Aku no Hana Episode 9: Where do the Outsiders go?

5 Jun

By: Stephanie Weirich

Well, I guess if you insist.

Well, I guess if you insist.

Hey there y’all! Welcome back to this week’s re-cap/ramblings about Aku no Hana. I’m going to try to keep this focused, but I’m not going to lie, I’m still reeling from this week’s of Game of Thrones (Catelyn Stark, you are the smartest Stark, just a bit late with the realizations and the whatnot) and the fact that season 5 of my beloved Venture Brothers began. All in all, this leads to a rather unproductive week. But you don’t care about that! It’s time to talk about our favorite deviants!

I can actually smell the angst emanating from my screen.

I can actually smell the angst emanating from my screen.

So first, the recap: We pick up directly where we left off, with Saeki telling Kasuga that she knows what he did to the classroom and her gym clothes and that she doesn’t want to break up with him…. Which is unexpected.

........... um.  Ok?  I guess?

……….. um. Ok? I guess?

Then there is moping by Kasuga because Saeki won’t hate him, even though he’s done such terrible things. He then ditches school the next day, prompting Saeki to confront Nakamura about whether or not she knew of Kasuga’s misdeeds. And Nakamura is all LOLZ, DUH, I TOTES DID, and Saeki is aghast (especially when Nakamura happily tells her that she did her the favor of telling Kasuga about how much Saeki wants to fuck).

Seems reasonable to me.

Seems reasonable to me.

Nakamura also tells Saeki about the contract she has made with Kasuga, and this, rather than making her angry or uncomfortable, instead makes her jealous. This leads to Saeki turning up at Kasuga’s house to talk to him. He refuses to see her. She then runs outside and puts that fucker ON BLAST by shouting an entire monologue to him about how she doesn’t understand him, but that she was touched by him stealing her gym clothes and that she wants him to tell her all about his deviancy instead of Nakamura (and at this point I’m all like O_O, because I can’t even).

ROMANCE

ROMANCE

She then runs away and leaves Kasuga to deal with the consequences of her airing his misdeeds to his entire neighborhood. His mother then rushes upstairs with his ink stained clothes in hand, because yeah, she now knows what he did. Kasuga bolts, has some inner dialogue about how he has no place to belong to in this shitty town, no place to go, that he’s so alone, and he then stumbles upon Nakamura (who looks genuinely lovely before she opens her mouth to berate him, as per usual).

I was actually startled by how lovely she looked.

I was actually startled by how lovely she looked.

Kasuga tells Nakamura what’s been going on, and she tells him to take her beyond the mountain of their town. He asks if she’ll stay with him, and she says that she’ll never let him leave her because she’s going to keep him like a shitty doll.

So... Like a half chewed Barbie your sister leaves lying around on the bathroom floor?

So… Like a half chewed Barbie your sister leaves lying around on the bathroom floor?

The episode ends with Saeki seeing Kasuga’s mother searching frantically for him and realizing that that miiiiiiiiggggghhhhhhttttt be her fault.

Also, Nakamura tells Kasuga his mother looks like an idiot. Because she is a charmer at all times.

ROMANCE

ROMANCE

So what are we getting out of this episode? First, it’s nice that Kasuga is realizing that the one person that should matter the most and who quite possibly understands him better than anyone else, is the one that has been there from the beginning: Nakamura. Kasuga’s run through the town, lamenting his lack of a place to belong, which culminates in his discovery of Nakamura waiting for him, is a very nice visual metaphor for this. Kasuga needs Nakamura, and he’s slowly starting to realize it.

Can you hear the opening notes of "Eye of the Tiger"?

Can you hear the opening notes of “Eye of the Tiger”?

