Tag Archives: Aku no Hana

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume 4

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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…

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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.

The Affirmation

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.

Conclusion

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.

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 Three

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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.

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“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.

Conclusion

“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.

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 Two

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In this small town, 
secrets live and die among only a select few.
The egos of many are so frail they need a paperweight.
Fantasy sometimes becomes so powerful that the ground 
dissapears under the veil of night.

“Aku no Hana” is without a doubt one of the stranger series I have read/watched. In a lot of ways, it feels like I should hate it, and yet the more I read the more I can’t help but get absorbed into the madness of it all. Apart from the first chapter, the second volume was almost nothing like I expected it to be. There are so many unknown variables, the biggest one being Nakamura, that it sometimes feels like the series is doing a 360 just to add a layer of confusion. Anyway, here are my final thoughts.

And the Story Continues

It was not enough for Nakamura to simply make Kasuga’s life miserable, nor is it likely that it will ever be enough, and as a result, she continues to make him feel the weight of his guilt. In this volume alone she nearly reveals Saeki’s clothes by pooring water on Kasuga while he’s on a date, becomes friends with Saeki as a way of making Kasuga worry, suggests to Kasuga that Saeki wants to have sex with him, and in the fairly infamous scene, forces him to write out all of the things he has done across their homeroom.

Meanwhile, Kasuga attempts to live his life normally while forming a relationship with Saeki. However, Nakamura’s antics cause him so much stress that right after he and Saeki begin dating, he says that he “hasn’t felt this free in years.” The relationship between Kasuga and Nakamura on its own already brings out a lot of tension, but when you add in the implications on Kasuga’s life on top of it, it becomes clear just how deep that tension really runs.

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Nakamura

I mentioned in my last post about “Aku no Hana” that Nakamura as a character seems to be representative of something more, of a society that only wishes to shame others for deviating from a designated cultural norm. The second volume provides another big piece of evidence for this.

In the classroom scene at the end of the volume, as Nakamura attempts to run away and calls Kasuga a coward, she mentions how society is obsessed with sex. However, instead of coming off as a serious criticism, it seems to come more from a place of jealously. In this scene, Nakamura represents a more conservative element of society that hates the emotional freedom that comes from modern society, not for any principled reason, but rather because those same elements lacked that freedom when they were younger.

Even more generally though, Nakamura could also be seen as representing the lack of freedom people had to pursue their own interests when they were younger, and the need to control others because of it. The message still feels a little weird coming from a series with the subject matter that it has, but nonetheless is still an important one.

Kasuga

On the other side of this interaction is Kasuga, who, after being manipulated by Nakamura, finally rebels, at least in a way. To keep Nakamura in the classroom, he does what she says, writing out his moral failures on not only the chalkboard but across the entire classroom, leaving it covered in black ink and descriptions of his endeavors. In a way, by fully admitting to the things he’s done, mainly stealing Saeki’s gym clothes, he is freed from her manipulation and can go on living without having to worry about what others think.

Still, part of me believes ultimately that this is actually what Nakamura wanted all along. By getting Kasuga to admit his guilt in a big display of passion, she can make him feel even worse, knowing full well that the shame will come rushing back as he falls from high of rebellion.

By the way, I guess I should take some time just to say that whenever I write these Final Thoughts posts on individual volumes, I never read ahead, so all of this is speculation, meaning everyone is totally free to make fun of me in the comments for how wrong I am provided there are no spoilers. So, have fun with that.

Conclusion

While I honestly thought this volume’s pace was going to be a lot worse, I am very happy about how wrong I was. the show just continues to build and build, allowing the reader to dive deeper into the madness and then feel the climax near the end. All of it is extremely well written, and on top of all the suspense, author Shuzo Oshimi forces people to contend with some pretty uncomfortable ideas. It is honestly hard to say where the series will go from here, but I am excited to continue, so be sure to come back next week as we dive in further.


Hope you all enjoyed the little poem at the beginning. I’m trying to make my posts a little more flavorful/personal, so I hope that added something more interesting. What do you all think of Aku no Hana? Let me know in the comments.

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 One

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

It seemed like, back when it aired in the spring of 2013, almost everyone was talking about “Aku no Hana.” Most of this was because of the series’ terrible rotoscoping and frankly horrid animation. Studio Zexcs definitely dropped the ball on that one. However, that was not the only reason people were seriously talking about it. “Aku no Hana” also presents within its story a pretty interesting theme, one that focuses on what really counts as perversion.

