Flowers Of Evil Is A Boring, Unengaging Anime

Heading into Flowers of Evil, I was excited. I had heard good things about it through the grapevine, and the fact that it was using rotoscope animation was already getting the series a lot of buzz. But by the time the season hit its halfway point, I had no problem putting it on the list of four anime you could skip.

Still, even then, I was hopeful. The series had six episodes left to change my mind.

It didn't.

Good — Accurately Conveys a Realistic World of Teenage Angst

If Flowers of Evil does one thing well, it's the setting of its world. After all, in the self-centered world of middle school teenage angst, every little problem seems like it’s the end of the world; and both friendships and relationships can be as fickle as a weak breeze. Moreover, teens at that age think they are something special, that they understand the world in a way no one else can.

This anime excellently portrays the thought process of the main character in a way that reminds older viewers with brutal clarity of that time in their. But that raises the question, does anyone who has already lived through it seriously want to remember and re-experience the emotional and social turmoil of puberty? Certainly not me.

Bad — No Stakes, No Tension

Flowers of Evil is the story of a middle school boy struggling through puberty that finds himself blackmailed by the school's resident female deviant student into doing minor acts of perversion and destruction.

The series treats each of these deviant acts with suspense tactics taken straight out of a horror film. The problem is, the stakes are hardly life and death. In fact, the stakes are practically non-existent. Over the course of the anime, their deviant acts range from the embarrassing to the messy. And being that they are 14-year-olds, the absolute harshest punishment they are likely to get would be a verbal scolding and being forced to clean up their mess. Embarrassing? Sure. But nothing likely to have a lasting negative impact on one’s adult life.

Unfortunately, without stakes, there can be no tension. And without tension, every scene that's supposed to be building tension becomes a long, drawn-out waste of time -- killing the pace of the entire anime.

Of course, even the lowest stakes can feel big if you care enough about the characters involved. But sadly, Flowers of Evil has...

Bad — A Thoroughly Unlikeable Main Cast

Flowers of Evil follows three main characters in a pseudo-love triangle: Kasuga, a weak-willed boy who likes to read; Nanako, the girl he idolizes; and Nakamura, the deviant girl who blackmails him. All three are thoroughly unlikeable.

Kasuga manages that amazing trick of teenage nerds (I was one) of feeling superior to everyone else yet being a total doormat in life. Nanako, on the other hand, is a blank slate of a girl, eager to define herself by the first boy who shows an interest in her. And Nakamura is just an angry teenager, eager to cause pain wherever she can. None of them really have any redeeming virtues which makes it next to impossible to care about them -- much less empathise with them.

Bad — The Limits of Rotoscope Animation

While many people disliked the rotoscope animation style of Flowers of Evil on a purely aesthetic level, I have no problem with it as an artistic choice. Frankly, the backgrounds, flowing water, and generally any stationary object look more vibrantly realistic than in traditional style anime.

Unfortunately, rotoscoping has major problems getting the small details of objects -- especially if they are any distance away at all from the camera and/or are moving. This means that people's faces are, in general, little more than pink blobs. When they reach the middle distance, they may gain glasses or a line for the mouth, but it's not until the camera is in close-up territory that faces truly become recognisable as such.

Flowers of Evil is supposed to be an emotion-filled drama. Yet because of the limits of rotoscope animation, we are completely unable to see the emotions of any character not blessed with its own close-up. And even when said close-ups occur, the lack of facial detail is such that it is hard to read which emotion is which -- as nearly every expression looks like some kind of smile. This, again, makes it hard to connect with the characters in the story. Because their faces aren't clear, neither are the emotions they're trying to convey.

Bad — A Lack of Music

The role of music is vital in any film, TV series, or anime. Simply put, the music tells you how you should feel about the images you are seeing. In an action film, the score swells with big triumphant notes as the hero mows down the villain's army of minions -- making you feel pumped up, rooting for the good guy. But the same scene with slow calm music can evoke sadness at the futility of war and all the lives being lost.

Flowers of Evil, on the other hand, doesn't use either of these musical tactics for the most part and, instead, rarely has any music at all. This is a terrible idea.

Music is a huge part of how we connect with characters on screen on an emotional level. So while a rare lack of music at a critical moment can make you unsettled and unsure how to feel, a near total lack of music leaves you at first confused and, later, emotionally detached from the characters you are watching. And given how thoroughly unlikeable the main leads are, they needed any amount of help they could get.

Random Thoughts — Foreshadowing

I made it through the series of Flowers of Evil in a perpetual mixture of boredom and apathy -- except for a single short scene in the final episode. As I've stated time and time again in this review, the biggest problem I had with the anime was that I was unable to become emotionally invested. The characters were too unlikeable and the stakes were far too low. But in the final episode, we are shown a foreshadowing preview of things to come: broken windows, a burning book, a bat dragging across the pavement, and blood conspicuously running down the inside of a female character's leg. These are disturbing, shocking -- and captivating -- images. And as I watched them flicker before my eyes, I couldn't help but wonder, “Why wasn't this series about those moments!?” Seriously, this one short scene was more interesting and engaging than the entire preceding anime.

