45 CommentsFirst Impressions, Flowers of Evil / By Shinmaru /

Flowers of Evil 1 – A Twisted Tale of Drudgery

flowers-of-evil-flower-eye

Always loved this particular piece of imagery from the moment I saw it. How delightfully creepy!

So I suppose I shouldn’t avoid the elephant in the room for too long, but I at least would like to say I’m not at all interested in the mass reaction to the visuals, positive or negative. The entire exercise of posturing at extremes got dull and tiresome rather quickly from my view, whether it was those slinging shit at the visuals without thought (and ignoring what the episode actually does well) or those demonizing people who disliked the visuals as haters who want only cute characters (and ignoring actual valid criticisms of the visual style). Both extremes are disingenuous and silly, but hey, people get silly about their cartoons! (I include myself in this, mind, as I’m sure everything I’ve written — serious and not serious — reflects.)

Anyway, that’s more words than that argument deserves, but I thought I would nip that shit in the bud beforehand. To opinions!

So, hey, the rotoscoping! Might as well get that out of the way early. I’m of two minds about it. The visual style strikes me as providing its own particular eeriness to what is known as a totally screwed up manga. (It is perhaps worth pointing out that I have read very little of the manga — basically what is covered in this episode, which is about 17 pages (a number that amuses me) — but do own the first four volumes and plan to tackle it eventually!) The most unnerving effect to me is that the characters seem like adults (or, at least, older high schoolers) inhabiting the lives of middle schoolers. I don’t believe the creators overlooked this, particularly since of the main themes of this first episode is stagnation (note that the initial walk to school is repeated basically in its entirely, and I doubt it’s totally due to budgetary concerns). What better way to illustrate that than literal adults (or people who look close to it) acting the part of youngsters?

flowers-of-evil-smile

And stuff like this is eerie in an interesting way. It definitely feels false and strange in a way that works. I’d extend that to the world surrounding everyone, as well. It struck me as being reminiscent of a Hollywood backlot, where it’s constructed to look like a city and almost looks the part . . . but if you look closely, there’s something undeniably off about it. Again, it contributes to the overwhelming sense of drudgery and stagnation, where people feel like they’re pulling themselves through lives that barely matter in a world that doesn’t totally feel alive. That’s also what I like Takao’s brief ventures into his fantasy worlds: He’s leaving a somewhat dead world behind for something that feels more alive, though like any middle schooler getting into this stuff, he’s kind of a smug asshat. Hey, man, you just don’t understand Baudelaire! I can’t make too much fun, though, since that was basically me in high school (well, the burying myself in books part, anyway; I was too timid to be an ass to anyone).

But it’s not all metaphorical sunshines and roses . . .

flowers-of-evil-scary-face

This is meant to be an intimidating shot, but it’s mostly laughable. I checked out the corresponding image in the manga, and it has more of the, “Holy shit, what is up with this girl??” vibe that this scene aims for. (Also, positive points for the great use of “shit bug.”) It works because it’s a middle school girl looking creepy and intimidating. In the anime, though I otherwise like the “adults play acting middle schoolers” vibe, it’s too silly to make this shot anything but ridiculous. I can imagine this being a problem down the line, though of course, I don’t know how the tone of the story develops.

There are also a few spots where the visuals look straight-up bad rather than intentionally creepy bad. Like, I could excuse some of the blank face shots with some artistic explanation like, “Well, the series is just representing the sameness of humanity” because I am of course a Serious Business writer and anime analyzer, but for real, the way the faces pop in is janky as fuck, like I’m playing a Nintendo 64 game or something. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of the way everything looks in motion, either; it’s not great, but it’s also not weird enough to be totally eerie, either. There’s a bad cheap feel to the visuals, whereas in, say, Kemonozume, the show looked “ugly” but it definitely didn’t look bad (which is an important distinction).

But, hey, it’s not bad enough to send me run screaming for the hills. I’m definitely interested to see more, particularly because I’m intrigued by the choice to make this a mood-setting episode. I’ve got no problem with that; hell, I’m a David Lynch fan, and the man is nothing if not ludicrously in love with the idea of movies entirely about mood, so I’m all in on that. I totally dug the music and those scenes of Takao listlessly wandering alone for hours after school. And that ending credits theme bleed! It’s like the art house version of “Roundabout” in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Score.

