(I know Shinmaru blogged the whole show, but I want my say on this thing)
I appreciate anime trying something a little different when it’s appropriate. Flowers of Evil is a pretty good example of the kind of manga you should be doing this with. A teenage boy idolises a pretty girl in his class but then gets roped into stealing her gym clothes by nothing more than his own secret desire to defile her. It’s a reactionary piece to trends in popular culture that references a 19th century poem which was also a reactionary piece to trends in poetry and art at the time. The mangaka didn’t want a straight adaptation of his work, and only accepted when the director of Mushishi Hiroshi Nagahama came along with his radical idea. His adaptation was a reactionary piece to the response people who saw Flowers of Evil as, to put it in the words of the original author, “Nakamura unf unf”.
I can see what they were going for with this adaptation. It shoves back in the face of the people who saw, in what was supposed to be a story about our creepy desires to defile the ideals we hold to be pure, an overly elaborate piece of NTR erotic fiction. These are real people, not the idols that you fetishise. It’s supposed to heighten the sense of unease we get over the actions the characters take in this elaborate piece of NTR erotic fiction. At least, that’s what I think it’s supposed to be doing. It’s certainly what a lot of the early chatter around this show suggested it was trying to be. Problem is that this was not only poorly implemented, but also seemed to have fuck all to do with the main theme of the actual story Flowers of Evil was telling.
Tell me Flowers of Evil, what are you supposed to be about? Is it about the mind-numbing mundanity of everyday life and screaming to get out, or is it about wanting to defile the things you hold pure? Because one half of the series focuses on one of those themes and the second half on the other. You could argue the two are connected, but then you’d be wrong. The directing likes to spend forever showing a decaying town and characters walking really slowly along streets with the only background music being a man randomly hitting a piano key every 10 seconds. I guess this is supposed to show how friggen boring everyday life is, although that’s the director deliberately making his show boring and tedious to watch to make an artistic statement, for which I would like to kindly ask him to please take his head out of his own backside.
The second half of the story tries to focus more on trying to escape this mundanity, but this mundanity is presented as a crappy thing. The idolisation of purity is presented as a more careful balance between whether purity or defilement is the way to go. There’s one attempt made in the entire show to marry these two scenes in an absolutely amazing scene at the end of episode 7 where the two characters destroy a classroom in a giant obvious metaphor for sex. But the series seemed to blow its load in that episode and after that spent its time piddling away doing next to nothing. Then again, before that scene, the show spent most of its time piddling away doing next to nothing. At least then it was novel and I could kid myself this was going to lead to something. Spoiler warning (although this isn’t really a spoiler at all) no it doesn’t go anywhere. Instead the show ends on a fucking montage of all the things that happen later in the manga that will never get animated because this show was never going to get a sequel and was pathetically stupid of the creators to even think that it would.
The biggest problem of all is simply that it’s a goddamn boring anime to watch. Once the novelty wears off, and it will, you come to the realisation that only one thing happens per episode. No really, only one thing happens in each episode. The rest is padded with shots of people walking and the main character panicking. The camera liked to linger on the town falling apart, which I think was supposed to tie into this idea of the town being decaying and boring. But the show also lingered on Nakamura, lingered on the main character, heck it even lingered on the picture of the poet the main character kept in his room. This rendered the entire directing choice of lingering on anything completely pointless and only served to drag out the episode even further, which on reflection probably was the only point. The main character…also talks…like this…most of…the time…taking…deep breaths…between every….other word….he says. It’s supposed to show his panicked mind, but I couldn’t take it seriously after a while and just started hearing the kid from Malcolm in the Middle in the wheelchair with the missing lung.
Also I’m just going to say it: The rotoscoping looks dumb. I’m not a fan of this animation technique even when it’s done well, but here it has characters spazzing out when they move and that curious way faces aren’t drawn in when they’re too far away from the camera but as they get closer the faces get drawn in as though we’re on a crappy video game system and the textures only just loaded in. They got people in their 30’s to play these middle school kids so it’s way more difficult to swallow their middle-school stupidity when you can clearly see they don’t look 14. Sometimes it’s able to capture these wonderful moments of expression on their faces, particularly the joy on Nakamura’s face during the classroom destruction scene, but most of the time their features look like they’re are drooping off their face like they’re made of plasticine and they’ve been out in the sun for too long.
I do appreciate the effort, and at the time I did enjoy picking Flowers of Evil apart to get at its juicy core themes. Unfortunately the more it went on and the more I picked at it, the more it started to come apart for me. There’s evidently fuck-all enjoyment you can get from it on a surface level, and it was clearly asking to be picked apart for its themes. I like that it got weird moe fans all angry over their beautiful manga waifu longer being pretty, but stripping the sexuality away from a story that was precisely about dealing with sexual urges diminishes the point of the story in retrospect. All in all I’d class the whole thing as a failed experiment. An interesting experiment certainly, albeit one that is very boring to actually watch.