Aku no Hana Episode 4: A Tiny Prick of Light
“I’ll tear them down. I’ll tear down all the walls you’ve built around yourself.” -Nakamura
Summary: Having stood up for Nakamura, Kasuga finds himself at odds with the rest of his class. But just when it’s looking like things can’t get much worse for him, his idol, Saeki herself tells Kasuga that she though it was very cool of him to stand up for the strange girl. Armed with a tiny fleck of light in the growing gloom of his life, Kasuga is elated and even finds it in himself to ask Saeki on a date, which she surprisingly accepts. Kasuga tries to keep it from Nakamura, but when she inevitably finds out about the impending date, Nakamura decides to push Kasuga even further into the darkness.
Impressions: How absolutely freakin’ creepy is Nakamura’s smile after she sees Kasuga and Saeki on the stairs together? If Kasuga’s dream of having a normal rose-colored high school life where a soap-bubble, that smile would be the sharp needle set on a collision course with it. It’s the little things like that that make the show so good. For me at least.
After foolishly sticking up for Nakamura, and thus going against the whole class, Kasuga finds himself on the verge of social hell. While before he flew under the radar of most of his peers, now he’s come out as someone who’s willing to go to bat for a girl everyone thinks is crazy as hell and who is also secretly blackmailing him. It’s pretty much a guaranty that he’s going to be facing some kind of ridicule or bullying from the rest of the class and he knows it. I almost feel bad for the poor guy. Almost. Just when it looks like life can’t really get any shittier for him, lo! a tiny spark of light in the form of his angel appears! Like hope trapped at the bottom of Pandora’s box, Saeki herself emerges from the encroaching darkness and actually talks to Kasuga. And not only that, she tells him that she thinks he’s cool for standing up for Nakamura! Ah, how wonderful for him to hear such words coming from the mouth of his idol and muse. With this brief talk over, it’s not really a surprised that Kasuga breaks down in ugly tears of joy.
So begins Kasuga’s delusion that he could have a normal life again. He packs away Saeki’s gym cloths (under the impression that her words have somehow absolved him of his sins), he skips down the halls, and he even finds himself able to ignore the fact that Nakamura is still in a position of power over him. The episode does a great job of capturing the effect that a simple thing like Saeki’s words to Kasuga can have on people. When you have one good, nice thing to hang on to all day (like talking to your crush in your school days or getting a compliment from a stranger or winning the lottery) your whole outlook can change. Kasuga even goes so far as to think that asking Saeki on a date of sorts to the local used bookstore would be a thing that would go down well. When she surprisingly agrees, after saving him from falling down the stairs in a nice reversal of typical gender roles most commonly seen in that scenario, we the audience know that it’s officially too good to be true. Nothing in life is ever so simple, and as Nakamura’s delightfully devious grin spreads out across her face, we also know that Kasuga is about to find that out the hard way.
After being lured from his room in the middle of the night by Nakamura, who throws rocks at his window, Kasuga gets a slap in the face (literally) from reality. Nakamura knows about the date and seems a little too enthusiastic about it, asking him all kinds of questions and smiling in exactly the way a shark would smile at you right before it takes a huge chunk out of your side. While at first Kasuga is worried that she’s made at him because she’s jealous of his love for Saeki (oh Kasuga, what kind of show do you think you’re in?), he’s soon cured of that thought. He meets Nakamura a half hour before his date, just like she demands he do, and brings with him the gym cloths that just the day before he swore he wouldn’t get out again. Cornered by Nakamura in a girl’s bathroom stall, he’s given an ultimatum: strip and wear the gym cloths under his normal cloths for the whole date or face the consequences.
See, Nakamura isn’t just some jealous little school girl, who’s doing this to (in some twisted way) get Kasuga to fall in love with her. No. She’s on a mission: to see a true deviant, to strip down all the walls that Kasuga has built around himself and to reveal the disgusting beauty found within. Her little outbreak at the end is the highlight of the episode, and it’s something that, were this a live action or more “traditional” anime, might have come off as cheesy or silly. But in the strange real/unreal world that Aku no Hana borders on, there’s a real weight to Nakamura’s words and actions. It’s believable that she’s not someone you want to fuck with, in other words. Which Kasuga wisely doesn’t, as he ends up wearing the gym cloths to meet Saeki. With the ideal high school life of his dreams receding from his grasp faster and faster, one can’t help but wonder what dark destination Kasuga’s life (and date) will have.
Final Thought Real Talk with Nakamura: