The Flowers of Evil – Review

Oh man, this was something. This was actually the first work I was assigned to review on ANN, but it took me a while to get around to it and a while to get through it. Flowers of Evil is a heavy, oppressive thing, but it’s so, sooo good. I did my best to capture what makes it such a rich experience in my review, and would recommend anyone who’s heard mixed things to at least give it a shot. It’s a pretty tremendous show.

Here’s my full ANN review. My copious episodic notes are below!

The Flowers of Evil

Episode One

That soundtrack is so good! Droning background strings, light piano, constantly building, off-putting refrains of noise

Faces only pop into heads in the middle distance, which actually works for what the show is doing

Tons of atmosphere-establishing shots, portraying a town in constant decay. Rust, dust, and dirt coat everything. Everything is old and worn down

The subs aren’t particularly graceful – old-school, abrasive yellow font

Lots of straight atmosphere sounds, too

Man, this show has such a good OP

Repeated background shots like the tower at their school establish the monotony of his life without anything having to be articulated. That’s the key here – everything is established through the natural flow of the aesthetics and scenes, not by anything being told to us

The rotoscoping definitely results in very visible frame shifts, but it’s something you get used to. Kinda seems like the characters are moving in slow motion at times

The dream sequences are intentionally ridiculous, gaudy – they’re his naive personal fantasy

The entire first episode has no narrative outside of the MC going about his daily life, right up until the end. It’s all about building an atmosphere

“Fear and laughter are fundamentally the same.” A good line that aptly describes this show

Those mirrored shots, along with the classic anime power lines, create a sense of both paranoia and alienation

Soundtrack so good! That off-putting electric humming, contrasted against the sedate piano keys

The colors are great. They’re normally subdued to evoke his ruddy town, but they have great range when they need to – and the bluray transfer is wonderful, with the show really feeling like the watercolor it should

His beloved Baudelaire

Kasuga’s absorption in his poetry is honest, but naive. He’s dramatizing his own life, and that’s what makes him susceptible to Nakamura

This show also understands the ABSENCE of music, which makes its building strings even more ominous when they appear. Sharp sound effects throughout

Just one building chord, interspersed with occasional shots of the flower blooming

He did poorly on his test. He’s not a great student, but he has his special “talent”

“You’d never understand the value of that book! Do you even know who Baudelaire is?” There’s Kasuga

The sound effect when Nakamura gets out of her chair is so pronounced. So intimidating

“Shut up, shitface”

Her eyes are so crazy

“We’re in the same boat!” “Wrong! I read books! Do you even understand literature?” Oh Kasuga

“How dare he insult Saeki. He could never understand how good she is. I’ve had a crush on her for a whole year now!” The show’s base nature pokes holes in his fantasy philosophy

“Saeki has no idea that I read books like this.” Man, they nail his character type so well

The transition to the ED is so good too. Overwhelming the last minute of each episode, like the show itself is unraveling into darkness

And each episode gets its own full credits? Lol

Episode Two

Alienating distance shots and stifling close-ups are both used to wonderful effect. This show is extremely good at conveying a personal world

Intimidating single tones are built up and then cut to silence

He holds her gym clothes like a religious offering, telling himself to stop

And the constant crinkling of the flower as it blooms, like sand across the speakers, always growing

“I know! Give me some space!” Oh Kasuga

“These are my ‘flowers of evil.’” He wants to live in these stories, secretly. He wants to suffer beautifully

Nakamura staring at him from behind, out of focus. Shiiiit

“Someone stole her gym clothes.” “Sounds like something a pervert would do!” Aw shit

Some of the shots do hold on still characters for too long

“I want to go somewhere. Somewhere far away. I am a criminal. I’ll spend the rest of my life atoning for my crime. I’ll still be making up for this even when I’m an old man.”

“Where can I run to? How many people around here understand Baudelaire? Why is all the iron rusted?”

And then he runs screaming on his bike, and a couple wonders what’s going on with him, and a dog stares. This show’s humor

“You’re always busy reading. Why?” Nakamura is the first person who really notices who he wants to be

“These books have changed my world. Normal people probably wouldn’t understand.”

“Take me beyond those mountains. I want to go there.”

