Aku no Hana

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Aku no Hana was originally a manga written by Oshimi Shuzo, named for a collection of poems from the French poet, Charles Baudelaire. The anime adaptation was written by Itami Aki.

It is a psychological drama. Its setting is so ordinary that we audience would not have noticed the malice inside the entangled relationships between characters. Really it is about a normal boy Kasuga who steals a pair of panties from the girl he has a crush on Saeki in the same class. The conflict comes when an eccentric girl Nakamura catches him doing that and begins threatening him. One simple mistake can transform into a series of domino chaos.

The animators adapts the technique of rotoscoping to make Aku no Hana as photo-realistic as possible. They would hire actors to portray the main characters and film them, then trace over the live action film to make the anime. It is like the movie screen is your canvas and you are painting on movies. This art style is a daring adaptation and less acknowledged. You either love it, hate it, or deal with it. The designs are a bit rough in early episodes, but gradually improve throughout the span of the series.

Critics attack this animation as perverted, advocating violence, rebellion, antisocial tendencies in teenagers’ feeble minded mentality. To me, I think we need to confront our innermost darkness. Sometimes, the more you repress the unconscious, unwanted behaviors, the demons would come and get you at unexpected times in your life. See, Kasuga’s living a boring life, just as most of us do. The more we repel seeing Kasuga drag out from his comfort zone and into some mysterious, sinister corruptions, the more we are against exploration into the unknown. Can we just admit that going to school and being teased by a bunch of classmates as shy is dumb? Can we just acknowledge we numb ourselves on pointless things simply because we have nothing else to occupy our minds?

What really explodes inside me when watching Aku no Hana is the characters’ raw blasts of emotions. Their sheer bliss mingles with the downfall of hopelessness and despair linger in my throat after finishing the entire series. I could relate to Kasuga in the sense that I like to read classic poetries too and is socially awkward(not a stalker though). Kasuga is not terrible, but he makes radical decisions and digs himself holes by escaping from his problems. Nakamura is so insecure and broken down and repels any other mindsets that deviant from her own’s. Saeki is blinded by her infatuation for Kasuga. The three main characters can be a pain in the ass to watch because of how naive they are. But they are the stage we have once been in or is struggling right now

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This animation tackles tricky themes that every teenager must deal with(teenage angst, love triangles, melodramas) and houses some good writing, high culture and impressive intelligence. Even though the pacing is slow, I would just take it as building up tension and atmosphere(lol).

Aku no Hana is no way like Ano Hana, which begins and ends with a positive note of love in friendships persist over time and across life and death. It blatantly showcases how cynical the world can be and how hopeless we could really turn to at times. This animation mirrors the atrocity of life so perfectly that you might cringe even to say its name. Maybe one day, we too, can discard social rules and morals for a while and fall into a beautiful state of childlike forgetfulness, relieving ourselves from nothingness.

Homunculus

The prefix “hom-” is mankind related.

You must have heard of homo sapiens, homosexual…what about homunculus?

The latin suffix of -culus indicates small size.

When the two comes together, you can picture a small man.

 


 

Something like this.

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Of course it can be explained by biological psychology, that the cortical homunculus displays a map of surface area each sensory organ takes up in your brain.

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A manmade human created by humans.

This is what a homunculus is.

 


 

In the popular manga Full metal Alchemist, Edward encounters the eight deadly sins (including the Father), all are homunculi who live with the presence of the philosopher’s stone.

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They are experimental products to stay the test of time.

 


 

Today I am going to talk about a manga not as epic as Fullmetal Alchemist, but more sinister, raw and savage in terms of philosophy and psychology.

 

But not everyone can stand such the honest brutality in it.

Who would want to see a man drill a hole on his scalp and into his brain?

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Who would be interested in all those twisted forms of aliens on the streets?

Who would care enough to notice that the disgust spills from the inside of us?

 

I have studied psychology in high school.

Trepanation particularly grabbed my attention.

Traditionally, it was performed to cast evil spirits away from mentally ill patients in the asylum.

So, the manga takes this bizarre practice as a thread to the story.