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45 Comments

  1. gedata
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    this definetly left me thinking ummmmmmmmm…huh? I had no idea what this show would look like or what it would be about, basically knew nothing about it other than the title. My shot in the dark landed me here and I don’t know what to say really. That’s enough for me to keep watching.

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      Haha, you picked quite the show to jump in blind on!

  2. Posted April 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been to stunned on the visuals to actually thought that the actors could be adults. Derp.

    I vaguely remember that I read a bit on aku no hana back when it was announced months ago, and from what I remember, I would be interested how it would be adapted. Well, colour me very interested now.

    You know, this reminded me of Oyasumi Punpun in how much it is way different in art style that I’m used to to tell a dark story.

    Wish they would clean up the animation a bit though, as much as I like the decision to fuck with everyone with it. I don’t really know what is it that I want fixed, but it’s not “3DPD REPLACE IT WITH ANIME STYLE!!111!!”.

    There’s also that post circulating of the interview with the director and mangaka. Don’t know if it’s BS translation or not, but I like what I’m reading: http://forums.animesuki.com/showpost.php?p=4622098&postcount=169

    There’s also the opinion that this should’ve been a straight live-action adaptation. I disagree in that I think animation leaves a lot more room for weird mood setting scenes to be worked in. Sure, this will still need acting, but since it’s now “turned into anime” that will give it a sort of freedom that I feel would be inhibited by just normal live action. Sorry that this is kind of vague, I hope that someone gets this and can expand on it. Or even school me in how wrong I am.

    Obligatory extreme comment: this is the best thing to happen in anime since /FOREVER/ AND THE PEOPLE THAT HATES THIS FOR THE VISUAL ARE PHILISTINES!!11!!1

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      Well, to be fair to you, I’m actually making a guess based on the appearance of the actors. They seem to me too big to be regular middle schoolers! But I knew a few tall kids when I was in middle school, so I dunno, maybe they are all of that age.

      I did see that interview. I found it rather amusing, especially regarding the manga author’s approach to all this. Seems like a cool dude to me, especially since a lot of authors are so protective and anal about their stories.

      • Posted April 7, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        And then the anime turned out to be fully animated… I’m wondering if that would be the case though. I mean, hiring actors must be more expensive that just voice actors right? Maybe the show slowly turning into real animation the longer Takao’s flower grows.

  3. ANON
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m in this for the story now, at least i’m not that bothered about what they did with it visually. I’ll stick around until the flower blooms, I would guess that by then I would know what direction the story would go.

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      “… until the flower blooms …”

      Sounds rather ominous!

      • Pusswookie
        Posted April 7, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        That’s ridiculous, flowers can’t be ominous
        Agreed.

  4. hint
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    When i saw those pictures comparing the char designs from manga and anime before watching the episode my first thought was “omfg someone make them stop, my beloved aku no hana got raped”. Then after watching the episode i can understand what they are trying to do, though i was expecting this creepy and desolate atmosphere later, this reminds me a bit the feeling i got while reading “I am a hero”, kinda same art style, beautiful and detailed scenery and slow pace.
    Oh yeah, to those moe-jerkers “watch the next episode you piece of shit”

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:00 am | Permalink

      Yeah, unfortunately a whole heap of people saw the pictures comparing the character designs and thus assumed it was safe NOT to watch the episode itself. This is what really, really frustrates me, the people who watched the episode and aren’t keen I can at least kind of get.

      • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

        Yeah. If they don’t want to watch it because the art style turns then off, then that’s a perfectly valid response. But carrying on with the complaining after doing that seems over the top to me.

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      I will say that the “They’ve ruined the manga!!” argument is silly to me. The manga will always be there in its original form. Anyone can read it at any time! I know I’ll be reading it.

      • Billish
        Posted April 7, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

        I like the idea of an adaptation, giving a piece of art to a different artist to render in a different, sometimes enlightened form. The first Hunter X Hunter adaptation is the best example of which it surpasses the original and becomes a work of genius in its own right.