For this moment, it’s just distant thunder that provides the soundtrack

Oh my god, I love that sequence of him running away with his arms spinning, screaming the whole time. Hilarious

The main shot we see of his father is him laughing at the television, which I’m sure Kasuga has plenty to say about

“Takao’s getting to be that age. He has a lot to deal with.” Yep

“I know that suffering is the sole nobility which heaven and hell shall never mar”

Such slow-building tension in this show. Always trapped in his head

And again, the sound of Nakamura’s chair moving is incredibly loud and abrasive

Cuts to silence and his heart beating when he tries to muster the strength to turn himself in

“Baudelaire, I never realized the path of evil would be so difficult.”

Nakamura’s dead stares are fantastic. This show has legitimate total “acting,” and it’s great

“I’m willing to let this go. In return, you must make a contract with me. You will let me take something dear to you.”

And Nakamura actually called Saeki here. aaaargh

This show is all about shame and invasion and graaahhhh. It’s painful to watch

Episode 3

“Write an essay about your current feelings by tomorrow.” HWUAAAAGHLAAAGHAHGH

It’s like a raindance stick or something, the flower song

No conscious jokes, mainly just incidental ones – Kasuga trying to throw away the gym clothes and running into dogs and girls bouncing balls and nonsense

All the background characters hammer in how much Kasuga’s world is self-invented. The show can’t quite take him seriously, even as it perfectly evokes his world

The 100% flat, unshaded characters make for a strange contrast against the hyper-detailed backgrounds. Rotoscoping is weird

Such ominous strings. It’s like every scene is the aftermath of a car crash

“The devil holds the strings which move us! In repugnant things we discover charms; every day we descend a step further towards hell, without horror, through gloom that stinks.”

Nakamura’s performance is incendiary, and her character pulls Kasuga to equal heights

And she forces him to wear it

Their faces afterwards, flushed, panting. Invasion

“Something writhing in my lower half, deep inside, makes me want to scream. I wish everyone in this world were turned into shit-eating maggots. I must be a sicko, too.”

“You must be proud of yourself, because you’re the only person to ever make a contract with me.”

“If someone from school saw us, what would they say?” “Would that be a problem?”

“My feelings for Saeki are utterly pure.”

The long-term still frames kind of screw up the tension, they’re too ostentatious

It definitely aptly demonstrates the paranoia of high school, though

So many whispers around the classroom

Episode 4

“Theyre all just a big herd of dumb, slovenly seals.”

We’re trapped with his constant monologue. It’s stifling

When Saeki compliments him, he starts bawling. Lol

“Our classmates really are despicable”

Her contract is intimidating because it’s such a childish demand

“He must be at that age.”

And now he’s skipping around

This Nakamura thing allows a great demonstration of the fickle awfulness of high school students

“Saeki said ‘good morning’ to me…” and it changes his world

They have great naturalistic dialogue here – they can barely talk

Nakamura’s smiles are amazing

The visual style makes it difficult to judge the “animation” of this show

Man, she actually abuses him. The show’s style makes its violence that much more intense

“I swore that I’d never take this out again”

The show is a painful watch. Stifling and intense

“I’m dying to see a real sicko in action. A true sicko, capable of burning down this whole town.” She just wants someone to validate her own feelings

“I’ll expose everything under that mask of yours”

Episode 5

Again back to those droning power line sounds and staggered piano keys

Man, these intrusive, old-school subs couldn’t be less graceful

Nakamura’s “sa-sa-sa-sa-sa-sa!” airplane run as she’s tailing them is amazing. Pretty adorable.

“What is Nakamura trying to do? She must be up to something!”

“What if she’s just doing whatever comes to mind?”

And then her doing her airplane dance with sparkling backgrounds. Fantastic

The backgrounds are much more lit and colorful with Saeki around

The insane circus dance OP with Nakamura sing-screaming is great

Kasuga getting really excited about books is great – it’s wonderful seeing him comfortable and in control for once

“It turned my world upside down. I realized I was a fool who knew nothing at all.” Ah, youth

Kasuga is insecure, but he’s very different from Nakamura. They have extremely different ways of expressing their distance from those around them, and aren’t really talking in the same language

“Doesn’t it make your brains turn to mush? Admit you’re a pervert.” But he isn’t. Nakamura just wants someone to validate her own weirdness

Oh my god, Nakamura’s smile when they’re at the cafe

Their date is so awkward, but Saeki still likes him.