Nakoshi Susumu chooses to be a vagrant sleeping in his car rather than a public accountant ranking the value of every item in life and of life.

Manabu Ito offers Nakoshi a lot of money to be his medical guinea pig.

So, he cracks open his skull to increase blood volume and hopefully returns to the primal state of consciousness, similar to that of a child.

Okay, I don’t know whether it is make-believe or placebo effect at work.

Nakoshi instinctually sees passers-by made of different materials and forms on the streets.

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They vary.

They are not uniform anymore with skin, flesh, bones, limbs and features.

Each has a distinguishable hallmark that stands out from the one next to you.

 

Nakoshi possesses eyes of the God then.

The story centers around deception.

It keeps challenging us to think again because Nakoshi is an unreliable narrator.

Everything may be his own illusions somehow, that he has schizophrenia.

It is particularly true when in the end he reaches a psychotic state of grandiose, which he believes he is on a mission to “help” others see the same “truth” as he does.

He would let them know the better of themselves.

But is it only that he thinks too much?

Is it necessary that he needs to dig out the lies, the traumas from the past and make people relive them so they can change for good?

I remember he makes the other old drifter in the park confront his life in playback, where he was a wrestler, he met his obedient wife, they had a daughter, his wife died, he turned to drugs, he got into trouble, he forsook his daughter.

He ended up abandoned by the world.

Perhaps Nakoshi thinks he would carry this reminiscence as a motivation to reunite with his daughter.

But he is wrong.

The drifter hangs himself.

It shows that death is inevitable.

Nope, the wearing away of one’s soul is inevitable at some point of your life.

When it has reached a point of no return, you simply cannot tolerate your own presence anymore.

 

Comics are endearing to me. I had loved school drama and love stories when I was young. As my mind deviated from the norm, nothing exhilarates me more than blood and gore.

Homunculus not only stiffens my spine and hooks up every goosebump on my pores, it also throws my brain into the arctic ocean.

As my eyes frantically picked up lines and graphics on each page, the shameless sex scenes, the ridiculously melancholic behaviors(cutting the ankle and wrap socks around it; licking your own semen and blood) resonate with me.

I can see some parts of me in every character.

Nakoshi helps a loan shark who cuts off the little finger of his comrades to forgive himself; he helps a repressed teenage girl to dare have sex in front of her mother and prove her own strength against her mother’s barbaric domination; he helps the homosexual Manabu to open himself to his own father who kills the fish that had once motivated him to look pretty…he thinks he is a savior.

This sense of omnipotence only leads me to believe that he has delusion of grandeur.

He is desperate to make others see through him like he does to them.

But other people are normal.

He is not aware of the fact that he is paranoid.

Who would want to study him?

Who would be interested in unveiling the face before he has plastic surgery?

Who would like to see demons(homunculi) when they can interact with humans?

Perhaps me.

Sometimes you yourself is so disturbed from reality that you lose touch from it and start to create another reality to rationalize the one isolating you.

We do not like to be stigmatized as abnormal.

Defense mechanism would always be by our side: denying the truth, projecting it on some vulnerable beings, acting completely opposite from what you intend…

It is funny and sad at the same time that Nakoshi always sleeps in an infant position while when awake, he feels empowered because he regresses to a child’s instinctual abilities.

It raises a question that are we, as we age, really advancing?

Perhaps we make more money; we escalates into a higher hierarchy; we become famous and prestigious; we are highly recognized in society…but bear in mind, nothing comes at no cost.

Everything has a price.

You get this and you lose that.

It’s all up to us.

Whether you wanna see a different picture, or you wanna stay with the flow and get what they’re all fighting for.

 

I seldom write reviews, especially no manga reviews.

But this one blows my mind away like a gun has shot through my brain.

I think of the movie One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest, where the margin between normality and abnormality is vague.

Seldom do we need to uncover the truth though since the truth is always subjective to our own preferences.

It is a psychological thriller, which each human is a puzzle/riddle that requires a solution.

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Sometimes there is no solutions, like Nakoshi. We create this mess of ourselves and hope that somebody one day would care for us enough to entangle our perplexed, dirty little minds.

 

It deserves to be read. We deserve to be read.

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