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Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana) - First Thoughts PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 09 April 2013 21:02
Takao Kasuga is a bookworm whose favorite book is Charles Baudelaire's Les fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil). He's also got a crush on Nanako Saeki, the smartest girl in class - but when his best friends catch onto this, they're quick to start poking fun at him and making insulting comments about Saeki. Unknown to his friends, though, the seeds of something unpleasant seem to be sprouting in Kasuga's thoughts...

Right. First, the obvious comment to make: this show uses rotoscoped animation - the 'animation' is traced from live-action footage, which gives it a rather unique look. Rather than the stylised and easy-on-the-eyes character designs we're mostly used to these days, Flowers of Evil is pitched to look realistic - but just as how anime-style faces in live action doesn't work (have you seen people wearing full kigurumi?), realistic proportions in anime is a trip straight into the uncanny valley. this is not a show where the visual style is anything close to being appealing or easy to look at. And that seems to be a conscious design decision.

When you've got a show that looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, if you want to keep people watching you need to make up for it in other areas - atmosphere, and/or plot. This opening episode takes a long time to get going on the plot front, with the whole episode leading up to a pivotal scene that we actually have to wait until next week to see, so the plot side still needs work. On atmosphere, though, it scores highly - through judicious use (and absence) of background music and effects; the seemingly every-day setting; and the occasional visual hints of the darker sides of some of the characters, you know that we're being set up to witness something unpleasant. The visual style, with its uncanny valley appearance, actually plays into that and heightens the feeling or foreboding. Neat trick.

THE GOOD: Strong sense of foreboding and the feeling that we're being led to witness Really Bad Stuff™. Grabs the curiosity.

THE BAD: Slow pacing, far more emphasis at the moment on building atmosphere than developing characters or story.

THE UGLY: Sorry, couldn't resist. But it is probably the ugliest-looking show in a while. Even if that serves a purpose.

One of the most divisive shows of the season, it seems. If you can't get past the rotoscoping and find that too much of a distraction, then cut & run with no shame. If you can live with that, though, it looks like this could be a rewarding one to watch.

Flowers of Evil is streamed by Crunchyroll.

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