Whenever people watch a film or show, regardless if it’s anime or not, they want to be enticed into a deep and complex world that is full of mystery and wonder that they can solve for the benefit of their own humanity. It seems as though Aku no Hana was meant to be something that was going to be the “change” some people were looking for in the wake of entertainment controlling the masses. But boy did it fail at doing that on almost all accounts.
To get this out-of-the-way, no the animation is not horrible. It is flawed yes, but not to the extent where it should be castrated out of someone’s psyche after viewing the first episode. For starters, the animation that the studio decided to use is called rotoscoping, a style of animation where people are filmed in live-action and animators draw over the film frame-by-frame. Considering that this is the first anime show to do this style of animation, how is the quality of the rotoscoping? Not too well that’s for sure. The lip-syncing is atrocious, the facial expressions are devoid of any expression and don’t fit well with the emotions that the characters are trying to convey, and given how low the budget was the animation isn’t very fluid in most places. Though with these flaws mentioned, the show isn’t necessarily unwatchable due to the animation being average so it gets a slight pass in this department.
With this in mind, however, the art design of the backgrounds in the show’s setting is truly spectacular to look at. How the buildings are drawn from every tiny detail of rust and grime in the darker places of the town are something to behold. It fits very well with the tone the show was trying to capture and it’s effectiveness is fairly good. Another thing that also improves on Aku no Hana’s tone is the music. With its subtle ambient and minimalist influenced sound, it’s one of the most beautifully crafted scores that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.
On a technical level, the show is mixed with good music and art but really average animation, but how does it compare to the narrative and writing? Not to well that’s for sure. For one, the characters and how they are written are not at all well-developed or fully realized with any thing that is happening with the plot. To address this even further, the relationships between the protagonist named Kasuga with our two main heroines Nakamura and Saeki are as well put together as one could get from a high schooler’s attempt at writing a story such as this, a bad one at that. What makes these characters so bad in terms of a writing perspective is just how poorly paced it is in giving us a clear indication that Kasuga has a bond with either Nakamura and Saeki. With Kasuga and Nakamura, there is no chemistry whenever they are on-screen they just play off as a couple of degenerate who spout out vapid angst monologues towards one another.
Kasuga himself is not an enticing protagonist to be on-screen. Just because you make him this Holden Caulfield type of character where he is obsessed with a dark poetry book doesn’t make him have anymore depth than any other character in the show. Are we to sympathize with him just because he acts all pessimistic with the world around him with his pseudo-intellectual jargon? Not if it’s done with careful precision in Kasuga’s own archetype, which in reality is not the case whatsoever in Aku no Hana.
Nakamura and Saeki are two other characters that unfortunately are not spared in terms of mediocre character writing. The romantic development with Kasuga and Saeki is rushed to the point where we only get to see very few inclinations that they are a couple. We get two awkward dates and a moment where she invites him into his room. Not only that but Saeki’s reasons for liking Kasuga are not at all convincing to the slightest degree. With all of the things Kasuga did, or forced in this case, to Saeki’s property, any normal girl would easily never speak to him again but just because the writers want to keep the story going they’ll just have to hope that any person with a half a brain would buy into this. No explanation for Saeki’s reasoning for liking Kasuga, no nothing.
Then there’s Nakamura, Kasuga’s “sidekick” in the show. As you might predict, she is about as explained throughout the show as any of the other characters. This is, of course, the intention because Nakamura is something that we should be weary and suspicious about whether she’s evil or not. Once she forms a contract with Kasuga, the only thing we really get out of Nakamura is that she is nothing more than the show’s attempt at pouring out empty melodrama into the mix to make the plot try to seem too deep than what it already is. Her primary goal to the plot’s theme is never given any deep context other than the fact that she thinks the whole world is bullshit and it should be destroyed. Look, if you want to give me an existential angst plot device at least try to deliver a better explanation than just a one-dimensional written one. That way the character can be portrayed in a reasonably sympathetic light, unfortunately Nakamura just doesn’t cut out to be a deep convincing anti-hero with how poor the writing is.
While the tone of the show is solid, the atmosphere itself tries too hard to be frightening to the point where it almost does the opposite effect of what it was originally trying to impose. It happens whenever there is a faint rumbling noise in the background that’s supposed to resemble a heart beat that is hardly effective at all in establishing a mood or whenever the music starts to grow in its dynamics with a dark droning noise that is unsettling in a bad way. What’s funny is that some of the build up of the tone in some of the scenes are not necessary and fail to capture any fear at all. Once you do it multiple times throughout the course of the show it loses its momentum quickly and all your left with is just an empty white noise in the background.
It’s not often I get to talk about the actual “acting” rather than the voice acting in this show. The acting, while good in a few areas, is often overly dramatized and doesn’t reach to that level of greatness of any drama TV show that you could be watching right now. Actors constantly spout out their lines and try to carry out as much emotion as possible in scenes that don’t seem as though it was needed in the first place, such as one that involves a bathroom area.
Not to mention of the numerous plot holes that really drags down the plot as a whole from making it convincing to anyone watching. Normally plot holes can be forgiven if they are small where they are not noticeable to ruin the flow of watching a show, but with Aku no Hana there are so many coincidences that can be accounted for lazy writing such as no one noticing the blackboard writing being blocked out the day after the vandalism scene, any one could have easily deciphered what the saying was in two seconds flat.
In the short scheme of things, Aku no Hana is just a failed experiment that probably never should have been fully realized given to its source material. In all honesty, the original manga’s story is quite fascinating and if only they hired more competent writers to fill in the wide gap that crippled Aku no Hana’s chances of becoming a fascinating psychological drama. It wouldn’t be a shock to call this a “wasted opportunity” given how the creators were ballsy in making it with the rotoscope technique; it just goes to show when you want to do something “different”, you might want to focus more on your writing structure than your artistic integrity.