Posted on 4 July 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

ZEXCS: this show cost little to make: rotoscoping is relatively cheap and good for a low-budget series. Please some one in there: see beyong all of the negative publicity that this series has gotten. Look past the bile, and see some potential for a second season! Otherwise this was one heck of an annoying ending to pull. Basically all it did was tease us for a sequel.

I really liked that Kasuga could finally see a bit into Nakamura’s mind. That was great. Then there followed this chase, followed by a lot of atmosphere building, to a lot of teasing scenes for events that are yet to happen, like what the OPs have been doing. That was one heck of an evil cliff-hanger. The atmosphere still was really good during all that, and I find it a bit strange that they put so much work into rotoscoping all these random scenes for nothing, but still the chance of this getting a second season are unfortunately really low.

And for me that’s pretty much the only big blemish on an amazing series here. I mean complain about the rotoscoping; if you ignore that than the creators excuted this story basically perfectly with some fantastic atmosphere.

Aku no Hana took risks. Oh dear god, it took risks! More series with the same mentality would definitely be appreciated! I can’t promise to have the actual review of this one out today. There are a number of first episodes that I first want to check out.
Rating: 4,5/8 (Good)

Posted on 25 June 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

You could see that this was a calm before the storm episode, right before the conclusion of the series, but even then it was very well done. It didn’t focus on the atmosphere or disturbing psychology as much as usual, but still: the creators made it a really personal episode, centered around Nakamura.

I loved the way she just completely ignored Kazuga, but also how we finally get to have a look at her family, and how they react on her behavior. Seriously, the way her father dealt with it was really interesting: you could see he was an adult, but he had no clue how to get a grasp on his daughter, and they just grew apart like that.

The best was the ending of the episode though. It promised one heck of a final episode! Throughout the entire series, Kasuga mainly managed to show his deviant-self because Nakamura pushed him, save for the moment where he stole the underwear. Here, he finally does something out of his own again. He didn’t do it for Nakamura, he did it out of his own curiosity.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 20 June 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

Every season, there is one series that in one way or the other reminds me why I still love anime. Aku no Hana is one of them, and this episode only established this even more. Even this late in the series, it still pushes the boundaries of television series, and tries to see what it can get away with. This episode took guts. It could so easily have been incredibly boring, and yet they pulled it off. This was just art.

I mean, when you look at synopsises of this episode, there is one thing you’ll realize: nothing happens! Yeah, I guess Kasuga and Saeki formally break up and all. But take a look at most of this episode: long stretches of Kasuga just walking around, long stretches in which absolutely nothing is said. And yet these parts were so full of emotion.

Is that what teenaged angst feels like? Is that what it feels like to be in a completely hopeless situation? Heck, this episode was about the emptiness in Kasuga’s heart, and it did not portray this through dialogue, or plot. But rather through just animation and sound. The nonverbal communication was absolutely fantastic here. The atmosphere! I can’t believe how well it was carried throughout the entire episode!

Also, the climax. Perfect use of all that build-up!
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 10 June 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

This show. This show seriously continues to amaze me. Last week’s episode ended with Nakamura and Kasuga ran off. This entire episode dealt with that aftermath. The pacing was incredibly slow. That leads to either lots of dragging on, or a really personal episode.

For me, it’s the latter. Holy crap, the characters got their chance to really act out their emotions here. Finally, both Kasuga and Saeki were completely honest with their feelings, and they actually dared to speak their minds. And with this, it has become clear that they haven’t done so throughout the entire series. I can’t believe how many series have done this wrong, and yet here is a series that gets it right!

The problem with indecisive characters is pacing. The feeling of “Just get on with it already!” when characters take forever to confess to each other, it’s just not interesting to watch. Aku no Hana is different, though. First of all, it really sets itself apart by insisting that it’s not another one of those “will they won’t they”-series: that’s far from the point of this series. It’s about teenagers feeling empty in society, it’s about the layers that people put up in front of each other. The love triangle is just a plot device to explore that, rather than the other way around. That’s how I usually like my romance: as a side-dish with substance, rather than a full on main course that overpowers everything.

