Final Review: Aku no Hana

Aku no Hana is based on an ongoing manga of the same name. The story follows high school bookworm Takao Kasuga, whose favorite book is The Flower of Evil (Charles Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal). One day, he impulsively steals the gym clothes of Nanako Saeki, the girl who he considers an angel. However, Sawa Nakamura catches him and wishes to use it as blackmail unless he forms a “contract” with her. Aku no Hana premiered during the Spring 2013 anime season and is licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

Aku no Hana is probably one of the most hyped titles of the season. I don’t blame the fans despite not  reading the manga. It’s got a relatively unique and dark premise for a romance show. While it is by no means a deconstruction of the romance genre as School Days continues to hold the title, it approaches the events in a far more psychological and to some extent realistic manner. However, the anime remains full of holes albeit far from the stereotypical romance anime tropes. Story wise, it takes a while for the series to show a clear direction. In fact, it’s difficult to even describe what this series intended to do until the relationship between Nanako and Takao began to solidify. From then on, it becomes effectively clear as crystal in terms of the overly dramatic development between the “love triangle” of Takao, Sawa, and Nanako. Ultimately though, the story doesn’t seem to advance very far. Whether this is due to a limited amount of source material or because of just poor writing and presentation overall, the story leaves us with a bittersweet ending that more often leaves much to be desired than not.

Art…art is definitely the most controversial topic for this series. In terms of background, it’s very good. Very fine details in the scenery with nice colors to match. On the other hand, from a character design aspect it is absolutely atrocious. Aside from not following the source, you could argue that it’s a stylistic choice. However, this does not give it an excuse to not draw faces of other characters that actually speak lines. Speaking of dialogue, the animation is awful. I can’t count the number of times of recycled scenes in a drawn out silent scene and of course the poor mouthing animation to the point that characters speaking don’t move their mouth until after the line is finished. It is definitely the worst I’ve seen from ZEXCS in a long time if not ever.

OP/ED themes are corny but you can’t really call them themes, especially the latter. The lyrics fit with the mood of the series but the tune is unbearable. Background music is average that fits with the series but drawn out and results in it being boring. Sound effects are few and far between with nothing particularly noticeable. Seiyuu is generally good.

Enjoyment? The series drags its feet and spends a lot of time with silent scenes and slow dialogue. For a dialogue driven show, it needs to keep the dialogue moving in order to keep my interest, especially with already poor character designs, animation, and a weak starting hook. Unfortunately, Aku no Hana fails to do that and continues to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. To me, every time Aku no Hana drags out a scene, it is like watching the 15 minutes of crying in the finale of Smile Precure! Stylistic choice or not, in my opinion, it is generally a bad practice as it’s literally wasting the audience’s time no productive development. Someone will always find a loop/plot hole in an anime series so it would have been more useful for those dragged out moments to be used in covering up some of these holes.

Overall, Aku no Hana had a solid premise with either a failed adaptation and/or poor execution all around. The hype is definitely well deserved as I see potential in this series but the anime presentation certainly gives me no incentives to read the manga, let alone recommend the series to any one. From a recommendations standpoint, Serial Experiments Lain and Mushishi have similar art and concepts to this show and probably the closest we’ve seen to “realistic art” since the former. Nazo no Kanojo X also resembles it to some degree along with the initial story setup. Mirai Nikki and School Days are probably the closest to this series in terms of the romance themes but overall, Aku no Hana is definitely unique in its own right. Though, it may be more well known for its “unique” art and animation for generations to come more than anything else.

 

Story and Character:

  • Premise (1/1): Dark series that is different from modern romance titles.
  • Character Personalities (0/1): Crazy but annoying.
  • Character Development (0/2): Who are they again?
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (2/2): Main cast is small and easy to remember
  • Pacing: (0.5/1): Randomly drags.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (2/2): Sure why not?
  • Conclusion (0.5/1): Open ended as expected. I don’t need a recap of a slow series.
  • Total: 6/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (2/2): Very good details
  • Character Designs (0/2): Eye cancer
  • Fluidity (0/2): Mouth opens after I speak.
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (1/2): Aside from background, color scheme is a bit weak.
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (0/2): Worst I’ve seen from ZEXCS in a while
  • Total: 3/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (0/3): Lyrics fit but themes are terrible
  • Background Music (1/2): Average
  • Sound Effects (0.5/2): Not memorable.
  • Seiyuu (2.5/3): Good emotion.
  • Total: 4/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (1/2): Interesting once the drama picked up.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (0/2): There are more interesting titles this season.
  • Presentation (0/2): Long and drawn out
  • Re-watchable (0/1): No.
  • Recommendation (0/2): School Days, Mirai Nikki, Lain, Nazo no Kanojo X, Mushishi
  • Value (0/1): As a unique dark humor series, it doesn’t have much value since something better is bound to take this show’s place given the low bar
  • Total: 1/10

Preliminary Score: 5/10

Final Score: 4/10

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