Category Archives: Observation Deck

Final Thoughts: Gleipnir

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

That was…better than I expected.

I have talked a lot about how when going into most shows, I tend to have little or no expectations as to what the show’s contents will be so I can give it a fair evaluation, but inevitably there will be some anime that spark such an interest that it inevitably leads to excitement. For me, “Gleipnir” was one of those shows.

Though, I will say that for this show most of my expectations were generated solely based on the show’s aesthetic and a strange connection I made between it and old “Amnesia” lets-plays from Markiplier. Just…don’t ask. So, how did the show live up to my oddly inspired expectations? Actually, pretty well.

For once, I was not betrayed by hopes of what the show could offer, even if most others would probably disagree with me as to the elements worthy of merit. With that being said, without stalling much longer, lets get into it.

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The Bad Stuff

Ok, so lets just start with what I do think the show did badly. First things first, for as much as she seemingly does in the show, Clair is not really that interesting. Like, I get that she is there to create juxtaposition and tension, specifically between Shuuichi and Elena. However, outside of that purpose, and also for the occasional random fanservice, she barely has a personality other than being sarcastic and mean. Like, the most important thing she does is help Shuuichi get back his memories by asking him when the last time he saw his parents.

The other bad thing about the show that I think can be justified somewhat is its ending. The show left off on what I have heard referred to by many as a “read the manga” ending, which is exactly what it sounds like. This makes it a lot less enjoyable since there is no clear resolution and a main villain yet to be fought who was introduced only episode before the end of the series. Still, I do not think it is as big a deal, because from what has happened so far, it feels as though there is a clear ending in mind based on what has happened so far.

Now, to cover my ass a bit, I did make a very similar criticism against “Beastars” when I finished its first season a while ago. The reason I think that criticism is more valid against a show like “Beastars” as opposed to “Gleipnir” is that it feels as though “Gleipnir” has earned has put a bit more complexity into the exploration of its own themes whereas “Beastars” felt like it was using its themes as a sort of backdrop to help move along its poorly developed characters and plot.

The Good Stuff

Pretty much everything else to be honest. Yeah, I said it. The show’s pretty good. Not really sure why the show is rated so poorly. The concept alone is interesting enough, with the battle royale style format mixed with a mission from an alien race and the ability to change people’s forms at will.

The powers themselves have all of the appeal of the Nen system from Hunter X Hunter, with forms people take on being a manifestation of their own, although in some cases other people’s, desires. In particular, the powers of the group that Shuuichi and Clair end up joining are pretty cool, especially Isao, who has the ability to grow plants by simply touching them.

I try not to comment on music too much because it is not my field of expertise, but I will say that the indie horror game ambience created by much of the soundtrack was a serious boon to my enjoyment of the show. The sound effects too were enjoyable and not at all irritating to listen to, which is a lot more than I can say for other series.

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Conclusion

As part of my renewed focus on seasonal shows, I wanted to clear out a few that I had yet to finish, and I still have “Kaguya-sama” and a few others to go. However, I am glad that I finished this show, in particular, as it left me with a great sense of enjoyment. While it certainly is not perfect, and there are definitely a few more things I could highlight that need improvement, it was fun.


How do you all feel about “Gleipnir?” Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts on Haikyuu: To the Top

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

For now, at least, its over.

The Karasuno high boys have overcome what is arguably their most tuff opponents to date, and despite growing tremendously as a team over the last three seasons, it took everyone’s combined effort to even stand a chance against Inarizaki and the Miyon twins. It was an emotional turbulent season filled with second hand embarrassment, hard works, and most deservedly, triumph. Thought its fifth season has yet to be confirmed by Production I.G., it seems fairly like that the series will get another season. Until that time comes, though, here are my thoughts on “Haikyuu: To the Top.

Hinata’s Endless Determination

It would not be “Haikyuu” without our loveable orange haired protagonist Hinata Shouyou. While Hinata does not feel much different from other shounen/sports anime protagonists, His determination does feel a bit more infectious for a sport like volleyball, where movement, accuracy, and game awareness can make much more of a difference in terms of who wins and loses.

Hinata starts the season with pretty much no skill other than jumping and spiking. However, even as he is left behind by Kageyama and Tsukishima, he is still determined to catch up. How does he accomplish this? Well, he…sneaks into the training camp that Tsukishima was invited to and tries to stay there… and then begs the coach to let him stay…yeah it gets pretty cringe.

