I thought it was really cool that there was an anime that incorporated Charles Baudelaire and Les fleurs du mal. I haven’t read any Baudelaire but I’ve always been intrigued by the title of that poetry collection. This anime has inspired me to actually read some of his work (which is pretty cool).
Like I said, I thought the idea of such an anime was cool. Then I actually started watching it and eventually dropped it. I cannot recommend it for general viewing, though I’d like someone mature and capable to watch the whole thing and give me an informed opinion as to whether it’s morally acceptable or not.
It’s weird. To cut to the chase, it’s about sex and sexuality. Kasuga Takao, preteen and below-average student, has an obsession with Charles Baudelaire and his classmate Saeki Nanako. One day, in a fit of what can only be called hormones and stupidity, he takes home her gym clothes. He plans to return them quietly, but unfortunately class bully Nakamura Sawa sees him and decides to have fun torturing him about it. He has to do what she says in return for her silence.
What does this have to do with sex? Well, Kasuga has an extremely idealized vision of Saeki that does not include sex and sexuality. He puts her on a pedestal and calls her his muse. However, he also really appreciates Les fleurs du mal and seems to think that most people are just steeped in vice, that few people are good and pure. If you’ve ever read any of “The Flowers of Evil,” then you’ll know that they portray people as interested primarily in vices–likely Baudelaire was simply focusing on that aspect of life and not saying that it comprised the whole, but Kasuga being a middle-school student (!) took it as describing the whole nature of man. He also has the idea that sex is something evil or dirty, as if all sexual desire is lust.
This causes problems, because Kasuga is attracted to Saeki not only idealistically but physically. He didn’t plan to steal her gym clothes, but they fell out of her cubby; and when he found they smelled like her shampoo, he couldn’t resist taking them home. He even planned to turn himself in the next day, though he ultimately lacked the courage. He feels that he’s a pervert and has done something evil, spoiled Saeki’s image in some way. At bottom, he’s afraid of his sexuality.
Nakamura takes advantage of this fear to bully him. She, too, treats sex as dirty and evil; she twists Kasuga’s words and makes him think that his normal feelings are perverted. She puts him in situations directly involving sex or sexuality and tries to make him focus abnormally on these things, e.g. making him wear Saeki’s uniform and asking him how it feels to have it clinging to his body; telling him Saeki wants to have sex. Nakamura nudges these thoughts into his head, playing on his sexual attraction to Saeki.
Interestingly, the rest of the characters seem relatively normal. We only ever hear the guys, not the girls, talk about anything relating to sex, and while they are vulgar, they accept their sexuality in a way that Kasuga doesn’t. So things are imbalanced: Kasuga is right to avoid lust and abusing his sexuality, but his friends are right to accept sexuality and know that it’s not something evil.
And Nakamura….she’s just cruel. I think she’s probably lonely and just as afraid of her sexuality as Kasuga is. However, she reacts in directly the opposite manner: she becomes preoccupied with sexuality, even to the point of abnormality or perversion, and tries to make Kasuga the same way. My main problem with her is her cruelty. There are many characters in anime who are perverted or extremely focused on/aware of sex, but the ones that I’ve seen haven’t been nearly as psychologically abusive and sadistic as Nakamura. Again, I understand that she may be lonely, but from the episodes I saw there was absolutely no reason for her to be so twisted.
Her abusive behavior–including sexual harassment (there are plenty of times that Nakamura and Kasuga are in compromising positions)–and the minute focus on Takao’s sexuality (which involved an image of a seductively posed and clothed Saeki that stayed on screen longer than it should have) led me to drop the show. I’m not sure that it’s not worth watching at all, but five episodes in and we had not moved beyond “Nakamura continues to sexually and psychologically harass Kasuga” escapades. If I thought the show were actually saying something good about sexuality, I might’ve kept watching, but it seemed more to me like an opportunity for titillation and exploitation than anything else. That’s why I can’t really recommend it. But if someone who has seen the whole show can suggest otherwise, I’ll reconsider my opinion. I truly am intrigued by the show but cannot currently in good conscience keep watching it.