Title: Aku no Hana
Genre: Drama, Psychological, Romance
Summary: Takao worships the class beauty, Nanako, from afar. When he is alone in the classroom one day after school, he notices her bag of gym clothes on the floor. He can’t resist picking it up. He plans to return it, but the next day, all the girls are commiserating with Nanako that some pervert has stolen her gym clothes. Worse than that, their classmate Sawa quietly lets him know that she saw him take the clothes and will tell Nanako if he doesn’t make a contract with her to do whatever she asks of him. And so their strange, tense relationship begins.
Review: The reason I picked up Aku no Hana is because of Nazo no Kanojo X. They don’t have the same plot but they have the same odd feeling you don’t normally see with a romance anime. I couldn’t help but feel that the anime was lacking the fundamentals of its genre. The big difference between the two is that one was good and one wasn’t. I’ll give you a guess on which is the “not so good” one.
The art style can be argued to be either really well done or a hot mess. I personally was very glad to see a more realistic/old art style being utilized for a psychological romance anime. It provided a lot more to the ambiance and I would have been taken out of the story had the anime followed a traditional style. The realistic looking characters made it seem all the more intense when Takao was being harassed by Sawa or as the class had looks of horror on their faces when their homeroom was trashed. The entire plot of Takao taking Nanako’s uniform was also brought out by the grudge art style because it made it a lot less playful or hilariously awkward. I felt that watching a traditional anime would have made this seem like a big misunderstanding that led to comedic openings of calling Takao a pervert. Another thing that the translators did right was calling Takao a deviant instead of a pervert.
When you read the summary of this anime the first thing you think of is “pervert”, “freak”, “weirdo”, or maybe even “sicko”. However, the story dove much deeper and actually showed a darker side to Takao. A small misguided act turned into a whole new ordeal with trying to find out who he really was, to stand out among the masses and be something different. Aku no Hana turned out to be a sociological thriller. It takes into account a lot of real life situations and psychological theories as to what makes people tick. In this case Takao wasn’t a bad guy at the beginning, boring, but not bad. He lived a simple life of reading books and kept his thoughts to himself. It wasn’t until that fateful moment he met Sawa who truly couldn’t stand the structure of society and planted her evil seed into Takao mind that Takao began to change. Throughout the anime you noticed that Takao was a very weak character. Just as he began to slide down the hill away from normality because of Sawa, he started to see the light and hope of becoming a cliché high school student because of Nanako. The creators made him a rope in a game of tug-of-war and whoever had the more powerful grasp on him could pull him to their side. I’ll say that the anime did a good job trying to play with environmental factors to effect a character’s psyche, but ultimately it fell short with development and progression.
So far I’ve mentioned nothing but good points that Aku no Hana had done to pull me in and continue watching. It kept things interesting by doing something outside of the typical romance anime; it pulled heavily on the psychological genre. I appreciated that it continued to become darker and darker as you slowly watched Takao losing his sanity. However, that didn’t last long as I realized the anime wasn’t really going anywhere in terms of character development. Some could argue that Takao changed completely from the first episode to the last, but when I took a deeper look I think that he was the same as ever. Sawa and Nanako obviously represented opposite sides of society. Despite playing such a heavy influence on Takao’s behavior they never seemed to have their own stories. If anything they were straying away from their character types and becoming unrealistic. Nanako for example started off as any high school student. She was meant to represent innocence and purity, however, she began to look more like a desperate, clingy and slightly psychotic individual. Aku no Hana’s base story of Nanako feeling violated from someone stealing her gym clothes seemed to completely vanish once Takao asked her on a date. It’s as though she completely threw away everything that happened to her because she cared about someone she barely spoke to. I wasn’t sure if the creators wanted to say that she tried to understand Takao because she’s “such a good person” or that even being around someone so unstable makes you unstable. Takao also seemed to completely throw away everything he built up about Nanako for no explicit reason. He was indecisive and unstable. This would have been alright if the series ended up being longer than thirteen episodes. From the very beginning he argued with Sawa that Nanako wasn’t a deviant, that he truly loved her and only saw her as an angel. Takao claimed that he would do nothing to hurt her and cared only to protect her. However, in the end he couldn’t do it yet still clung to his vision of Nanako being an angel. He was all talk and no action which infuriated me because character development is much more than just dialogue. It was as though the creators couldn’t decide which decision would give them the highest rating so they just left Takao in the middle to disappoint everyone. Honestly, I probably would have given this anime a much higher rating had he slipped into a life of disaster because at least then he would have had a character type besides flakey. I know some will argue that at the very end he does finally make a decision but to me that was a little too late because of the anticlimactic endings to crucial turning points.
The soundtrack of Aku no Hana was very well done especially with its haunting opening. Probably the best scene in an anime for a while was due to the background music of Aku no Hana. The terrifyingly beautiful sounds in episode seven as you saw Takao’s true nature made my chest tighten. It could not have done a better job showing the joys of becoming something different from the norm. The sounds of classical strings and primal drums mixed together in a fashion that made a statement about the innocent becoming tainted.
Final statements: Originally I was going to give this anime an avoid watch, but I decided to give it a low priority watch because it did a good job using a lot of untouched potential. Its biggest downfall was its non-relatable, unlikeable characters and poor story progression. It was a story about just Takao and his unique experiences. If I could have tied aspects of Aku no Hana to reality I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much more.