Still, as cringe inducing as the first quarter of the show was, it helped to identify just how serious Hinata was about improving his play, and solidify him as a main character worth rooting for.

Insecurities

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One of the most interesting parts of the final match between Karasuno and Inarizaki was the amount of time that was spent on the players during the match, and how that time is used to reveal their insecurities with how they have been playing.

Tanaka, for example, spends a good portion of the match doubting his own spiking abilities because of how good there defense is. It is not until Kageyama calms him down that he is able to focus on game proper, and through that focus get some amazing points. The same can be said for Tsukishima and his defense. Being one of the tallest guys on the team, he is expected to be a good blocker, but his confidence does not rebound until Hinata eggs him on.

These are just examples though, as nearly every member of the team gets at least a moment or two that touches on their feelings during the match. Even a few members of Inarizaki get highlighted.

Kageyama’s Training

Kageayama’s time at the national volleyball meet also did a lot for setting up the story as well as events in the next season. As he arrives at the training center, he immediately meets Atsumu of the Miya twins, and from there, the series does a great job highlighting and foreshadowing there rivalry as setters.

It also helps that their personalities are pretty much total opposites. Both are certainly prideful of their setting skills, but whereas Kageyama tends to be more reserved focusing on matching his partner’s capabilities, Atsumu likes to show off, trying to create what he thinks is the “perfect set” every time. Atsumu’s personality is, of course, off-putting to Kageyama, but also to the other people around him.

Another figure who appears during this meet is the mysteriously vertical Hoshiumi, whose stature certainly matches Hinata’s, but definitely not his jumping ability. In fact, while Kageyama and Atsumu are playing a practice set, both stop to admire his raw height.

While Hoshiumi’s team has yet to face off against Karasuno, it will likely be an explosive match with him and Hinata at the center, pitting the two shortest members of each team against in each other in a battle to see who can get the most air.

Conclusion

This season of “Haikyuu” was undoubtedly the most dramatic and dynamic yet, with a final arc that put most of the one’s before it to shame. There was tension, endurance, rivalry, and pretty much anything a person would want in a good sports story. There is definitely more excitement to come, but it is hard to see how it will compare with what was undoubtedly the show’s high-point, even despite some lackluster animation because of COVID rushing. For those who are already “Haikyuu” fans and have yet to watch this season, well, what are you waiting for?


How do you guys feel about “Haikyuu: To the Top?” Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Considering almost everything that has happened under the Trump presidency, and even more recently within the Smash Bros community, my bar for controversy has been justifiably moved up, to the point where I am pretty detached from the day-to-day culture war BS, and honestly, I am pretty happy with myself for that, especially when I hear about “controversy” like this. Granted, I could be missing something significantly more important, as I was not actually there for the intial disputes, but as far as I am concerned, Uzaki-Chan’s controversy was nothing more than an unintentional mask to hide just how dull and uninteresting the show really is. With that being said, here are my final thoughts.

My Stance

I am willing to bet that 99% of people do not actually care what my opinion is, so for 1% who do, here is where I stand on the issue: while I do agree that the blood-drive art is kind of weird and that it probably should not have been used, if it actually succeeded in its goal of getting more people to donate necessary blood, than ultimately its fine. As for the character design itself, yeah I am not really on board with it either. While their are certainly women with that body type, many of whom I have met and been friends with, representing that body type in a positive way does not really seem to be the goal, but rather seems secondary (at best) to using the body type, and the thin veneer of a college setting as a way of attracting the attention of weirdos.

Still, this is not really that cut and dry of an issue, so I can understand why people might have a different opinion.

Uzaki-Chan as a Romantic-Comedy

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Again, if the show was more willing to explore these ideas around body positivity in a way that was decently well-written, I would be more willing to give Uzaki as a character a pass. However, the show makes pretty much zero attempts to do this, instead mostly relying on typical anime Romantic Comedy tropes. Sakurai is the mostly typical meat-headed main character, who, in this series at least, somewhat recognizes that their might be a chance at romance between him and Uzaki but still does almost nothing to progress towards it.

