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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Flowers of Evil, Volume 1 - Shuzo Oshimi So, a few days ago I started watching the Flowers of Evil anime on a whim, and decided to check out the manga. First things first, I don't particularly care for the massive outcry there has been online for the anime taking on a jerky rotoscoping style of animation. In fact, if you go on Amazon Japan, there's been a whole deluge of people giving the anime one star ratings and reviews. This may not be true of every Japanese review on Amazon, but the majority seem to really have taken umbrage with the change in art style, even if the creator said they approved of it.I see both sides of the argument. I see that the series should be all cutesy - the way the manga is - in order to really carry over the creepiness in the story. Giving it a slightly more realistic, rotoscoped look is just being too overt with the creepy aspect. On the other hand, if it had retained its manga style, people may not be giving it the time of day, or even discussing it so much. Whatever the case, I like both styles and don't really see the need for the huge debate.Anyway, back onto the manga.Flowers of Evil is about Takao Kasuga, a lonely teenager who devours classical literature and has a sense of self-importance about him because of course, nobody else in his class could ever understand these masterworks because they're so close-minded. Or, you know, just not particularly interested in Baudelaire or Philip K. Dick. I know I wasn't at that age.After school one day, Takao steals the gym uniform of his crush Saeki, in a fit of lust. The creepy girl in class, Sawa Nakamura, saw him do it, and threatens to expose his secret unless he becomes her friend and she lets him 'peel away the layers and show him what a rotten fucking pervert he is.' Charming. Takao, being the weak-willed sort, accepts this contract.As Saeki is the most popular girl in the class, when news gets out that her gym uniform was stolen, the class instantly start whispering about what sort of pervert would do such a thing. Rather than do the logical thing, of oh, Kasuga going to Saeki in private on the same day and telling her he picked up her uniform instead of his by complete accident, he just stays quiet, and so the rumour mill goes into overdrive. Cripes, dude, just tell her! That way you don't have to have Nakamura breathing down your neck or screaming in your face or threatening you.At first, Nakamura really interested me. I actually had this theory about her not actually being real, to begin with. Well, she was real - she was just the oddball sitting behind Kasuga in class, and not really much of a threat besides her propensity to swear at teachers and those around her. Nakamura forcing Kasuga to do all this blackmail was just his way of excusing himself for say, wearing Saeki's gym uniform underneath his clothes on his first date with her. I don't subscribe to that theory any more, but it could have been interesting if that were the case.I don't quite get Kasuga, to be honest. He has a group of friends, yet some of the kids in his class are really mean to him. There's this one part where one of Saeki's friends discovers that her lunch money has been taken out of her locker, and the class instantly turns on Nakamura without any proof. (Haha, what next - turn it into a classroom trial and give little Phoenix Wright his first taste of law being used to help the defence out of sticky situations?) Kasuga basically speaks up and says that there's no evidence to convict Nakamura, so everyone should stop picking on her. At first some of his classmates tell him to shut up and sit in the corner with his book, but then it turns into this whole: "Nakamura and Kasuga, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" bullcrap. And Kasuga just never speaks up! Dude, they're accusing you really harshly, just say something! The same thing you should have said to Saeki to get yourself out of this mess in the first place! It reminds me of Yahtzee's review of the game Catherine: 'If the dude could take five seconds to just explain things without stammering out more lies whilst sweating like James Murdoch at a government hearing, then he could probably sort everything out!' Granted, Kasuga doesn't lie (much), but he does keep so quiet that the rumours just keep on accumulating until he's in a somewhat similar position to Vincent Brooks.That being said, the manga is stupidly addictive. Manga that contains high stakes emotional drama does tend to be addictive (see Keiko Suenobu's LIFE), and Flowers of Evil did a very good job in keeping this member of its audience captive. I burned through volumes 1-4 over the course of two nights before realising it was getting worse with every volume. Worse as in ratings, not worse as in drama. Yes, unfortunately, the drama just crashes into a brick wall over the next few volumes. While I won't spoil it here, it's just shilled out more and more to the point of eye-rolling whenever Nakamura makes Kasuga do something, or Kasuga has to go out of his comfort zone, or... argh. Such a shame, because I was really loath to go from a three star to a two star.I wanted to love this manga, but Kasuga is just completely whiny and irksome, and with all the drama that's pushed on him, it just becomes over the top after a while. He constantly moans that nobody understands him or his love of books, but come on, man. That's no way to live your life. I get that this rural isolation is a key thing in the series - Kasuga feels like nobody understands him, like he's on an alien planet where people speak completely unintelligible nonsense, and so does Nakamura. Well... Just move to the city when you get to university. That's all you have to do! It might be a far-off dream, but just work hard and you'll be there before you know it. I'm sure there's someone in a student union bar in Tokyo or Osaka who understands the intrinsic meaning behind Baudelaire.I also was pretty annoyed with Kasuga's dad just hand-waving everything away. I mean, Kasuga gets into a lot of trouble later in the series and yet his dad just goes: "Oh, don't worry, he's just going through puberty," or "He's a teenage boy, we should let him have some free rein," etc.While I do quite like this manga and found it fascinating to delve into, the drama really does become overbearing after a while. Nakamura's character schtick really wears off after a while. "Oh, look, she's got Kasuga alone. Oh, oh, she's going to swear at him and burst out a crazy expression! Yep, that's it, there she goes!" Kasuga, unfortunately, just isn't a character you want to support. He's the kind of person you want to kick up the backside and tell him to do something. This kind of character can be done well - see Shinji from Evangelion - but here it's just tedious.So, like I said before, Flowers of Evil volume 1 gets a 3 star rating from me. The characters aren't great, the drama just snowballs until you can't really bring yourself to care about it any more... and yet it is incredibly addictive, and there are some parts where it's well-written and gets across its message perfectly with clever motifs and symbols. It's just a shame all the good stuff is overshadowed by the crappy drama angle. (This review is available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/manga-review-flowers-of-evil-aku-no.html)