Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Flowers of Evil Review

Well, the Spring season is over. I wanted to pick something to review like I did with Say I love you and Amnesia. It was really hard to find something to review out of the batch of shows that made it through my impressions. And this is the first that I’ve managed to follow all six of the passing shows to completion. I guess, this time around, I’ll pick my favorite out of the bunch.

Flowers of Evil is a 13 episode Psychological Thriller/Drama based on the manga by Shunzo Oshimi and published by Kondasha. As of this review, the manga has yet to be licensed. The anime is from director Hiroshi Nagahama and Studio Zexcs, the same studio behind Mushi-Shi and Say I love you. As for Nagahama, previous work includes Mushi-Shi and Detroit Metal City. Flowers of Evil is currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, but has yet to have a physical release.

Takao Kasuga worships the class beauty, Nanako Saeki, from afar. When he is alone in the classroom one day after school, he notices her bag of gym clothes on the floor. He can't resist picking it up. He plans to return it, but the next day, all the girls are commiserating with Saeki that some pervert has stolen her gym clothes. Worse than that, their classmate Sawa Nakamura quietly lets him know that she saw him take the clothes and will tell Saeki if he doesn't make a contract with her to do whatever she asks of him. And so their strange, tense relationship begins.

Sometimes it does this...
While other times, it does this...
So from Day 1 of airing, Flowers of Evil received mixed feelings in regards to it’s art style and animation. Some people think it’s wonderfully used while others think it’s absolute garbage. First let’s talk about what kind of animation was used, and yes there is a name for it. It’s called Rotoscoping, when animators trace over footage, frame by frame, for use in live-action and animated films. In other words, you film the live action pieces and then go over them to animate. Some films use this for bits and pieces. However, Flowers of Evil is COMPLETELY rotoscoped. For me, it was something completely new and different and I moderately enjoyed it. Sure it took me some time to get used to, but what helped this along more was the story and the tone it was going for. In regards to the tone, the soundtrack helped this out quite a bit along with those moments where there was no sound. Not even a little bit of ambiance. Those were the moments that were highly effective. The other major benefit was the ending theme because it would start running about a minute before the actual credits roll. This tends to happen either at some sort of clifhanger moment or something like an “Aww s**t!” moment. This helps push Flowers of Evil even more, tension wise.

The story is a little slow to start, just like the rotoscoping. For about half of the series it’s just Kasuga trying to keep his secret hidden while dealing with Nakamura and her prodding. By the time you reach the end of episode 7, it goes even further and Kasuga’s life just starts falling apart. By episode 10, Kasuga finally comes to terms to who he really is and starts pushing everyone else away because of this. The main idea of the story is understanding and trying to comprehend what Kasuga is going through. For some viewers, they can draw a comparison to themselves. For others, they think Kasuga is a whiney little b***h that would nearly make Eva’s Shinji proud. However, it’s up to viewer interpretation. What I actually think the story is about is Nakamura and trying to understand her as a person. I will get into her character a little bit more in a moment, but the latter half of the story is when this comes to light. And what works with this is Kasuga coming to the same kind of conclusions as the viewer does, since Nakamura is as mysterious of an entity as Kasuga and the viewer sees her. The majority of the story, as a whole, is really well done. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good psychological series and this one blew me away. I do have to call into question the final episode. It kind of eludes to a potential second season but as far as I know of there won’t ever be one. So, it’s more like a read the manga kind of deal here. I wish it wasn’t the case, but sadly it is. Please prove me wrong!

The story’s main focus is on three characters: Kasuga, Nakamura, and Saeki. The others are kind of there with no stand outs, which for this series actually works. One of the points the series makes is to show the evils of the world and all the crappy people that live in it. This is how Nakamura sees the world and she’s slowly drawing Kasuga into it. Out of our three leads, Nakamura is my favorite. When the series starts, she seems like a completely crazy person with some vendetta against the world she lives in. However, as the series continues, she actually becomes the most realistic character out of them all! But then, on the inside, she is beginning to break as well, showing viewers that she is trapped in this hellish world with no hope of ever escaping. You slowly see this coming out even more in the final episode, only for the series abruptly stop dead. She is by far one of my favorite characters in anime as of late easily making my top ten. As for Saeki, we get the impression from Kasuga of this angel full of purity and innocence. But as the series continues on, we see Saeki as a regular girl who is happy to know Kasuga. It not only downgrades Kasuga’s original thoughts on Saeki, but the viewer’s as well because we have been seeing her as this vision. Now we only see her as a regular teenage girl. With Kasuga, again some people will make of him what they will, but here’s how I see him. He’s been living in the same world as Nakamura without really acknowledging it. He tries everything to deny this throughout the run of the series, only to finally come to terms within the last few episodes, not only with himself but with Nakamura as well. Overall, not one of the best characters in existence, but he does enough to move the story along.

As of this review, there is no english dub. So we’re talking about the Japanese on this one. And, again, I’m only going to talk about the three leads. First off we have Shinichiroh Ueda as Kasuga. Oddly enough this is the only anime he has on his resume. Yes I did my research on this one. For a starting role, he did pretty well for himself. He got the point of Kasuga’s character across and I can respect that. Then again, maybe it’s because I’ve been in the same position of my first ever role in a musical and I can relate. Any who, I wish him more roles in the future! Next is Miss Yoko Hikasa (Phi-Brain, Bodacious Space Pirates) as Saeki. Now this one has been in much of the recent shows lately. As Saeki, she keeps the innocence the viewer comes to know but giving her realism along with it to help break those original expectations. Last, but not least, there’s Miss Mariya Ise (Durarara!!, Say I love you) as Nakamura. Ise is one of the major reasons why I love this character so much. She keeps the cold exterior that Nakamura has but adds in a mix of vengeance and pain that is needed for that character, and I loved every second of it!

By the end of the novel, Flowers of Evil is a must see from the Spring 2013 season. Some people may think it’s total garbage, and I have heard those complaints, but from what I’ve seen it is a wonderful psychological piece on what happens when someone starts to become exposed when the majority of their lives were just the same old same old. Sentai Filmworks has the license and I really hope it gets a release because I would certainly pay whatever amount to own it. But I wouldn’t mind it not having a dub, because to be honest, Flowers of Evil doesn’t need one. If you are a fan of the psychological genre, then this one should be almost required for anyone who loves that genre. It’s not perfect since it does take time for the series to get going and Kasuga can be a pain in the butt to deal with, but stick with it. It’s totally worth it!

Final Score - 8/10 A beautiful psychological piece that almost everyone can relate to.

Next time, we do something completely different. Until then, otaku on my friends!

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