Monday, 8 April 2013

Flowers of Evil - Episode 1

It's certainly been the most talked about opening episode of the spring season so far, and not necessarily for the right reasons, but as a good boy who has been waiting for Crunchyroll's legal stream to appear I've been able to watch the drama unfold before dipping into the world of Flowers of Evil for myself.

On one level, this opening episode of Aku no Hana (to use its Japanese title just this once) is simply a story of ordinary school life, as we're introduced to the quiet and decidedly plain bookworm Takao Kasuga and watch him as he hangs around with his small but tight-knit group of friends - friends, it seems, who are initially oblivious to his fascination with female classmate Nanako Saeki, who is herself the brains of the class.

At the other end of the scale we have Sawa Nakamura, a stern and bespectacled girl who, quite frankly, doesn't give a damn about school or what anyone thinks about her, leading to her having no compunction about leaving a test paper blank or calling her teacher a shit-face.  Of course, even as somebody who hasn't read the original manga it's clear to see who our main players in this particular tale are...

Although it's easy to simply write off Flowers of Evil within minutes of its beginning as a pile of junk on account of its rotoscoping technique over the use of "proper" animation, and everything that brings with it both good and bad (and some of it truly is bad here, I'll openly admit), instead let's talk about the atmosphere of this opening episode of the series.  Thanks to its accompanying soundtrack which cuts in and out and intersperses itself with slithers of Kasuga's everyday life, the combination of music with the episode's odd look and Kasuga's own behaviour makes for a discomfiting and sinister viewing experience all the way through to its frankly unsettling closing theme - everything we're seeing is utterly normal, yet at the same time things are clearly not right in this particular world or some of its characters, and even without a single real point of interest happening we're still left in no doubt that we're about to enter some uncomfortably territory (as if you hadn't guessed from a series named after and taking influence from poet Charles Baudelaire's most famous and controversial work).  Yes, it looks downright ugly in places, and for every aspect of the episode's aesthetic which works there are just as many that don't, but hopefully the overall mood of the series sets a promising tone for what is to come.

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