Aku no Hana Episode 4: Nakamura will Burn the World Down.

27 Apr

By: Stephanie Weirich

It’s the end of another arduous and long week, and so it must be time for another Aku no Hana review! If you’re just now joining us for the first time, know that Aku no Hana is our favorite (or most loathed) series this season about puberty and sexual deviancy. Also, it features the angriest girl in the world, and she hates everything, including, maybe especially, you. Go here if you want to know a bit more of what I’m talking about.

For everybody else: so…… Whadda ya think of episode 4? If you’re like me, you might not have a definitive answer for that question. Much like the puberty being portrayed onscreen, it’s just all so complicated. In light of that, let’s take a moment to quickly re-cap what went down in this episode.

There was both bad and good fallout from Kasuga’s decision to stand up for Nakamura. The bad is the initial bullying that occurs from his fellow students in an especially tense morning classroom scene.

Their judgement is palpable.

Their judgement is palpable.

The good is that with that gesture of good will, Kasuga managed to endear himself to his love, Saeki (apparently she’s forgotten about that whole he had his face stuffed between her breasts thing that happened in episode 2). Saeki tells him he’s cool, breaks up the tense morning bullying with an effervescent and unconcerned aisatsu, saves Kasuga from falling down a flight of stairs and agrees to go on a date with him.

Was it Saeki?  Was it really?

Was it Saeki? Was it really?

Ah, the kindness towards an outcast only the most popular girl in school can have.

Ah, the kindness towards an outcast only the most popular girl in school can have.

This would all be a nearly perfect series of events, but let us never forget that Nakamura exists and she’s always watching. And hating. EVERYTHING.

This is all Nakamura sees when she closes her eyes.

This is all Nakamura sees when she closes her eyes.

Contrary to what Kasuga thinks will happen, Nakamura is actually ecstatic about Kasuga’s upcoming date with Saeki. I mean, maniacally so.

That face shall forever convey the true meaning of horror.

That face shall forever convey the true meaning of horror.

She tells Kasuga to meet her before he meets Saeki for their date and to bring the stolen gym clothes that set off this whole sordid contract. When he refuses, she slaps him and tells him he has no choice and promises that nothing bad will happen. What this actually means is that on the day of the date, Nakamura forces Kasuga into a bathroom stall and tells him that he’s going to wear Saeki’s gym clothes underneath his own during the date. During this scene she screams with frustration at his refusal and tells him that she longs to see a real, full blown deviant and she vows to destroy all of the walls Kasuga has built around himself. Her terrifying commitment to this task apparently convinces Kasuga not to fuck with Nakamura, and so on go the gym clothes and out he goes with Saeki.

Just think about that for a moment. Here’s a teenage boy with a girl who he believes to be his personal angel, the absolver of his sins, a girl whose innocence he has fetishized to the point that he keeps her stolen gym clothes in a box with a poem he wrote about her purity, AND HE’S WEARING HER STOLEN CLOTHES UNDERNEATH HIS OWN.

She knows what you did.

She knows what you did.

The reasoning behind why he would do this comes down to two reasons. One: because a terrifying classmate has forced him to do so and Two: because he is a coward who hasn’t realized that he doesn’t truly love Saeki but has instead obsessively fetishized the purity he believes her to be imbued with. He’s placed so much emphasis in his mind on Saeki being able to alleviate him of his sins and by extension his sexual desires that he is incapable of realizing that only he can absolve himself by admitting to Saeki what he has done and thereby freeing himself from Nakamura’s contract. Kasuga, as is the case with most teenagers caught in the messy and hormonal grey area that is puberty, cannot take responsibility for his part in any of this unfolding Freudian drama. When his classmates bully him, he blames Nakamura for his part in defending her. He blames Nakamura for forcing him into their twisted contract. He is incapable of taking responsibility for the fact that he made the choice to defend Nakamura and that he’s allowing her to take advantage of him BECAUSE of what HE did and what HE refuses to remedy on his own. Nakamura may be crazy, she may be angry, she may be opportunistic, but she is not to blame for Kasuga’s inherent perversion.

Trust me, I believe you.

Trust me, I believe you.

He’s also incapable of giving her any props for the direct role she played in him getting to go on a date with Saeki. I have no proof, but part of me very much feels that she engineered that scenario in order for him to get this opportunity, all so she could bear witness to the blossoming of his true sexual deviancy.

For these reasons, I feel as though Kasuga is actually the worst person on this show. Sure, Nakamura may be aggressive and abusive, but Kasuga allows it. It’s happening because of a chain of events that he set off. He’s arrogant enough to believe that he’s superior, both intellectually and morally, to everyone else in his town. He believes himself to be right, he still believes that he didn’t actually steal Saeki’s gym clothes and that instead he’s the victim in all of this. The audacity of his belief in his own victimhood is astounding, particularly when he has very much—through the theft of the gym clothes, the refusal to own up to it and now his wearing of them while on a date with her—violated the innocence of the girl he claims to love.

Feels great, yeah?

Feels great, yeah?

