Review: Flowers of EvilPosted: September 6, 2013
There always has to be that show every few years, doesn’t there? You know, that show. The one that somehow manages to gain the ire of nearly everyone in existence even though there are other, much more terrible shows that deserve that hatred?
Yep, it’s time to talk about Flowers of Evil.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: the majority of complaints about the rotoscoping are incredibly stupid. “Oh my god, it looked soooo ugly and bad!” Well gee, I think that might just be missing the point entirely.
The whole point of the world being “ugly” is because that’s how Kasuga sees it. He sees himself as being above everyone else intellectually, and hates the monotony of his everyday life. It’s another case of the animation style actually reflecting the themes of the story. Plus, it was supposed to be this weird mix between animation and live action. The entire point was to unnerve the audience. I mean seriously, have you listened to the ED? Fucking hell that thing sent chills up my spine the first time I heard it.
I mean, sure, you can still dislike that directing decision itself, but saying the rotoscoping is bad just because it doesn’t look like your favourite KyoAni animu is absolutely ridiculous. Things are allowed to intentionally be repulsive or unnerving if it serves some kind of purpose.
I’m not sure why these kinds of complaints bug me this much, but they do. I mean it’s one thing to disagree about something’s effectiveness or whatever, but it’s whole ‘nother thing to entirely miss the point.
Besides, grading a show based on the animation quality is silly to begin with. It reminds me of gamers who think a game sucks unless it has “teh l33t graphix”. I mean what about older shows? Are you just going to dismiss a massive chunk of older shows just because they didn’t have the convenience of digital animation technology? Honestly I could go for hours on why this mindset is ridiculous, but this isn’t the time nor place.
Anyways, onto the show itself rather than the audience, it’s quite fascinating. Character-driven stories always require fascinating characters, an intriguing internal struggle in at least one of them, or both. Flowers of Evil managed to do both.
As I said before, Kasuga holds himself on a higher pedestal intellectually and hates the monotony of everyday life, but at the same time he also holds in immense fascination and love towards Saeki, so it’s not like he completely hates the world or anything. You could say he sits in a comfortable middle between an anarchist and conformist mindset.
But then an unexpected abnormality enters his life through Nakamura, who serves as the embodiment of anarchy. Later on, Saeki also joins in being the embodiment of conformity. Kasuga is then stuck in a mental tug-of-war between the two of them and their mindsets, and slowly tilts towards both sides.
Not only is this a clever little devil and angel on the shoulder style setup, but the way it’s presented throughout the show is fascinating in how it makes it seem like neither side is really correct. Sure, Saeki’s conformist ideology seems to make sense, but it also points out some of the silly ideas and standards that exist within “normal” behavior, such as when Saeki says she’s okay with Kasuga having stolen her gym clothes since he did it out of love for her. At the same time, it shows the validity of Nakamura’s perspective, since she finds that mindset to be incredibly stupid. Both sides are enticing in their own way.
Though after a while it seems like Kasuga isn’t so much stuck between deciding which side to take, so much as having both sides slowly tear into him with no escape in sight. This is shown exceptionally well since the show is so good at tone and tension. It makes Kasuga look like an ant compared to these two giants.
One moment that showed just how good the show is at tension and tone was the scene where Kasuga ditches meeting up with Nakamura in the usual spot in order to help Saeki carry papers around the school. He gets nervous at a staircase when asking her out on a date and almost falls down them, but Saeki grabs on to his waist and agrees to the date. Just when it seems like things are going Kasuga’s way for once, Nakamura shows up at the bottom of the staircase. The camera shifts to her, and you expect her to get pissed and maybe even fly into a rage because Kasuga not only ditched her without saying anything, but he’s also apparently getting romantically close with Saeki.
But then something you don’t expect happens. She slowly… smiles.
It’s this betrayal of expectations that’s so effective. Though to be fair, a lot of plans Nakamura comes up with are pretty twisted. But that scene sent a chill up my spine the first time I saw it. The ambiance is also perfect during this scene, with a thunder-like noise starting along with Nakamura’s smile and getting louder the bigger the smile gets.
It’s moments like these that truly make the show. Not a whole lot happens plot-wise since it’s such a character-based story. Though honestly a good sense of tone was to be expected from the same director as Mushishi.
However, while Flowers of Evil nailed a lot of elements making up its simple yet complex story, it wasn’t perfect and had some issues. For example, the six-minute walking scene – which definitely wasn’t inspired by a similar scene in Barry Lyndon – at the start of the episode after the one where Kasuga and Nakamura wreak havoc on the classroom is an example of excess. It’s obvious what the scene was going for, but six minutes was just a bit too much. The point could have been made with the same impact in half the time.
What was the scene going for? Well, the classroom scene had Kasuga and Nakamura letting out all of their pent up emotions in a single major act of delinquency. It was practically therapeutic for them. Then it follows that the walking scene was them reveling and just sort of basking in what they had done. Honestly the easiest analogy to make for the whole thing would be sex. Destroying the classroom was the actual act of it, and then the walking scene was the afterglow. Still, as I said, the scene didn’t need to be quite as long as it was.
Well, at least it didn’t pull an Endless Eight.
Other than that, there aren’t really any major issues with the show. Some people might try and say it was too slow, but honestly character-based shows tend to be that way. Especially when the characters aren’t just bland self-inserts and you need to actually, you know, understand and connect with them.
Flowers of Evil is just a tale of two people that represent conflicting ideologies trying to convince the middleman to go to their respective sides. It’s not that complex a story, but it’s handled quite well, and the fact that there were people who couldn’t look past or understand the intentionally unnerving rotoscoping and enjoy the story for what it was is just sad.