Aku no Hana 02 — Sniffing

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Gah!! I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish this show. It’s literally painful to watch. I keep purposefully distracting myself— I think this episode took me an hour and a half to finish.

That’s not to say this show isn’t good. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s wildly successful at making me cringe, which is exactly what it intends.

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A good part of what builds this atmosphere is the music. Look at the scene above. It’s an idyllic view of the countryside that could have been plunked straight out of a Ghibli film. And yet with this creepy, atonal soundtrack buzzing in the background I see this scene and all I can do is freak out.

Aku no Hana’s time budget is all dedicated towards this goal as well. Notice how much time we spend pondering the decision to steal the bag. The confrontation with Saeki, on the other hand, speeds by.

The only problem is that I don’t understand Japanese fetishes. Why would you want to sniff a girl’s clothes? I can sort of understand maids and neko-mimi and whatnot, but this one is beyond me.

The Nature of Evil

What makes this episode so disturbing isn’t the act of stealing some girls clothes. As someone who fails to understand this fetish, I find myself incapable of seeing this as some sort of terrible, unpardonable crime. Definitely a jerk move, for sure, but no worse than bullying some kid at school.

No, what makes this act so disturbing is how Takao does it despite believing it’s wrong. Normally when people do something they consider wrong, they offer up excuses and justifications. Takao dispenses of these pleasantries. He knows what he’s doing is wrong, and he does it anyway. It’s a self-destructive action, obliterating how he envisions his very own identity. I wonder if this is, at some level, intentional. We know that he hates the way he is and how he has no friends. Could this be a misguided attempt to change himself? To at least get the girl to notice him, even if it is for all the wrong reasons?

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Despite how much he worries over the consequences of his actions, he doesn’t seem very repentant. Notice how he declares he’ll confess his crimes as he continues to sniff her clothes.

The Baudelaire poem we quote from this week is titled “Benediction.” A benediction is a prayer for help from God, invoked at the end of a worship service. I think we can see Takao’s action as a benediction: a desperate cry for help and the closing of a chapter in his life.

Further Thoughts

I still hate the rotoscoped faces. For the body movements it looks okay, but the faces look inhuman. At least give these people teeth.

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Nakamura does not come across as crazy evil as she did in the manga. I think this boils down to the faces again. She already looks inhuman, seeing as she doesn’t have any teeth, so it isn’t particularly surprising when she acts inhumanly. In the manga, where she’s drawn as a cute girl, it’s all the more disturbing when she says these terrible things.

29 thoughts on “Aku no Hana 02 — Sniffing

  1. i completely agree on the inhuman faces not making theses scenes as jarringly creepy as they were with the manga character designs, but i think a big part of that has to do with the fact that the music and screenplay sets the mood to be so creepy that you are already creeped out by the time the uncomfortable shit starts happening which adds to the creep factor instead of the show needing to rely on the juxtaposition of the character designs and their true nature; both have their advantages. But what do you mean by the characters not having teeth? do you mean like their teeth not looking like proper teeth;because these characters have teeth. My problem with them is that sometimes these teeth look really buck and oddly misshapen within the characters which can be a little distracting. Then again, if we are under the assumption that this series is purposely trying to depict its characters as these ugly, unlikeabe people, then i guess its achieving its goal pretty well.

    1. Yeah, I agree. The general body motions work fantastically due to the rotoscoping, but the lack of facial detail (not the teeth mind you, but general facial expressions) stymies its disturbing moments. For example, when Kasuga was shoved into Saeki at the end, the whole moment felt half-baked—like I was watching an awkward soap opera with clumsy actors. That said, the atmosphere is fantastic, and Kasuga’s entrance into hell is done phenomenally.

      1. Yes exactly, I can get past the awkward body motions, but these faces are killing me. I think this may be because when I interact with people this is the part of the body I pay the most attention to. So when something is off, it’s extremely noticeable.

    2. Yeah, in my opinion the creepiest part of this show is the music. But the screenplay and the faces add to that impact. I wonder if the impact would be the same with the manga faces. I kind of feel like those might not go as well with the super creepy sound track, which could blunt the effects of the face and action juxtaposition.

      By having no teeth, I mean for example the last photograph in the post. She has some white blob in her mouth that is the right color to be teeth but looks nothing like them. Also note how the line for her lip just randomly disappears in the middle. It’s not just the teeth, but also the facial expressions. The jerky bodily motions I can ignore, but such awkward faces are deep in the uncanny valley for me.

  2. What I do when watching Aku No Hana is in my mind I convert it as a live-action series. I’ve seen my fare share for live actions, that I can mentally imagine every scene as it is.

    Though in this episode, I can see a lot of rough animation. It makes me want to hold the series and wait for the BD release.

    1. My imagination is not that good… although I wish I could imagine at least the faces that way.

      I wonder how much better the BD release will be.

  3. This episode made me so uncomfortable. It was definitely good, but I kept looking at the timebar to see when it would be over. The scene where he runs away from Nakumura, where he’s sitting in class contemplating whether to confess or not, when he falls into Saeki’s breasts and Nakumura is standing behind him smiling; it all made me so uneasy. I want to watch this whole series, but I’m not particularly looking forward to the new episodes every week.

