This show is a fine example of what is wrong with the anime industry. It just uses reverse psychology and makes most to react in the exact opposite way than they usually do but still shares the same problem most shows do when it comes to evaluation. As it usually goes, most judge if a show is good solely on how it looks or feels instead of how good its material is or if its themes are presented properly. This is why we get embarrassing situations such as most anime fans yelling how shows like Code Geass are the most amazing things ever made and completely disregard how terrible their plots and presentation were. Aku no Hana is sharing the same problem but from the opposite side of the same coin.
IT IS UGLY!
Really, that is what 99% of everybody speaks of when they refer to it. Screw context, just look at the exterior. As far as this issue goes you can easily divide said impressions into two major groups.
- There are those who call it lazily made, low budget, completely different to the manga artwork, or simply not good fap material.
- Then there is the other side which calls it unorthodox, experimental, different, and fitting to its disturbed themes.
From where I am standing, I say they are both right.
The animation is done with the old technique of rotorscoping; that is to first film live actors doing the motions and then drawing over them to produce the final animation. This method was used for several decades since it was making the motions of the characters to feel very natural. Disney’s Snow White is the oldest good example of that. Eventually, this method was dropped by most after computers came along to do most of the work. Plus, it was a very complicating and time consuming process, so many didn’t bother to use it after awhile and preferred to have cartoony characters that didn’t require realistic motions.
From what I wrote someone would assume that since the show is made with rotorscoping it must have very detailed and fluent motions. Yet here is the nasty part; it doesn’t. You see, the technique requires a high amount of frames per second, as well as detailed consistency between them; without that it looks weird. Aku no Hana has very jerky motions and the characters lack very basic details, such as having no faces or lightening when they are a few meters away from the camera. This makes them look bizarre, especially next to the backgrounds which retain a detailed and full of textures look. I wouldn’t say that makes them unappealing to the eye but it sure makes them un-anime-like. It is hard for most fans to like a different style and even harder if they were accustomed to the pretty typical style of the manga version.
At the same time it is true what others say about it; it stands out. If you are fed up with all those overused anime-style characters and their copy-pasted into infinity school grounds, then chances are you are going to embrace this artwork as a breath of fresh air. I sure didn’t mind it much since not only I am fed up with Kyoani and Shonen Jump styles, but also because I grew up watching animations from various countries. I am much more tolerant to bizarre styles and most of the times I even like them just for being bizarre. But that doesn’t mean I liked Aku no Hana much either.
Doesn’t the fact that the girls don’t look like overused fap material like in the manga but rather something bizarre or ugly make them more memorable? Well... it would if the show wasn’t a low budget Zexcs production. It feels ugly to the aesthetic part of your brain and not so much because the animation is weird. And it doesn’t have anything past the one-trick pony of deviance in it, such as giant robots ala Neon Genesis or weird VR worlds like Ressentiment. Do you know how easy it is to be bored of it because of that? Especially if it’s meant to be depressing and not some escapism BS.
The problems of low frame rate and minimalism make it indeed hard to get into even for me. And for Pete’s sakes; it still is yet another school-themed show, a typical artwork fits it just fine. This is not some bizarre setting like in the cases of Kaiba where it would be excused. I still like how the director is using camera angles and cinematics, with the highlights being episodes 7 and 8. But that is all; visual effects aside it is indeed low budget and not very appealing. Which is sort of like the trademark of all studio Zexcs works; those guys never made an above average show in their whole lives.
Then we have the music score which just like the artwork is meant to stand out. Not by being good to re-listen fifty times in a row; it is almost the opposite of that. It was made to be disturbing, with lyrics that have to do with anger and depression. Effective? Yes. Memorable? Mostly not; aside from putting you into the proper mindset they are pretty forgettable.
And finally there is the voice acting, which despite not escaping the rather silly trademarks of teen shows is at least honest with how normal teenagers are suppose to think... and in the case of crazy teenagers, how they are supposed not to sound like they make any sense at all.
SCRIPT & CAST
Ok, enough with the production values; let’s try to say a few things about the stuff almost nobody wants to talk about. You know, the plot? And perhaps the characters? Because there are more things in a show besides how pretty or ugly it is. You didn’t know that; did you? Try to stop bandwagoning for a few minutes and think a bit about the following.
As far as plot and characters goes, the anime belongs to after-Bakemonogatari era of ecchiness. Meaning, it is about deviant fetishes and very little about anything else. Ok, they try to make it seem more than that by having the character reading books and using poems but in practice that offers absolutely nothing in terms of depth. It is about a bunch of teenagers with problems doing deviant stuff out of sexual frustration; the end. There is literally nothing else to talk about them; they are pretty bland and the show craves on them remaining deviant and not on trying to slowly mature or at least make them normal. Meaning, this is no Onani Master Kurosawa or Welcome to the NHK. It is beneath them but still a step above a mediocre ecchi comedy. And just like almost all of them has no real ending since it is an incomplete adaptation.
Despite the characters SEEMINGLY acting far more realistic and plausible than your average school harem, they are still pretty simple and hard to take seriously. Especially the teen idol girl which is supposed to be the pure hearted one yet just falls in love and forgives without a second thought that asshole of a man that is the main character. In fact all three main characters are, despite their presentation, still following the formula all school based anime do. The plot also uses the age-old trick of resetting any progress there seems to be by making everyone acting like blind or too stupid to figure out what they should be doing all along or at least figuring out who is truly responsible.
Do I find it to be a bad show? No, I admit it tries to be different and more mature than your run of the mill school comedy. The small fanbase the show has try to elevate the anime into the highest levels of hipsterism and I must say that is as dumb as the butthurt moeblob/manga fans.
The show tries to be some sort of psychological thriller at points by having the main characters losing themselves to some bizarre hallucinations that are sex-related and are fuelled by the poems this show is named after. They are also full of hatred regarding who they are and how boring their society is. They do a lot of crazy stuff out of frustration and hormones. Doesn’t that make this show far better than a typical ecchi school comedy or something? Yes, it does indeed. That still doesn’t solve the inherit problem of the setting though. It is fairly one-note in everything. There isn’t much plot or characterization and everything is running on you being trapped in a feeling of disgust and reject. In this regard Aku no Hana is not that different to many other school anime that “seem” to be better by having an interesting main conflict. They are otherwise fairly forgettable past that very specific nice idea. Recent examples include Kokoro Connect, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, and The Severing Crime Edge. You will encounter the exact same issue in them as well; the main idea is very good but the way it unfolds has nothing worth talking about and eventually everybody forgets them after a week.
Of course Aku no Hana will not be forgotten as easily. It managed to be remembered as an infamous anime of the likes of School Days because IT IS UGLY! A thing that would definitely had happened if it was made with the overused style of the manga. In a way this is a feat, even if it was accomplished for all the wrong reasons. It definitely beats a throw into oblivion and moving to the next hip thing. I would love it if it had a faster plot, no plot resets, no stupid characters, or the atmosphere was like episodes 7 and 8 all the time. Yet, it isn’t and thus I am not annoyed with the way your typical otaku reacts when he looks at this show.
IT IS UGLY!
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 2/2 (stands out)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 0/2 (unexcused choppiness)
Visual Effects 2/2 (creepy)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (slow)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (open ended)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 2/2 (these guys are insane)
Personality 2/2 (rather simple but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (none)
Catharsis 0/2 (none)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 1/3 (it will be sort of remembered for its bad fame)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 4/4 (the very special artwork makes it unforgettable)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 1/1 (stands out)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 1/3 (feels generic)
Characters 2/4 (they are ok; nothing special)