Before the start of the new season, I wanted to jump in on one of the new manga-to-anime adaptations that intrigued me, Aku no Hana. A story about a boy who reads classic literature, a girl who is a delinquent and forcefully rude towards everyone, and a model student, their worlds collide in a nightmare-ish fashion after he is caught stealing gym clothes from the classroom. Forewarning, it’s six ways of Sunday fucked up, if you can’t deal with the topics of blackmail, perverts, isolationism, destructiveness, sex, rape, and social disconnect, back the fuck up. This series does not fuck around.
Takao Kasuga is a middle-school boy who likes classic literature. One of his favorites is Les Fleurs du Mal. or “The Flowers of Evil” which was a collection of poems written by Charles Baudelaire, originally published in 1857. Most of the content revolves around subjects like the decline in moral decency, and erotic themes, and was considered taboo and inappropriate for its time. Kasuga is enamored with these poems, and with reading in general, because he is convinced that it makes him “stand out” among his peers, that he isn’t just another person in a small town. Another classmate of his, Nanako Saeki, is a model student, class president, and object of every guy’s affections. Kasuga has a deep love for Saeki, but convinces himself that she is “untouchable”, often using the phrases “Venus” and “Muse” to describe his one-sided love affair with her. Sawa Nakamura on the other hand, is a bold, brash, and unapologetic girl with glasses who sits behind Kasuga. When spoken to, she usually yells back at the person, calling them indecent names or telling them they are “shit suckers” or similar phrases. She deliberately segregates herself from the student body and likewise, no one associates with her.
One day, when Kasuga goes back to the classroom to retrieve his book, he falls upon Saeki’s gym uniform on the floor. He impulsively decides to steal the uniform and take it home, as a symbol of his perverted one-sided love affair with Saeki. Little did he realize, Nakamura noticed him doing this, and immediately decided to blackmail him by threatening to report it to everyone unless he followed her orders. Forming a “contract” she began a torturous routine of interfering with his “normal” life, belittling him, forcing him on the ground and taking his clothes off, slapping or punching him, and anything else that would amuse her. Kasuga desperately wanted to rid himself of the nightmare and return to a normal life, but things became further complicated when he inadvertently wound up on a date with Saeki at the bookstore he frequents. In a stroke of luck, he asked her out that same day and she agreed, only he was wearing her gym uniform underneath his clothes at Nakamura’s direction. Soon after, the nightmare multiplied at the three tangled in a chaotic and often inappropriate love triangle that threatened their own lives and those of their family and friends, before everything came crashing down in the rain on the mountain one night, where Kasuga admitted that he was not special, nor was he a pervert, and unable to fulfill either girl’s wishes. But Kasuga’s troubles did not end there, as he continued to chase after Nakamura believing he could “save her” from herself, while rejecting Saeko’s advances. The arc ends after the two of them attempt to kill themselves on top of a parade float in front of the entire town, but fail when they realize their own selfishness.
The manga timeskips forward to high school in a different town, where Kasuga and family have moved out of their previous town and into this new one, enrolling him in a new school. He has new friends, a more normal life, and no books, having sold them all before moving. He meets Aya Tokiwa, a tall girl who resembles Nakamura, but is kind towards Kasuga despite having a boyfriend from another school. They become friends when he discovers she has a secret love for books and reading, and lets him into her room when her own boyfriend was never allowed to, which caused brief strife between the two. He starts to open up more towards her and others as he rediscovers a love for books and having a friend who enjoys the same without a pretense, but his past creeps back in when he runs into Saeko and her boyfriend in the city one day, and during a lunch date, she boldly accuses him of tailing Tokiwa because he still has feelings for Nakamura, and that she feels he strung her along the entire time during middle school only to toss her to the side for Nakamura, who never treated him as well as she did. As the manga is ongoing, in the last chapter, he begins to wrestle with his past demons once more, but tries to convince himself that Tokiwa is different, and that he simply enjoys her company for books, and wants to read what she writes.
I know. School Days. This is just dark. Very dark. It’s difficult for me to describe this to non-anime or manga fans because they’d just roll their eyes and go “lol japan” but if this was written by Twilight’s author, or this was Fifty Shades of Grey or someshit, it’d make sense to them. What separates this from fanfiction love stories is there is literally no way for anyone to Mary-Sue this without jettisoning themselves out after a couple chapters. Kasuga, Saeko, Nakamura, all three of them are totally fucked up. They all exhibit perverted, narcissistic tendencies that together just boggle the fucking mind. I mean, as fucked up as Nakamura is, especially each time she rips his clothes off and even scratches his skin off at one point, she didn’t go for his junk like Saeko did. She popped her fucking cherry on him, if you don’t believe me, go look at her legs in the pages after. That’s blood. Down her legs. Fucked up, right? It’s fantastic.
I guess I am a special kind of fucked up to enjoy this story, but maybe it is because it’s real. It’s not your typical cookie-cutter romance with hillarious hijinks and GUITAH moments. It’s not your Harem Special with the guy amassing a group of girls hanging off him. This is a socially inept kid who decides to sniff a girl’s gym clothes and then gets tangled with a girl who has just literally lost the will to live as a normal human being. She thrives on the misery of others, but at some point she passed the point of no return, and she developed a relationship with him, but could not change her ways, her one-sided abuse of Kasuga was the only way she could express her love, much like his perverted nature was one-sided towards Saeko, and Saeko could only express her love for Kasuga by trying to pull him away from Nakamura.
I’m very interested to see what becomes of the anime. Zexcs isn’t my first thought though for producing it, most of their titles have been more campy material. But I’ve seen more interesting things happen I guess. I thought a lot about Another and how its ambiance would work with this series, but it’s almost more of a darker, older age-wise version of Hourou Musuko in a way. Either way, I hope it captures the manga’s atmosphere, because it will be fantastic to see this animated.
Aku no Hana premieres this season, but if you’re interested in the manga, google Craptastic Scans, Doomed Dane, and PROzess for available scanlations. Or use whatever manga reader you like that has them on tap.