GOMENZ for the delay! Our favorite controversial rotoscoped piece of shit animation series is back, creepier and better than ever.
illegenes: It’s hard to sum up why Flowers of Evil is the best anime airing this season for me (though a hard contestant would be Valvrave – I’m not joking!); we’ve already discussed how big of a fan I am with the animation and how it ties in with the show’s themes and identity, but moving on from technical aspects, I really want to emphasize what’s made this show so powerful for me: Flowers has a heart.
“Wait,” you say, standing up and pointing your finger at me. “No, that’s not right. Flowers of Evil is…well, evil. Spiteful, even. It holds no amount of sincerity in its approach. Natasha, you’re going way over your head here.” And to an extent, I agree! I think to call Flowers of Evil a sweet, delightful little thing would be almost cruel and insensitive, if not sadistic. There is no ‘sweetness’ in Flowers, only a heavy atmosphere of awkwardness, budding sexuality, embarrassment, and deception. Our main character this week blushes and sniffs a gir’s clothes. Ew. He’s also forcefully blackmailed into a very despicable contract with a sadist. (More ew.) There is nothing cute or charming about this; on the contrary, it’s disgusting. I waver in repulse when I see Takao lay out Saeki’s clothes in marvel and in self-disgust. I shiver when Takao’s patheticness gets the better of him, again and again as he crumbles under guilt and loathing. I then laugh when Takao wails into the sun, only to bump into Nakamura, who then scares him away with her creepy smile. By the end of the episode, when Takao is pushed into Saeki’s breasts and the end credits start rolling, I am again, breathless, unable to scream or speak.
What do all of these scenes share in common, other than Takao being a general wuss and ass at the same time? A reaction. The first connection an audience can make with a show is empathy and/or sympathy. I don’t think I share either of those concerns with Takao, frankly. I don’t really sympathize with him (okay, maybe a little bit) and I certainly don’t empathize with what he’s done. And yet, somehow, I’m still drawn in by his character as well as Saeki’s and Nakamura’s. I’m drawn into the world of Flowers of Evil – sucked into the void, a place of uncomfortableness and self-loathing and disillusionment. And you know what? I like it. I like the quiet, intense darkness. I like the alienation. I like the widened eyes, the creepy smiles, the pauses between conversations, heavy breathing, the quick heartbeat – the atmosphere of Flowers of Evil is intoxicating. I am a bee drawn to its dark, mysterious pollen, and I can’t go back. It’s a poison. And hell, I enjoy it! Maybe I shouldn’t? Maybe I should! Maybe the truth is that while I may not be drawn in by sympathy or empathy, I am most certainly drawn in by that sense of ‘ugliness’ which I think all of us share, whether it comes in the form of creating contacts with scared boys, stealing people’s gym clothes, or writing a post about how I just really really like Flowers of Evil and want to curse and flick off anyone who has ever judged it for animation only!!!
But wait, let me get my point across before you start shaking your head again. Here’s the thing. I think people often confuse sincerity with sweetness. There is no doubt Flowers of Evil is despicable in its cruelty and shows the horrid nature of teenagers (teenagers? preteens? these kids, man). It’s not sweet at all – it’s completely fucked up as shown, and we haven’t even gotten into the meat of ‘fucked up’ apparently. However, Flowers aims its rifle into the heart of the matter, straight and true, without blinking an eye. If that’s not sincerity, I don’t know what is. The blackness of Flowers is real. It is haunting and captivating, told with such honesty that I can’t look away. It’s not deep, it’s not cliche, it’s not even true all the time. But it is real, nonetheless, and it applies to all of us in one way or another, whether we like it or not. What you define that ‘blackness’ as – sexuality, anxiety, depression, existentialism – is up to you. But in defining that, you’ve already connected with Flowers. You’ve already stared into that gaping void, and you’re probably, just like me, not going to let go.
And maybe that’s the entire point.
Now if you don’t mind me, I’m off to indulge myself in some more fucked up teen drama. Catch you all later, you bag of bones.
gallifreyians: I was unable to write about my opinions re: rotoscoping last week, but when it boils down to it, I don’t think that people hate Aku no Hana for the art style and the rotoscoping, I think that people hate Aku no Hana for what the rotoscoping and art style represent in the context of this anime.
Rotoscoping is a technique of animation that seeks to directly replicate the movement of objects in reality, and I have to comment that the character designs (on which the rotoscoping is especially evident) are not your typical anime fair; the characters in AnH are designed with a clear mind to portray one-to-one the appearance of Japanese people with all the subtlety of real life. Furthermore, the art of everything other than the characters — mostly the scene backdrops — are done meticulously. All of this comes together to spell out one thing: the objective of this anime is realism. This is supported by the plot, which decidedly wishes to tell a story of the not-so-pretty corruption of human beings. Now for me, this makes Aku no Hana all the more interesting, which is ironic considering how this realism the anime strives for is what makes the animanga community generally hate it.
Most anime is all about escapism and so (despite typically being set in high schools in Tokyo) shies away from aspects that could make the show too realistic — remind people too much of their banal lives. Anime style is cartoony and thus, having a mundane setting usually contains numerous fantastic elements in order to distance itself from what the audience perceives as something real. A well-balanced anime then, will mix realism with fantasy to create a narrative that, while being familiar in many aspects, is still bizarre or fantastical enough to transport the viewer away from the real world and into the world of the show. Anime doesn’t seek to remind the audience of their daily lives in the real world, but to remove the audience from their “mundane” lives. This is what people have come to expect from anime: a mindless escape.
Except we have Aku no Hana. Aku no Hana is possibly one of the strangest anime out there because it isn’t strange. Instead of giving us high school students who are being manipulated by a penguin hat that is keeping their sister alive in order to save their sister from dying of a brain tumor, or high school students who are espers, aliens, and time travelers trying to keep another high schooler from discovering she is actually god, Aku no Hana gives us high schoolers. Plain and simple teenagers in a plain and simple Japanese high school doing mundane things in their mundane lives. The name of the game here is realism.
And so since the name of the game is realism, every aspect of the execution of the series — the dialogue, the exposition, the plot, the character designs, the characters, and even the art style — are made to reflect this. I would posit that since the theme of realism is so salient in the character design and rotoscoping (which I will remind the reader has allowed for better animation and more nuanced movement that why people pointing to them as the source of their disquiet and not examining why they are so deeply uncomfortable with an anime that wants to fully embrace literary realism.
People have an aversion to The Flowers of Evil because the realism makes the plot and characters hit closer to home. Because there is no wall of cartoony animation to distance the viewer from the action, people are able to actually see how fiction reflects real life. The realism of Aku no Hana allows us to look at the actions of Kasuga and the actions of Nakamura as what they are: fucked up, but beyond that the realism allows us to see ourselves in Kasuga and Nakamura. Fiction is a mirror with which we can study the world, and in Kasuga and Nakamura we can study — we can see — the perversion, the lies, the manipulation of the world. And of ourselves. People hate Aku no Hana because it reminds us that Kasuga and Nakamura are in all of us. We are all as perverted, obsessive, and in denial as Kasuga. We are all as sinister, infectious, and manipulative as Nakamura. Some people just can’t handle their favorite medium of escapism telling them that.