Spring 2013 Anime First Impressions – Aku no Hana

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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.

The Story

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.

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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 17/12  B
Animation: 2/5 – Subpar
Anticipation Level: 3.5/5 – Medium

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The lack of faces makes me think there were Amish animators involved 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Spring 2013 Anime First Impressions – Aku no Hana”

  1. Nothing wrong with taking time to start a series. The first episode for me, more than anything else, established the mood and told us what to expect. I’ll take the slowly unfolding flower as the best metaphor here. Or course, most flowers don’t have eyeballs …

    As for the rotoscoping, I think it showed its potential for showing motivations in characters’ faces that couldn’t be done otherwise. I’m looking forward to seeing more of it, in this series anyway.

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  2. It’s photo realistic, with the characters being a rendition of how Japanese people actually look. No variation hair colors for one thing. My experience with the long form anime and the even longer format visual novels is that the beginning doesn’t really matter compared to the ending, for that is when the final results tally in. In a more commercial, less patient, short sighted world, the beginning matters more. But that’s just a superficial cover that doesn’t mean anything.

    The concept of competition, by watching 10 initial episodes and comparing them, is the motivation behind this kind of assessment. One gets into the habit, modified by social influence alone, to compare the competition. At times this allows for greater quality, but it just means people stop analyzing the entire series. They’re analyzing things based upon their relative perspectives of the competition, rather than the entire product alone.

    There were many times in Clannad that the text, reading, and plot were rather boring and I wanted to get through it to the other parts. There is no point in skipping it, however, as that defeats the purpose of working towards the end. In that fashion, it is not so much the author leading you to the end as you yourself working yourself to the end. Which is why it is unforgivable for a visual novel to have an incomprehensible ending, including Western cliff hangers and novel series “hooks”.

    In this economy, I cannot help but suspect that the resources devoted to the beginning does not particularly make for even resource expenditure elsewhere. When the aim of this competition is to spend even more resources on the opening throw to get the hopes and expectations (hype) of the audience up, where will the resources be to finish the story? Human beings actually rate things negatively if they go downhill, especially if they started high up. Whereas the reverse, tends to have more positive emotions because of people’s negative or moderate expectations.

    People’s talk about animation makes absolutely no sense either. They pay no attention to the aesthetic quality, the artwork, and instead look at the movements of the people. Movies are a much better format for that kind of goal. What I noticed was that the backgrounds were different, in a more accurate rendition of daily life in Japan, much like 5cm per second. So why is that not mentioned? Because people literally are blind to such things now a days where their eyes see that which is more in front, vying for the audience?

    Whether I’ll watch this anime next week or not is hard to say. But if I do, it won’t be because of anything mentioned concerning the animation or plot. Those are not only distractions people use to argue over as a way of injecting passion, but also distracts from the art. People’s sense of aesthetics is not their own, if ever there was, when a more natural, slow paced living is considered ugly. It may be boring and unable to compete with others, but it’s not necessary to always compete with others and vie for some exalted population opinion that rests upon the existence of people’s flawed judgments.

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  3. @Peter S: Any it’s a good thing most flowers don’t have eyeballs 🙂

    @ymarsakar: I do agree that the beginnings aren’t as important as the endings but all I have right now is the beginning to talk about.

    I had intended to mention about the backgrounds but sometimes I forget things I want to talk about while I’m in the process of writing. I really like the way the backgrounds were done.

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  4. Steelbound,

    that’s the thing though. This popularized rush to categorize all the things when they come out, means that people have less reason or options to merely say “I’ll hold off on judgment until later”. When it comes to making a precise personal judgment, especially when it comes truth, falsehood, beauty, and ugliness, one must take in the critical information. If one lacks that information, the other option isn’t merely to make a judgment now, this is not combat where decisiveness is valued over rightness, but merely to hold off judgment.

    Without that third option, people are left with merely saying Like/Unlike. This means less likely to make a personal judgment on their own values, and more likely to decide on popular societal thoughts and beliefs. After all, if one “must” make a decision now, without a clear view of even half way to the goal, then most of the stuff we take in is from our peers or the overall society and common wisdom. That, we take to be our guidance and wisdom.

    As I grew older, I’ve found myself more and more coming to distrust such common knowledge. To the point where I’m like that old style warrior that needs to train in the mountains because human society is not only a distraction but a pollution on one’s inner values and spirit.

    The fact that people urge others to make a decision now, cause they want to hear the popular vogue and feedback, is one of the first issues. What if I don’t want to make a judgment now, either way? That would be the same as disconnecting from the popular vogue, the overall community, wouldn’t it. Because, after all, historically, that was how people sought out personal enlightenment. Going to a cave. Meditating alone. Fasting and getting rid of human hunger desires in order to metabolize pure energy in fat alone.

    Originally, I never understood why warriors or monks or any number of people found solitude, nature, and being by themselves so holy or enlightening. Often those people would come down from whatever rock they had been living under for the last 10 years, and talk about Stoic or Buddhist concepts of denying earthly desires. That never made sense to me before, since denying earthly desires was just the same as committing social suicide. How is one supposed to live without living in society and adapting to the social morality/rules? What I didn’t get at the time was that all these enlightened concepts presupposed that one didn’t “live in a society at all, and had no peers whatsoever”. Now that’s freaky, except for travelers that like to live wandering lives. Kino’s Journey is a pretty good example of the wandering. A very popular stereotype of the wandering warrior/knight that does goodly deeds but always runs out of money.

    Doing previews isn’t a bad thing overall in my view. But I would not quite state what is beautiful and what is ugly just yet. If there is nothing in the first episode that is too obvious, then I would leave most of the space blank, as there wouldn’t be anything to write about, much. But then, I don’t think like most people…

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