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Is it worth the hype? - Aku no Hana Manga Review

Aku no Hana is a series that was surrounded by a lot of hype for a certain time. At the height of its popularity, an anime adaptation was released and caught a lot of attention for its, ahem, interesting animation style. Then, almost as quickly as it came, it disappeared.

I tried to read Aku no Hana before. But I got bored a few chapters in and dropped it, rolled my eyes and dismissed the plot as “pointless” and boring. Recently, I thought it would be fun to do some reviews questioning the hype around some manga/anime and validating if they really deserved all that attention. I was ready for a bash fest. I was gonna knock off some all-stars from their undeserving high pedestals. Aku no Hana was one of the first series that popped into my head.

However, to my surprise, when I got down to reading it specially for this review, Aku no Hana turned out way better than expected. Which caused my initial draft to be ruined. (Note to self: Don’t judge a manga by its first three chapters)

So without further ado, let’s get into it!

The only pre-existing information you might have about this series is that
A)     There was a crazy bespectacled girl who is kinda cute if you can ignore the fact that she's completely bonkers
B)      There was also a boy who seemed terrified of her
C)      Creepy eye flower (Most likely evil. Like the girl.)

The underlying theme of the plot seems to revolve around the poetry book Les Fleurs du mal, which translates to The Flowers of Evil aka the manga title, and the author who wrote it, Charles Baudelaire. Kasuga, the main character, seems horribly obsessed with this writer. He also has a bad case of “I’m more superior than my classmates because I read books nobody knows about” syndrome. (Reminds you of anybody?)

I told you he was obsessed.

Before getting into the bulk of the story, I decided to find out more about this writer and his works. After all, the manga seems to be a modern interpretation of the poems’ themes. So, let’s get acquainted together! *puts on literature appreciation glasses*

Charles Baudelaire was considered a chief innovator in French literature and created the term “modernity” to describe the transient quality of urban city life. Published in 1857, his volume of poetry Les Fleurs du mal, was deemed as “unwholesome” and immoral by mainstream critics of his time. In his own words, he states that the book possesses a “cold and sinister beauty”. One of its more famous sections illustrates his feelings of estrangement from his changed and mordenized environment. (The reason why I’m pointing out something so specific is that it seems to reflect Kasuga.)

In the beginning of the story, one thing becomes obvious: Both the book and Nakamura symbolise Kasuga’s repressed emotions. In fact, it’s almost sensible to see Nakamura as Kasuga himself; she’s that little voice in your head you try to shut out, always tying you down and questioning you. Kasuga is awfully afraid of Nakamura for this very reason, she ignites his guilt and is a grim reminder of his darker subconscience.

Run for your lives. 

Nakamura’s “weird” and bold character created some tension and interest at the start, but the shock factor quickly dies out and she becomes painfully one-dimensional. If there was one thing I could pinpoint for improvement, it would be to develop Nakamura’s backstory.  

Still, she was completely essential to the first third of the story. It might even be more appropriate to say that she was the main character of the starting arc. Her unpredictability and no-holds-barred actions are what will keep you reading. In the beginning, I did not give two hoots about Kasuga’s love life or French poetry but I stayed for her crazy antics.

And that’s the part that was probably the reason for its sudden popularity. However, I am going to tell you this aspect was not the part that was worth the hype. If you want to pick up Aku no Hana for perverse nutcase entertainment, you can put it right back down because that is not all you will be signing up for.

You ask all the right questions, Nakamura. Now let me think about it and be depressed.

From around chapter sixteen to twenty-something, the story becomes more philosophical. The first half of the manga is an emotional rollercoaster that will have you feeling sick after. There are NO happy moments. Everything is dark and heavy and you will most likely hate Kasuga. But you know what? I was impressed. The mangaka did not shy away from creating unexpectedly grotesque and uncomfortable situations. It was refreshing. I found myself genuinely worrying, What’s going to happen next?

In the second half of the manga, everything calms down significantly. This is where some people say the story should have ended. And I completely disagree. This is where we start to see proper character development, and where Aku no Hana sets itself apart from other stories that centre around similar, over-recycled individuals: the wimpy, gym clothes stealing boy, the classic sweet popular class president and the crazy girl psychopath.

Who.. are you guys.. (Character development yo)

During this part, Kasuga very slowly and gradually turns 
over a new leaf and I found myself liking him a lot. It is almost like reading a completely different manga. There were sweet moments that made me tear up and smile. All the heavy, tumultuous, depressing things that happened in the beginning made the happy ending that much more significant. The characters' happiness will matter to you. And as a reader, that is important because you need to sympathize with the characters to feel connected to the story.

At its core, Aku no Hana is a story of depression and climbing out of the darkness. This is one of those mangas that actually get better as you read more. Bottom line, I feel it was worthy of the hype. The hype was just for the wrong reasons.

To sum it up...

Plot: 8/10 – Seems cliché at first but has solid storytelling and pacing. The theme centres on depression and philosophy with a healthy dose of romance.

Art: 7/10 – It is nothing distinctive, which is a point I feel that every manga artist needs to cultivate to have long-term success, but it merits a solid, passable “7” because it is clean and proportionate. Good but nothing special.

Characters: 7/10 – Generally, the characters are not extremely memorable but they are the heart of the story.

Personal enjoyment: 6.5/10 – I won't lie, it made me feel a bit queasy. But what kept me reading was the unpredictability: Was this going to end well or would it just be a train wreck? I don't know. And that's why I could not put it down. 

Overall rating: 7.5/10 – Pretty good. Will give you a headache if you read in one sitting though (which is what I did, ow) because like I said previously, it is a psychological rollercoaster. I say give it a chance because it is interesting! But, you know, just keep in mind that the story isn't as pretty as the cover art.

Written by Faelan
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2 comments to ''Is it worth the hype? - Aku no Hana Manga Review"

  1. I've heard the title some quite time now... But when I searched photos from the net.. I thought it was not that appealing- thanks for the information/review! I'll put it back in the to-watch list...
    But I've got a few questions:
    Is the anime art good?
    Should I read the manga or watch the anime?

    1. Hi! I'm so sorry for the late reply D: Perhaps you already got started on it. (But I shall still answer your questions heh)

      You are most welcome! The anime art is extremely different from the manga art. Some people hate it and some people think it's cool. But is it good? I'm neutral so I can't answer that. You'll have to try watching it to see if you like it (:

      I haven't watched the anime, but I have heard people say the manga is better. Personally, I always think the manga is a good place to start.