Tag Archives: Nakamura will burn the world down

Aku no Hana Episode 3: Now With More Sexual Assault!

23 Apr

sawahappy

By: Stephanie Weirich

WARNING! Spoilers lie within! Read at your own peril!

Guys. Guys. GUYS….. guys. We need to talk about the third episode of Aku no Hana, like RIGHT NOW. This show does so many things that no other anime series is currently even considering, let alone doing. Boundaries are being pushed, our level of desensitization to depravity tested, gasps are being uttered. It’s just all so good. To those who are still stubbornly stuck on the animation quality, I just want to shake you so hard while shouting this:

Seriously, are you not?

Seriously, are you not?

Because seriously, are you not!? Because I surely am. Maybe it’s because through teaching English over there, I am well acquainted with this age group and the disgusting, hormonal wave they’re all riding, and thus this all feels so very real to me. The moral ambiguity feels completely authentic.

So what happened in this episode? Well, Kasuga tried to discard his shame by looking for a place to dispose of Saeki’s gym clothes, though not after clutching her pantsu and screaming, his voice raw with frustration and fear, into the night. While searching for a place to finally depart with the emblem of his dirty secret, he seemingly runs into absolutely everybody who lives in his town.

They're just there.  Lurking.  Waiting.  Sweeping.

They’re just there. Lurking. Waiting. Sweeping.

He also runs into Nakamura, the bane of his existence, and she tells him to meet her after school at the library. When this meeting happens, she demands to read the essay she wanted him to write about how he felt when she pushed his face into Saeki’s breasts. He, because he isn’t a full on sexual deviant in his mind, did not write this essay. Kasuga instead attempts to give Nakamura a copy of Baudelaire’s Les Fleur du Maul, claiming that it fully represents who he is to his core.

Memyself

As you might imagine, Nakamura is having absolutely none of this shit.

Your shit.  She wants none of it.

Your shit. She wants none of it.

And this is when we have one of the more viscerally violent and sickly gut wrenching scenes I’ve encountered in an anime. After Kasuga denies that he’s been rubbing Saeki’s gym clothes against his skin in a continual fit of perversion, Nakamura proceeds to attack him, knocking him to the ground while stripping him nude and forcing Saeki’s gym clothes, pantsu and all, onto him.

Knockdown

She is definitely not going to wait for you buddy.

She is definitely not going to wait for you buddy.

pantsu

She then, with her face flushed red and dotted with sweat, tells him that she feels an agonized rottenness at her very core that she wishes could infect all those around her.

flushed face

chokingscreaming

infect

Kasuga cries silently like a wounded animal beneath her.

I am uncomfortable.

I am uncomfortable.

This is dark. Darker than any other slice of life, school days nostalgia anime is ever going to be. And one of the best parts about it is that at no point do they flinch or shy away from the very risky ground they’re covering. Because trust me, this is very subversive for Japanese teenagers. It, much like Battle Royale though in a less dystopian way obviously, is sending the very distinct message that puberty and adolescence in Japan is an absolutely fucking terrible time, and something that maybe, kind of, sort of should scare everyone who has to bear witness to it. Aku no Hana, unlike the vast majority of shows about Junior High and High School life, is not here to blow smoke up your ass by presenting the time spent in school through Natsukashii tinted glasses. There is no meditation on the bonds of friendship, no fun school trips to the beach, no horsing around with homeroom teachers at sport’s festivals, no haunted house building for the cultural festival. It’s just raw, unpolluted teenage angst and unformed, wholly childish ethics combined with the poor decision making only teenagers are capable of.