        However I think for some viewers the perception of the first piece is changed by the adaptation, like a painting given to another painter that adds his own strokes and colours. Sometimes that second artist isn’t as great as the first and the original beauty is perverted – or so it seems, or whatever. I can see why people get upset, though it doesn’t bother me. Their fond memories have been uprooted by a group of dudes or congregation of witches or what-have-you; or some unholy combination of the two.

        I, however, like to say that I like the progression, even if the end product is a piece of shit abomination.

  5. Fumoffu!!
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m so gutted not to have this on my FAL team…

    Anyway, I did quite like the episode, even if the art/animation was ugly (and sometimes plain bad), though I think I’ll prefer the upcoming second episode more.

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Yeah, if I could have seen this coming, I might have put it on my team. Your thought about having it on the first week or two and then switching it out is pretty smart!

  6. Pusswookie
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder if they chose this style, which makes most of the characters look like indistinct blobs, in order to better convey Kasuga’s feeling of disconnection from his environment and the people in it. In the manga it seemed, to me at least, that some characters [especially Nakamura] became gradually more attractive as Kasuga’s perspective on them changed.
    So basically, I’m hoping that as the show progresses we’ll get a beer-goggles type effect that changes Nakamura from looking like Squealer into something more appealing.

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Huh, interesting observation about the manga art. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that when I read it!

    • Ana
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Hmm. I like that interpretation, but I also thought it was more of a case of the manga art in general getting better as time went on.

  7. Shengar
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    SOme moment after I see the comparison, I guessed that Nagahama did this deliberately, and its turned out to be true. From his two other anime, Mushishi and DMC both deployed mundane character design for atmospheric and narrative purposes. In Mushishi to make interaction between human and mushi feel more prevalent. While in DMC, is to show contrast of changing into metal musicican persona. From the interview I could guess that both Nagahama and the mangaka want to employ the same sort of thing.

    A friend of mine said that the Nagahama did this deliberately to show the ugliness of human heart. I could guess that this have some truth to it. But, in my opinion, I don’t think this technique of having mundane and ugly character would work to show the human heart wickedness. For me, the idea would be better transmitted if there are contrast, just like Nagahama other two anime.

    I could see where Nagahama going but I think this is, for a while, is a bad part of him. I’m not moe-jerker, but the way Nagahama employed his technique into Aku no Hana wrongly is depisable.

    Well, in the end I still watch it though, since the rest ought to be great.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      I’m interested in where they’re going with this visual style, because I do think it could get old quickly since it’s not particularly subtle with what it’s presenting.

  8. gedata
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    I was expecting humorous tags, you didn’t deliver bro :(

    • Posted April 7, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      I am all Serious Business from now on.

  9. Friend_Guy
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    First thing first for me? I liked the manga I read like 5 or 7 chapters of it and then I stopped reading it.

    It was when i watched this first Ep that I got reminded of the manga nad then I remembered that this is the anime to that manga. Though the art style isn’t something I’m used to [Like seriously all of us anime fans who grew up with what we are used to ] This style is hard to take in, but I’m going to give it a chance cause it is refreshingly different then the norm, and seriously I can’t wait to see how they are going to take this story and with this style and make it seem.

    Also the girl looked scarier in the manga. To me it looked like she was constipated which made her look creepy in that screen shot.

  10. Inushinde
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    It’s certainly an interesting choice to go in this direction, and I can only hope that the connection between this chosen style and the actual content becomes more substantive than simply trying out a new style. It matches that of the story (people appearing normal but veering into the uncanny valley more often than not), but there are definitely some wrinkles to smooth out.

    • Shengar
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      I don’t know by the way of new style since this is how Nagahama do to his two other anime. I said this is more that Nagahama keep his old style by carefully selecting manga that could suit to the vibe of his style. But, well, Shinmaru have point it out:

      “It works because it’s a middle school girl looking creepy and intimidating. In the anime, though I otherwise like the “adults play acting middle schoolers” vibe, it’s too silly to make this shot anything but ridiculous.”

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, it’s an interesting choice, though definitely not perfect. It could easily end up being rather one note.

  11. Elkospy
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    This should be renamed to SHINMARU blog now.

  12. Lanf
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I really loved the mood it set. The art I’m not so much in binary state of mind, for the most part it worked as being eerie yet pseudo-realistic. It reminded me a lot Ningen Shikkaku story from Aoi Bungaku in terms of atmosphere and mentality.

