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In this town, where the weak roam clueless, and those who know charge forward, the absurd no longer reigns supreme.
If the end of volume three was the series first real climax, then volume four is its first new beginning. Whereas before Kasuga was unable to make a decision, remaining defined by his emptiness, he has instead chosen to pursue a new path, one in which he is fully committed to Nakamura, both as a person and as a set of ideas. As for volume four, here are my Final Thoughts.
The End is a New Beginning
At the start of the fourth volume, about a month after the incident on the mountain, Ai confronts Kasuga about avoiding Saeki along with Saeki herself. Kasuga, still feeling empty, is unable to talk to Saeki, saying simply that she would find someone much better than himself, to which she simply replies by saying the two should break up.
At this point, Kasuga is still undecided. As I talked about last time, his inability to choose between Saeki and Nakamura ultimately reflects a struggle as to whether or not he can confront the absurd. His choice to hide behind books, acting as though he is better than those around him, is one that ultimately has left him empty and alone, unable to even decipher who he is as a person. Which leads me to another interesting interpretation…
Kasuga as Academia/The General Public
In the first three volumes of the series, Kasuga’s only real personality trait is reading books. Almost nothing else about him, not his other hobbies, his favorite food, favorite place, etc. is ever talked about. This seems to indicate that Kasuga is also not just a character but rather a representation of something else.
My first thought was that Kasuga’s character seems to be a criticism of academics, with books being a simple symbolic stand in for knowledge. Oshimi’s criticism is that those in academia often hide behind there specialized knowledge as a way of acting superior to others, when in reality they are often just as unsure of themselves as even the most uneducated among us, if not more so.
However, the criticism could also be much broader than that. Kasuga also seems as though he could be a stand in for the average person, who tries to hide behind rational thinking as a way to ignore the fact that there are some thing humans simply do not have the ability to understand.
Both of these, I think, are valid criticisms. While I am by no means an expert in psychology, it does not take a degree to understand that everyone has different coping mechanisms. For some, simply denying that there is a problem seems to be the case. Those who know a lot, or at least think they know a lot, are likely more prone to this type of coping when confronted with something they do not know, because it simply does not make sense, in their eyes, that there is something they do not know.
This is not to say that this is a widespread problem, only that it is a real one.
Arguably the most interesting part of the volume, like most of the series thus far, is the end. The final two pages contrast a crying Saeki with a rather content Kasuga and Nakamura. While Saeki feels alone, sitting outside in the darkness, Her two friends are sitting inside a make shift fort, lit by a burning pair of panties and a copy of “The Flowers of Evil” Saeki says that “[she] can’t bear it anymore,” likely referring to her remaining feelings for Kasuga, which are so strong that she could not help but break down while Ai comes to see if she is ok.
Kasuga and Nakamura, though, have moved on. Represented by the burning objects, Kasuga has sacrificed his common decency and shield of knowledge to find his own meaning, a meaning that exists outside his dull life in a small town. He has finally made his choice.
While this volume may not be the most exciting of the ones so far, or even really the series, in terms of its meaning, it is a vitally important part of the story of “Aku no Hana,” and one that likely defines the message of the series. Still, there is much more to the series, and I am exicted to see where it goes. Tune in next week as we continue to cover this fantastic manga.
How do you all feel about “Aku no Hana?” Let me know in the comments.
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