Aku no Hana was an experimental anime used to demonstrate the Rotoscope technology which was used in the anime for the animation. The show is really a hot topic as some would call it the most hated of Spring 2013, but is the hate justified? We will review the show for each of its individual strength and weaknesses and see where it did well and what went wrong.
Art and Animations
This section is really important when it comes to Aku no Hana because it was the whole point of the anime. The new Rotoscope technology made it possible for the movements and expression of the characters to be taken directly from an actor. This gave a completely different feeling to the show as motion inside of it were really fluid and felt really real and constant. Things were never standing still, just like a real human there was always a little twitch here and there and constant fluid movement. It also made facial expression and the showing of emotion feel much more realistic and it was easier to understand how the characters felt just by looking at them. Quite often there was really no need for words as everything could be shown in the simple motion of the body.
Now, those are all great points, but I’m afraid that there were more flaws than positive in the use of that method of animation. For starter, quite often the people moved and when they reached the end of their movement they suddenly stopped and froze for a few seconds before a new movement or a new frame came up. This felt really awkward as it was always in plain view and it felt like I was watching a computer clip and then it stopped right it front of me. It killed the good points of the technology and made the show feel more robotic instead of making it feel more human. Another issue was with the definition of facial characteristic. The facial features of the characters sometimes appeared and then disappeared, without any real consistency. sometimes we could see their mouth, sometimes not and the color of teeth blended in with their skin color which made everything feel quite unnatural. It felt like too much detail were loss in the process and that while what was left of the face of the actor was really realistic and human, we could see only too few to be able to properly understand the emotion they were trying to convey.
Because of this I feel like Aku no Hana really failed to sell this new technology and it was really badly presented. Because of all this, I have to give the show a 7 out 10, mostly for the effort and for the guts of trying something new, but the technology is either not ready, or the producers simply failed to make it work properly.
In term of characters the show did a very good job at picking some of the most enigmatic and fucked up characters I’ve seen in a while. If anything the character really felt mysterious and human, they didn’t felt like characters purposefully made to be evil and chaotic. There was not as much character development in the show as there was character discovery. We didn’t saw Kasuga and Saeki change as much as we discovered, with them, who they really were. It was quite the unique experience I must say, it is very rare that a show manage to make some characters so enigmatic that you need 12 episodes to start to slowly understand who they are.
And it was not like those characters were just ordinary people either. We already saw that Kasuga and Nakamura were crazy enough to make a lot of really messed up stuff. They might not be deviants, but they are sure doing their best to become the best deviants around. Now, I did have some trouble with the characters mostly because of the acting. I felt like the acting for Kasuga was a bit weak and that his emotions were not properly conveyed at all time. When you use such a technology that make the acting take a greater place, you need to make sure that your actors are actually capable of doing a good job at the part. Because of this certain distance in some of the character, it made some part of the season a bit less enjoyable than it could have been. I laugh more than I cried when Kasuga started screaming out of desperation, because everything sounded so fake.
Because of those flaws in acting, I have to lower my score a bit, but I still think the show deserves an 8 out of 10 when it comes to characters.
Soundtrack & Opening/Ending
Where should I even begin with this category. The opening theme song was the same throughout the season, but it was song by different people. It seems that those people weren’t professional singer either because at some point during the first half of the season I had to lower the sound as the screeching in my ears was just too disgusting for me to endure. Not only was the song butchered half the season, the opening was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, I’m not even talking about a bad opening here, I mean that there was really no purpose to have one to begin with at this point. The opening was just white background with black text and little red or purple swirl here and there. No animation, terrible singing and with spoiler of the episode cut in between. A big 0 if I were to rate the show just on that one.
Fortunately, the show actually had a better ending. The ending was still as visually uninteresting as it opening counterpart, but at least now we actually had an song that was creepy that it gave the show some popularity. The ending as such a mechanical an inhumane sound to it, it feels like little kid robots are singing you a ballad and it is creepy as hell. I really enjoyed the ending even though visually it was pretty much only a black background with scrolling credit.
