Flowers of Evil, “A Fateful Encounter” (Episode 1)
Likely to be the most controversial of the new shows in the spring season, Flowers of Evil is based on a manga series of the same name in which an isolated teen, Kasuga, ends up in some sort of blackmail scheme after an even more isolated classmate, Nakamura (at right), spots him grabbing the gym bag of their beautiful peer Sakei. I haven’t read the manga (though I have read a couple of reviews of the first volume — hence my basic understanding of the premise), so this isn’t one of those cases where I know how it’s all going to play out in advance.
However, the first episode is just a damn fine piece of work on its own, regardless of how things play out. The use of rotoscoping — yes, rotoscoping! — is the source of much of the controversy around the series. It departs from the style of manga in a pretty significant and obvious way, and the characters look decidedly unfinished and move in jerky ways that seems to somewhat defeat the point of the attempt at a realistic depiction of the series’s characters.
I call shenanigans on this perspective though. I have no ill will toward rotoscoping, and I find that it adds to the show’s aesthetic in a really delightful way. The town these teens live in is decaying and falling apart. Signs are broken, paint is peeling, plants have either died or growing unchecked in alleys, and rust abounds. It’s animated beautifully in stark contrast to the rotoscoped characters, and their unfinished animated nature feels, to me, to be a part of this degradation that surrounds them. Factor in that these characters are still trying to figure out their own identities and what love means (Kasuga refers to Sakei as both a “muse” and a “femme fatale” — someone who both inspires and destroys), and their rotoscoped “ugliness” feels fitting.
Sonically, the episode’s soundtrack adds to the unsettling nature of the episode with long, low volume tones underlying dialog. It creates, along with the episode’s slow pace, an odd sense of tension that is doesn’t actually feel resolved, unless we count the falling of Sakei’s bag from the shelf as the climax of that tension, and I certainly would. Even if the narrative doesn’t end up delivering anything worthwhile, aesthetically, I there’s a lot to engage with in the show.
After the jump, two mecha series are discussed.
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