    It’s so strange seeing a slice of life that’s actually a pretty realistic take on school life. I guess it didn’t mesh with those it hit too close to home, the way it portrayed school life as being so dull.

    For me, no matter how it goes from here, it’ll be unforgettable. Let’s see how screwed up this show can get.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, whatever my feelings on the rotoscoping, the episode really nailed everything else. I name dropped David Lynch at the end of the post, because the mood really reminds me of some of his movies … not quite as horrifying and oppressive as, say, Eraserhead, but approaching something like Mulholland Dr.

  13. SENSEISHUN
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Most accurate portrayal of Japanese middle schoolers:

    Takao: I gotta stop by the Bookstore.
    Friend 1: Again?
    Friend 2: Go read something besides fap fuel, okay? lol

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      Not quite accurate, because neither I nor my friends were that clever with words.

      • Pusswookie
        Posted April 10, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

        You…didn’t make masturbation jokes in middle school?
        Wow, sorry that you were robbed of the experience man.

  14. Aelms
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Watching the episode prompted me to start reading the manga and finish it in the next 2 hours. The visual thing really struck me as unnecessary and overdone. I feel that the creators tried too hard to make the characters unappealing. I do have to say that the climax of the episode, along with the creepy ending song, was really well done.

    My impressions of the manga is that its a weaker, less well-thought out version of Oyasumi Punpun. I’m actually interested in how the anime staff will choose to portray some of the events with the style they are going with.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that is my main concern with the visuals — will it be too over the top in its depiction of ugliness?

  15. Erif
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I actually think that the motion is my favorite aspect of this particular style; what strikes me is its distinct fluidity which sets it apart from other anime. I’m a big fan of “stylistic” animation techniques, so I for one love almost everything about it, the motion especially.

    • SENSEISHUN
      Posted April 7, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      I agree. Pretty interesting watching a whole scene through a mirror. Sometimes in anime you just have to switch it up a bit.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Ah, well, I’m glad you got something out of it that I didn’t! :)

  16. khawlin
    Posted April 7, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Be Honest Shimaru,

    You must have drugged Nagahama sensei with LSD to make such such an unwatchable art direction to screw up SCAMP’s opening Fantasy Anime League line up.

    • Posted April 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      If only I had this amount of influence.

  17. Posted April 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    You know, after stewing it in my brain, and then watching Shingeki no Kyojin, I realised that if they would’ve just embellished a bit with the animation, such as adding colour filters to show emotion, rather that just relying on the rotorscope to turn out well (it didn’t) it would’ve at least be a lot better.

  18. Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    The discussions surrounding this show are infuriatingly shallow to me.

    Like, you start your review saying you aren’t interested in the argument on the visuals; but then you spend the rest of the post talking about precisely that. I don’t blame you for touching on it, since it’s an important part of the formula. But like with every single other commentary I’ve seen, talking about the visuals supersedes everything else. And even the comments section exclusively talks about them.

    There’s so much more to talk about with this show! The cognitive dissonance inherent to lusting after and idolized object of affection, the fragile and abstract nature of power structures in school, how the admirable qualities of love are warped when filtered through obsession, and how art is often used to romanticize unhealthy behavior.

    But no, it’s all ROTOSCOPING ROTOSCOPING ROTOSCOPING.

    • Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:10 am | Permalink

      Well, I said I wasn’t interested in the extreme posturing surrounding the argument regarding the visuals. But even with that in mind, your point is more than fair. The final theme you bring up is particularly interesting to me since it’s not something I often see in a story like this, either in anime or in the States. You can see that Takao is imaginative, but the way he consumes the work by blocking out everything around him and feeding into his obsession isn’t particularly healthy.

      Maybe I am being too optimistic, but I imagine the narrow discussion about the rotoscoping will die down as the series goes on and the people who don’t actually care about the series simply cease to talk about it.

      • Posted April 10, 2013 at 1:27 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I agree with your prediction that the obsession over the visuals will die out soon. Still, I’m used to seeing a little more depth to the commentary even with fairly superficial shows like Sword Art. It’s weird and more than a little disconcerting to see every comment section look almost exactly the same.

  19. Zahha
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    All I got after watching this episode was: Wow, that was boring as fuck. I want that 20 minutes of my life back. xD

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