Uzaki, meanwhile, underneath the layers of controversy is just Tsundere with a larger than average chest. She does not have much in the way of a distinctive personality, and the only thing that really sets her apart from most of the other sub-par Tsundere characters is her high-pitched, almost chipmunk-esc voice, provided by Naomi Oozora.

Everyone else in the cast is even less memorable, to the point where I am struggling to remember their names even after only finishing the show two days ago (as of the writing of this post).

Conclusion

I genuinely wish I had anything else to say about the show, but to be honest nothing else about it, aside from its admittedly uncommon college setting, is even worth talking about. I will not deny that their are some endearing moments between Uzaki and Sakurai that almost make the show worth it, but unfortunately those moments feel too few and far between for me to recommend this show in good conscious. If you have exhausted literally all of your other Rom-Com options and are just looking for anything to satify that craving, than sure, check it out. Otherwise, yeah I would just steer clear of this one.


How do you all feel about Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana 11

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In the end, the boy lived on.
What was once his roller-coaster confidence barely making it up the hill
became a stable, boat-ride happiness, as he rode over his shallow fears.
His past became and ocean breeze: ever-present, but uncontrolling, 
and his flower of evil shriveled away in the salty water. 

Absolutely…incredible. From the first page to the last, I had no idea how the series was going to conclude or even if it would stay in the direction it was headed, and yet…I still came out of it enjoying nearly every second of it. Sure, there were parts that made very little sense, both in this volume and others, but there is still a lot of good to talk about. With that said, here are my final thoughts on the last volume of “Aku no Hana.”

Who is Sawa Nakamura?

After finding at her new house, and Tokiwa yelling to get Kasuga a chance to talk with her, the three meet on the beach at sunset. After having asked a series of questions about their time back then, and Nakamura basically responding with “Idk” to all of it, Kasuga becomes upset. Kasuga starts tackling her, at which point he tells her that he is “glad she is still around. Nakamura them tackles him back, but what looks like a violent outbreak turns out to be just the three of them goofing around on the beach, as Tokiwa gets dragged in as well.

Probably what is most striking about this final volume is high school Nakamura’s last line: “Don’t ever come back, you normal man.” There have been a lot of running themes throughout the series, including abuse, mental health, societal outcasts, etc. Why this line stand out, however, is because of the final chapter. It is shown that Nakamura’s perspective during their time in middle school, at least at one point, was that Kasuga was different, was like her. She was under the impression that the two had the same perception. However, it became obvious to her later on that this was not the case, and was like part of the reason she pushed him out of the fire, even if she says she “doesn’t remember.”

While I am on the topic of analyzing dialogue, I should also mention that this series has given me the impression that there is something being lost in translation. While I have been studying Japanese at my university, I do not yet have the amount of cultural knowledge and understanding to even begin to deduce what the missing context might be, so this is all just speculative.

Sawa Nakamura still remains a mystery. From her first appearance to her last, her warped view of the world seemingly has little grounded explanation, but ultimately, I think that comes from

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The Ending.

If I were to honestly complain about one element of the story, even if its mainly in a very nitpicking manner, it would probably be the ending. For what its worth though, I do not even think it is a bad ending. However, I feel like the last two chapters lacked a lot of impact, for a couple of reasons.

The first is order. Having the flashback to Nakamura’s perception of middle school be the last chapter of the book felt a bit off, because it honestly does not tell anything that was not already heavily implied by Oshimi already. If he were going to add this chapter, which it is debatable as to whether or not its worth having to begin with, it feels like it should have been placed sometime right before Kasuga and Tokiwa and went to Nakamura’s new home.

Additionally, having Kasuga begin to write down his story when he wakes up from his extremely vivid dream would cement what appears to be the core theme of the series: that your past does not have to define you provided you are willing to conquer it.

Granted, I could definitely understand the view that having Nakamura’s perspective be the last chapter better fits with the overall tone, but it still feels pretty underwhelming.

A World Beyond the Past

It is over. Everything is now in the past, but not in a way that haunts Kasuga anymore. He has a girlfriend that loves him, a friend that supports him, and a future to look forward to. The second to last chapter reveals where he dreams of having a kid with Tokiwa, along with seeing a few other people from his hometown, including Saeki and her childhood best friend. After he wakes up, he decides to start writing down the events of his life, following the wishes of Tokiwa.

