Flowers of Evil: Complete Collection [Blu-ray]
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Darkness lurks everywhere, in every human heart, and sometimes it takes just a second of weakness for it to take root. For Takao Kasuga, that germination begins when his obsession with his beautiful classmate Nanako meets the opportunity to "borrow" her used gym clothes. Unfortunately, his loathsome act of laundry theft is witnessed by Nakamura, the strange girl who sits behind him in class. Soon, Nakamura's own dark obsessions begin to hook their twisted tendrils into Takao's miserable existence. Blackmailed into a "contract" under the threat of having his guilt revealed to his entire class, the former bookworm who could spend hours reading Beaudelaire's "The Flowers of Evil" now finds himself entwined in Nakamura's growing fantasies as she leads him down the garden path to damnation. As their blossoming relationship becomes ever darker, even the seemingly innocent Nanako is pulled into the nightmare. Just what are Nakumura's ultimate plans, and will the increasingly trapped Takao really be willing to carry them out? What you sow, you must ultimately reap, and there's certain to be a harrowing harvest ahead in FLOWERS OF EVIL!
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There are no robots, there are no heroes, and there are no anime falls. There are no whatever-dere classmates, no rocket nosebleeds, and no battle anime fight scenes. There are long stretches where no one talks.There is confusion. There are mental breakdowns. There is desperation.
If you like shonen, you'll hate this. If you're an adult, though...
When he first wrote the novel that is this work's namesake, Charles Baudelaire was complaining about what his Paris had become. A listless bourgeois bland-scape populated by "The Flowers of Evil": People that were at once so jaded and so banal. This wonderful story revisits that emotion from the point of view of the unfortunates born into the already existing world of ennui and cliche.
The rotoscope animation and occasionally hyper-realistic backdrops help to convey the realism and underscore the angst of the characters. No other-worldly, super-natural, trans-substantial hype here. This is the real world. The one we impose on ourselves, and, more importantly, on our children.
Based upon the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil is about a boy, Takao Kasuga, who views himself as so much more sophisticated than his peers based on his reading and thinking habits, seeing most other people as typical, pathetic wastes of time. That is, except for his idol, his "Maria", Nanako Saeki, a beautiful girl in his class. Spending his life meditating on the difficult, erotically-themed poetry present in the original "Flowers of Evil" book by Baudelaire, Kasuga finds Saeki's gym uniform at school, takes it home in a sudden showing of perversion, and discovers that he has been found out by a class bully, Sawa Nakamura. As she blackmails him and tries to get him to show his truly perverted side, Kasuga's experiences leave the viewer wondering about the nature of sexuality as well as how it relates us to others.
Enough comments have been made about the thought-provoking and emotionally-rendered backgrounds and character animation, but what stands out in this series to me is its sense of place. Throughout the very first episode, long, drawn-out sequences are paired perfectly with atmospheric music and Kasuga's thoughts about life to paint a picture of a standard, boring, same-y world filled with people who can barely think for themselves. All of this culminates perfectly into the show's turning point where he is forced to question his own identity through his sexually-motivated actions and coercions. It reminded me of my own awkward adolescence, and made me think about all of my own awkward experiences in retrospect compared to who I am today.
In stark contrast to most anime series about teenagers and sexuality, none of it is played for laughs. Almost every development in the series is stark, bleak, and downright unsettling to the point where you wonder if things will ever get better for the main characters. There lies the beauty of the series: it doesn't have to. All of the characters' thoughts, actions, and mannerisms collide together to create an artistically resonant look into the life of developing teenagers with their own immature views on life and relationships. You aren't supposed to "root for" anyone, but rather, watch the train wreck as it slowly gets worse until it finally collapses upon itself in a heap of sadness and reflection.
If there is one thing that I would have changed with the series, though, it's the final three episodes. The series "concludes" a few times, most notably around episodes 7 and 10, but the season isn't finished until episode 13. After episode 10, the events that happen function as an epilogue to prior events as they set up for a hypothetical Season 2, filled with quick glimpses at the future of the series, if it's allowed to continue. Without a second season to follow up on, though, these episodes serve only as a reminder of the relative unpopularity of the series, and that is why I bought my own copy after watching most of it online.
If you are interested even in the slightest in this series, give the first few episodes a watch on a website like Hulu, where it's streaming legally free with ads for the time being, and then buy the series if it intrigues you from there on out. This is most likely going to be one of the finest examples of anime I'll ever be able to share with my friends and I hope that it gets the attention it deserves. No matter how you feel about it, Flowers of Evil is one of the most uniquely designed anime shows in recent memory and as such, it deserves a small amount of your time at least even if you end up thinking it's downright terrible.
Aku no Hana is a controversial anime due to its unconventional rotoscoping style, which at times paints the characters in strange ways. I found however that it made the story much more vivid. I wasn't distracted by its roughness at all and appreciated the human depth it granted to the characters. Granted, I'm not a huge anime fan, though, and have only viewed a few here and there.
In regards to the DVD set, I'm not thrilled, but I'm satisfied. The audio has the one original Japanese track, and there is one English subtitle track. It even subtitles the theme songs, which is cool. The exterior of the set is neat, and I like the disc art. There is nothing inside the case like a slip or pamphlet or anything; it's rather plain. The menu is very plain too; all discs play the same excerpt of Kasuga's version of the theme song, and there is a simple episode selection--that's all.
Overall though, I'm happy with my purchase and ecstatic this anime got an English release. If you like wacky animes with a lot of action or comedy, this won't be for you. But if you're looking for a story that takes its events and characters seriously, try out Flowers of Evil. It's a trip.
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