Shuuzou at the end of every episode. This week he says “The next one’s gonna be even better.” We have no reason not to believe him!

Aku no Hana – 05

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao

Kasuga has his date with Saeki while wearing her gym uniform under his clothes. At the bookstore he buys her a copy of The Flowers of Evil. Nakamura orders him to kiss Saeki before the date ends, but instead he confesses to her and asks if she’ll enter a totally platonic relationship with him; she agrees and is very happy. Nakamura splashes water on Kasuga, but he runs away before Saeki can see the uniform. Nakamura tells him he’ll let him have his relationship while she “cheers on the sidelines.”

Kasuga’s first date with Saeki had its share of bumps, but he tried his best to be himself, showing Saeki his favorite bookstore and describing his favorite surrealist authors and generally geeking out over books. He and Saeki spend a lot of time either in silence or small-talking. Yet, despite him vanishing briefly to talk to Nakamura and running off after she soaks him, it’s really not that bad of a date, because Saeki is clearly into Kasuga, and simply enjoys spending time with him, even if they’re not doing much.

We like this decision not to make Saeki Kasuga’s unrequited, unobtainable love. She’s his angel, but she’s very much obtainable…almost too obtainable. We’re not sure she would have appreciated being suddenly kissed, but we do think she might consider it if he asked nicely. He even moves her to tears with his confession, and not in a negative way.

Saeki Nanako, Kasuga Takao

Still, Kasuga doesn’t want to open any kind of floodgates, and more importantly, doesn’t want to give in to Nakamura’s goading, so he proposes a platonic relationship, and to his shock and elation, Saeki is all for it. If only Saeki knew what she was getting into.

We loved the cautious pace and very precise direction of this episode. The nondescript town they walk around is so still and quiet, one wonders how Saeki doesn’t notice Nakamura stalking them. Kasuga squirms a lot in this episode, too, especially when Nakamura is so close to him it looks like she’s on the verge of kissing him herself. She feels his heart racing and it excites her. But is this a girl liking a boy, or a girl liking the power she has over him; so much so that she’s willing to cut him some slack, let him court Saeki, and bide her time until she tears down those walls.

But Nakamura isn’t the only villain here. What Kasuga does (stealing the uniform) and continues to do (not giving it back or fessing up) directly got him into this situation. Nakamura wouldn’t have any ammo if he weren’t guilty of those deeds. He may show his idealized version of himself to Saeki on his date – the Kasuga he shows the world and wants to be, but there’s a kernal of truth to Nakamura’s ravings about his deviancy. Kasuga fears Nakamura, but he fears the deviant within even more, and nothing he can say to himself can comfort him as long as the Telltale Uniform looms like a shadow.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • At the moment Saeki is being portrayed as so pure and innocent compared to the manic, depraved Nakamura. We’re almost positive she’d be absolutely crushed by the news he stole her uni.
  • On that note, Kasuga’s “hallucination” of her as an angel – complete with creepy cherubs – was pretty neat.
  • By giving her his favorite book, perhaps Kasuga’s hoping Saeki will understand him a little better. 
  • “You’re a strange one,” Saeki says of him. Perhaps, but there’s something strange about her too: she’s so…perfect.
  • “I’ll make sure it works out,” Nakamura assures Kasuga. If we were him, we consider those foreboding words.

Aku no Hana – 04

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Saeki praises Kasuga for sticking up for Nakamura, lifting his spirits. Nakamura seems to know he’s hiding something from her. He writes a poem and seals it in a box with her uniform, never to be opened again. The next day the class is all atwitter about him and Nakamura, but the ice is broken when Saeki says good morning to him. Before meeting with Nakamura after school, Kasuga bumps into Saeki, helps her with boxes, and asks her out on a date. She accepts, but Nakamura appears and knows everything. She meets him before his date and makes him wear Saeki’s gym uniform under his clothes for the duration of that date, while she stalks them and watches.

We won’t mince words: this show is good, and it’s only gotten better with each passing week, to the point where it’s the show we look forward to watching most. In a season full of vague and sprawling conflicts, Aku no Hana is incredibly intimate, introspective, and claustrophobic. The art style definitely took some getting used to, but now that we have it is perfectly suited to the tense, unnerving story. There are movements, gestures, and expressions that simply can’t be drawn by hand. Whatever detail is lost in wide shots is gained in extreme close-ups, in which both Saeki and Nakamura’s faces appear more real (and more beautiful).

Kasuga’s torture is alleviated when Saeki “absolves” him with her kind words, and she does seem to exhibit attraction to him now that she’s aware of his existence. But not surprisingly, Kasuga’s relief is short-lived, as Nakamura is determined to mold him into a deviant with whom she can “burn down the town,” both figuratively and possibly literally. Kasuga lets pride go to his head when he accuses her of jealousy – as if she would admit to that even if it was what she felt. No, until we’re proven otherwise, we’re considering Nakamura as a sufferer of psychopathy, as thus defined:

a personality disorder identified by characteristics such as a lack of empathy and remorse, criminality, antisocial behavior, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, and a parasitic lifestyle

Yup, sounds like her.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • On the Sunday of his date, Nakamura is dressed in black from head to toe, setting off her fiery hair. On the other side of the spectrum, Saeki opts for an angelic heavenly white one-piece.
  • This is the most interesting love triangle (if you can even call it that) we’ve seen from an anime in a long time.
  • Kasuga’s mom continues to be a bit of a scold, but his father seems to understand his recent behavior perfectly.
  • “How do you know where I live?” Really, Kasuga? Don’t you know who you’re dealing with?