I think another big lesson here at the end of it all is that overcoming trauma does not have to be and individual act. It can be hard to face things or people who have hurt you, even more so when you haven’t seen them in a while. However, if you have someone there who is willing to stick it out with you, it is possible to get through a lot more than usual.


Alright, so I know I said in the volume 10 post that I would be doing a final wrap up of sorts, but, tbh, I am still not sure if that is something that needs to happen. I might just include a brief section in my update post later this week. Otherwise, thanks for reading. If you would like to finish the series with me, consider using my affiliate link below to get “Aku no Hana.”

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts Aku no Hana Volume 10

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

"A closet filled with bones is no place 
to build new memories," said the boy, no longer
able to hold his own closet closed. 
And so, he let it all out...

This week, in order to finish up with “Aku no Hana,” I’ll be doing a final two part, meaning Sunday we’ll dive into the final volume of the series. After that, I’ll post a sort of recap talking about the series a little more depth, as well as explaining my overall feelings. With that being said, man this week was a lot. What looked to be Kasuga’s opportunity to run away from his problems instead turned into his final stand against his dark past. Let’s get started.

A Return Home

At the beginning of the volume, Kasuga makes his way back home in order to see his grandfather for the last time. While at the hospital, Kasuga leaves his grandfather’s room in order to check his phone and clear his mind. However, by the time he comes back, his grandfather has already passed. Before Kasuga is able to leave the hospital, he is stopped by one of his cousins, who tells him he is the reason grandpa died, and all Kasuga can really do is apologize.

The scene mirrors a lot of the feeling of volume seven, where everyone finds out about what Kasuga and Nakamura did, and Kasuga and his parents go to apologize to the principal. However, the difference here is that Kasuga is not planning on running away. His apology here is not an excuse, its part of his vow to do better, and to become a changed person.

That being said, his cousin’s anger is understandable, given everything that happened. It probably caused his grandfather a lot of stress to see one of his grandsons going around acting insane, whether or not it was his fault. Still, getting blamed for someone’s death is pretty serious, and I think it only encourages Kasuga to face his past quicker.

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Encountering Kinoshita

While at the funeral, Kasuga see’s Kinoshita, Saeki’s friend from middle school. When the two first meet, Kinoshita says “long time no see” in very obviously cold and unattached way. Before she leaves, Kasuga rushes over to apolgize, only for Kinoshita to invite him out later in the evening. The two meet at a family diner, and after Kinoshita leaves and comes back, Kasuga asks why she came to the funeral.

At first, it feels like there is supposed to be a lot more tension in the scene than there actually is. After all, Kasuga did ruin her best friend’s life, in a way. However, it becomes fairly the clear that most of the people involved in that situation long ago just want to forget and move on. This makes sense though, considering the fact that this is the first time Kinoshita is seeing Kasuga in over three years.

Kinoshita responds by telling him she does not know, and only came because she went with her mom. Despite how obvious this lie is, the story confirms it when she starts breaking down over losing her friend Saeki and being stuck in the same town for so long. Before she leaves Kasuga, Kinoshita gives him a parting gift: information on Nakamura’s whereabouts.

Another interesting contrast that comes through in the writing is the way that both Kasuga and those who left his hometown are considerably happier than those who stayed, and that his grandfather’s funeral, the event bringing him back to his hometown, is the thing that is making him sad. Now, obviously this is because its a funeral, but it still serves as a good representation of why Kasuga wants to cut ties so bad: because all his hometown brings him is misery.

The Truth Revealed

Eventually, Kasuga returns home, Nakamura’s location in hand. He gets back to his happy life with Tokiwa, and his friends, but he cannot enjoy it.

The day after he gets back, Tokiwa invites him back to her house and reveals her finished novel to Kasuga. Even though he is filled to joy by this, Kasuga turns down reading her novel, and instead tells her about his long and complicated past. At first, she is confused, telling Kasuga to leave, to which he says he won’t, and tells her that, despite knowing it is egotistical of him to do so, he still wanted to tell her about what happened in his hometown, so that he could move on and keep her in his life.

She then rips up her novel and runs off down the street. Kasuga chases her down, hold her, and says he won’t let go. The two kiss, and Tokiwa vows to go see Nakamura with him.

