illegenes: With the climax just having finished, Flowers of Evil returns to its natural state of giving us that unsettling drama, while turning its eye to some of the more subtle or secondary characters.
These two episodes may still focus on the main characters, Kasuga and Nakamura, but they also give some really interesting insight on the secondary characters – people we haven’t really focused or thought about. For Wendeego, that insight is on Kasuga’s mother, but for me, it’s Saeki, the all-star and perfect princess Kasuga came to admire. Or so we thought.
I predicted in an earlier post that Saeki didn’t seem to be the Venus or angel that Kasuga saw, and it turns out that in these two episodes, I couldn’t have been more correct. Episodes 8 and 9 allow us to look at Saeki in a different state – not through Kasuga’s eyes, perhaps, but through a third person’s point of view. For instance, in episode 9, we have an entire scene devoted to Nakamura and Saeki talking in the girl’s room, without Kasuga. It’s here that we get a lot of information regarding how Saeki sees herself, or rather, wants others to see herself, specifically, Kasuga.
Saeki may talk pure here in trying to see Kasuga as a normal human being, but in a later scene she tries to converse with Kasuga (as he’s hiding away in his room) and tell him that she accepts who he is and would rather him try to be open and honest with her, as she tries to do with him. This sort of unrestrained and raw behavior is something we’ve never really seen from the quiet, calm Saeki. This is a Saeki who can easily pick up the fact that Kasuga is the one who wrecked the classroom; that Kasuga, despite having a deviant side, can be ‘normal,’ and that Nakamura is pushing Kasuga to boundaries he’d rather not be broken at. Saeki is not perfect. She is not calm, she is not normal, and she is certainly not angelic. She may believe the best in Kasuga, but she does not (like Kasuga) make him out to be someone he isn’t. She has her own fears and her own issues.
What’s interesting about this revelation are these two things: that Saeki is in a cage of her own, perhaps even more trapped than Kasuga, and that Saeki may also be trying to project her own ideas and desires onto Kasuga. Whereas Nakamura and Kasuga can release their desires through one another (and through forbidden action), Saeki is bound to fulfill her role by the people around her – that is, she is trapped in a cage of her own making. She forces herself to become what other people want to see her as, instead of living the way she wants to. Because of this, Saeki is trapped by bars she has made herself, and by how society sees her (think of it as a negative feedback cycle). Kasuga is also trapped, but at least he is a boy so he’s allowed to get away with thoughts of perversion, whereas girls are often seen as pure virgins, so Saeki must adhere to this image. Nakamura on the other hand, chooses not to, but is trapped in a cage of deviancy – however, at least she has Kasuga as a release. Saeki has none. Which leads to her perhaps taking Nakamura’s words as advice, when she tells Kasuga to confess his feelings and honesty to her, because she would wish to be ‘normal’ – an image she sees in the form of Kasuga. Saeki thus is trying to try and make herself normal by seeing and making Kasuga normal; an action that leads to consequences, as Kasuga is now under the spell of Nakamura, and retreats to her side in frustration and anxiety.
With two ropes pulling Kasuga at opposite sides – one, the powerful and dangerous Nakamura, and the other, the helpless and desperate Saeki, it’s only a matter of time that Kasuga finally rips apart. Which side he’ll end up going to is the big question, and how the other side will take it is the bigger question. With four episodes left, I can only wonder how things will end. Or rather: how badly can it end? Is there an ending at all? I guess we’ll have to wait out and grow some new nails to bite on…
wendeego: Hiroshi Nagahama, you son of a bitch.
From the moment that we saw Kasuga’s family in the first episode of Flowers of Evil, I had a feeling that the director had a trick up his sleeve. Throughout the series, as Kasuga descended into perversion alongside Nakamura, his parents formed the series’s unassailable bedrock. Kasuga’s mother: “are you okay? Kasuga?” Kasuga’s father: “leave him alone, all adolescents are like this. he’ll get better.” Kasuga may be a repressed, elitist middle schooler, Saeki may be a caged, incredibly naive middle schooler who may be equally repressed, and Nakamura may be either a monster in human flesh or a girl desperately seeking for somebody else who sees the world the way she does. These characters are all relatable, their misadventures sting because they are horribly familiar, but Kasuga’s mother remains in Kasuga’s house as the one individual in this show who is sane, who will care for Kasuga no matter what, who is not a deviant or a middle schooler but instead a mature adult.
At the end of this episode, Kasuga’s mother discovers that her son is the one who stole Saeki’s gym clothes and defaced his classroom. Her first reaction is confusion and even anger, grabbing after her son as he runs screaming down the stairs and into the late afternoon. But when Kasuga is lost and alone, deciding to bike into the mountains with Nakamura and to escape the drudgery of his hometown, he sees his mother biking through the town, anxiously crying out for her son. Kasuga may have done what even he believes to be a terrible thing, an almost unforgivable thing. We do not know if Kasuga’s mother has forgiven her son for doing this. But it is very clear that despite everything, Kasuga’s mother still cares about him, will scour the town searching for him because she loves him no matter what he’s done. All Kasuga has to do is call out and say “I’M HERE” and his mother will come and may punish him, may shout at him, but will not abandon him. But Kasuga says nothing, and as he heads out towards the mountains on his bicycle with Nakamura in tow he does so with the knowledge that he is escaping the cage. That there is nowhere left for him to go but out, no-one left to bid him goodbye. Even if this is absolutely not true.
The truth is, Kasuga’s actions have consequences. For the most part though, this matters less than you’d think. Saeki is so bewildered by her own feelings that she has no problem with Kasuga stealing her gym clothes. The other students are so caught up in the mundanity of day-to-day life that as far as Kasuga knows, they could not possibly understand how he or Nakamura or even Saeki feel. The town rusts, signs and gates breaking into little pieces day by day, and it’s all that Kasuga and Nakamura can do to rage against it, burn down the world and escape from the ashes to something else. But what Kasuga does not understand, perhaps will not understand for years, is that his mother does care about him, will care about him and will be hurt with every action he takes. Every time Kasuga’s mother is hurt, the viewer is hurt too, because we may not identify with her in the same way as we do with Kasuga or Nakamura or Saeki but in the face of the immaturity of all these three we see a decent and well-meaning person suffer for no reason of her own.
Let it be known from this point on that though many have complained about everything from the pacing to the music to the animation, Nagahama’s adaptation of Flowers of Evil is nothing if not deliberate. Every element of the series is there for a reason, from the frequent repetition to the apparently glacial pace to the atmospheric sound design, and Kasuga’s parents are just one more piece on the board. A rhetorical fleurish, if you will, to the creator’s grand thesis of perversion, freedom and punishment. Kasuga risks subjecting his parents to torture by anxiety, but is so caught up in his own self-loathing and desire to escape that he is totally unaware of the risks. Transcendence engenders blindness engenders transcendence. I don’t know whether Nagahama plans to follow the manga’s plot as far as he can or to end the series on his own terms, but either way this is going to be a wild ride from which no-one, including the viewer, will remain unscathed.