Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana) is the 2013 anime adaptation of Shūzō Oshimi’s psychological thriller manga of the same name. Famously know for using rotoscoping techniques which cause some controversy among fans of the manga, The series has finally made its way to the UK in this DVD-only offering from MVM Entertainment.
When the series began airing it was criticised by fans for its use of rotoscoping and director Hiroshi Nagahama was asked at a Q&A why he didn’t adapt the series into a live-action. Nagahama had actually turned down the role of director because he felt the story would have been more suited to live-action. Eventually coming to the conclusion that rotoscoping would be the best course of action for this adaptation. I personally feel this was the right choice; while the story would have been great as either a traditional anime or live-action, the use of rotoscoping bring together the best of both worlds.
“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. 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!” – MVM Entertainment
Flowers of Evil is one of those shows that really has your inner conflict all messed up. On the one hand, you’re screaming at the main character to do the right thing but then you’re reminded of times in your own life that things have just gotten so out of control you feel trapped by it. From the very first episode there’s a huge sense of foreboding, and you know this isn’t going to end well but you just can’t stop yourself from watching. The feeling of unease never dissipates throughout the entire series; the realism brought by the rotoscoping really makes the whole thing even more unsettling. The theme of ‘perversion’ is at the forefront of every action within the series, Nakamura uses the word ‘pervert’ almost religiously.
At the end of the series we’re treated to a reverse montage of the events that have taken place so far, we are also shown a flash-forward of events that we haven’t yet seen take place. The series then finishes with the subtitles ‘Part 1 End’; the director Nagahama explained that this was a declaration of his intention for a second season. Unfortunately as of yet, there has been no second season, though my fingers are crossed that there eventually is one as I’m desperate to see where the story goes.
Visually it’s hard not to notice the rotoscoping; it may not be to everyone’s taste but personally I love the technique and to see an anime use it exclusively is a rarity. Bringing together the best of both animation and live-action, the series has a real charm that lends itself perfectly to the story being told. Seeing real human emotion acted out physically is something that you can’t get from anime but by the same token, the anime elements of the series really enhance the world around the characters.
The series features Japanese audio only along with English subtitles. The Japanese cast played the roles of the characters physically as well as lending their voices to them. Of our three main characters voice actresses, Mariya Ise (Nakamura) and Yoko Hikasa (Nanako) both have extensive anime experience, whereas Shinichirou Ueda (Takao) has worked on little of note. The opening song, “Aku no Hana” by Uchūjin, is really catchy and upbeat which is offset by the slightly disturbing lyrics that accompany it, each of the three main characters sings their own version of the song with lyrics representing their own inner thoughts. The closing song, “Hana -a last flower-“ by ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY, has to be one of the all-time creepiest songs I’ve ever listened to, imagine the woman from Ju-On (The Grudge) singing a song and you’ll be halfway there. The song does feature a few different versions but all largely the same and equally creepy.
A very bare-bones release as far as extras go featuring only trailers of other Sentai Filmworks licenses and, bizarrely, disc credits, which are as the title suggests purely credits of those who authored the discs. Trailers include; Dog and Scissors, Busou Shinki, Henneko: Hentai Prince & the Stony Cat and Devil Survivor 2.
Flowers of Evil is a fascinating title that really pulled me in, I had heard of the series prior to this review but never found myself pulled in enough to watch it. Having now bore witness to this oddity I could easily recommend it to anyone with a taste for the psychological and darker series. The series itself seems rather underrated in my opinion with a lot of fans choosing to pre-judge it based on animation technique. I feel it’s a disservice to the series and its rotoscoping animation technique to not be available on Blu-ray, but the DVD does a good enough job visually.