“Saeki! Please enter a pure and platonic relationship with me!” AMAZING

Ahaha, and Nakamura’s “the fuck is this” face afterwards. Amazing

His “I’m not a pervert!” stuff actually hits home for him because he’s still a goddamn teenager, in spite of his silly identity stuff. He’s fighting hormones

Oh my god, angel Saeki with cherubs yesss


“I was never going to kiss her! I’m not that kind of person!”

And he still believes she’s going to be nice after all this. Lol

Episode 6

The whole class looking at him

Oh man, that freeze-frame “EHHHHHHH?” at them dating, great

“Kasuga knows lot of stuff that no other guys know.” She’s so young as well

“Weren’t you ignoring me the other day?” Kasuga might be learning a little

“I haven’t felt this free in ages.” It won’t last, kid

“If I take this secret to my grave, it really could die with me.”

And his slow-mo happiness freezes as he sees Saeki and Nakamura talking. Again, the inherent humor of this situation

Some of the background shots are just gorgeous. Wonderful color, texture, shading

The dialogue of the Kasuga-Saeki scenes is great. Really natural awkwardness

“Nakamura is actually pretty nice!” He’s such a kid

“I will transform myself into a person worthy of being with Saeki.”

The show uses a lot of shaky, handheld camera for the scenes where you’re supposed to be trapped in a character’s eyes, when others are watching them

More really uncomfortable character closeups

“She wants to have sex with you!”

Nakamura’s condescending smiles are fantastic

“Saeki wouldn’t talk about such a scandalous topic”

The simple act of visiting your girlfriend’s house for the first time is made intense and terrifying due to the show’s atmosphere

His heavy breathing filling the atmosphere, dissolving into “uwaaaahhh” when Nakamura sneaks up on him. This show’s sense of humor is evil and great

“You’re destroying her innocent image!” Yes, she is. But it’s your image

Nakamura constantly waving from behind trees and whatnot is so great

Episode 7

Sometimes it really sucks that you can’t see expressions in mid-distance shots – some of those are for important scenes, like this bedroom one

“I’m a weak person. Everyone thinks I have my act together, but that’s not the real me.” Even people like Saeki are full of identity anxiety

“I’m not hiding anything from you.” Oh man, he just digs his hole deeper and deeper

And then they shake hands on their relationship. Maaaan

“I’m a shitface.” “Yep, that’s right.” Her acting is great

“Please tell her the truth about me!”

So much silence is used so effectively in this show

“I bet my classmates are sleeping peacefully right now. Why am I the only one out in the streets?” Even at his lowest point, he can’t give up his identity – Nakamura’s actions only strengthen his resolve in his identity

“I’m disappointed. You’re just the same as everyone else.”

“The contract’s null. Never speak to me again.”

At the end, her “nobody understands me” connects with his

“Turn this classroom into a sea of shitfaces!” And he does. And it’s beautiful

My god. The last act of this episode is just overwhelmingly beautiful. The definition of catharsis. An absurd release, turning all of the show’s pent up adolescent identity-anxiety and sexual frustration into one defiant, bestial roar of expression. It’s incredible

The music, so beautiful and tragic. The shot framing, making a beautiful ritual of their actions. the pacing

Episode 8

All three OP songs are great

And now they walk holding hands, stained in ink, across their dark city

The show is incredibly confident in everything it does. There’s little else like it, but you wouldn’t guess that by watching it

It holds on the still frame of them slowly crossing the bridge for over a minute, letting the beautiful song in teh background carry everything

This music’s almost Sigur Ros-esque? Conveying emotion in these slow sweeping movements

They’re really conveying the power and importance of this moment. This walk feels like an entire new world to them

And the shots are even set up to show how much distance they’ll cross, how long they’ll take

It’s such an iconic image – just the two kids holding hands, needing a connection

“Well, I live over that way.” The first normal thing she’s said

Gotta mention those street mirror shots

Repeated shots of the town emphasize both his isolation and boredom, and now display how the world has changed

The music is so good again! This awful building string refrain across his slow death march to school