Final Thoughts

Flowers of Evil is easily one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences I have ever had. It is a boring, unengaging series filled with questionable story and character choices that only amplify the anime's major directorial problems. Simply put, to enjoy a slice-of-life story, you must empathise with the characters -- feel what they are feeling. Everything about this anime seems aimed to prevent that connection. It's just an utter train wreck of a series. I recommend it to no one.

Flowers of Evil aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be seen for free and with English subtitles at Crunchyroll.


Comments

    If I had the time I'd put a black box censoring that bike on the gif...

    Could not disagree more....

    No Stakes, No Tension: First of all, I think you probably need to understand what the stakes FEEL like for the characters rather than what stakes you are expecting to have. Do you remember when in highschool and even confessing you like a girl/boy was huge news and could leave you a social outcast or make you a social hero? Well considering the kind of things that Kasuga and Nakamura get up to, I think that's amplified 10 fold.

    Also the stakes are no just about his social place at school, they are about his place in society as a whole and whether he belongs anywhere or has anything of value to add, or if he is just a fake shell unable to relate to any part of the world around him. He obviously wants to connect but cannot seem to do so with anyone except Nakamura.

    Cast: Well, your choice I guess. I like nakamura's character. I don't specifically care for saeki. Kasuga is sometimes bland, but whenever his urges to break the norm become overwhelming I find him a really interesting character. I think people can relate to some of his habits too. Have you ever shown off something that interests you just in the hope that someone else will notice it, because you are too socially awkward to just talk to people about it? Sure many people can relate. His social inadequacies reminded me somewhat of Osamu Dazai.

    Music: Howwwwww. Can you sayyyyy. Music is bad. Really one of it's strong suits. Just because it is sparse doesn't matter. Ok, so that music they play, when he walks to school on the first day (and several other times during the series) just this really soft piece with this slight unnerving tone to it. Like everything is normal and quiet but just ever so slightly askew. It's perfect. The ending theme is fantastically suited to the show and the first time you hear it after EP 1 it just fills you with a wonderful sense of dread. But to top it off, the reprise of the ending theme in episode 7 at *that critical scene* is just tremendous. I have listened to that many many times.

    Rotoscoping: Can't say "limits" for stylistic choices. That's like saying animation is limited compared to film. It's not limited, it's different. I think the style works well, and rotoscoping isn't for everyone and every show, but it seems to me to work well in this show. It may have been just as fine without rotoscoping but I found it refreshing. We only get 30 anime a season. Is it so bad to have 1 in that 30 for 1 season in 4 a year to be rotoscoped?

    Foreshadowing: I don't know what to say other than I hope there really is another series. But if everyone is critical maybe there won't be.

    BEST anime of the last season without a doubt. CHECK.

      Finally! I'm not the only one to see the brilliance of this show!

      Agreed best anime of the last season. I'll actually put it up there as one of my all time favourites.

      I don't understand how the reviewer acknowledged that it captures the teen angst perfectly and then yet states that we can't identify with the characters at all.

      If there isn't news of a second season to finish off the manga story then I'll be out buying the manga soon.

    at the moment im finding the anime adaptation of dangan ronpa to be quite enjoyable, something about the way the art style is done just fits so well to the show, i know its simply mimicking the style done in game but it just works so well in anime form

    So I have gone to read this entire review, and I can barely agree with it.
    A.) the no stakes, no tension portion is completely incorrect. Perhaps if you are looking at this from an adult point of view then yes I could see that, however, our story does not revolve around adults but instead kids going through puberty. If this were to happen when you were in middle school it would destroy your life. You would be bullied, shunned, and overall just treated awfully by the people around you. To them this is a high stake.
    B.) An unlikable cast? For the most part these are the three main groups of people you will ever meet in your life. A deviant, an ignorant, a self-righteous. I can guarantee almost everyone in the world is one of these three, or is friends of varying manners with one of these three; and in some way shape or form you can relate to almost every single on of these characters.
    C.) the comment and I quote "Why wasn't the series about those moments" should be self-explanatory to anyone with an I.Q. of 90+. It's like the movie Inception. It's about three hours long and the first hour is extremely boring, but that's because it's building up the story. Without all the key points that have been shown it would all be meaningless and not entirely clear.
    This is a shameful review on Flowers of Evil and should not been considered an appropriate evaluation to what truly is a great series or at the very least something to sit down and watch at least once.

      100% agree with you.

    Really, as much as i love my anime, im getting real sick of the teenage angst angle. As soon as i read that part i decided to skip this.

    I highly disagree, I loved the tension building in the series. I was excited to see an anime that isn't about the same old "an overpowered bad guy, versus weaker good guy, then good guy finds the strength to overcome bad guy". This anime had three-dimensional complicated characters with real raw stories that I felt really resonated. It's a shame it didn't tick your boxes, guess I'm more F-ed up than you.

    It's a shame there will never be a second series.

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