    And about the fetish, some people are just aroused by smell, so they’d want the clothes of an attractive person to inhale their scent. I’m not into that, but I don’t find it strange at all. I’m into knifeplay and intense BDSM, so something like that is very normal to me, and it’s also not a Japanese thing.

    1. Yes, I couldn’t wait for this to end as well. So much awkwardness. I hate awkwardness. Just watching this kind of stuff makes me so embarrassed.

      I guess everyone has their own things they like…

      1. Heheh, sorry for mentioning the BDSM and knifeplay thing, I’m not used to talking to modest people, you probably think I’m creepy ^^’
        I just meant to say, don’t judge someone just because they have a scent fetish, a lot of people are like that. I have a gay friend who likes smelling guy’s clothes and he’s as nice as can be, it’s not a weird thing.

        1. No worries, the only fetish I can think of off the top of my head that I’m really judgmental about is little sister fetishes, that’s just wrong. I don’t understand scent fetishes myself but I don’t see anything wrong with having them.

          By the way, if you don’t mind me asking, isn’t playing with knives really dangerous? As someone who earned the boy scout’s totin’ chip and looked up knifeplay in the urban dictionary, this idea sounds absolutely terrifying to me. Screw up and you could easily hurt someone badly…

          1. Of course it is, but that’s part of the fun. I never know if she’ll run it lightly over my skin or cut me deeply, it’s a thrill.

          2. Hm I see. Definitely not something I am ever going to try but I can kind of see where you’re coming from.

  4. I am done with this anime. Rotoscope itself isn’t a bad technique, generally. That’s bad is how this animation studio does it:
    -It has terrible FPS, even old school Prince of Persia is more fluid than this.
    -They choose pigs as the rotoscope models. It’s fine for the lead to be ugly, because he is a loser to begin with, but shouldn’t they use prettier person as the main girl’s model? she is supposed to be the most popular girl in class? I know there are a lot of pretty Japanese girl out there?
    -The characters don’t have teeth, and faces, when they are far away. Yet smaller details such as pimples are clearly visible? Even when I am watching live action drama/movie, I sure don’t watch to see pimples all over the screen.

    1. Haha yeah, the motion doesn’t look too fluid, the girl who’s supposed to be hot is really ugly, and the faces are awful. In my opinion the guy is much better looking than any of the girls.

    2. you are “out of place” in this show, they are hundreds of other animes, which meet your expectations.It’s not about cute girls at all, it’s more a gloomy change of a boy to an evil something, after my first impression

  5. I literally just read the whole manga to its latest chapter right now and can say that the visuals of the anime can really be an eyesore if you compare it to the manga. I heard the author wanted to keep it like this, even if people didn’t like it, but it is a bit disappointing from the manga visuals. They do keep the eerie factor in it very well, but it’s really hard not to get distracted.

    On another note, that ED gives me the biggest chills.

    1. Yeah, the manga looks much nicer. The characters in particular are much easier on the eyes— they are fairly good lucking, not utterly hideous.

      The ED is great. So messed up.

  6. This is pretty much School Days meets a genderswitched Kill Your Boyfriend… If anything, I was okay with the plot.

    Iunno, I think the thing that the anime was missing for me was shade and highlights. The colors seem too flat and doesn’t bring out the depth in the rotoscope and the fusion of animation and reality. For me, that is.

    1. Very interesting. I didn’t take issue with the shade, highlights or color scheme at all. I guess because I was so distracted with the faces, I didn’t even notice.

  7. Yeah, I’m with you…very uncomfortable series. I don’t think I’ll complete it, though I appreciate it more than anything else I’ve seen this season.

  8. In my own experience smell can be a pretty strong trigger for all sorts of emotions. I’m not a psychiatrist, but in my own words it feels like it’s less “filtered” by the consciousness than visual experience. So I can imagine that the promise of instant gratification simply overcame Takao when he decided to steal Saeki’s clothes. That’s what puberty is all about, I guess.

    Is it a grave crime? I could imagine that it’s pretty humiliating for Saeki to have everyone know that some guy stole her gym clothes. Perhaps this applies even more in Japan (more traditional role of women etc.) than in Western society. So it’s not trivial, I’d say. But still Takao is worrying far more about it then necessary. He should ask s/o else for advice but here again, I assume, puberty stands in the way.

    As a sidenote: Perhaps Takao should indeed confess, in public. Saeki would than have no choice but to marry him out of shame. Much like Kana and Fujioka in Minami-ke tadaima ep. 13 ;-)

    1. It definitely is a strong trigger. Certain smells will trigger memories and feelings for me as well, especially that smell when it rains in a forest…

      It’s certainly wrong and a crime, there’s no doubt about that. You’re right in that I can see how in other cultures it could be a bigger deal for Saeki. If he confessed in public that would be hilarious. But I think the author has some even more fucked up plans for him and Saeki in mind… :)

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