His “guilt” seems so obvious from our perspective, but no-one else notices anything

Oh man, now she knows! Jeez, this narrative is actually pretty thrilling

Episode 9

“I refuse to break up. I’d never break up with you.” OH SHIT

“Don’t you like me anymore?” Oh wow

“Think it over one more time, carefully.” OH WOW. Saeki’s okay with his crazy! AW SHIT

Again, sometimes the still frames seem more ostentatious than effective

“Why doesn’t she hate me? I’m such a sick person…”

“Why did you ask me to be your friend? Was it a lie.” “Not really, I was just bored.” Oh Nakamura

Her “oh, really” is so good

“Tell her to wait a little longer! I can’t see her right now!”

Saeki screaming up at his window, “I don’t understand how you feel! I’m sorry…” SUCH A PERFECT SUMMATION OF YOUTH ERMAHGERD

“I was happy about what you did with my uniform. You did it because you liked me, right? That’s just the way guys are. I’m more upset about the fact that you hid it from me. So tell me! Me, not Nakamura. Talk to me! Help me understand what’s going through your mind. Tomorrow… come to school tomorrow. I’ll be waiting.” WHAT A SPEECH


“There’s nowhere for me.” So now he runs


The color palettes are still beautiful

The sunset! Gorgeous!

Kids sitting beneath a bridge, waiting for nothing. This show understands

“I’m busted. I can’t go home.”

“Let’s go then.” “Where?” “To the other side.” Pointing out through the brambles, across the mountains. There has to be another world out there

“Do you have a reason to stay in this nauseating town?”

“Nakamura, you’ll come with me?” “You’re the one who’s coming with me, scumbag.” Such a good line

Episode 10

“What do you think is on the other side?” Even Nakamura’s asking it

“I’ve always thought… maybe there’s nothing on the other side. Maybe that’s where the world ends.”

“There’s nothing in this town. Just rusted metal, pachinko parlors, and weeds. If I stay here, it’ll drive me crazy.”

Again, we get the great shots from adults just watching them

“Are you Sawa’s friend? So even she was able to make a friend…” aw

“The town looks so small from here.” All the show’s tiny reflections are revelations

More reflections on “normal people” and what separates Kasuga

“Why are we out here?” “Because we’re sickos.” “Oh. Then I guess I don’t mind being a sicko”

And they’re all drenched in the rain. THE CLEANSING RAIN

Saeki blames HERSELF. My god, these poor kids

“This book. I’m sorry, I got it wet. I’ve been reading it over and over again. But it’s still too hard for me to understand. I don’t understand why you like this book. Tell me. What do you like about this book? What’s going on in your heart?”

The flower reflected in his eye. Greaaat

These bizarre rituals. These kids

“Tell me these things! I’ll accept you!”

They make all of this seem like the end of the world

The drama is all heightened to the level they experience it at

“You have no idea what I’ve been going through. I was really happy! Kasuga… transformed me from a pebble into a jewel.” Oh Saeki

Flowers of Evil is a story about three awful, rotten kids. Three real sickos. Three teenagers

“Make up your mind. Are you coming? Or are you going back. Stop tearing my soul apart.” OH NAKAMURA

“I am an empty person…” OH KASUGA

“I thought I was different from all those other losers. But what am I? I don’t understand Baudelaire or ‘Flowers of Evil’. I was just impressed with myself for reading it. I didn’t want to accept that I wasn’t special. I am an empty person.”

“I wanted you to stay an angel. I didn’t want to know your human side. I’m scared! I can’t be normal… I can’t have a normal relationship! But I’m not worthy of being called a pervert. I can’t be the person Nakamura wants me to be, either. I can’t expose myself. There’s nothing for me to expose… I’m a shitface!”

The dirty cover smeared across his face. My god

And then the cops come! OH SHIT

Nakamura’s bestial scream. God DAMNNNNN

Episode 11

The image of the three kids in the back of the police cruiser, all staring down, thinking about everything

Another creepy-ass singsong OP

“No matter what happens, you must never do anything to make your mother cry.”

