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Both disturbing and fascinating, volumes two and three of Shuzo Oshimi’s Flowers of Evil continue it’s unnerving and darkly comedic coming of age tale! Hapless Kasuga finds himself unable to shake off the strange hold that the twisted Nakamura has over him. Under her watchful eye his relationship with class mate and girl of his dreams, Saeki deepens.
Over the course of the two volumes we see, not only Kasuga’s relationship with Saeki deepen, but his relationship with Nakamura does as well. Torn between what he sees as two opposites, the devilish Nakamura and the angelic Saeki, Kasuga’s life continues to unravel. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of these two volumes comes by way of Saeki and her reactions to Kasuga’s erratic behavior. Between his huge overreactions during their first date, which occurs with Kasuga secretly wearing Saeki’s stolen gym clothes underneath his own garments, and the revelations which follow in the wake of Nakamura and Kasuga’s massive defacing their class room one night, she takes everything seemingly in stride. This only furthers Kasuga’s own idolization of Saeki as angel and simply furthers the devil/angel dichotomy he’s set up in his mind between the two women in his life. We’re also given the briefest of glimpses into the home life of Nakamura and it, combined with what seemed to be an honest and heartfelt emotional outburst in the second volume, offered disturbing hints about the troubled young girl’s life. It all seemingly comes to a head in an intense emotional showdown in volume three, one that sees a confession from Kasuga regarding his own internal struggle which feels incredibly genuine and certainly must echo that search for self that many went through at some point their lives.
Oshimi’s art fits the tone of the series nicely. Every character looks different and is easy to tell apart, despite the fact that the classroom setting means they’re often all wearing the exact same outfit. Oshimi also does a fabulous job at conveying the characters emotions’. These can range from subtle curls on Nakamura’s lips to the full on mental breakdown of Kasuga in the third volume’s climax. Similarly, the sexual ecstasy of the graffiti scene at the end of the second volume is palpable, due completely to Oshimi’s skilled hand. It’s easy to see why it became one of the defining scenes of the anime adaption and was praised as a high point for the otherwise much maligned series. It provides what is probably the most memorable moment in the first three volumes of the manga. It doesn’t just stop there though, there are little things Oshimi tosses in that might go overlooked on an initial read. My personal favorite example comes in the third volumes when Kasuga’s pupil and iris mirror the cover artwork of Baudelair’s Flowers of Evil which has been present throughout the series.
Tales of adolescent awakenings can be a tricky thing to pull off without it feeling a little nostalgic or saccharine, but Shuzo Oshimi manages to pull it off in a manner that on one hand feels real and genuine, but is wonderfully over the top in its depiction of events as well. Flowers of Evil can have you laughing one moment, squirming uncomfortably the next, and then nodding in agreement as its drama plays out across the wonderfully rendered pages.
The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 2 + 3 are available from Vertical Inc.
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