This scene in particular is probably one of my favorites in the series so far. For starters, it again serves to contrast an earlier part of the story. Whereas Nakamura pushes Kasuga away, thus allowing herself to get caught before the two light themselves on fire, Tokiwa decides to stick with him, even after hearing about his past. On top of that, it serves as the final test as to whether or not he is series about facing his past. If Kasuga wanted to, he could have simply not told Tokiwa, and the two likely would have continued on, but he would never really be satisfied with himself.

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Kasuga’s Final Boss

The two lovers spend the start of their spring looking for Nakamura. The information Kasuga got from Kinoshita mentioned that Nakamura was now living with her mom in a small town, working at an eatery. The two travel their by train, eventually arriving and finding the eatery relatively quickly. As the two sit down to eat and order their food, in walks the girl of the hour. After she gives Kasuga and Tokiwa their food, Kasuga reveals himself, only for Nakamura to give her sinister smile right at him, and then the volume ends.

The way Nakamura responds to seeing Kasuga after so long seems to imply a couple of things. One is that she has not really changed much personality wise. In fact the only thing different about her so far is her looks. The second is that she seems to be unaffected by the events of three years ago.

However, the key word hear is seems. Nakamura was hiding a lot of trauma herself, and ultimately ended up using Kasuga as an outlet for that pain, which is why Kasuga feels so conflicted about her even after all this time. It is entirely possible that the reality is much different.

Conclusion

Only time will tell when it comes to Nakamura’s character. However, in the meantime, I have to say that this volume was indeed amazing. The buildup and finishing of plot threads throughout the volume is incredible, and the ending with Kasuga finally meeting Nakamura after so long was executed tremendously.


Thank you all for reading. If you would like to read along with me, consider getting the series yourself on Bookwalker using my affiliate link below:

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Nine

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Sometimes, its hard to tell if its really the eye that's calmer than the storm.
After all, when you've lived with so much noise for so long, silence can be scary. 
Then again, it can be hard to go back to the past you though you escaped,
especially when happiness you worked so hard for feels more fragile than glass.
I guess, maybe, the storm is safer sometimes.

“Change is scary” is a sentiment that even toddlers understand, despite not being able to verbalize it. Doing something new, whether getting a new job, marrying someone, buying a house, can be uncertain, and our brains are programmed to be cautious of the unknown. Today, I’ll be talking about “Aku no Hana” volume nine, where Kasuga arguably goes through the biggest change of the entire series.

Kasuga

There is a lot to say about Kasuga’s character, but the most notable thing is just how depressing he really is. Now, this is not meant as a knock against the story, quite the opposite, in fact, as Oshimi does a great job at portraying just how mentally unwell Kasuga really is.

While walking home on Christmas Eve, kasuga makes his way back to his apartment, only to arrive there and then turn around, walking towards Tokiwa’s house. While standing there Kasuga begins talking to his shadow, and it tells him that he is “weak” and “has always been dependent on others.” He then sees the ghost of Nakamura from his past, and a mansion much like the one in Tokiwa’s novel. From there, he vows to free Tokiwa from the ghosts that are haunting her, recognizing just how similar the two really are.

One frame that really exemplifies this well comes on page 65, where Kasuga looks up inside the mansion only to see two empty shells that look exactly like himself and Tokiwa. Not only does it add to the feel of the scene, which is incredibly horrifying from Kasuga’s perspective, but also serves as a nice symbol of how hollow they both feel, and also how they use fiction to hide away from the reality of their sadness.

He…did it? Huh…

Immediately following this horrific dream, Kasuga goes to Tokiwa’s work and confesses his love to her. After hearing his confession, Tokiwa tells Koji that she can no longer go out with him, and then proceeds to quit and leave with Kasuga.

The whole scene feels like an out of body experience. After all, Kasuga spends the entirety of the series up until this point being unhappy, depressed and scared about both his future and his past. Seeing him finally work up the courage to put his own happiness first makes it feel like another dream that was going to be revealed at the end of the volume. Luckily, though, it was not.

Conquering Fear

The manga ends after a time skip to the end of Kasuga’s second year, with the two of them still happily together. Tokiwa mentions that it would be interesting to see Kasuga’s home town. Kasuga thinks it would just be boring. However, after his dad finds out that his brother is passing away, and needs to return back to Gunma, Kasuga decides that now is the time to face his fears.