A month has passed. It’s summer now

“I heard they broke up. Haven’t you seen how gloomy he’s been?” More of the outside perspective revealing how tiny their dramas are. The show very rarely overtly expresses how small the scale of their problems are, but constantly hammers it in through the outsiders who don’t understand what’s going on with them

Ahahaha, Nakamura just floating sideways in the swimming lane. Fantastic

“Thank you for everything. Let’s break up.” And they shake hands again

“You really are a piece of shit.” His desires and self-obsession aren’t things to blame him for, but the actions he takes as he obsesses over them are

“I’m sorry for not eating the food you prepared.” Oh Kasuga

This incredibly slow ceremony of him leaving the table. Lol. The “performance” of these characters is actually how unhappy teenagers act – they want to be connected with, and so they make all their feelings mega-obvious

The shot of him throwing up alone in his room in the dark. Heavy stuff

“All that’s left is for me to rot away here in this town.”

Again, the repeated shot of him slowly passing the empty buildings

The show rises and falls in repeating refrains like a slow dirge

And the repeating shot of the corner mirror too

Just another endless walk. It’s all about atmosphere, all about placing you in his world. Few shows have multiple five to ten minute sequences with no dialogue at all where characters simply wander around their town in silence. Flowers of Evil revels in this

Oh my god, the flowers have bloomed and the town’s turned demonic. It’s beautiful

Nakamura’s a terrible influence on him, but his obsessions reveal he never had a strong identity in the first place, so he’s completely taken in by who she wants him to be


And he smashes Baudelaire!

Oh god, and now he thinks Nakamura needs him. “She has nothing, but she was still willing to trust a person like me!”

Baudelaire smashed on the floor as the final shot

Episode 12

All those same shots. That’s intentional. It’s framed like an anime, even though it doesn’t need to be. It’s supposed to feel like an artificial, closed space

Kasuga looks so sad!

Great performances by all the leads, with each of them having standout moments – Saeki’s speech to Kasuga’s window, Nakamura’s scorn, Kasuga’s breakdowns

Love this sequence of him chasing her while reading his declaration essay

And then as he runs to her house, he sees his old friends, feels a moment of shame, and runs on

The quiet walks are actually some of the show’s most rewarding moments. It keeps up an incredibly tense, uncomfortable atmosphere for most of its run, and so these moments of quiet beauty come as a welcome relief

Great shot from beneath his head as he’s apologizing to Nakamura’s father

Kasuga has not matured, but he’s clearly gained confidence and identity throughout this show, even in rejection of everything

“What’s your impression of Sawa? Girls can be so difficult, huh.” Her father is a tired man

Her parents divorced when Nakamura was five

“I’m not sure what she’s thinking, either. But I want to understand her.” Aw, Kasuga

“You’re an honest boy, Kasuga.” haha

Oh god, Nakamura’s room! The compulsion is strong!

The slooow walk to her room



Episode 13

Love the dutch angle shot of Nakamura’s room. Maybe the first time we’re seeing these shots? The show’s shot framing could not be more purposeful

These dutch angles too strong

“I want to understand you” is the key line of this show. But it’s also “I want to understand myself.” “I want to like myself.” All the characters scream it at each other, or fear it and run from it, or try to impress their own ideas on it

“We couldn’t go to the other side. We couldn’t go.” Oh my god, so heartbreaking

“Together we can find it. I want to find the other side. Here in this town!”

Time reverses!

The Flowers of Evil song is SO GOOD

They’re such confused kids

“Maybe that’s where the world ends, and everything else is just an inky black mess that goes on forever.”

Oh god, flashbacks to the future! IT’S ALL TOO MUCH


Oh god, it finishes with a Part 1: End. THAT’S WAY TOO GODDAMN CRUEL. THAT’S INCREDIBLY CRUEL

17 thoughts on “The Flowers of Evil – Review

  1. I always figured the “flash-forward” montage in the final episode was them knowing there’s absolutely no chance they’ll get another season, so showing you what is about to go down, and get you to pick up the manga.

    • Probably, but it also works for me just as a “things aren’t gonna get any better for these kids” moment. It was an interesting inclusion either way, considering I doubt the anime was winning the manga many fans.

  2. Honestly, in terms of an adaptation I felt the anime was pretty terrible. Not just due to the horribly distracting low budget rotoscoping, but also because I felt it missed the point of the original material entirely and had some of the most uneven pacing I’ve ever seen, especially after the midway point. Not to mention the ending.