Also in romance, things have to be brought believably in these kinds of things. Last week I wondered why Saeki fell for Kasuga, and well, the reason turns out to be one that gets very often abused in romance series: coincidence. She fell for him when he asked her out, because she’s young and nobody has done that before. And she fell for him HARD. I actually buy that, probably due to how good the acting has been (try to pull that with a cardboard cut-out character and I will be raging).

And holy crap, that climax. That climax was amazing, the awkward silence in which everyone agreed to part ways, the knowledge that everyone pretty much disappointed everyone, and yet all three of them were unable to leave due to the police showing up. The police was absolutely wonderful as a wake up call for everyone to realize what just happened, and let things sink in. Thank you for ending the episode not on the cliff-hanger of Saeki’s acceptance that things weren’t going to work out, but dragging things out a liiiittle bit longer. Seriously the atmosphere in this show is just brilliant.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 4 June 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

Now this is how you escalate things. Holy crap, this was a mix of shock and obvious. Kasuga in particular: this episode really shined in how it showed how he decided to run away from home. I think what the creators really wanted to show here was how he puts so much importance and value on the perfect appearance of people. In this episode things got broken and changed completely from the ideas that he has in his mind: Saeki doesn’t mind that he took her gym clothes, and people found out what he secretly did.

I mean, this was awesome. After everyone kept hiding everything, this episode had everything exposed. And instead of returning to normal like nothing happened, things changed significantly. I really like how people are no idiots in this series: Saeki pretty much knew what happened. Kasuga’s mother isn’t just there to stand in the kitchen.

I only wonder: what on earth is going on in Saeki’s head? How did she fall for Kasuga? When did that happen? Did she like him before? What kind of person is she to not be bothered by having her gym clothes stolen like that?
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 27 May 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

Aku no Hana, you have balls.

I’m probably going to get a lot of people making fun of my tastes again, but heck, it’s not like I suddenly started caring about that or anything. This episode was an amazing aftermath-episode. One of the best in recent years. I mean, it was just perfect for me, it hit all of the right notes.

Let’s start with by far the most controversial part of this episode: the start. Five minutes in which the characters just walked. Yeah, first of all I have not seen anything like that in anime ever. Yeah, I really admire the guts of the creators to actually do that. I loved it to bits, and not just because of its novelty value. What we saw there was an incredibly intimate moment. What we saw last episode was just all hell breaking loose. They completely wrecked the classroom. Instead of just cutting to the next morning and show the superficial reactions of Kasuga’s classmates for shock value, the creators showed the mood he and Nakamura were in on the journey back. Nothing was said, we just experienced it. I’ve never seen any other anime do this, even though it showed so many emotions nonverbally.

And then there was the rest of the episode. I mean, that was some fantastic build-up. Bit by bit, the creators moved closer to Kasuga’s fears of being found out. The responses by the students, the responses from Saeki, everything was just perfect. Seriously, no overacting whatsoever in htis episode! This was by far the episode with the most convincing acting I’ve seen the entire season.

At first I felt a bit let down by how Kasuga’s name was conveniently obscured everywhere, but Saeki more than made up for it by showing that she very well knew what was going on. I mean, that was one heck of a cliff-hanger, even for this series’ high standards.
Rating: 6,5/8 (Amazing)

Posted on 21 May 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

I just realized some of the details that they put into the rotoscoping here. The shadows and reflections that people make are also added to the animation (Saeki’s television, the floor of the school). Or take that one scene with the helicopter. How did they do that? Was it just a random helicopter that happened to pass by as they were shooting? It doesn’t make sense if they just hired a helicopter for just that one tiny scene.

And about the events of this episode: what on earth did I just watch? I mean, Kasuga actually succumbed to his inner guilt, which is something I did not expect. I really thought that he would try to hide it as much as possible, but here he actually begged Nakamura to help him confess his sins. And that does suit his character much more now that I think about it: he’s obsessed with purity, and Nakamura is the only one he can be totally honest in, even though Nakamura also has a bit of a one-sided view of him.

