The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 2

Do you remember the first time you tried to impress someone on a date? I do: I was fifteen, and thrilled that an older boy had invited me to dinner. (He drove a Mazda two-seater and quoted lines from Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, which, in 1988, made him a god.) My strategy for wooing him was to describe, in excruciating detail, the nuances of Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka, from the opening tableau to the final notes. I was convinced that if he could see my passion for something as dark and powerful as that ballet, he’d understand who I really was, and fall in love with that person. (Needless to say, we didn’t go on a second date.)

Kasuga, the earnest hero of The Flowers of Evil, finds himself in a similar situation at the beginning of volume two: Saeki, the classmate whom he’s loved from afar, has finally consented to go on a date with him. As they wander the aisles of his favorite bookstore, Kasuga confesses to Saeki that Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal “changed how I see the world. I felt as though I’d been an ignorant fool my whole life.”  It’s a cringe-inducing moment — not because Saeki mocks Kasuga, or recoils from him, but because Kasuga has exposed himself in such a clumsy, sincere, and godawful manner.

That sincerity is nearly his undoing. Throughout the volume, Nakamura goads Kasuga about Saeki, reacting with fury when Kasuga asks Saeki to enter into a “pure, platonic relationship” with him: how dare he pretend to be normal? Nakamura then redoubles her efforts to reveal Kasuga’s “perversion,” currying favor with Saeki while pouring poison in Kasuga’s ear. But to what end? The final scene of the manga offers some interesting, and surprising, hints at Nakamura’s true agenda while suggesting that Kasuga might, in fact, have more in common with her than he’d care to admit. I won’t reveal what happens, but will venture to say that “orgiastic” is an apt description of those last glorious, frenzied pages.

Review copy provided by Vertical, Inc.


12 thoughts on “The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 2”

  1. CJ says:

    This is one of those things I plan to buy at the Vertical booth at Otakon in less than 3 weeks (yay!) I’m seriously considering cosplaying as Fry so I can go “just shut up and take my money!” to them.
    It’ll be a blind buy, sure, but I do kinda trust Vertical too

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      I’ll be very interested to hear what you think of Flowers of Evil, CJ! I normally hate this kind of story — I’m not a big fan of emotional torture porn — but I’ve found it shockingly readable. (I won’t say “fun,” because that would make me sound like some kind of terrible sicko!)

  2. Aaron says:

    The more I read of this series the less I liked it itall just seems too mean spirited and cynical I liked the first volume but the more I think about it the less and less I like this sereis it’s like to borrow a phrase doing a crossword puzzle based on the works of Marques De Sade. Yes youve spent an half or so hour doing something but was it ultmitely worth it?

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      The final scene in volume two suggests that Kasuga may be on the verge of a breakthrough in his relationship with Nakamura. I wouldn’t give up on it just yet!

      1. Aaron says:

        I read ahead becuse I liked the second volume so much and the wheels just fell off Kasuga and Nakamura’s relationship begins to feel more and more like one of those bad “Stockholm syndrome” romances and Saeki becomes a little too obsessive twords Kasuga and that leads to disturbing actions on Saeki’s part twords Kasuga (not to give too much away).

        1. Katherine Dacey says:

          Aaron: Please refrain from spoilers. There are a lot of folks — myself included — who have only been reading the official English language release.

          1. Aaron says:

            Sorry about that tried to be vague but my bad

  3. Sara says:

    This manga also reminded me of ‘Sundome’, but at the same time, as you pointed in the previous review, they have many differences.

    I’ve already read the two first volumes and I feel like I don’t know whether to say if I liked them or not.

    On the one hand, I’m not used to this kind of story and I’m grateful to be able to read something like this, with all this psychological pressure and sexual feelings involved. Furthermore, I really, really like that the plot goes on this fast. And, oh, the final scene of this volume is just amazing: I didn’t expect it at all.

    On the other hand, while reading the two first comics I felt like the only well developed character among the three main ones is Nakamura. The other two, sometimes, do what they do just because the author forces them to do it, but not because it’s how they would act if they were real people. Moreover, the illustrations are quite irregular and the body proportions aren’t always the right ones.

    What is clear is that I’m willing to go on with its lecture. After the final scene of the second volume it’s impossible to not want to know what happens next.

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      I’ve already read the two first volumes and I feel like I don’t know whether to say if I liked them or not.

      I think that’s a pretty accurate summary of my feelings, too; I admire the skill with which Flowers of Evil is written, and find it compelling, but I’m not sure “like” is an appropriate adjective, either.

      I found your comment about Nakamura interesting, because I thought she was less developed than Kasuga. That’s probably because I identify with Kasuga — I was that weird and painfully earnest teenager who was convinced that she was special because she didn’t like New Kids on the Block. Undoubtedly I’m filling in a few gaps in Shizo’s portrayal of Kasuga! But I agree with you that Nakamura has the greatest potential to become a complex, interesting character, so I’m interested to see if and how she evolves in subsequent volumes. That ending was pretty spectacular!

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