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)