The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 132 – The Flowers of Evil

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Most anime tend to follow a particular standard style of animation, but there are always those series that buck the trend. Adult comedy Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt (No. 19) uses a more western style; while short film The Diary of Ochibi (No. 104) uses stop-motion. The animation in this series however is designed to make the series look really realistic.

Psychological drama The Flowers of Evil ran as a manga between 2009 and 2014, created by Shuzo Oshimi. In 2013 the first part of the series was turned into an anime, and the end of the series expressed an intention to make more. The anime is noted for its use of an animation technique called “rotoscoping”, which involves the animator tracing over every frame of footage to create a much more realistic depiction. This style caused anger from fans of the original manga who thought it deviated too far from the source material.

The story follows schoolboy Takao Kasuga, who has two main passions in life: his crush Nanako Saeki, and obscure literature. When it comes to the later, his favourite book is The Flowers of Evil by 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire. One day he remembers that he has left his copy of the book back at school and goes to collect, but when he does so he also discovers that Saeki has forgot her gym kit. Takao takes the kit, planning to return it to her in the morning, but in reality he just steals them.

The next day Takao learns that Saeki has reported the kit stolen, and to make matters worse there was a witness to the crime: Sawa Nakamura, the most badly behaved girl in the class, always disobeying teachers and swearing at everyone. Nakamura decides to blackmail Takao by making him enter into a “contract”. Nakamura therefore forces Takao to do all sorts of acts otherwise she will expose Takao for the pervert he is. Tasks ranges from writing essays, to going on a date with Saeki while wearing her gym kit under his normal clothes.

As the story progresses, Takao becomes increasingly conflicted: should he confess to what he did? How involved should his relationship with Saeki be? Should he help Nakamura with her dream of leaving town? Whether he can cope with the pressure is something to be seen.

As stated, the use of rotoscoping is what makes this anime stand out. Many people were angry about the use of it, and when I first watched it I was annoyed by the fact that the animation was not as fluid as it is with most anime. However, it all makes sense when you combine it with other elements, such as the psychologically twisted plot and the ambient soundtrack that it all slots into place perfectly.

To give an example, at the end of the show’s seventh episode Takao seems to finally “lose it” as it where, and with Nakamura commits this huge act of rebellion. The start of the eight episode continues directly afterwards, and shows the two of them walking around town, hand-in-hand, in very dirty clothes, in the early hours of the morning, without saying a word. The only sound you hear is sombre, ambient music. The scene is over five minutes long. Now, often when it comes to anime I get annoyed by scenes that are too slow, but The Flowers of Evil shows that you can make a slow scene work brilliantly, because that scene is one of the best I have come across in any anime. There are other scenes that work well on a technical level. One episode is mostly set on a mountain road at night, so the episode is almost entirely in darkness, making for a more atmospheric and gloomy watch.

The Flowers of Evil therefore is a series for people who want to try something radically different to most anime that they have come across. If you want something experimental, this is one to try.

The Flowers of Evil is released on DVD by MVM Films.