Aku no Hana Episode 10: What Do We Mean When We Say Deviant?

12 Jun

By: Stephanie Weirich

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Guys. GUYS. I have something to say, and I’m just going to come right out and say it, finally—I am not a fan of Saeki. There it is. I’m not going to take it back; however, I will most definitely hash out why I feel that way, so have no fear. But I’ll just start out by saying that this episode managed to bring to the forefront many of my significant issues with her character.

But before all that, let’s get to the recap!

We pick up where we left off last week, with Kasuga and Nakamura heading into the mountains—or, as Nakamura refers to it “The Beyond”—after the fallout that was Kasuga’s mother discovering what he did to his classroom. This ride was good because we actually, for the first time, got to see Nakamura open up just a tiny bit and be something other than her usual head strong, abrasive, physically and verbally abusive self. She was downright vulnerable when she told Kasuga that she always wondered if the world just ended at the mountains with nothing at all beyond their dying town.

I mean, maybe?

I mean, maybe?

It was a short lived moment though because when Kasuga tries to commiserate she shuts that shit down immediately by calling him an idiot, AS YOU DO.

C'mon man.  PAY ATTENTION.

C’mon man. PAY ATTENTION.

We also get to see Saeki, who skips out on dinner under the pretense of buying stationary (yeah, no, that seems totally legit at 7 or 8 at night in the middle of a home cooked meal, yeah, you’re doing a great job there) but really, she’s figured out that Nakamura and Kasuga have run away together and so she has to get in on that hot, angsty action because otherwise it just wouldn’t be a party.

No seriously, GREAT JOB

No seriously, GREAT JOB

Cue torrential downpour, forcing Kasuga and Nakamura to take cover on the side of a mountain road to wait for the rain to clear before they continue their journey. Saeki also continues her hot pursuit until, SURPRISE, the 3 maudlin teenagers find each other again.

Don't we all have parents?  Who worry about us?

Don’t we all have parents? Who worry about us?

This scene was a long time coming and I’m glad it finally happened. These 3 have a bevy of issues that only a good old fashioned tear drenched shouting match can really hash out. Oh, and one of them has to be naked and as usual it’s Kasuga. Because Nakamura ripped his clothes off, that’s why. Duh. But really, the content of this emotional catharsis was excellent. We got to see Saeki plead with Kasuga to stay with her and essentially make her into his own girlfriend version of Nakamura (which shows a vast misunderstanding of Kasuga’s and Nakamura’s relationship on Saeki’s part) while Nakamura very calmly makes it clear that Kasuga needs to make a decision and that he shouldn’t “fuck with my expectations”.

DON'T

DON’T

Kasuga, for his part, has some pretty profound revelations about his own expectations for Saeki, his lack of worth to Nakamura and his belief that while he might be empty and despicable, he doesn’t deserve to choose between either of these girls. And before the police break up this shindig, Nakamura makes a face that actually broke my heart. The episode ended with probably the most awkward ride in a police car ever put on film, and I’m saying that as a person who watched “Cops” A LOT.

Really officer, I'll tell you anything if you just get me out of this car.

Really officer, I’ll tell you anything if you just get me out of this car.

So, needless to say, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes in this episode that I think is incredibly important to the show as a whole. One of those things is the parsing out of what the term “deviant” means within the world of Aku no Hana. For some time now, it’s been easy to tie that term explicitly to sexual deviancy but as the series marches onward towards its conclusion it’s becoming more apparent that deviant here doesn’t exactly mean what we think it does. Yes, both Nakamura and Kasuga are deviants, but in this sense it’s more tied to how they subvert the rigid social paradigm that’s been thrust upon them. The act of resistance to societal norms and by extension the very act of acting out against what is expected of them as members of Japanese society is a deviant act. As I’ve covered before, if you’re Japanese and you stand out from the crowd and attempt to assert any individuality amongst your peer group, your life is going to be exceedingly difficult. You’re going to be singled out by your teachers. You’re going to be targeted by your peers. You’re going to be a social Pariah and there is very little you can do to change this (If you’re looking for some extra-curricular reading that goes a long way towards explaining the culture of institutionalized ijime or bullying in Japan I highly recommend “Shutting out the Sun: How Japan Created its Own Lost Generation” by Michael Zielenziger. It’s an eye opening account of how and why kids become Hikikomori amongst other topics that are highly relevant to most of my posts about Aku no Hana). This philosophy has already been demonstrated by how Nakamura is treated by her classmates and by how quickly everyone turned on Kasuga when he dared to stand up for her. And really, a lot of what Nakamura says in this episode relates much more to this concept of deviancy than it does to the concept as explicitly sexual. She desperately wants to travel to “The Beyond”—an undefined world beyond the confines of her existence in this town.

We're all coming with you

We’re all coming with you

She very clearly states that this isn’t about traveling or seeing the world—this is about subverting a staid existence, about shaking up a social order that is causing her and Kasuga’s lives to stagnate. For Nakamura, “deviancy” is the only way past a traditional Japanese existence. The town, and her place in it by extension, is dying. There is no future for someone like Nakamura in a town like this. There might be no place for Nakamura in all of Japan, period.

