#19 – Flowers of Evil by Shuzo Oshimi
Aku no Hana, Flower of Evil
by Shuzo Oshimi
Serialized in Shounen Magazine
Licensed by Vertical
A young boy falls in love with prettiest girl in class and makes a crucial mistake.
A girl witnesses the young boy’s act and uses it against the boy’s fragile heart.
Another girl longs to save the boy.
This shounen title about adolescents and their control issues may have a lot of contemporaries but it is immature to assume that this story is nothing but erotic fanfare. Unlike Sundome and Nana to Kaoru, Flowers of Evil understands that ‘strength’ comes from great insecurities and weakness. However, this ‘strength’ is not about climbing mountains and emerging victorious. This involves strength in crossing the dark side of the mountain and how to bask in it — nourishing our personal demons.
Piece of Shit.
Three things pinged me with Flowers of Evil. First, it was nominated for a Manga Taishou and Kono Manga ga Sugoi award in 2012. Second, it was a Vertical license1. Third was the first two covers of its Japanese editions.
The cover of the first volume gives a strong introduction to our heroine, Nakamura Sawa as she mouths “クソムシが” which can easily be translated as ‘dung beetle’ or ‘shit bug’ but at the rate that she had said it, it can be a harsh expletive that can also mean ‘piece of shit.’ The shock of her feisty slithering tongue extends past the cover as we, like the protagonist of the story, gets drawn by its harsh seductive tone. You know she’s bad for you but you just can’t ignore her.
The real protagonist of the story, Kasuga Takao takes the cover for the second volume saying, “変態なんかじゃ。。。ない” — “It’s not like I’m… pervert.” After seeing the cover, I’m just thinking “WHAT THE BLOODY EFF IS THIS SERIES UP TO!?!” Why the hell is this young boy shyly denying his perversion. Just what the heck did he do?! And you try to piece the first volume cover with the second and in the end, I… just bought it. Unfortunately, the Vertical edition won’t have these words but they manage to keep their expressions on the cover.
But just what exactly had Kasuga done? What was so bad that even I spent paragraphs avoiding the very act in itself? To be honest, it wasn’t something particularly bad. A small slip-up has led Kasuga keeping the gym clothes of his darling muse, Saeki Nanako. While it may appear as a petty crime, Kasuga bore the guilt like it’s the heaviest sin. And as soon as he found out that Nakamura was witness to his crime, like a guilty man, he did everything in his power to follow her whims. Unfortunately for him, Nakamura was not an easy witness to please.
What happens after was manipulation at its finest, executed almost perfectly by the sinister Nakamura. I am quite enamored by her ruthlessness and perverseness. Don’t think about golden showers you’ve seen in Sundome. Don’t even think about shibari that was extensively done in Nana to Kaoru. Rather than something physical, Nakamura gives a mindfuck that cuts the gut, leaves its wounds to rot, and walks the rotting body around for everyone to see. With the victim’s permission at that.
The way Nakamura exploits Kasuga’s vulnerability then eventually dragging him down to the point of no return was fascinating because it was so underhanded that you can’t exactly say that Nakamura’s to blame because all she laid to Kasuga are options which he can always say no to. But he never did. Was it because Nakamura’s quite forceful with her contract? Or was it because Kasuga was really just spineless? To put blame on one of the characters won’t really give any merit to the complex relationship they have established. Nakamura messed up with Kasuga’s brain bad and he allowed her to corrupt him. That’s how their dynamic goes. I particularly enjoyed reading the slow rotting of Kasuga’s morality and I begin to understand how Nakamura finds his deterioration interesting. These things don’t happen instantly.
Flowers of Evil captures this SM eroticism at a psychological level. There’s hardly anything graphic in this comic but the power of subjugation is well illustrated with various close-ups of the characters breaking down upon the slightest suggestion. And I think that’s more erotic than any golden shower scene. There’s a full range of emotions seen in this comic but to me, my favorite is Kasuga trembling against Nakamura’s cool stare. Just because they’re kids doesn’t make it unbelievable. In fact the very fact that they’re kids makes me understand why at the harshest suggestion, they are more vulnerable to lose control over their own powers and identity.
Definitely, a title like this may not be enjoyed by many. If you are morally conservative and you feel that right is might, this isn’t the manga for you. I’ve read various manga critics who have turned their backs away from titles like this. And I perfectly understand the difficulty in swallowing such dark, perhaps dumb (for any straight-laced person), emotions. Kasuga’s vulnerable attitude may be tasteless for some, but if you just entertain, perhaps corrupt your way of thinking, you might be able to see the value of this comic.
The manga is not merely an illustration of the humanity at its worst but rather an illustration of an individual’s road to corruption. We’ve all been there once or twice and we’ve all emerged from it differently. But in Flowers of Evil, Kasuga chose the worse option. We witness Kasuga’s corruption and the power it has over his volatile soul. Who knew that one act of impurity has the capacity of destroying every sense of morality and logic in a boy. Perhaps the reason why we didn’t notice was because we ourselves have been hardened up by life to just “deal” with something like this. At our age we’ve lost that naivete to sin that the burden no longer feels heavy on our shoulders.
And personally that fascinates me. My reactions in this comic is a reflection of my own corruption as an individual. A white lie is more convenient than the truth. A bit of perversion can be a little fun. Seeing the demise of another can be amusing. These little things hardly affects me at my age but to see Kasuga’s pure reactions is something I admire and somehow I wish I still have.
I love this title. This manga excites me in a way that I anticipate Kasuga’s downfall and Nakamura’s power. By loving this manga I recognize what a sick and twisted individual I have become. While I can still say that I am not truly deviant, Flowers of Evil is a great reminder of my own thirst for power and my own personal corruption.
Note: This manga will be released in English via Vertical this week! So do get volume one when you see it in your shelves! Or order it in Amazon!
- And we all know that they pick up quite a fascinating set of comics! [↩]