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In rebuilding bridges, we sometimes forget that past fires can be reignited just as easily. In a small town, the fires burn so much brighter.
In talking about “Aku no Hana” up to this point, I largely focused on what the “other side” and Kasuga’s journey have meant from a philosophical perspective. However, in doing so, I seem to have ignored the very obvious sexual themes that have been present since the first volume. While Kasuga may confused about his identity, a big part of that identity thus far has been his attraction to Saeki and Nakamura, and his confusion about who to choose.
Nakamura and “The Other Side”
While I do still think my interpretations from before are perfectly valid and make a lot of sense given the story of “Aku no Hana,” the large amount of focus on sexual themes give “the other side” a much more obvious meaning: having sex. In many cultures, not just ones found in the western hemisphere, sex is often looked down upon as sinful or morally incorrect.
While this has certainly become less common over time, it is still fairly common in a lot of rural areas, especially in the U.S.. This is often because these areas are less educated about issues involving sex, which results in less accepting attitudes. Admittedly, I am not hyper aware of the specific feelings of rural Japanese people towards sex, but it would not surprise me to find out there are negative attitudes about it.
This sort of interpretation would also better explain why Nakamura was so angry at Kasuga’s relationship with Saeki, and why she had asked him if they had done it so early on in their relationship.
Near the middle of the volume, Saeki’s friend Ai confronts her about Kasuga, saying that rather than being in love with him, she is simply in love with the idea of love, and only went out with him because he was the first to ask. Saeki’s reaction to this is, to say the least, negative. However, there appears to have been at least a grain of truth in that criticism, as Saeki is unable to respond in any concrete way, choosing instead to simply ride away on her bike.
The saying “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” also becomes extremely relevant here, as much like Kasuga seems to run away from his own lack of identity and confusion about his feelings, Saeki seems to do the same with Ai. Rather than dealing with the idea that maybe she did only like Kasuga because he showed interest in her, she instead doubles down on these feelings, meeting Kasuga in his base by the river.
She then asks if he and Nakamura have had sex, mirroring the scene from earlier in volume two. Saeki then forces herself onto Kasuga, kissing him and trying to take off his clothes. Kasuga then pushes her off, telling Saeki that he loves Nakamura, confirming the doubts she had been having since very early on. Later on, she then follows through on her threat of burning down the fort.
Abuse and Sexual Assault
Its become evident that while nobody among the three main characters is totally innocent, Kasuga seems to be getting the worst of it. For starters, he is continually abused by Nakamura, even when trying his hardest to make her happy. A good example of this happens near the end of this volume, when the two run away from the police officers for a second time, but Nakamura seems wholly uninterested in Kasuga’s well being. She simply walks off, leaving him crying and confused.
While Saeki’s intentions were to make Kasuga feel accepted and welcome, in reality, her attempt to have sex with him likely caused more feelings of confusion and anger, and ultimately leaving him even more lonely than before.
From the Ashes…
The last thing worth touching on for this volume is actually the last scene. Much like volume four, the final page of this volume is dripping with a lot of meaning. When the firefighters come to investigate the river after putting out the flames, underneath Nakamura’s chair one of the firefighters find her plan book, filled with all of the things she and Kasuga have done up until this point.
The chair here represents Nakamura’s seemingly normal if not slightly damaged exterior, vulgar but not out of the ordinary, whereas underneath that exterior lies a chaotic hatred of those around her, one in which she has also tangled Kasuga into. Her connection to Kasuga is further enforced by the flower that appears on the cover of “The Flowers of Evil,” the book that was originally the symbol of his identity.
What is arguably more interesting though is what the discovery of Nakamura’s journal means for her and Kasuga.
“Aku no Hana” is slowly and steadily becoming one of my favorite series. While I honestly can’t put much stock in that opinion given how little manga I have actually read, it is without a doubt one of the more thought-provoking things I have read in a while. The fact that I am not even halfway through the series is pretty exciting. Be sure to check in next week when I go over volume six.
How do you guys feel about volume five? Let me know in the comments below?
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