It’s all inadvertent sexual harassment borne from his own cowardice. Regardless of Nakamura’s at times terrifying faults, she’s at least upfront about what she wants and what she feels. She owns her destructiveness. She owns her feelings and her pure discontent. She doesn’t blame anyone else for whom or what she is. She just is, and through Kasuga’s truly terrible nature she’s finally found an outlet to express all of that. I would like to point out that if Kasuga wasn’t complicit in Nakamura’s contract stipulations, Nakamura wouldn’t be forcing him to take ownership of and responsibility for his true nature. Essentially, she is correct that he is the true deviant, that he’s the biggest and most terrible pervert in this town. That fact is the only reason why she’s pushing him in the way she is. If she hadn’t caught him directly being a shitty human being, I doubt she would have ended up doing any of this to anyone else. So, as far as I’m concerned, Nakamura is just not as all around terrible of a person as Kasuga is.

Now for some background musings. I find it quite interesting that adults are rarely portrayed in the show, and that when they are, they provide context for how mundane these huge dramas actually are when compared to the larger world. It all seems so huge to Kasuga, but really, outside the world of his school and peers, none of it matters. His parents are wholly conventional—his mother is always either cooking or yelling at Kasuga while his father is typically sitting in front of the TV, drinking a beer and chalking all of their son’s strange behavior up to puberty.

That's quite the understatement friend.

That’s quite the understatement friend.

Outside of their shared duties as parents, it feels as though Kasuga’s mother and father have no real relationship at all. They have set roles—the mother is the domestic side, the father the breadwinner—and outside of that there is no common ground. Do these two people like each other? Does Kasuga’s father have any interest in their domestic life, or is he slightly envious of his son’s youth? It makes it feel as though regardless of how perverse his current state is, dull, conventional adulthood with a family you may or may not like or want is ultimately the endgame of Kasuga’s existence. This juxtaposition seems a direct reference to the concept of tatemae and honne that I have spoken of before. Kasuga is mired in his honne currently, as are all teenagers. The eventual maturity and stabilization of his sexual desires is the realm of his tatemae. It seems as though this is what Aku no Hana is ultimately saying about the meaning behind teenage angst and rebellion: puberty is your time to just feel as out of control and free as you can before you need to lock it down and get on with being a “normal” adult. Live your honne kids, because your ascendency to tatemae is going to be an even murkier and, at times, a more terrible journey.

Did you have a different take on this episode? Let me hear about it in the comments!

4 Responses to “Aku no Hana Episode 4: Nakamura will Burn the World Down.”

  1. Artemis April 29, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    This episode put me very much in mind of one of the main characters from a short novel called The Tulip Touch (Nakamura’s line about burning everything to the ground surely didn’t help). I’m really curious to see what will happen by the end of the series, especially since my guess is that Nakamura’s antics will continue to escalate until something just has to give. Whether or not there’ll actually be any burning I have no idea, but at the very least I think Nakamura is headed for a mental breakdown, and in a big way.

    • entropypieplate May 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      Interesting! I’ve never heard of The Tulip Touch before, but based upon the Amazon synopsis it seems like something I should read. I can also see why it would line up with this episode a bit thematically. Nakamura is a terribly compelling character and one of the strongest reasons is because I think we’ve all known or interacted with someone like her at some point in our lives. There was always at least one kid that seemed more like a force of nature than an actual human being, and regardless of their destructive nature something about that undiluted emotion drew others to them. This show makes me incredibly nervous and uncomfortable about where it’s going to end up, but I can’t stop watching it.

  2. Blubs May 2, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Love this series so far. I didn’t read the manga so I have no frame of reference. The art style forces the viewer to be uncomfortable and seems to establish a very heavy, dark mood.

    I don’t think the topic matter or story could be taken as seriously if this was done in a more..err, “expected” anime style. Instead of a cute-ish normal style Kasuga staring at Saeki, it looks far, far more creepy. I love the effect the style has on the storytelling.

    I agree with your assessment. I do wonder if Kasuga will come to terms with himself and his desires. I find it absolutely fascinating that he considers himself a victim of circumstance (all of which he basically let happen–inaction is an action and decision in and of itself).

    • entropypieplate May 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Thank you! I hadn’t read the manga either, but I’ve since started it and possibly because I’m coming at it with the anime in mind, I don’t feel that it makes the same impact. It is conventionally drawn which makes Nakamura far less frightening and Kasuga far more sympathetic than they are in the series. I feel like the director of the series is very much attempting to subvert the very typical themes of the manga, as in, the manga’s author I think wants you to be on Kasuga’s side and the series’ director does not want you to be. The sexual content is not nearly as disturbing in the manga as it is in the anime, it doesn’t feel like the violation it should be, whereas it definitely does feel that way when you watch it.

      I am both excited and a bit apprehensive about seeing where the series will ultimately end up, but I can’t stop watching. I think Aku no Hana is the most important show of this anime season, and that it has the most to say about today’s youth in Japan, particularly because it doesn’t show you the idealized side of that which is what you typically get from shows set in middle or high school.

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