Tag Archives: Kasuga

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 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!