I initially agreed to pick this up because of the director, Hiroshi Nagahama, who directed two of my favorites – Detroit Metal City and Mushi-shi - and the premise sounded interesting – psychological slice-of-life teenage drama.
There’s a lot here to turn off potential viewers – the art style contrasts highly detailed backgrounds with character designs that are either flat and detail-less or look like they’re pictures of real people run through an animation filter. By the end of the episode, I found myself minding it a lot less, but it’s definitely a shock seeing it for the first time. It’s obvious why the producer of the show kept character designs off the net until after the first episode aired. There’s also the fact that due to the nature of the plot, it’s very slow-moving. On the plus side, both of these give it a very realistic feeling – the conversations, the art style, and the pacing all make it feel like you’re actually back in high school.
The subject matter is also something that is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The title comes from a book of French poetry that focuses on decadence and eroticism and in which rape and exploitation are common themes. So far we have a quiet protagonist (though I hesitate to use protagonist) who has an equally quiet crush on the most popular, top-of-the-class girl in his school. He reads poetry and foreign literature, and throughout the episode, we see a thistle flower, the titular “flower of evil” start to bloom upright and eventually open an eye as he steals his crush’s clothes.
From next episode previews, he’s caught by a fellow classmate, a strange loner who leaves tests blank and curses out teachers, who calls him to make a contract with her.
For all that I didn’t want to like this show – the unsettling atmosphere, long uncomfortable silences, the strange art style, and seeing from comments that a rape might be in the future – I was completely taken in. I actually found myself paying more attention to this than the other two I’m reviewing this season, which surprised me. It’s a very similar feeling to Bokurano, minus the giant robots, and set it in high school. The muted palette and atmosphere are similar, as well as some subject matter.
Right now it’s a pretty solid 5/10. I need to wait to see where it’s going, but it’s definitely intriguing and at the same time definitely not for everyone. It’s available for streaming on Crunchyroll on Mondays.