Aku no Hana wants to show you their version of what it’s like to be a teenager in Japan, and it is wholly divorced from what you usually see. When I said the word natsukashii earlier, I was referring to the Japanese concept of nostalgia. This is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture, and it is pervasive in all of their creative output. It’s the act of remembering a feeling long past, an ideal more than a reality. Anything can inspire it: tastes, smells, places, colors. It is one of the more oft said words you hear in Japan, and it is a feeling that informs much of the school life anime series that we’re used to. There is a desire to remember that time as one of innocence, before life became difficult, before you were tied to your job or your family. It’s a time where there was so much possibility and you spent so much time just having fun with your friends while you incubated within the walls of your most treasured school. But like I said, this is more an ideal now than a reality. School life in Japan is hard, particularly for Junior high kids. They go from just having a grand time in Elementary school, where they get to actually be kids, to all of a sudden being expected to shed much of that childishness and start accepting more adult responsibility. They move into the world of test cramming, of fomenting social ties within their homeroom class, of long hours at school and club activities, long hours of studying. It is an intense transition. Junior High students are essentially small adults, and in the schools I taught at they had the patches of gray hair and the slumped shoulders brought on by exhaustion to prove it.

This is the world that Aku no Hana is trading in. It’s going after the brutal reality of being a youth in a rural town where there’s nothing but dead ends and lost dreams. It’s revealing the ambiguity of being caught between childhood and adulthood and all of the strange sexual impulses that are blooming within during this time. It’s not afraid to show the violence, the bullying, the way everyone clings to their façade for the sake of saving face to ensure that they aren’t the next targets for ridicule. You see it at the end of the episode as well, when everyone in their class turns on Nakamura and Kasuga—Nakamura for being the one kid who’s outside of the group, and Kasuga for defending her against the onslaught.

You're really trying to bully the absolute wrong person here.

You’re really trying to bully the absolute wrong person here.

kasugadefends

bullykasuga

This is how life is—not the gentle sunsets that accompany blissful walks home with friends, or helping your classmates when the curriculum is too difficult. Ijime, the Japanese word for bullying, is a very real issue in Japan at the moment, and much of it is fed by the way schools and homeroom classes function in Japan. It is expected that all classes build their own ties and their own relationships, without much interference from the teachers. This is thought to breed more stable relationships. However, what this also means is that if there’s a kid who happens to be different from his classmates, say he has ADD or is socially awkward, or maybe just too loud, the teachers will turn a blind eye while the classmates bully that kid into falling in line with the rest of the class. This is also one of the factors that has been shown to breed the peculiar problem of Hikikomori: Japan’s version of shut-ins.

It is such a rarity to be shown this side of life in Japanese society, particularly in an anime series as they typically trade in nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings of camaraderie. It is also particularly interesting that they show Nakamura, a girl, as the aggressor. She has the agency that Kasuga doesn’t, she’s accepted her struggle with adolescence and is determined to give zero fucks about what any of her classmates might think of her. She’s full to the brim with hatred for all that’s around her and the effect that it has on her life that she wants to scream forever and ruin it all. She wants to destroy all that’s around her that could be pure, just to watch it burn for her sake. This is incredibly shocking when you’re used to the typical female anime archetype of meek, demure girl who is all gentleness and sweetness that’s just dying to make you a bento and clean your ears out while you rest your head in her lap. Nakamura wants your perversion to keep up with hers. She wants your abject disgust and hatred. She wants to take your innocence.

No doubt.

No doubt.

And again, I think the animation works especially well in portraying how downright disturbing that is. By having such a grotesquely rendered character sexually assault a boy she has forced into a pseudo sexual contract thus giving him no choice in the matter, it takes away all titillation that could be had from this scenario. If she was moe, the sexual tension would be mutual, Kasuga would seem more complicit it in. But with how she’s animated in the series, it makes it suitably nightmarish. It feels like a violation, as well it should. This extends to the audience as well. If you found yourself aroused by the manga, this is certainly not going to garner the same reaction. And I think that’s an excellent approach to take with the subject matter. It should be disturbing. It should make you wildly uncomfortable. It should feel as though you have been violated just as much as Kasuga has. So it would seem that on that front, Aku no Hana has succeeded in spades.

So there you have it, my take on this, the third episode of Aku no Hana. Just remember, you may be having a bad day, but it’s not as bad as the day Kasuga is having.

If you have a different take or want to discuss anything you’ve read here, feel free to shoot me a message or comment here!

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