He sure is.  He sure is.

He sure is. He sure is.

So what about Kasuga? It’s the same and yet different for him. While this concept of deviancy still applies, his is also imbued with a highly sexual context due to ALL of the business that has transpired with Saeki. But it seems as though that was all more a means to an end then it was a diehard sexual perversion. The end for Kasuga in this case being an escape from his highly ritualized and mundane existence. While the seed of social deviancy was planted by his highly erudite (i.e. French) reading habits, it was Nakamura that fully caused that flower to bloom. In a very real way, Nakamura has done exactly what she promised to do: knock down the walls Kasuga hides himself in. It may not be what he, or us as the audience expected, but it is what’s happened. His genuine breakdown in this episode is a reflection of that. He might not fully be aware of it as of yet, but his subconscious at least realizes how important Nakamura has become to him and his personal journey. He’s also realized that he was never prepared to face the reality of Saeki (thank the lord) and that it’s wrong for the two of them to be together as such. Nakamura is the one and only woman who could possibly exist at the center of his world. She is, when it comes right down to it, the realest thing he has ever known and the fact that he hasn’t yet fully realized that and doesn’t think that he deserves to be with her on this mutual journey is the root of Nakamura’s heartbreak at the end of this episode.

Don't mind me, I've just got something in my eye.

Don’t mind me, I’ve just got something in my eye.

It is important to keep this concept of deviancy in context as it relates to Japanese society. The desire to be an individual who fully controls their destiny is one that much of the Western world, particularly the U.S., takes for granted. It’s been bred into our very genes because AMURRICA FUCK YEAH! This is most definitely not the case in Japan and as such, it’s understandable for us as foreign viewers to be highly frustrated with the experience of watching Aku no Hana. So while there is nothing twisted about much of what Kasuga and Nakamura ACTUALLY want from their lives, it is very much twisted within the society they come from. I also think that within the context of the series, Shūzō Oshimi is attempting to, in some regard, normalize that desire and show that it should be the default desire for each person’s life path, as opposed to being an act of deviancy.

NEVER

NEVER

And that all brings me to Saeki’s role in this little drama. Saeki represents Japan’s ideal of normalcy. She is the good girl with the good grades who does everything correctly. She is destined to grow up, get married, have a child and live out her days in relative peace. This is but a puberty inspired blip on her life’s radar. But in the context of Aku no Hana, it’s Saeki that’s the most deviant, in regards to what she represents to Kasuga. If Nakamura represents the path towards fully realized individuality, then Saeki represents the path towards stifling normalcy. She is more of the same for Kasuga, a known reality, while Nakamura is an unknown future. Saeki has no real reason to pine for Kasuga to the degree that she does and as much as she claims to want to understand him and his reasons for doing everything he has done, her readiness to “normalize” his deviancy is highly suspect and I would attribute it more than anything to her jealousy of Nakamura’s ability to be an individual. Saeki can only aspire to be something more than she is, but at the end of the day, she’s fully aware that she will never be anything more than normal. Which in this case, in the twisted world of Aku no Hana, actually makes her highly deviant.

The existential angst.  I CAN TASTE IT.

The existential angst. I CAN TASTE IT.

So Nakamura. Kasuga. Keep doing what you’re doing like you’re doing it for TV.

Yeah, that's the good shit.

Yeah, that’s the good shit.

But that’s just my interpretation guys. Please, feel free to disagree with me in the comments or just let me know what you thought of this episode!

(Also, man, anime penis is a rare animal. My jaw literally fell off of my face when Kasuga got pantsed.)

O_____O

O_____O

3 Responses to “Aku no Hana Episode 10: What Do We Mean When We Say Deviant?”

  1. Artemis June 12, 2013 at 3:59 am #

    My general feelings about Saeki haven’t changed since she became a major character – I’m for the most part ambivalent. She doesn’t particularly annoy me, but I just don’t find her all that interesting compared to Nakamura – one of the most fascinating anime characters from a psychological perspective that I’ve seen in years. Whereas Kasuga and to a slightly lesser extent Saeki are relatively predictable in their actions, I can never really tell when Nakamura will go off the rails.
    Discluding the totally brilliant final scene of episode 7, this was my favourite episode of the series to date. I swear, the more awkward and intensely ugly the situation in this show, the better the storytelling itself gets. While this was Nakamura’s second major emotional explosion in Aku no Hana, I doubt it will be the last. The big question is, when will it result in more of a problem than the most awkward car ride in history?

  2. Charlene Arisugawa June 12, 2013 at 4:20 am #

    Reblogged this on 逃げじゃ駄目だ and commented:
    Thank you for writing this post.

    • entropypieplate June 16, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      You’re very welcome! And thank you for the kind words. Check back in on Tuesday if you’re interested in more like it. I’ve been recapping Aku no Hana throughout the season and will do so until the very end.

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