Why?  Because he needs her to break out of himself. He wants so desperately to be different, to be an individual. He is continually pushing against the notion of what it is to be “Japanese”, and he clearly doesn’t want to be all that that entails, and yet, he doesn’t know how to push himself past that. He has been living that reality for so long it has completely informed his public behavior. Prior to stealing Saeki’s gym clothes, his opposition to the town and society he lives in has all been internal. There has been no outward show of his desire to be his own man. And thus, he needs Nakamura because she long ago gave up on being “Japanese”. She is who she is. She is an individual. And she wants Kasuga to be one as well. She’s there to tear all of his walls down, because she long ago demolished her own.

This again brings us to one of the core points of Aku no Hana, which is that Japan has no real place for the outsiders to go. You fall in line, or you find yourself beaten down.  As much as we Western anime and manga fans love to refer to ourselves as Otaku, this can be a highly derogatory term within Japan and it’s because of the connotations.  If you are an Otaku, you are an obsessive, you have a singular passion that interferes with your outward appearance and goes well beyond the bounds of Japanese decency.  If you are a true Otaku in Japan, you are an outsider and if you can’t keep that unacceptable passion relegated to your honne, or true self, than you’re asking to be ostracized.  While Kasuga is not an Otaku per se, I think that this gives some context to the feeling of not belonging that Kasuga feels.  And thus,  Aku no Hana begs the question of how do you subvert long held societal conventions of being and behavior? How do you find your own way? What does it mean to be yourself in Japan? Do you tamp it down and let it fester until it bursts of its own accord? Or do you just let everything hang out, societal rules be damned? Or is there a middle ground?

Well?

Well?

Ultimately, I think that each main character exemplifies one of these concepts. Kasuga has been in hiding, Nakamura gives no fucks, and Saeki is trying desperately to strike a balance between the two. Now Kasuga has to make a decision about what sort of life he wants to live and who he wants to be. The easiest choice would be to disengage from either and keep his head in the sand. Whether he has the courage and the mettle to choose either of the other two options remains to be seen.

Besides this basic quandary, there are some other larger themes that are starting to emerge as the show hurtles towards its conclusion, but I kind of want to wait on that until the end so that I can be sure. At that point, I’d like to write a conclusion piece about the ultimate meaning(s) being put forth. It’s easy to pull out the minor points each week, but really, I think there are some other, grander statements being made that are only becoming apparent as they develop organically. So there’s something to look forward to!

That’s all for this week folks. Let me know in the comments what path you think Kasuga should take (I am team Nakamura FOREVER), or just say hey. You know, whatever blows your hair back. Until next time guys, always remember to destroy the evidence of your classroom destruction lest your mother finds out and feels a shame that burns her very soul!

And you'll end up someone's shitty doll.

And you’ll end up someone’s shitty doll.

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3 Responses to “Aku no Hana Episode 9: Where do the Outsiders go?”

  1. Artemis June 5, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Also still reeling from this week’s GoT here. Possibly one of the most emotionally gruesome and haunting scenes I’ve ever seen – Michelle Fairley really knocked it out of the park with that final sequence.
    Anyhow. Aku no Hana. II’m really interested to see whether or not Nakamura and Kasuga (but especially Kasuga) take the whole running away thing the entire way. I expect most kids have one or two ‘running away from home’ stories that ended in them realising it’s too hard or just too extreme to suddenly cut all social ties and start life anew. Aku no Hana is an extreme series though, where I feel that almost anything could happen.

  2. suddendeath June 10, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    oh man I cant wait to read your thoughts of episode 10!!. It was awsome!I cant beleive this anime was choses on kokatu’s four anime you can skip this season:

    http://kotaku.com/four-anime-you-can-skip-this-season-507970495

    • entropypieplate June 12, 2013 at 3:36 am #

      I am just finishing up my post about episode 10, so get ready because it’s coming! I think that Kotaku has some significant issues with their choice of writers, especially the people that write about Japanese pop culture and anime. They always seems to be dudes who are really, really impressed with themselves and the fact that they’ve lived in Japan, and yet they haven’t seemed to actually learned anything about the culture and country. The viewpoint tends to come off as really entitled, and I’m not a fan. I also think that they can’t get over the art style, ultimately. Which is a shame, because I think this show just keeps getting better and better.

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