What will be most interesting to see in these next two volumes is whether or not Kasuga runs into Sakamura, and whether or not that affects his mental state. After all, he’s incredibly happy about his life for the first time in a long time. Tokiwa is someone who genuinely cares for him, and his relationship with his parents seems to be getting much better. However, despite this manga’s already unpredictable nature, I am willing to bet that he will be much better off on the other end.

Conclusion

Whatever happens in the next volume, needless to say it is going to be interesting, at the very least. I hope you all will join me next week as I continue on to volume ten, where Kasuga presumably ends up back in his home town.


How did you feel about this week’s volume of “Aku no Hana?” Let me know in the comments.

If you would like to get this volume yourself and read along with me, feel free to use my affiliate link below:

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Eight

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

To be lost, without an identity
To be haunted, by those from your past.
To be stranded, abandoned by those who are supposed to love you. 

A boy without a home, hiding behind the pages of books. 

It is getting harder and harder each week to introduce such an incredible series. Every volume goes in a completely different direction than the one before it, and yet “Aku no Hana” still works as a cohesive series. What it is buiding to is something I still genuinely do not know, as I have been avoiding any discussion of the series online or with friends. As for volume eight, though, here are my final thoughts.

The Hair!

One of my favorite things about reading a good series is finding the little pieces of symbolism that are often times hidden in plain sight, and I think Oshimi did a great job with this. For “Aku no Hana,” the most obvious mini-symbol are the characters’ hair. Oshimi uses Nakamura’s original hairstyle as a reminder of her presence even when she is not in the scene itself. One good example is when Saeki cut her hair right before she went over to Kasuga’s house in a last ditch effort to get him to change course. There, she had Nakamura’s hairstyle, which was both a tool used by Saeki to get his attention and a reminder of how important Nakamura is.

However, more recently, Kasuga also has his hair in Nakamura’s style. This serves as a symbol of Kasuga’s longing for her, and also how he still sees himself in her. On top of that, the hairstyle could also be seen as a reminder of Nakamura’s personality, being someone who always demanded the attention of others, and was not afraid to be loud and rebellious.

While the hair style itself is not a particularly technical element of the story, it is one of those small things that helps to really tie the overall narrative together, and adds a deeper layer even when there appears to be not much else going on.

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Saeki’s Return

I honestly thought it would be a little bit later that either Saeki or Nakamura would get reintroduced, but it makes a lot of sense.

While walking home with Tokiwa and talking about her novel, the two pass by Saeki and her new boyfriend. The four talk for a bit, and then Kasuga and Saeki exchange contact info, only for Saeki to invite Kasuga out the same night. The two then go out for lunch the next day. The two start by having a normal conversation, but it quickly moves to the topic of their past. It becomes clear that the two of them are yet to be completely over the past.

One of the more interesting revelations during this conversation is that Kasuga has yet to try and contact Nakamura in any capacity. While it could be argued how much ability he has to actually get in contact with her, the reality is that Kasuga’s reluctance to find Nakamura is much more of a mental block than a physical one.

On the one hand, Kasuga obviously misses who he thinks is the one person he ever had a real connection with, maybe even the first real feeling of love. However, with those first feelings also came hardships and sadness. In many ways Nakamura ruined his life just as much as she might have made it better.

Saeki’s accusation still rings somewhat true, that Kasuga merely used Nakamura as a way to escape his own emptiness and depression. Now, Kasuga wants to start again, but first he has to deal with his feelings about the past. He can not get to attached to

Tokiwa.

Tokiwa is another reminder for Kasuga of Nakamura. Not only does she have that very similar hairstyle, the two also look incredibly similar more generally speaking. More importantly though, Tokiwa can be seen as representative of Kasuga’s internal struggle. She is both a reminder of his past, as well as a gateway to a new normal.

I said a few lines ago that things will get complicated if Kasuga acts on his feelings for her, but I think that part is pretty obvious. What will happen after that is a bigger mystery, one that I can confidently say I do not have the answer to.

Conclusion

The end of the series is fast approaching. In just three more volumes I will finally reach the end of this series, and yet it still has kept its charm and mystery throughout these first eight volume, which is a testament to just how good “Aku no Hana” really is. Their really is a density of meaning hidden throughout the series that reveals more and more each time I read it, which is part of why it has become so much fun to write about. I hope you all will join me next week when I continue on to volume nine.


