I have waited to watch Aku no Hana (The Flowers of Evil) for a while as it is one of my most liked manga, but having heard mixed reviews of the anime – in particular the artistic style – I had delayed it, until now.
The conflicting point of most reviews is the use of rotoscoping, a technique where artists draw over frames of live action footage. See some below:
The main complaint people have with rotoscoping is that it loses a lot of the recognizable features of real life humans, notice how in the above picture the character’s nose ridge is lost. This is emphasized more in background characters where occasionally they become blank faces. There are also some reviews simply put out for using a “non-traditional” technique (unfounded, looking at rotoscoping’s history dating all the way back to 1917).
Despite this, I think rotoscoping was the correct method to animate this show. Aku no Hana presents a very intimate story of a character falling into despair, and because of this, using the lifelike appearance of rotoscoping makes it more real and relatable. They could, of course, have used the live footage to present this story – and at a lower budget. Animation however, is an expressive medium and emotions can be displayed simply and effectively. There are some scenes that are purely animated/anime-style CG, and this also makes the switch fluid, not jarring as it would be in a live action version.
While rotoscoping has its failings, I think it was the best choice for the show and wouldn’t have worked well in another format.
The rotoscope process - frame by frame drawings on top of a live scene. See source at the end of this page.
Now that the main area of reviewer conflict on this show is out of the way, onto the actual content. The anime is a good adaptation of the original manga, unfortunately let down by the series failing to secure a subsequent season. Despite that annoyance, It’s a good thing that they didn’t try to cram the story into the 13 episodes as it would have lost a large amount of its appeal simply from a rushed timing , missing out on time to associate with characters, building of suspense and ultimately – cliffhang the viewer on the plot.
Luckily however, the manga exists – so if you’re yearning for more you can either start from where the anime left off (chapter 20) or from the start again, which is still readable due to the design differences, subtle reaction changes and greater detailed story. If you’re looking for the titles, try Anime-On-Line’s collection, where you can also find the anime version. The later editions have lovely watercolour covers.
Cover of Aku no Hana Volume 7
It’s hard to write about the story without going into spoiler territory, but suffice to say it is gripping – and dark. The characters themselves are full of life – well animated in both meanings of the word. The soundtrack is also excellent – perhaps not one you would listen to on your iPod, but one that supplements the creepy chill tone of the series.
Aku no Hana is a well written piece that ignores common tropes for its own unique tale, making it stand out both in quality and in originality – something which is often scarce in the anime world.
I was split on this score, but I think it’s the correct one. As a first season, this show is perfect, its major failing being that it didn’t get a second. However, the manga is available to fill that gap and complete the story and overall, it gets a rare full stars.