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In the end, there was no pleasure. A boy split between the normal and the distant. He tried to cross over, but his indecision left him stuck.
Aku no Hana is a weird series. I know at this point that might as well be the equivalent of saying “grass is green” or “the sky is blue,” but its worth reiterating since its story and characters seem to purposefully operate within that idea. Even despite the strange situation the main character Kasuga faces, it never seems to deviate from this question of normal. Anyway, here are my final thoughts.
A New Understanding of Nakamura
I recently realized that analysis of the series so far might be a bit off. Up until this point I assumed ill-intent from the character of Nakamura, used her criticism of normal as a way to write her off as jealous of freedom, when it is in fact Nakamura herself who seems to be the vanguard of such freedom, or at least that is how it seems now.
It is clear that, despite the things she has done up until this point, Oshimi wants us to view Nakamura as a sort of force for good. Rather than being a representation of the more conservative elements of society, Nakamura is in fact the more open and liberal one, someone whose ultimate goal could be interpreted as freeing herself, and by circumstance Kasuga, from the ways of old.
The only thing that stands for certain about her though is that she is indeed an agent of chaos, one who seeks to disrupt and escape life as she knows it. One might say she is…absurd.
“Aku no Hana” and Absurdism
The bountiful references to 20th-century french authors reminded me a lot of Albert Camus, the French author, journalist and philosopher who wrote on the idea of the Absurd. Simply put, The absurd is defined as “the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe.”
Kasuga is a character who is undoubtedly dealing with the Absurd. For all of the series thus far, Kasuga has tried to find meaning in living out his life in his small town. However, even despite trying to hide behind the intellect of others, Kasuga has failed to find a good reason as to why his existence has any meaning. He even admits this near the middle of the third volume, where he describes himself as “empty.”
Near the end of the manga, Kasuga is confronted with a choice: continue to the other side of the mountain with Nakamura, or go back home to his meaningless life with Saeki. Ultimately, though, he fails to make a decision, and because of this the three of them are caught by the police and are brought back home. Kasuga not only fails to make a decision but by effect fails to confront the Absurd. He is currently still stuck looking for meaning because he knows how hollow is really is.
Saeki and the Denial of Meaninglessness
When Saeki meets the two runaways on the mountain in the rain, she confronts the two of them, asking why Kasuga always seems to end up with her. Nakamura goes on her usual spiel, calling him a “shitbug” and a “pervert.” After that, Saeki tries to get him to come back, telling him that she does not care about what other people think, and that she is OK with the way Kasuga is. Saeki, though, also seems to cling to a sense of normal that Nakamura simply does not care for. As a result, she ends up clinging to him as a way of projecting her need for meaning, despite there not being any for Kasuga.
Good Pacing…I Think
One thing that stands out Oshimi’s work is just how much he knows how to pace a story. Each major reveal in the series feels like it has an adequate buildup, and not like he was rushed for time and just through something completely out. Each chapter thus far feels as though it has served a purpose to the wider story, which is more than I can say for some series even shorter than Aku no Hana.
Also, I am not sure if this was intentional or not, but the way the chapters are compiled make it so that each huge climax comes at the very end. While this may seem a bit repetitive, and probably is so tbh, it also makes the end of each volume feel like a real reward.
“Aku no Hana” does not seem to care about holding any punches. Its exploration of the absurd seems to be going full stop with no breaks. While it seems likely the characters will take some time to reflect in the next volume, that will likely come with some self-discovery, or at least I think it will. It really is hard to say given the series’ unpredictable nature. I hope you’ll join me next week as we continue on in this intriguing series.
How do you all feel about the series so far? Let me know in the comments below.
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