The Original Shitbug: Reading Aku no Hana Volume 1

She is a rude young lady

Propelled by weekly enjoyment of the Aku no Hana anime, I decided to pick up the original work to see how it stands up. It’s shonen manga with furigana, so I figured it’d be pretty readable.

It’s actually more readable than I thought it would be: All the difficult-to-understand extracts from Baudelaire that are in the anime are absent from the original work, making the manga a pretty straight-forward read. And maybe too straight-forward. Perhaps I’m just a pretentious asshole, but I’m quite fond of the meandering nature of the Aku no Hana anime’s first couple of episodes. Could they have been shorter? Sure, but the way the anime lets the viewer wade around in its setting tells us where these characters are coming from and sets an appropriately bleak tone for the anime to unfold in. The way in which the first episode actually uses passages from Les Fleurs du Mal is a particularly good way of letting us into Kasuga’s head.

The manga’s pacing is pretty normal, to the point where it doesn’t stand out as much more than a typical manga, except maybe kind-of dark and kind-of perverted. What probably hurts the manga the most at this point is the very amateur-level artwork. The artist can’t seem the do much more than doujinshi-level moe-styled artwork, and it undersells drama and emotion in a lot of scenes. So far, the anime has done a better job at portraying the awkwardness of middle school with its realistic acting, but perhaps it’s unfair to compare the medium of film to a static medium like sequential art. But even so, a more skilled draftsmen could convey fiercer intensity in Nakamura’s evil stares than Oshimi can at this point, and I think the anime’s use of real actors does a good job in particular of portraying her maliciousness, strange 4chan-meme-taken-out-of-context-screenshots aside.

But beyond moe-inspired artwork, Oshimi tries to set a dark tone by giving lots of people bags under their eyes, utilizing photographs of his hometown for backgrounds, and sometimes trying to make things look rough by way of sketchy shading. Taking a glace at later volumes, it seems he kind of gets what he’s going for, but at this point everything is still quite embryonic.

Do I like it? I guess, but seeing as the anime is basically line-for-line from the manga after a certain point, I was imagining the anime voices and kind of wondering why the artwork wasn’t very good. At this point seeing as how they’re essentially the same thing, I prefer the anime, as I think execution-wise it’s doing a better job, pacing issues aside. I personally like the speed it’s running at, but honestly, even I thought that scene at the beginning of episode eight was a tad too long.

4 thoughts on “The Original Shitbug: Reading Aku no Hana Volume 1

  1. Definitely agree with all said here. I love the David Lynch-esque atmosphere and use of silence and creepy sound design building up tension and was disappointed to see how the manga in contrast seemed to be barreling past all of that, so decided to stick with the anime until it’s finished. What I did find better about the manga though is that Oshimi’s art makes it much more clear that these are supposed to be Junior High students, whereas the anime makes them look like they’re in high school if not college, not helped by the rotoscoping of adult performers.

    1. I prefer the more adult look to the characters, even if it’s pretty unrealistic.

      The manga’s certainly going for a dark tone, I just think as of volume one Oshimi hasn’t really hit his stride yet.

  2. So… did you keep reading it? I’ve just finished the anime and I’m not justifying it (no reason, no time to), but I really liked some parts. Most of it, actually. That much that I’m now going for the manga… I guess.

    So, I wanted to check with someone who also liked the anime (hard to find). My biggest question here: if I want to pick up the manga from where the anime ends (or around it, not sure about the fidelity of the work), which chapter should I start from?


    1. Hey, thanks for the comment.

      I’ve read up to the latest tankoban, and Oshimi really starts to find himself as an artist and writer at around volume 4, which is where I believe the events after the anime start, but don’t quote me on that.

      However, I think for the manga you should start from volume 1 anyway, just to see how Oshimi evolves as a creator.

      Right now Aku no Hana is some of the best manga I’m reading (granted I don’t read much) and the current arc is really interesting, albeit far more subdued than the first half.

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