And that all culminated into that glorious ending. They like… completely trashed that classroom, and I can only imagine how awkward next week is going to be to watch. I really did not expect them to go that far here. I don’t even know how they wanted to do this scene justice with conventional animation anymore…
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 13 May 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

Aku no Hana is about the secrets that we all try to hide from each other. How a person may protect him or herself with layers. Kasuga was the most apparent example for this, but Saeki also of course has this. Whether this is as extreme as Nakamura seems to suggest in this episode is a matter of time, but she sure gave Kasuga quite a scare with it.

Now, is Kasuga a hypocrite or not in his actions? Is he running away while refusing to believe that Saeki might enjoy sex? Is that some sort of defence mechanism in order to prevent himself from going crazy, or does he genuinely believe that Saeki is as pure as a goddess? I also don’t think that Nakamura is right either: on one hand she rocks for trying to peel away the layers that Kasuga puts up. But in her mind, people are either normal, or incredible perverts. No inbetween.

Another thing I noticed in this episode: this series really likes to play with the reflections in people’s eyes. I’m not sure whether this is an artefarct of the rotoscoping or not, but it has a really interesting effect. Anime is famous for its eyes and all, but I still love the attention to detail that this series puts into the movements of the eyes of its characters.

This show may be rotoscoped and low-budget, but what I’d still love is if it were influential. I’n not asking people to take over the rotoscoping. Instead what I hope is that animators of series with bigger budgets will take cues from the nonverbal communication in this series, and let themselves be inspired by it.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 7 May 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

There are times when the characters in this series don’t have faces. But holy crap: when they do, their facial expressions and nonverbal communication here is just stunning. If I had to pinpoint the thing I like the most about this series, then it would be that: the subtle cues that the characters give each other that say so much more than what mere dialogue could have done.

Nakamura in particular is just brilliant at this. I just love how her mood changed over the course of this episode, from excited, to disappointed, and then back to excited again. The way she just looked down upon Kasuga was really expressive. She, more than anyone else in this series, has presence.

As for Kasuga, it’s always difficult to write a very flawed character. You need to know the difference between being flawed, and just completely stupid for the sake of the plot. The key for that is balance, and believability. And Kasuga indeed is not normal. I suspect very much that he has some sort of autism, or at least I suspect so considering the way he so passionately talks about books, and how he is socially awkward. And for that I too have to congratulate the creators, because for me they managed to make him believable enough to completely draw me in here.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 29 April 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

This series is just completely amazing. Seriously, in terms of teenaged dramas… this was one of the best we’ve gotten in a long, long while. Nakamura is just an amazing character. She really showed that with this episode.

She’s not a simple pervert who is weird. She is actively trying to tear down all of the walls that Kasuga has built around himself, trying to get into the perverted mind that he has, trying to find out what drove him into stealing the gym clothes. I love how she was fascinated by that and how she just keeps Kasuga on a leash, and just keeps invading his personal space that he’s trying to defend so vividly.

And on the other hand there is Kasuga, who is seeing that as a hint that she likes him, and in the meantime just continues to be completely unable to resist her. And I’m probably repeating this, but this animation is cheap and all, but the characters are incredibly expressive because of it! It also offers all kinds of inspiration for conventional animation, because the way the characters move, the way they hold each other. They just feel so believable!

One argument against the rotoscoping that I’ve heard a bunch of times mentioned is the following: “why don’t they just make a live action series out of it?” I don’t think that a live action Aku no Hana would be the same, to be honest. First of all, this series still uses still frames which would be really awkward in live-action, whereas in animated form it makes use of them incredibly well by contrasting between lots of movement, and no movement at all.

I’m not sure how many of you remember that one episode of His and Her Circumstances, which suddenly out of nowhere switched its regular animation over to moving cardboard cut-outs. Literally! I haven’t seen many reactions of how others received that sudden decision, but I loved it. I think that those unconventional animation techniques can really add something to the characters when done well (that’s the key point there, because it can indeed be done really badly or without any sort of expression; those CG dance eds are a good example of an idea that just doesn’t work for me).
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

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