How do you all feel about this volume? Let me know in the comments. If you want to follow along with me, feel free to use the link below to buy this volume:

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Seven

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Different stage, same dance.
A performance fit only for myself, 
with an audience who doesn't know what acting is.
That is, until I met this girl.
She reminded me of someone I danced for in a different life.
Now, I don't know what to do.

Between getting ready to go back to school and hosting my first ever online writing competition, It has been a stressful last week and a half to say the least. However, despite its story being almost anything but, “Aku no Hana” has very much become a tool of relaxation. Time and time again I think I have solved its mystery when it fact I come away with more questions. This is even more true in volume seven, where the small town of “shitbugs” has become a city filled with new opportunity. Here are my final thoughts.

The Seperation

In a final act of defiance against their small town and all those who inhabit it, Kasuga and Nakamura attempt to burn themselves alive. However, at the last second, Nakamura pushes Kasuga out of the way and attempts to only burn herself, causing both of them to be caught.

In the last volume, Kasuga’s principal brought up the fact that he might be being manipulated by Nakamura. Of course, Kasuga firmly rejected this, choosing only to see the good in her that simply needed saving.

There is certainly a gray line to be found here. While it is definitely true that, at least initially, Kasuga was being manipulated into many of the actions he performed, it is also possible that some of the feelings he developed for Nakamura were genuine, or at least were motivated by something other than just her manipulation. Still, it is hard to entirely remove the Stockholm Syndrome element.

Regardless of those facts, though, it is clear that Kasuga longs for Nakamura, even despite wanting to start over again. It is a good thing he meets

Tokiwa, Aya

I have done a ton of psycho-analyzing of both the characters and author of “Aku no Hana,” not because everything necessarily has to be, but more because I think it helps to understand what this story is about. There have been a lot of themes in this story, from abuse to manipulation, what it means to exist outside of societal expectations, and even dealing with a lack of identity, all stemming centrally from the relationship of Kasuga and Nakamura.

The introduction of Tokiwa represents a shift in Kasuga’s attitude towards himself. In the beginning of the story, Kasuga’s love of books actually represents a lack of self-identity, not because he did not like to read, but because what he chose to read was indicative of the projection of self-worth that was not there. His identity was, in fact, passed down to him by his father, who also simultaneously pushed a level of expectation on Kasuga.

Tokiwa, instead, offers him and avenue through which to rediscover his original love of books. Rather than forcing on him any high expectations, she simply gives him a book to borrow and allows him to have fun.

One other thing worth contrasting here is the way in which Kasuga first enters Nakamura’s home vs Tokiwa’s. Entering someone’s home, in literary terms, represents a willingness to let someone into one’s life, a formalization of a relationship, if you will. In Nakamura’s case, Kasuga had to be invited inside by her dad, while she was not even there. However, Tokiwa felt more than comfortable inviting him over, and even let Kasuga into her room almost without hesitation.

It is clear based on just this difference alone that Nakamura was trying to keep Kasuga out, or rather at a distance, while Tokiwa is more than willing to accept him into her life.

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Kasuga’s Future

It is not entirely clear where the story is going from here. Much like the the rest of the story so far, the future is always blurry, which makes sense.

Still, despite what is clearly the collapse of his home life, with his father becoming an unabashed drunk and his mom seemingly unable to due anything about it, Kasuga appears to be more or less stabilizing. What at the beginning of the volume was a foreign land has now become his new home.

Conclusion

The world around Kasuga has gone bleak, at least for the current moment. Tokiwa has offered him a glimmer of hope, even if it means likely having to deal with Tokiwa’s boyfriend in the process. Whether or not his relationship with Tokiwa works out is likely the key to his happiness moving forward. Join me next week when we find out what happens.


If you want to follow along with me, or really get any kind of light novel/manga in e-book format, feel free to use my affiliate link for Bookwalker and help me out. It would be greatly appreciated.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Six

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

“Aku no Hana” as a series has only continued to impress me as time goes on. It has a fantastic albeit simplistic art style, wonderful pacing and suspense building, and characters that have legitimately left me guessing for the past 3 volumes now. It is a thriller in all the right ways, not only building up dramatic moments, but also subtly introducing a number of philosophical and political concepts in a way that makes the story worth thinking about. With that being said, here are my final thoughts on volume six.

