The Original Shitbug: Reading Aku no Hana Volume 1
Posted On June 6, 2013
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.