The Flowers of Evil (vol. 4) by Shuzo Oshimi, translated by Paul Starr
Before you read further, you’ll need to click here to catch up on the first three volumes of this creepy, obsessive, love-triangle-of sorts. While the three protagonists are tweenaged middle-schoolers, this is definitely not your kiddie manga: abusive language aside, the deviant psychological manipulations are shocking, perhaps even more so if you’re a parent. The phrase, ‘are kids really like this??’, remains on perpetual replay in the midst of turning the chilling pages.
In the month since their dark-and-rainy-night confrontation at the end of volume 3, the mismatched threesome has been living separated, isolated lives. Takako Kasuga is a “gloomy” loner, tip-toeing around his disappointed, worried parents. Sawa Nakamura remains the class pariah, violently rude and angry in equal measure to both adults and students alike. Nanako Saeki has found a new sidekick named Ai who seems to speak whatever Saeki is too shy or embarrassed to say.
During a middle-of-the-night revelation, Kasuga realizes that in spite of her outer softness, “Saeki can get by happily without a guy like me.” Nakamura, on the other hand, only projects a flinty, razor-sharp exterior because “she was hurt”; in spite of her ‘leave-me-alone’ shell, “she’s got it way harder than me.” He resolves that because she once believed in him – “in empty me” – he won’t leave her “all alone” ever again.
Ignoring the jeers and laughter of his peers, he reaches out to Nakamura, literally chasing her down the street to admit, “I’ve only ever thought of myself!” With a desperate scream, he promises, “I’ll do my best! I’ll do my best and become a true pervert! I won’t leave you all alone!!!”
A parent’s worst nightmares are just beginning … Vowing to find “the other side” this time, he sets out to prove his utter and complete devotion to her.
Just when you thought the fear was over – at least until the next volume – creator Shuzo Oshimi unexpectedly offers The Flowers of Evil “Locations Tour” at book’s end, which begins with “Kasuga’s way to school … It’s close to my old house.” The microscopically detailed drawings of familiar street scenes and building views, complete with chatty captions, ends with a jaunty “Thanks for reading!” The disconnect is jarring; you can feel the hairs on your head rising. Instantly, you’re in heightened alert mode as you recognize the lull is over, and even more brutal mind games are most certainly coming … countdown to volume 5 (April 9) starts now.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2013 (United States)