- Genre: Psychological horror, drama
- Episodes: 13
- Studio: Zexcs
Takao Kasuga is a special precious flower. Completely unique, brilliant and misunderstood. He is smarter, better, purer than all those pedestrians he is surrounded by. He is truer, he feels more honestly. He is a teenage boy whose favorite book is Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal. Have you ever known a kid like that? They’re the worst right? Well almost. You also have those kids that just can’t quite deal with becoming people and instead turn into uncontrolled vortexes of rage generally directed at nobody and everybody. There’s also those kids that aren’t really anyone at all. Nice sweet kids with absolutely no actual substance just desperate to become whoever you want them to be. Which do you hate more? Want to find out?
For those of you which are new here, I’ve decided to fill my October with animes said to be of the horror genre, more specifically: The Flowers of Evil, Mononoke, Hellsing and Shiki. Then I imposed my ill-conceived views of each on the world.
I read the Les Fleurs du Mal in school. It was a’ight. It’s poetry so I’m not sure it really translates. I’m actually pretty curious to know what the effect in Japanese would be but apparently it’s intense. For some reason I hadn’t realized that “the Flowers of Evil” was the English translation of that title. I should have, it is a word for word translation but what the metaphor of the title evokes in French is actually somewhat closer to the Seeds of Evil. There’s an idea of reaping what you sow tied into the word flower in French. So although the title is 100% accurate it also seems to miss the point. And so does this show.
The Flowers of Evil is smarter than you and goes all out to make sure you know it. For one, it is entirely made through rotoscoping. This is a painstaking and resource intensive technique that gives the show a completely unique look and feel. Of course, so as to not have the production go completely over budget, some pretty clear priorities are taken with the animation. For instance, anyone not in close-up loses their face. Literally. I think it looks cool but I can see people taking issue with it. I mean you will obviously not be able to see expressions unless they are insisted upon. So supporting cast are just an indistinct mass. Even the characters which are focused on have minimal movement and detailing. I found the overall effect to be very much like somewhat wooden actors playing against a green screen. It’s a love it or hate it thing and I must say I loved it.
Moreover, I found the highly detailed and lushly painted stationery backgrounds quite beautiful and the cardboard like characters seem to fit this particular story. It all added to the surreal and slightly uneasy mood the story was cultivating. This said, it is an acquired taste and won’t be everybody’s cuppa.
The themes explored in Baudelaire’s classic center around excess, debauchery and eroticism. It deals with questions of existential angst through the lens of Christian guilt and Faustian metaphor. I assure you I am not this smart. I barely understand what all these words mean. I am writing this right after finishing the series and you know… drinking game…
Basically, The poems are very surreal and deal with angsty metaphysical ideals. The Anime, is obviously trying to do the same through the eyes of a teenage protagonist. As such, the story isn’t really that important. What happens in fact is completely secondary to how it is assimilated by Takao. The problem is that Takao is a spineless, pretentious little …let’s say: kid. He takes everything, and I mean everything, very seriously. His humourless outlook taints the entire narrative and brings everything down to a dingy monotone. I have a feeling that at one point I may have been very much like this guy and I would probably have enjoyed this show then. It was a cringey time. Now I found it full of itself and rather boring.
I must say, I did think it started out rather promisingly. The first half had me intrigued. The slow pace, the unlikable characters and the unusual visuals all seemed to work in harmony and I really thought it might be going somewhere interesting. Unfortunately, it spiraled rather quickly around the mid show mark and never quite recovered.
Some elements did work well in my opinion. Ultimately Sawa is a shallow pit of anger without much personality to her but for most of the series she was also a very effective antagonist. The fact that her character wasn’t fully shaped kept her unpredictable and very unsettling. Unfortunately, they left her incomplete which destroyed the effectiveness of of the more dramatic influence she was supposed to bring and robbed the finale of any credible emotional impact. This said, for at least 9 episodes, I felt real tension whenever she came onscreen.
Everything is also very naturalistic. I got the feel of a Lars Von Trier movie off it. The dialogue is realistic for the age range and setting. The use of light and shadow is completely life-like (that’s the rotoscopy of course) and the minimal, atmospheric soundtrack was the perfect complement. That is up until you stop caring about what’s happening and suddenly realize you have no eye candy or music to distract you…
One thing I cannot take away from the Flowers of Evil is the intros and outro. The opening credits are plain but very pretty. Four different intro songs are used throughout the series and all were quite good. However, the ending is probably the best thing about the show. This has got to be one of the creepyest closings I’ve ever seen:
Basically, you can watch the first episode and know exactly whether you’ll enjoy this show or not. If you (like me) chose this because you were looking for some horror themed anime in time for Halloween, this would be the philosophical type of horror or as some of you may know it “not horror”. You can pretend to be smart when talking about it though.
Favorite character: None dude…none at all.
What this anime taught me: The technique behind rotoscopy
Blondes have more fun, but redheads remember it the next day
Suggested drink: the Frenchy
- Every time we see electrical posts – take a drink
- Every time we see the “flower” – take a drink
Every time someone says the name Baudelaire – take a drink
- Every time we see a picture of Baudelaire – take another
- Every time the men eat while the mother cleans – ask yo woman to bring you another drink
- Every time Saeki smiles (you’ll see…) – take a drink
- Every time Takao’s mom nags – roll your eyes
- Every time Sawa takes her glasses off – take a drink
- Every time Takao says book or bookstore – take a drink
- Every time Sawa says “hentai” – get defensive
- Every time we see/hear about Saeki’s gym uniform – take a sip
- Every time Takao apologizes – take a drink