The Beginning of the End

The story of “Aku no Hana” has officially reached its halfway point, it looks as though everything is coming crashing down, for Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki. At the beginning of the volume, Kasuga has not seen Nakamura for over a week. At this point, while sitting in his room alone, wondering what will become of him and Nakamura, police officers show up looking to ask questions. Kasuga, wanting to protect himself, says he knows nothing, at which point the officers leave.

It is clear at this point that Kasuga is commited to both the vague idea of “the other side” and, much more importantly, Nakamura. We will come back to this.

Kasuga Confronting His Parents

Later in the night, after the police leave, Kasuga attempts to leave his house despite being grounded by his parents. His dad catches him, which leads to the first ever time that Kasuga ever really confronts his dad.

One thing that I missed in my analysis early on was the sort of respectability politics embodied by his parents, and how Kasuga’s initial love of books was passed down to him by his dad, more specifically his love of “The Flowers of Evil.” In this way, Kasuga’s parents are the normalcy and order that Kasuga hopes to escape through Nakamura and “the other side.”

Throughout the volume, Kasuga’s mom constantly wonders what it is she did wrong, why Kasuga turned out the way he did. However, something interesting gets mentioned when

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They go to the principal.

After being confronted by Saeki’s friends Ai, Kasuga finally decides to fess up, going to the principal’s office with his parents. While there, he and his parents discuss why exactly he did the things he did.

Almost immediately after learning about Kasuga’s involvement with Nakamura, the principal suggests that Kasuga was manipulated by her into doing the horrible things he did. Given the information that’s been revealed up until this point, the relationship between the two of them does seem really especially manipulative on Nakamura’s end. It is easy to forget that she was the one who blackmailed him in the first place.

However, from Kasuga’s perspective, Nakamura genuinely cares for him and is trying to get him out of a terrible situation, living with a bunch of “shit bugs.” We will come back to this as well.

Saeki’s Final Stand

In one last attempt to keep him from ending up with Nakamura, Saeki visits Kasuga while he is grounded. The two go up to his room and Saeki tells him to turn himself in with almost zero hesitation. Of course, Kasuga gets angry, saying that Saeki does not know what she is talking about. She responds, though, by saying that when the two were holding each other close Nakamura was trembling.

This of course creates a certain level of doubt in Kasuga. After all, if Nakamura really is not who he thought she is, that what is he to do? It ends up not being enough, but as it turns out, what Saeki said was true.

Also of note in this scene is that Saeki has cut her hair to be much shorter. While this might be insignificant, it could be representative of her trying to be more like Nakamura in order to get Kasuga’s attention.

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The Big Reveal

Remember how I said in the last post that while everyone is guilty of a lot, Nakamura is certainly guilty of the most? As it turns out, there is a reason.

In the second to last chapter, Nakamura breaks into Kasuga’s home and the two escape. They ride off on Kasuga’s bike and enter an abandoned building, upon which she has him take off his clothes, and then tells him that she would peel off the rest of his skin. After going at him violently, she then collapses on top of him, saying that “shit bugs” and “the other side” are not real because ” ’cause no matter where I go, I can’t get rid of me.”

This scene, along with the last chapter, heavily imply that Nakamura has some kind of mental illness, whether that be depression, anxiety, etc, and that she has not been able to get any kind of help for it. This would explain her angry outbursts and obsession with making others feel bad, because she is largely insecure about herself. It is also outright stated that the two plan on killing themselves together in front of the people at the festival.

Conclusion

There is a lot going on in this volume. The battle for Kasuga is more than lost at this point, with Nakamura having his full, undivided attention. Moreover, Kasuga has made the decision to stick with Nakamura even if it means ruining there future. The two have become a sort of Bonnie and Clyde-esk pair who are willing to risk it all for the sake of each others happiness… at least that is what I would like to think.

The reality is probably much different. Only time will tell, though, so be sure to tune in next week as well when we go over volume seven.


How did you all feel about this volume? Let me know in the comments.

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Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Five

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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.

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Saeki’s Revenge

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.

Conclusion

“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?

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!