It’s not every season an anime sends the collective anime fanbase into a tizzy but I’ve seen it happen enough times that I’m not surprised by the reaction the first episode of Aku no Hana caused. There’s a part of me that wishes anime fans wouldn’t be so predictable but I suspect that part of me is in the process of becoming a grumpy, old-timer and I probably shouldn’t listen to him. 🙂 The rest of me knows where these fans are coming from and largely agrees with their sentiment.
Our main character is your typical generic eighth grade male student and apparently he’s going to do something he’s not supposed to and will get blackmailed over it when another student catches him in the act.
The Fine Print
I say “apparently” because nothing really happens in the first episode. We establish our generic male middle school student main character is generic and that he likes a girl, the girl he likes is smart and well-liked, the girl that sits behind him is scary and likes to curse at the teacher, and the male main character likes reading poetry written by a specific French author. That’s it and this is the biggest problem with the first episode of Aku no Hana, not the animation.
I’ve watched a sizable percentage of just about every genre found in anime and I know how much can fit into a single 30 minute episode. The show I reviewed yesterday, Suisei no Gargantia, is at the high end of what a first episode can accomplish and I don’t expect every series to replicate it. However, when mediocre fan-service series like Photokano can do more with it’s given time then Aku no Hana then it becomes a problem. It’s still a rectifiable problem but this series isn’t starting off strongly.
And actually, the intense focus on the rotoscope animation comes partly from the fact that there was nothing else memorable to the first episode. If this episode had been condensed down, like it would easily could have been, then we could have gotten to the dark, twisted, psychological stuff that the source material is known for and the viewers would have something else to talk about. Instead, with no hook in this first episode, many people who would have watched this series will not and remember it as “that funny looking series”.
Moving onto the animation itself.
It’s not a deal-breaker on my part but I’m not going to give it a total pass. I am a great fan of using odd animation styles to help develop and enhance a feel for an anime. One of the best examples of this is Kaiba; it would not have been nearly as good if it had gone with a more traditional look. Even “odd” animation, though, is bound by many of same rules as the normal styles. Aku no Hana is supposed to look “ugly” because it’s going to feature the darkness in people’s soul but that doesn’t give it the freedom to pass off the ugliness that comes from not knowing how to cover for a low budget, or the novice quality rotoscoping, or the complete lack of aesthetical considerations in the animation. There’s good ugly and bad ugly; Aku no Hana falls into the bad ugly category.
I still remain optimistic about the chances for this anime because it did do some things well like have a really creepy ending song and there were no actual glaring mistakes with the story in episode 1 – there just needs to be more of it. At this point I can’t really recommend this title to anyone but stay tuned for my mid-season report in several weeks time to see how this has developed.
Rating for episode 1 – 7/12 B
Animation: 2/5 – Subpar
Anticipation Level: 3.5/5 – Medium