What is Perversion?

For those unaware, “Aku no Hana.” focuses on Takao Kasuga, a middle school boy with a love for books and bad grades. One day, after everyone goes home from school, Takao finds himself alone in his classroom, and notices the gym clothes of his crush Nanako Saeki. In a moment of non-existent self-control, Takao rushes home with Nanako’s clothes under his shirt. After doing this, he is approached by Sawa Nakamura, who tells Takao that she saw him take Nanako’s clothes. From their, Sawa continues to blackmail him.

The story and the message of “Aku no Hana” are actually pretty simple. It is easy to look at others as weird or different because their interests or “lifestyle choices” are different from the norm. From that perspective Takao is not actually that bad of a person. Ultimately, what he did was fairly minor, although still pretty creepy, caused very little material harm. Still, much in the same way that a story like “Lolita” tries to paint its main character Humbert as more sympathetic, it feels weird to do the same with a character like Takao, even if he is just a middle school kid.

Perversion and the Real World

Sorry, lol, but if you somehow expected this to be apolitical, then welcome you must be new to this blog. Hi there.

Despite “Aku no Hana’s” story not being the best argument for its message, its message is important. Many minority groups have been affected by describing their lives as “perverted” or “an abomination in the eyes of god.” One good example of this is interracial couples. Up until the mid to late 90’s, the majority of people in the U.S. actually dissaproved of marriage between a black and white couples. While this fact alone is not all that surprising given U.S. history on race, it is worth noting that many of the arguments against interracial marriage were from religious groups that called it a perversion.

The same holds true for members of the LGBTQ community and especially trans individuals. Even 2020, where not only has marriage for LGBTQ individuals been guaranteed under the law but also now job security has as well, many among fundamentalist religious people still think that the existence of these people is, in fact, a perversion of gods image, despite the fact that being gay or trans is completely natural.

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Ok, That’s Cool, But is it Good?

Well…tbh, yeah. While the message is, to say the least, a bit of a miss-match for the content, there is no denying the allure of a story like “Aku no Hana.” It is a tragedy that not only draws people in with its strange and yet surprisingly deep set-up, but continues to escalate even within the first volume. From chapter’s one to six the story gets more and more intense as the pressure builds on Takao’s conscious, slowly sprouting from a seed to a fully grown flower of evil.

…and the Characters?

Of all of the characters that have been introduced so far, Sawa Nakamura is by far the most interesting. She is introduced as an outcast, someone with no friends who is mainly content to just bully people, especially Takao. Her motives in all this, aside from just seeing the whole world burn, are unclear. However, she also seems to be more than just a sadistic bully. Sawa also seems to representative of society, one which wants to see those whom they deem perverted to suffer, which fits nicely with the manga’s theme.

Takao is, well, he’s there. Aside from being someone entirely interesting in his own right, he serves as the classic tragic hero, who lives only to fall, or something poetic like that I guess. It does make sense though, as Kasuga seems to be much more self-aware then the average manga protagonist. That self-awareness does make him more interesting, though, as he seems almost to aware of his inevitable downfall as he must constantly contend with Sawa or risk his secret getting out.

Finally, the Art

Unlike its anime counterpart, “Aku no Hana’s” manga actually looks really good. Even if I had not read it in the author’s notes, I would have assumed the locations were based on specific real world places and not just some imagined middle school area.

The character designs, although a bit plain, are unique enough to stand out, and in that way arguably match the tone of story, which gives the manga as a whole a more cohesive feel.

The flower that appears on the cover of Baudelaire’s “The Flowers of Evil” that is spread throughout the first volume is also a nice touch that not only further ties together specific characters, like Takao and Sawa, but gives the series a strong symbol which can represent a number of things, including sin, evil, perversion, etc.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a series I am really happy I started. Despite its morally ambiguous content, the entertainment value is more than enough to keep someone going. Plus, for what it is worth, the message is an important one that I think is worth paying attention to. Couple that with some fantastic artwork and incredibly deep characters, and “Aku no Hana” becomes a manga not worth ignoring.


Have you all read “Aku no Hana?” What did you think? 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!