    Maybe if I could disassociate it from the manga (which, to be frank, I never felt was better than average) I’d be able to appreciate the anime more. I like that it tried something different, but in my eyes it didn’t work.

    • Maybe it’s better for me that I didn’t have any manga preconceptions coming in, then! As a fresh viewer, the anime felt very focused on what it cared about.

  3. Glad to see you appreciated it. I loved it, it was really, REALLY original and a breath of fresh air – I watched it having read the manga already but was surprised by how well the anime’s aesthetic fit the theme (where the manga went for purposeful dissonance between a cutesy aesthetic and a grim content). Too bad for the lack of a sequel – just closing the Nakamura & Saeki arc would have been glorious. But what can one say, clearly the Nakamura body pillows didn’t sell all too well. They probably are scary as fuck, in fact.

    • Oh god Nakamura body pillows plz no.

      Though I’m sure someone would actually enjoy having Nakamura’s “you worthless shithead” face lurking in the corner of their room…

      • It takes a certain kind of masochistic mindset to enjoy that I guess but I wouldn’t put it past the anime merchandising industry. I mean, they made a dakimakura of freakin’ Kate Hoshimiya (still shocked about that…).

  4. Gah fuck why can’t we get a second season that covers up to the end of the climax of the 1st part? Reading the manga is an absolute must. It pretty much only took me just an afternoon to get through it. There are no excuses.

  5. Very difficult show to dissect, and its been some time for me so let me just say i liked it (still havent read the manga). Im someone, who randomly picked this and appreciated all that it had to offer. I just didnt find much that i could complain about (unlike others), while i got to see see some nice things. I like unusual.

    Im glad you picked this show. I liked your notes. I appreciate raw format such as this. Thematic analysis is great, but i want to see other people’s minds under microscope too. You are not afraid to lay yours out in the open for everyone to see. Keep up.

    “clearly the Nakamura body pillows didn’t sell all too well”

    PS: Awesome OST. I need to mention that one Samurai Shamploo ep was about zombies. And there was very similar music used throughout that episode. Maybe there is a connection? My research was fruitless. Its not even released. Still, recommend that episode for anyone who likes creepy. Aku no Hana creepy.

    • That made me listened to the Ending Theme again.
      It is just perfect. (The OP is pretty great as well.)

      I remembered the feeling I had while watching it. I couldn’t watch any other anime the same day, because it left me such a strong impression. Even if I mostly forgot about it, everything I felt, and a lot of scene came back to me again in full force.

      It’s interresting that it’s made by Mushishi’s director, because it’s also a show you can’t marathon. Even if it’s for slightly different reason, it’s better to have a week between each episode to let it sink.

  6. So…is this the new anime Catcher in the Rye? Or was there too much actual catharsis?

    • Yeah, that’s a pretty good comparison point – except instead of OreGairu’s actual monologue-happy Catcher impression, this one just pulls it off through atmosphere alone.

      • I’m pretty sure it would be entirely too easy to do a fake softsubs replacing all of Kasuga’s lines with Holden’s.

        Or fake excerpts of Catcher with vice versa. Holden extolling Baudelaire, heh.

  7. The problem I had with the show was mainly

    1. The main character’s Voice Actor sounded so nasally and pathetic, which is sort of the point, but undermines the manga’s Romantic notion of anarchy and destruction. (Well you can argue that it isn’t supposed to be Romantic but I like to see it that way. The manga’s forte was that it just showed a condition of angst without judgment or morality, like Catcher. )

    2. The classroom scene was done so generically melancholically slow. In the manga you felt like it was a grand edifying epiphanic moment full of free jazz and exaltation. I guess it helps that I was reading the Beats and looking up on Rimbaud around the time when I was reading the manga. Actually the problem with the show is that its cuts away a lot of the Romanticism (mainly due to the rotoscoping and ennui driven cinematography, after the first episode, which was to me the most beautiful, it went downhill) which is good to some people but bad to others. You can see the TV series and manga in that way as rather two separate entities though they have the same content.

    Now I am praying that they do the Festival scene brilliantly. That is basically all I may watch the second season for.

  8. The soundtrack in this show is really reminiscent of a Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross joint to me

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