Aku no Hana, or Flowers of Evil, is this season’s show for those who enjoy experimental or lyrical works. The first episode of this Hiroshi Nagahama directed piece (adapted from the Shuuzou Oshimi manga of the same name) concerns a thoughtful, well-read boy’s encounter with Charles Baudelaire’s poetry collection Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). This show also happens to be the season’s most controversial (at least initially) due to its animation technique. I will not be discussing this (for the interested, it gets treated at length here); instead, I will talk briefly about some strengths of the first episode as well as the impression it left on me.
Suggested Soundtrack for Reading: Thom Yorke – “The Eraser”
Dirt. Dust. Grime. Rusted metal and bent steel. Broken wood and peeling paint. Twisted power lines; bent book covers. The city of Flowers is a mess. There’s nary a pristine object to be found. Not even Kagusa’s (the male lead) bedsheets get a shot in which they are straight or folded. But it’s not just that there is rampant disorganization; the city depicted in Flowers appears to have had the very being sucked out of it, like the husk of a once-living organism. This place offers no stimulation or vibrancy for its occupants. Perhaps this is part of the reason why Kagusa turns inward to find fulfillment.
As stated above, Kagusa is a thoughtful guy who enjoys, among other things, poetry and foreign literature. The first episode of Flowers is about his discovery of Charles Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil. This book causes a certain idea to take root, grow and blossom in Kagusa’s mind, a process we see take place through eerie visual metaphor. We are not privy to the content of the freshly-grown concept, though we can (probably) safely assume that it is somehow related to Kagusa’s heartthrob, Nanako. Despite the fact that the viewer doesn’t know exactly what the idea is, Flowers makes perfectly clear its sinister nature. Here lies the brilliance of the first episode. Flowers argues effectively for the power of the written word and the dangers of that power. While it is certainly true and often good that the ideas within books move, influence and inspire people, it is also true that these ideas can be malevolent and poisonous. Ideas can have the force to influence people to do twisted and horrible things. Since we are left to our own devices to imagine what Kagusa’s flower of evil is, this point is driven home with greater effectiveness.
The strongest memory I am left with after viewing the episode is the emotional impression it left on me. Tension and a sense of dread slowly heighten within me as I watch the episode. A feeling of foreboding descends on me as I take in the soulless city, viewed through Kaguasa’s searching eyes. It is as palpable as the fear-thrill of opening a book you know to be “dangerous.” This grip on my emotions manifests itself physically. For instance: when the penny drops, so to speak, at around 17:00, I involuntarily gasp. I am not sure if the series can remain this enthralling, but I am truly excited to find out.
Something dark and menacing is coming. Slowly but surely, it is coming.