Aku no Hana Episode 8: The Longest Hand Holding in History

29 May

By: Stephanie Weirich

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Well, hello there! How are you this fine evening? You’re (I imagine) looking lovely. Oh, what’s that? You’re here for the Aku no Hana recap of episode 8? Well good. BECAUSE I WANT TO GIVE IT TO YOU. ALL NIGHT LONG. Cue my best David Caruso impression (I’m just screaming YEAH! And putting glasses on top of glasses on top of glasses until my face falls off).

This is my theme song.

But seriously, lets hop to it shall we?

Quick recap: Apparently, the makers of Aku no Hana agreed with me so completely about how awesome that last scene was in episode 7 that they decided to show it again. It was still fucking tits. They then proceeded to show Kasuga and Nakamura take the longest walk of shame in the history of the world. It went for so long, when I closed my eyes after watching it, I could still see them walking straight into eternity, hand in hand.

It begins...

It begins…

More...

More…

And more...

And more…

And even more...

And even more…

Just fucking go home already!

Just fucking go home already!

We then got to see the fallout of the Kasuga and Nakamura Classroom Destruction Blowout Super Fun Time, which all in all, was anticlimactic due to the fact that Kasuga managed to completely obscure his name with ink so no one knows that he actually did it. Saeki is crushed initially because her gym clothes have returned and she has to try to come to terms with the surely horrible things that happened to them while she didn’t have them in her possession.

Just...Maybe don't think about it too much?

Just…Maybe don’t think about it too much?

The entire classroom being vandalized thing is blamed on a non-existent pervert (nice job Nakamura) and there’s a school wide assembly announcing this as a safety issue and the whole school is sent home early. Kasuga and Nakamura meet after school, Nakamura is THRILLED at how shocked and disgusted her classmates were while Kasuga is a great deal more uneasy about the whole thing. This is when Saeki shows up, disrupting a rather suggestive moment (as she could interpret it). Kasuga says they should break up, she asks why. Kasuga then tries to run away when Saeki tells him that she knows he’s the one that vandalized the classroom and stole her gym clothes because he was bold enough to incorporate the cover painting from the copy of The Flowers of Evil that he gave Saeki into his sexual awakening/criminal act. DUN DUN DUN.

It sure was, Platonic Ideal!

It sure was, Platonic Ideal!

I honestly don’t have too much to say about this episode, which is probably owed to how terribly paced it was. While I appreciated the fact that they showed a true moment of shared intimacy between Kasuga and Nakamura, they did not need to spend 10 minutes on that shared moment. Especially when we’re at episode 8 of 13. It felt like a way to pad out the episode, and for what reason, I do not know. We’re approaching the end of the series, and I feel like things should be perpetually in motion, not treading water.

But hey, while we’re at it, lets talk about that moment.

Awww, that's sweet!

Awww, that’s sweet!

It’s important to note that this was the very first time Nakamura and Kasuga had physical contact that was truly and completely consensual. There was no power play, no aggression, no act of dominance, it was just a pure—and purely innocent—expression of affection that only comes from having experienced something monumental together. These two shared a moment. A moment that was truer and more honest than any other moment of their lives. They, while in the wanton thoroughs of mutual destruction, showed each other exactly who they both are. There was no pretense and no attempt to hide the rawness of their emotions and expectations. They both simply let go and acted only on their most natural impulses. That’s why that moment, that ending from the last episode, has as much impact as it does. We very rarely get to see how raw teenagers are, how mixed up their emotions and personalities are while they’re being assaulted by mandatory socialization, hormones and peer pressure. We rarely get to see them as human beings, on their own terms. And that scene of the two of them destroying everything that represents their daily lives was their chance to claim ownership of their own narrative. They got to write their own story right then and there, which is not something teenagers typically get to do.

I think this is especially important when it’s related to Japanese teenagers. As I’ve said before, junior high is when the Japanese begin the journey of becoming “Japanese”. It is just as, if not more important, for them to learn the rules and guidelines of their very rigid society as it is for them to learn about science or literature. What this really means is that the cycle of repression begins at this age. This is when they’re encouraged to act like adults, to put aside their individuality and completely conform to the group that is their class, and in doing so represent the larger group dynamic that is their school. There is very little attention paid to how they feel, to how they struggle, to how they might not be able to handle the pressure. Again, this is not something that is typically portrayed in Japanese media. We’re very used to the rose colored school life anime series, where everyone gets along and no one has any problems. It would not be an exaggeration to say that slice of life school days anime is typically pushing an ideal more than a reality. Just like how Glee does not accurately represent high school in the US, shows like Azumanga Daioh do not accurately represent high school in Japan.

Surprisingly, this is not what high school is like in Japan.

Surprisingly, this is not what high school is like in Japan.

Aku no Hana, however, gets much closer to the mark. Discipline issues in schools, as well as truly horrific cases of bullying, are becoming more widespread and more reported in Japan. I can tell you from personal experience that I had more Nakamura’s in my English classes than I had Chiyo-chans.

I foolishly thought all of my students would look just like this.

I foolishly thought all of my students would look just like this.

I experienced kids that would flip their desks, throw books and erasers at their classmates/friends, start shouting in the middle of a lesson, or just flat out get up and leave class without permission. I was completely unprepared for this, as were many of my teachers. There was a sense that this was all new behavior. That when they were kids, nothing like this had ever happened. I highly doubt that’s true, but I do think that as the world opens up through technology such as the internet and internationalization is continually forced upon Japan, these long held problems become more noticeable and are given more context and are thus forced out into the open where they have to be dealt with as opposed to ignored. This is why regardless of the missteps Aku no Hana may make when it comes to pacing or planning, I think it’s an essential show that shines a very bright light on the plight of teenagers in Japan in a way that is necessary RIGHT NOW. It is a way for those kids who can’t fit in, who don’t understand what role they’re supposed to play, who always feel left out of the group, to know that they aren’t alone. They’re just growing up in a society that is a bit clueless as to how that works. But that’s just my take.

Did you get something different out of this episode? Let me know in the comments!

2 Responses to “Aku no Hana Episode 8: The Longest Hand Holding in History”

  1. mr. tomness August 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    it is entirely about the inner workings of society -however it also has links to the poet Charles Baudelaire who wrote the poetry collection of the same title who contributed vastly to what we believe to be modern art- freedom of expression. The point is that while Kasuga may not understand the poetry collection his life becomes part of it and hence allows the anime to pose the question what exactly is freedom of expression and does our current culture truly allow it through the micro-climate of the setting it is based at. Also to note is that it self-reflects on what anime is as well and why this very different thing is born from Japanese culture. as a side note I would also like to say I think you would find the anime a lot less powerful if you took away the long scenes of apparent nothing as it builds up tension.

    • entropypieplate August 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by to comment. One of my favorite aspects of this series—and indeed art in general—is that it allows for a multitude of interpretations depending upon who is observing it. For me, my personal goal for this piece, and this entire blog, is to critically examine anime with an eye towards the Japanese experience and how that influences their artistic and pop cultural output. For me, it was more important to examine the experience of Japanese youth both within the school system and outside of it as it was presented in Aku no Hana, in particular the way the concept of “deviancy” figures into that area of experience. While I agree with several of the things you’ve stated, they fell outside of the purview of what I’m choosing to cover here and would, I feel, have made for a much more unfocused piece. And yes, the show would lack a significant amount of tension without the protracted scenes of everyday existence. As I said in my reviews, those choices were deliberate and very similar in style to how French cinema is constructed. While it’s necessary to realize that, I can also understand how it can be a frustrating experience to many viewers, which is why I decided to approached it in a much more light hearted manner.

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