Car Cameo: Honda Stream

Aku no Hana – 03

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Kasuga tries in vein to dispose of the Saeki’s incriminating gym uniform. After school at the library, when he fails to produce an essay for Nakamura, she strips him down and dresses him in the uniform, telling him she’s a deviant like him. She tells them they’ll be hanging out after school, and they do. His friends and parents start to notice is strange behavior, culminating in him standing up to defend Nakamura when a classmate accuses her of stealing lunch money.

The Devil pulls the strings by which we’re worked:
By all revolting objects lured, we slink
Hellwards; each day down one more step we’re jerked
Feeling no horror, through the shades that stink.

How much weird shit can you get up to before you become a “deviant?” Is there a specific line that must be crossed, which Kasuga assures himself he hasn’t? He still clings to the notion that as long as his feelings for Saeki remain pure, he’s good. Nakamura, on the other hand, thinks about how great it would be if all the gloom within her spread across the world. She manipulates and sexually assaults Kasuga, who is too weak and shocked and cowed to resist.

In Kasuga, she sees what she wants to see: a kindred spirit. He still feels horror in what’s happening but she seems at peace with herself. She’s accepted what she is and is excited at the prospect of Kasuga being just like her deep down. Kasuga tells her The Flowers of Evil is like him – something that will never be understood by the un-literary people of his town. But count Nakamura among those townspeople in that she doesn’t give a shit about Baudelaire. All she wants is Evil Kasuga: Unplugged.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The undressing in the libarary is the most disturbing scene in the series so far, but we doubt it will be the last. It really underscores how little power Kasuga has.
  • That said, Kasuga appeals to his good side by standing up for Nakamura in spite of what she’s doing, since the truth is Nakamura was with him at the time of the money theft.
  • Rotoscoped animation really is a perfect fit for the tone of this series. Anime like Gargantia soars, but this series slinks and slithers.
  • Yamada’s sudden kung-fu greeting was pretty funny.

Aku no Hana – 02

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Kasuga gives in to temptation and takes Saeki’s gym uniform home with him. The next day the teacher reports the theft and requests info. On the way to the bookstore, he runs into Nakamura, who knows he took the uniform. She wants a ride, but he runs away, leaving her with his bike. He contemplates fessing up the next day, but he can’t gather the courage. Nakamura makes him meet her in the library where she ambushes him with Saeki, pushes him into Saeki’s bosom, and then tells him they have a “contract”: she’ll stay silent, but she’ll take “something precious” from him in return.

We decided to watch Oregairu before this this week, and you know what? Aku no Hana was the better episode tonight. Last week was very much a setup of Kasuga Takao’s existence, but we were left hanging with only our assumptions about what would transpire. This week he springs into action, letting his hormones get the best of him, hating himself for committing such a heinous sin, and of course getting caught in the web of the quiet, weird, sullen girl who get’s a very devlish grin on her face when she’s about to torture him.

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I’ll fess up. I’ll apologize before Nakamura can tell everyone. I’ll give Saeki her clothes back tomorrow.

Of course, Kasuga does none of these things. Even feaing Nakamura squealing, he just can’t face the consequences of confessing. Nakamura gave him the day to do so, but he didn’t. She calls him a coward and weakling, and then she has him. Sitting directly behind him, perhaps she’s jealous of all the attention Kasuga showers on Saeki from a afar; she who has done nothing to deserve such adoration. Perhaps Nakamura even likes Kasuga, but can’t express it properly, so she’ll choose to bully him. Or maybe this is just how she gets her kicks. The fact of the matter is, Kasuga did do something wrong, and she’s not going to let him off easy.

For the second straight week the series proves adept at building scenes fraught with tension, both by the somewhat unsettling character design and the understated ambient score. The rotoscoped characters are jarring (whoa! They’re human-looking!), but we won’t deny it’s refreshing to see such realistically-proportioned and naturally-moving characters. It sets itself apart visually from anything else we’ve seen this year, and fits well with the whole uncomfortable vibe of this world. And that ED themetrippy as shit.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Aku no Hana – 01

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The bookish Kasuga Takao is engrossed Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), but also nursing a hard crush on Saeki Nanaki, the top student in his class. One day he forgets the book in the classroom and runs back to pick it up. He also finds Saeki’s gym uniform on the floor.

Uh oh…an anime that leans heavily on literature we’ve never read…but seriously, just what the hell was this? It looked totally different from everything else this season, or year, for that matter; using real-life actors and rotoscoping them. The result is a totally different visual language from what we’re used to, which is more than a little jarring. So many anime are escapist; this recalls and even amplifies the reality of a humdrum existence. Every building is dingy; every piece of metal is a little rusty, and every sky is not quite blue enough to be happy. It draws us in, but not entirely because that’s what we want.

We can’t help but feel like the realistic movement of the characters and their natural way of conversing together, combined with the overall bleakness of the show’s palette, all conspire to unnerve and unsettle us. We’re talking about a kid who likes The Flowers of Evil, and while we don’t know much about it, we do know it was written in a time when huge changes were happening in society, including the nature of beauty. While the show may want us to pity Kasuga and his dull existence, we’re not meant to particularly like the guy, either, and…we don’t! He kinda creeps us out. But we also kinda want to know what will happen to him, so we’ll keep watching…for now.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)