Comic Picks By The Glick

Flowers of Evil

June 3, 2012

Takao Kasuga is a middle-school student in a small town who likes reading, and has a particular fondness for the poems of Charles Baudelaire.  He also has a crush on Nanako, the most popular girl in class, so when the combination of a moment of weakness and the perfect opportunity strikes, the kid winds up in possession of his idol’s gym clothes.  Naturally, (or else there wouldn’t be a story) he’s found out by Nakamura the class outcast who exploits this by claiming her dominance over him in body and soul.  The back cover indicates that this is “ever so slightly” based on mangaka Shuzo Oshimi’s real life, but it lacks the authenticity of such.  A lot of what we see here feels safe and generic, sanded free of the rough edges that we all know real life has.

Though the mangaka has some interesting ideas about what perversion represents, they’re mainly communicated in the between-chapter notes rather than the story itself.  With the exception of his theft, Takao comes across a very milquetoast protagonist whose major distinguishing feature is that everything in this volume revolves around him in some way.  The crude bluntness of Nakamura’s personality that is meant to render her an outcast probably came across better to Japanese readers, but her whole personality is centered around a misanthropy to the protagonist and their classmates that has no real depth to it.  We can see that she doesn’t like this world, but there doesn’t seem to be any meaning to it beyond driving the plot.  As for Nanako, she’s as saintly and pure as she is bland -- it’s hard to imagine that there’d be anything in her gym clothes that would arouse any purient interest in those who took them.

Speaking of which, for a book centered around the idea of perversion, it offers precious little of the thrills such a thing can offer.  I’ll admit that years of reading hentai manga have probably warped my perception of such things, but unless the idea of a boy being forced to wear a girl’s gym clothing under his own clothes as he goes on a date with her strikes you as the height of taboo a lot of the things that happen to Takao aren’t that exciting at all.  I’m not asking for something out of “Pink Sniper” or “Domin-8 Me” but the book is surprisingly antiseptic when it comes to the sexual undertones of his crime and relationship with Nakamura.  Yes, there is a scene where she strips him and makes him wear the outfit, but the action is performed with an almost supernatural skill that it defies belief and trends closer to comedy instead.

In short, the book is a safe, predictable look at perversion which also winds up being perfectly acceptable for mass consumption.  It feels like Oshimi, rather than let other people do it for either an anime or live-action adaptation, decided to tone down the circumstances and fallout of his crime to make a story for everyone himself.  Either that, or this is exactly how it happened for him in real life.  To which I say, “Dude, your biggest sin was actually kind of boring.”

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