Beyond the specifics, The Flowers of Evil will probably contain at least some aspects of life to which most can relate. Takao Kasuga is a middle-schooler who isn’t quite like his peers. He keeps to himself, finding joys in leisure-time entertainment others around him would no doubt deem impenetrably obscure. He loses himself in the works of 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire, occasionally glancing up from the pages to admire the beauty of his classroom crush, Nanako Saeki. Things get complicated, however, when one simple mistake snowballs into a regrettable offense from which he may never recover.
We’ve all been there, right? Something like a seemingly innocent white lie quickly blows out of proportion and all the stammering explanations in the world can’t take it back. Kasuga’s incident is a little saucier. While staying after class alone, he spots Saeki’s gym bag slumped on the floor. In an impulsive and nervous burst, he ends up taking her clothes home with him, staring at them spread out on his bed in awe like the shorts contain the secrets of the universe. Saeki and the rest of the class are understandably upset the following day, thinking some random perv absconded with the outfit, and Kasuga immediately wants to just put it back where he found it and be done with it.
If only there wasn’t an eyewitness to his shameful crime. And if only it wasn’t the resident class weirdo, Nakamura.
Yes, the student bold enough to call the teacher a “s**t-bug” to his face saw the whole thing go down, and she’s about to make Kasuga’s life a living hell. It starts off simple: give me a ride on your bicycle or I’ll tell. From there it escalates, and Kasuga soon finds himself forced to spend time with Nakamura after class each day, a routine that ends up complicating things when the potential for being more than just acquaintances with Saeki rears its head. Being happy isn’t going to be so easy for Kasuga anymore.
There’s a delicate simplicity to Oshimi’s art. It’s very character focused, but the details come out of the woodwork when they have a basis in reality. A river bank, a school library, and even certain classmates; they appear more carefully handled because they existed at some point in Oshimi’s life, something that’s further illuminated in post-chapter author notes. Thus, there’s a strange, familiar intimacy to The Flowers of Evil that makes its page-turning tale of sordid middle school blackmail that much more unsettling. Sure, nothing crazy has happened yet, but Nakamura seems capable of anything, so there’s a constant air of uneasiness throughout.
The Flowers of Evil seems like it’s going to be an interesting read judging from the first volume. It’s too bad the overall design of the cover is so bland, though it does mirror the original Japanese release precisely. Hopefully the pre-release proof look of the book won’t keep folks from picking it up and trying it out, because I’m looking forward to seeing how much further Kasuga’s impulsive act snowballs toward despair.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Shuzo Oshimi
© 2012 Shuzo Oshimi