Based on the manga from Shūzō Oshimi, “Flowers of Evil” follows a young student named Takao. After stealing the gym clothes of his crush, a troubled student, Sawa witnesses the act and blackmails him. The two forge a contract which leaves Takao at the mercy of Sawa’s outbursts and bizarre requests.
After suffering at the hands of Sawa and her requests, Takao starts to grow an odd fascination for the girl, and he begins to develop romantic feelings for her. The two plot a grand statement to show the town of “s***-bugs” the dark underbelly of their quaint existence. The film follows Takao’s journey with Sawa, as well as his life struggling with the memories after they part ways.
To preface the review, I will admit bias within the title of “Flowers of Evil”, since the manga is one of my favourite dark, coming-of-age tales. The reflection of a young man who loses himself in complex books, all the while romanticizing the idea of that complexity coming to fruition in their own upbringing, is something that strongly resonated with me, although it should, in part, resonate with other introverts who found themselves lost in the arts at a young age, specifically within a town or a community void of it. Although it can be argued that the strength and success of this production would lie in the strength of the source material, one has to give director Noboru Iguchi credit, as he manages to be pretty immaculate in his execution of adapting the original. His success can be attributed to sticking closely to the story, but more importantly knowing what moments needed to be punctuated in performances and presentation to match the more poignant moments within the manga.
Although “Flowers of Evil” does boast some strong visuals within key moments, the presentation exists as being more serviceable to the script. The film’s visuals are too seldom impressive. Perhaps most notable in location work, where the small sleepy town that Takao grows up in, is left feeling under-explored and generic. A bit more focus on the life in the small town would have helped draw a bigger comparison between pivotal moments in his youth, but instead the film has very little identity within its locations. The film score, which is minimal in execution, feels like a missed opportunity to add a bit of punch to the emotionally charged moments. Thankfully, the overall impression is that although the film could have done more, it is not ruined by any of the technical elements.
The success of the performance hinges on both Takao and Sawa, and for the film to work both performers needed to capture the same emotions embodied in the manga. Thankfully, both succeed in their roles, with Kentaro Ito channeling troubled and confused youth in his role as Takao. Compliment Ito, Tina Tamashiro plays Sawa as an awkward female, whose struggle with mental health is often hidden behind a headstrong and extreme demeanor. Both actors approach their characters with the required maturity, and create an uncomfortable yet engaging, dynamic whenever they act opposite each other.
Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the production lies within director Noboru Iguchi himself, given that this is a departure from his signature over the top, gore pieces (“Ghost Squad“, “Slaveman” “Machine Girl”). The two hour long drama, that, although deals with some disturbing concepts, is a far cry from the films that have made him a notable name among fans of horror and the absurd. This departure in style to some will be seen as a deviation into another genre until he moves onto the next ‘extreme’ concept. However, it would be foolish to write off this production, as it shows Iguchi as a multi talented director that can produce meaningful work complimentary to the shock pieces he is known for. Given the great execution in almost all aspects of the production, it would be great to see him take on similar projects in the future.
I have always been a sucker for darker coming of age films, but even within realizing my bias given the title and the content, it seems easier for directors to squash hopes in adapting material than to bank on such a truthful and well executed adaptation. Thankfully, Iguchi makes what may be my favorite movie adaptation of an original manga. The appeal will definitely extend to those unfamiliar with the source material, as technically and contextually “Flowers of Evil” is a well constructed coming of age drama. To fans of the manga and works of Shūzō Oshimi, they should have reason to rejoice and make haste to the closest screening available.