Last but not least, I feel that the one thing, the one biggest flaw in Aku no Hana, was definitively the complete lack of a decent soundtrack. Too many moments were filled with nothing audible. There were sometimes some very long walk and rarely could you hear any music. The soundtrack is the one thing that no one really notice but which can really make or break a show and in the case of Aku no Hana, since there was practically no soundtrack, it broke everything. Because of the really bad everything that Aku no Hana had in this category, I have to give it a 2 out of 10, simply because of the ending.
Here we come to the story. Now, there is something interesting to note about the show. I’ve read the first few chapters of the manga and Aku no Hana the anime really create a completely different atmosphere than the one we experience in the manga. The character are more rough, the settings are darker and the whole process of dialogue and events is much slower and more dramatic and serious. Reading the manga or watching the show is two completely different experience. I have to give credit to the producer since it made the show what it is right now and it gave its flavour.
The story itself of Aku no Hana is pretty good, it is not something you get to see often. It gives a much different take on school life than the average anime. Having said that, there was some really big flaw in the story. One of which is the way that it ended. Now the show already has a lot of criticism and the season felt long and drawn out and yet we were cut off about halfway in the story to proceed to a second season. When about half of each episode felt like complete filler to take up more time it is really insulting to be giving a second season right after to complete the story they would have had enough time to tell already in a single season. I understand that the show was trying to achieve a feeling of slowness of pace, but the ending was so terrible that it makes it very difficult to accept that we haven’t seen anything yet and that everything is yet to come instead. I would have rather have a more condensed story than having to endure a second season.
Overall, the story was pretty good and even with that poor ending I cannot really give to much crap to the show. I give Aku no Hana 8 out 10 for the story.
Overall Entertainment Value
This is where things starts to be complicated for Aku no Hana. The show can clearly not be seen by just about anyone, this is not something can was aiming for the mainstream. The show is very slow, very little is done every episode and it is all part of the atmosphere. Everything is silent and the communication between the show and the viewer is done through symbolism and visual expression more than from talks and action. Aku no Hana aims at a more intellectual audience that is able to pick up such signs and symbolism to help them understand the show. Having said that, there is limit to how much you can be boring by blaming a slow pace and the creation of an atmosphere. When it takes 10 minutes to have a walk from point A to B, it is too much. 10 minutes with both characters not talking, doing the same walking motion all the time and we are unable to see their face. Yes it helped understand how it was a long night and how their walk back nearly feel surreal and feels like it takes an eternity, but find a better way to tell me that than having me watch 10 minutes of it.
I feel like the show tried to give itself a slow pace, but that it also uses that slow pace as an excuse to have less content and to be more boring by time. I have a feeling that there was either a lack of budget or a lack of talent that made this show so bad in the end, even for a show that tries so hard to reach us intellectually, I felt like I was taken for an idiot. I have a feeling that to like this show you must have a lot of time and be really tired, otherwise it is very difficult to connect most of the time.
The show itself was really enjoyable though, it was fun of surprised and fucked up stuff and therefore I had a blast most of the time, it was only the unusually slow and boring scenes that killed it for me. Overall, I’d give this show a 7 out of 10 for entertainment value, 10 out of 10 when things went crazy, 0 out of 10 when the “slowness” was taking forever.
Aku no Hana is definitively not a show for everyone, if I were to classify it I would say that it is closer to an art show than an anime. Its style and its presentation were really different and this of itself was quite refreshing. Yet it failed to provide us with the level of realism and entertainment which is expected out of a production like this and for those reasons it made it more difficult to be enjoyed even by more veteran and hipster Otaku. The lack of effort in the presentation and in the soundtrack, combined with the lengthy moment of emptiness, made the show impossible to be watch by any commoners and therefore I have a feeling that Aku no Hana won’t be known by many as only a few could possibly enjoy what it as to offer.
At the same time, the show as a place among some of the best show of it’s “genre” and therefore it might very well be remembered for a very long because of it. In term of slow, dark and psychologically insane show, Aku no Hana definitively has a spot and it might be popular throughout the ages because of it. I give Aku no Hana a 7 out 10 overall, but keep in my kids, this show might very well not be for you.
Final Rating: 7/10
ZeroGhj signing off