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Final Thoughts: Horimiya

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Literally one of the best romances of the past decade and now its just over…sigh…

Anyway, onto the review.

As much as I enjoy anime romance, still probably to an unhealthy degree, one of the things that has always bothered me about this genre of anime is just how fake it can feel. The constant back and forth, will they, won’t they, never actually getting together only for the main characters to, maybe, hold hands at the end of the first season. Its never satisfying, both on a self-fulfillment level and on a story level. Some of it is understandable, because a not insignificant portion of the audience is younger girls, and that kind of awkwardness is, in a lot of ways more relatable. However, it still feels really bad when you invest 3-6 hours in a story only for their to be no resolution.

“Horimiya,” thankfully, does not have this problem, and is, in a lot of ways, a model for how romance anime should be. Not only does it have a unique cast with a lot of stand-out personalities, it also develops them in ways that feel satisfying. With that being said, here are my final thoughts.

“Horimiya’s” Cast

A lot of romance also suffers from having an extremely lackluster supporting cast who often gets sidelined so that the main characters can be on screen longer and do…nothing. “Horimiya” very much takes the opposite approach, not only focusing more on its supporting cast but giving them almost equal time to Hori and Miyamura. In fact, the only characters that do not get considerably screen time are random parent figures that are only briefly mentioned anyway. In that way, there is a notable comparison between “Horimiya’ and “Tsurezure Children,” which aired almost four years prior introduced a lot of the same ideas, though I would argue “Horimiya” definitely executed a lot better.

One of the more interesting relationships that is presented in the show is Kono and Ishikawa. While Ishikawa spends a lot of time in the show trying to move past getting rejected by Hori, Kono ends up developing a crush on him. However, Yoshikawa also has feelings for him, and so Ishikawa ends up stuck in a love triangle of sorts. In the end, while Ishikawa seems to implicitly choose Yoshikawa over her, Kono still shows him kindness and friendship. This leads into another great thing about this series, which is that it shows a lot of

Maturity

Listen, I get it, not every anime has to be boundary breaking and revolutionary with its focus. However, it is nice, every once and a while, to get a show willing to address things that other shows just do not. A good example of this in “Horimiya” is BDSM. Now, never mind the fact that most romance anime will not even address sex in a way that is not just comedic misunderstandings, but focus an entire section of the show on kinks?

The fact that Hori likes to get yelled at and hurt, and that Miyamura has trouble adjusting to this is presented in a way that is both handled well and also incredibly funny. One scene that stands out is when Hori and Miyamura attempt to find a place where they can eat lunch together, and while Miyamura tries to be angry with Hori, he accidentally scares off a couple freshman girls. Miyamura being Miyamura can’t help but feel sorry for the girls, only to turn back to Hori to see her incredibly turned on.

However, the show is not perfect. There was a bit of controversy around episode 10 due to Hori saying, to Miyamura, “if you are going to cheat on me, at least do it with a girl,” after Hori realizes how much time Miyamura spends with his newfound guy friends. Now, any reasonable person could read this as homophobic and be totally justified in doing so. In addition, the joke just kind of falls flat and ends up being not that funny to begin with.

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Art and Music

Sometimes it is hard to say anything about a show’s animation and music other than, “it sounds and looks good” because these are areas in which my knowledge is still fairly limited. However, as much as it will sound redundant, “Horimiya” does have those things as well.

The animation for the series is bright and colorful, which is always a nice compliment for a romantic-comedy. Additionally, The character designs for the series are aesthetically pleasing, and diverse enough to where I could probably tell the characters apart without having to rely on hair color alone. That may sound like an incredibly low bar, but it is surprising how many character designs still fall into that trap.

While the soundtrack certainly felt above average, there still were not any stand out tracks that could be considered attention-grabbing. The opening and ending were both satisfying as well, with the opening in particular, “Iro Kousui” by You Kamiyama, definitely getting me hype for each episode to come.

Conclusion

“Horimiya” is a lot of fun, and while there were definitely a few things the show could have done differently, including not being randomly homophobic, there is a lot to enjoy, both in the characters and the romance. This is probably going to be a show I recommend to people after they have already watched a few other romances and are looking for something that operates in a slightly different lane.


How do you all feel about “Horimiya?” 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 Kaguya-Sama: Love is War Season Two

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Two positive reviews in a row? why it might just be a Christmas miracle!

Oh who am I kidding? Most of my reviews are positive because I rarely ever watch stuff I feel like I’m not going to like.

Well, anyway, yeah I doubt this is going to be much of a surprise, but “Kaguya-Sama: Love is War” is a truly exceptionally series. I’ve already mentioned a few times how my initial impressions of the series led me to believe that it was going to be an extremely repetitive series with little variation in its comedic focus and timing. Luckily, though, I ended up being sorely mistaken. Without further delay, here are my thoughts on the second season of “Kaguya-Sama: Love is War.”

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War Rages On

In my discussion of the first season of “Kaguya-Sama,” I noted how the show plays up the more conservative ideas around romantic interest for comedic relief, dumping on the idea that one needs to hide their emotions by showing how both of the main characters end up miserable for doing so. The series largely continues this idea, but also uses its time to bring new characters into the fold and develop others who were somewhat shunned during the first season, namely Ishigami.

While the battle between Kaguya and Shirogane to get the other to confess seems to be raging on, morale on both sides seems rather low. The series shows how this idea of not admitting ones love first can affect people. Shirogane becomes increasingly worried that the vice-president hates him, while Kaguya, in turn, becomes increasingly flustered and unable to come to terms with her own feelings. As sad as it is to say, though, this kind of scenario does make for great comedy, as one constantly tries to out do the other, despite the fact that they both just to end it all and be together.

Still, I should give the show’s writers a bit more credit, because while the idea itself is certainly amusing, especially given the hormones’-infused, rich kid high-school setting, it is the everyday scenarios which themselves are turned into battles of love that make the show so fun to watch.

Ishigami’s Struggle

I was genuinely surprised when I realized that they were giving not just more attention to the side characters, but a whole back story. While Ishigami was given a fair amount of screen time in the last season, it never really felt like he was an essential part of the story despite the fact that he was also extremely funny. It definitely makes sense that his past would be a little bit darker considering how gloomy he is, but those last three episodes were not the direction I was expecting.

Still, I am happy they went there. Ishigami’s actions with regards to Kyoko’s boyfriend do not feel as justified as the show probably wants them to feel. After all, he did just walk up and start assaulting the guy when he could have just confronted Kyoko herself. However, the sentiment is certainly a relatable one. After all, there are plenty of awful people in the world, and their is most certainly a visceral anger that arises when they just reveal their shittiness right in front of you.

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Conclusion

Thought there is not much information available right now, it does seem the series is ripe for a third season, and I for one am ready. The series is extremely enjoyable from start to finish, with only a few misses throughout the entire series. What will become of Shirogane and Kaguya? What will happen once they have graduated? Will we learn more about Fujiwara and the others? Hopefully these questions and more will be answers by “Kaguya-sama’s” eventual return.


How do you guys feel about the show’s second season? 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: 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: Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out

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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

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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 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!