The Flowers of Evil (vol. 11) by Shuzo Oshimi, translated by Paul Starr
Ten volumes of Flowers of Evil have already shocked, scared, titillated, challenged readers (in translation) over the last two years. The series comes to a close with this, the final volume … or does it? In creator Shuzo Oshimi’s “Afterword,” he warns, “Just as Kasuga says in the story, nothing ends.”
The future is wide open for Takao Kasuga, as he and Aya Tokiwa look out towards the unbroken expanses of the sea. They’re not alone for long, as Sawa Nakamura walks down from her mother’s restaurant to join the pair. Before she appears, Tokiwa warns and encourages Kasuga: “no being half-assed … Make sure you won’t have any regrets.” Kasuga wants answers to what happened the last day he and Nakamura shared together – crowds, fire, terror – but she can only offer what seems to be a careless “I forgot”; she’s more curious about Tokiwa than giving Kasuga the closure he seeks. But perhaps that’s not what he needed all along …
Fast forward – “Following Time’s Passage” – with Kasuga in college, working at a dry cleaner’s, living in a single room … although he’s definitely, sweetly not alone. Time is suddenly fluid, dialogue becomes minimal, and suggestions of what the future might hold waft in and out, although what really happens isn’t particularly clear. On purpose.
After 11 volumes, “… the final page of this manga begins anew,” Oshimi concludes. The ultimate question – which Nakamura repeats in that last panel here – remains unanswered: “What’re you doing?” As if in teasing answer, the adult versions of the original middle-grade trio – Kasuga, Nakamura, and Nanako Saeki – are fleetingly glimpsed: do we see wishful prophecy, or a more ominous peek at the trap of normalcy that Nakamura had so denigrated as an enraged adolescent? Oshimi seems to encourage uncertainty, literally offering a chance to tell the whole story all over again. When this final volume closes, you’ll have to decide which version to believe …
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2014 (United States)