Before I begin, here’s an interesting little tidbit: Aku no Hana was adapted into an anime series. This series was… interesting to look at, as most people already know. What people may not be aware of is how little of the story it actually covered. The Aku no Hana anime series is twelve episodes long. Those twelve episodes are based roughly on the first twenty chapters of the source material. Twenty chapters of a standard-length manga into twelve episodes of a standard-length TV series.
The eleven minute walking home scene doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.
Now then, this manga lives off of angst. It is so unbelievably angsty. Like if Kurt Cobain rose from the dead and developed a collaboration album with Linkin Park from fifteen years ago. It’s to the point where the objective line of rational thinking goes beyond what one could expect from any of these characters. What can one expect from a few fourteen year-old kids with nothing to do and “crawling” intentions? It tries ever so hard to be deep and philosophical. To properly explain what was going on in each character’s head and why. To show dementia through obscene amounts of disturbing images leaping around the pages. It’s a story of trying to find oneself. It’s also a story of trying to find a reason to continue living.
The only issue is the pacing.
Can one become dark and angsty overnight? Such is the case of Kasuga, the star of our horror show. He’s just a boy who likes a girl. And he likes to read. His favorite novel in particular is The Flowers of Evil. A collection of poems that he can’t even understand, but takes great pride in knowing that he indulges in such heavy-minded philosophies. One fateful day, he goes back to his classroom and discovers that the girl he loves, Saeki, had forgotten her gym clothes in the classroom. He decides to take them and shove them in his face, smelling the aroma of “her shampoo.” But wait! Someone is coming! He can’t let someone know what he was doing! He shoves her gym clothes underneath his shirt and runs home as fast as he can. This sets off a chain of events that slowly begin to eat away at Kasuga’s mind, turning him into the abhorrent little monster he’s destined to become. With some help, of course.
Enter Nakamura, the rudest, baddest mofo this side of Edgeville. She don’t care ’bout no rules of society. Everything and everyone around her is boring. Flies. “Shiteaters.” She’s alone in a world of her own. A world full of distorted realities and lots of shit. Until she sees Kasuga stealing Saeki’s gym clothes. This leads to her blackmailing him into doing her bidding, and the two eventually become closer… I guess. Two little monsters, one acknowledging her darkness and the other clinging to the normalcy of his trivial life and pursuit of love, develop a bond like no other.
I like to split this story up into three parts: Before the Insanity, After the Insanity, and After Nakamura.
Before the Insanity: The first chapter up until around chapter twenty-one. The pacing is absolutely atrocious, especially when concerning the development between Saeki and Kasuga. For whatever reason, these characters are willing to put up with anything and everything thrown at them. This boy stood up for the freak classmate? He must be a good person! He also sneaks off and is suspiciously fidgety and nervous all the time. I’m sure he has his reasons! Nothing to question about his character. This bitch wants me to do all of this weird shit or else she’ll tell the class that I stole Saeki’s gym clothes… even though I’ve disobeyed her before and she never blabs anyway. Let’s continue to obey her every command and make the same stupid expression (shown above) as if anything about her ambitions shocks me anymore!
This section of the story also has a sort of carefree atmosphere, sprinkled in with all the mental chaos. It’s almost playfully dark, somewhat like the innocence of children experimenting with juvenile activities. It sets up the future story sections well, but doesn’t do much for the characters. What keeps the reader interested is intrigue; Nakamura is unpredictable and unfiltered. She drives the plot and makes it more interesting. And way more angsty.
After the Insanity: From where Before the Insanity ends to chapter thirty-four. The shortest section of the story. It makes up for its length by being incredibly illogical and edgy. I mean incredibly illogical and edgy. Middle schoolers talking like philosophy scholars. Lots of screaming and crying. Lots of slapping. Lots of dark secrets being told. The hammer comes down hard. This may have been the author’s space to really let loose with what he could, while also trying to maintain a sense of reality. He was moderately successful. It’s similar to the previous story segment, except bigger and badder, like a sequel aimed at pleasing the audience.
It was some of the most ridiculously absurd story-telling I’ve ever had the chance to read. It was awesome.
After Nakamura: From where After the Insanity ends to the very end of the manga. Set a few years in the future, Kasuga has moved out of his original home due to some of the “unfortunate incidences” that took place in the previous section and has started a new life in a new environment. By far the most “normal” section of the story, and honestly, my favorite part of the story. The story is no longer fueled by angst or black drama. It’s almost an homage to the beginning of the story; a carefree atmosphere sprinkled with bad intentions, except it remains that way. Kasuga starts to become relatable in a more human fashion. The situations that arise are dramatic, but not dark enough to fit the standard that this very story set in earlier chapters.
It’s still plagued by some pacing issues, but it was better than the other two story sections. And the characters weren’t crazy, either! Though, it did come off as a tad cliche. It still had semblances of what Aku no Hana once was, but it also turned into more of the romantic pursuit that the first story section was going for without the presence of Nakamura’s mind-shaping. It was enjoyable nonetheless. Still didn’t do much for any of the new characters. At least Kasuga’s cool now.
It was a pretty manga. Pretty appealing. Pretty dark. Pretty traumatizing. This was also the third manga in a row that showed me underaged tits. I never asked for it, but I’ll accept it as long as you’re not a cop. The character designs were cute, with a little sense of normalcy. Normalcy in a world where everyone is insane and spouting emotions like they’re in an opera. There’s a cute little progression where Kasuga’s emotional state deteriorates and is shown by the length of his hair. It gets kinda long. I thought that was a nice touch. Wasn’t too fond of his expressions, though (see above again). I thought Nakamura was intriguing. She wore glasses, but sometimes she didn’t. Did she even need them? Were they symbolic of her trying to see Kasuga for what he really was? Maybe.
And if you’re wondering about Saeki, just know that she’s stupid.
Angst, on top of edge, sitting on darkness, sleeping with drama, fondling dementia, jumping on hysteria, while shooing off the mundane. Aku no Hana is an absolute blast to read, if you enjoy what it has to offer. If you’re turned off by the abject, this story will hold no meaning to you. If you’re looking for a well-developed story with good pacing and strong characters, this story will hold no meaning to you. If you’ve just finished listening to Numb while jotting down depressing poetry in your fortitude of solitude, this story will perk you up faster than Satan’s salty spit. A vastly entertaining read, but fluctuates in quality and drama as it goes along. Besides, who can appreciate a monster more than another monster?
Personal Score: B
Critical Score: C+