Aku no Hana
Director: Hiroshi Nagahama, Assistant Director: Tetsuo Hirakawa, Original Creator: Shuuzou Oshimi, Series Composition: Aki Itami, Character Designer: Hidekazu Shimamura, Art Director: Kentaro Akiyama
Voice Actors: Youko Hikasa, Shinichirou Ueda, Mariya Ise, Sayuri Hara
This was not one of my picks from the Spring 2013 anime season. When I was writing the synopsis for it during the spring season guide for Anime UK News I was very uncertain about it. I mean, on the one hand it sounds initially unpromising, a middle school student named Takao Kasuga steals the gym clothes of the girl he has a crush on, Nanako Saeki. Great.
But things get really interesting when we find out that he was spied stealing the clothes by a fellow student, the strange, creepy and rebellious loner named Sawa Nakamura. The class is shocked and Saeki is upset so Sawa is sitting on explosive information. Instead of informing people about Kasuga’s indiscretion, Sawa uses this information as a way to control Kasuga and draw him into her own twisted world. Kasuga has a difficult choice: Play her game or be revealed to the class as a perv.
After the spring season started and I was disappointed with Devil Survivor 2, I was drawn to this because I kept reading about how viewer reactions were extreme.
The art style has proven controversial amongst fans of the manga and anime in general. It is very different to that of the original manga by Shuzo Oshimi due to its use of rotoscoping, a technique where animators trace over live-action scenes frame by frame.
There are real actors portraying the characters.
Some hate it for this change but there is an opposing camp who love it. I am in the latter camp and not because I like being different (which I do). I have thought about this deeply (for once) and I have come to the conclusion that Aku no Hana is one of the most intentionally disturbing anime I have seen¹ and it is thanks to its art style.
I like it a lot because it is different and it is very effective at delivering this twisted existential love (?) story which captures adolescent feelings in a unique way.
Anybody walking in expecting bishounen or wild hair styles will be shocked. The characters look much more like normal human beings than in most other shows.
Rotoscoping lends the features and movements of the characters an added weight to every scene. They constantly move and react to the world in real ways and while some of the detailing is off (faces can disappear), the visuals are never boring and always have an impact. Indeed, their faces are very expressive thanks to the technique. It feels like watching real people. It is perfect for conveying both huge and subtle changes in emotional tones, priceless for monitoring the reactions of certain disturbed characters and their tormented prey as well as the moments when the blossoming of love, hope and admiration appear.