The animation in Aku no Hana is undoubtedly different. Whether it is good, bad, or just present is up to each person to decide for themselves (however, I thought the backgrounds were well done). What seems to be a notable topic of debate is the similarity to the human form of the animated characters, and whether this is bad or good. Some have mentioned that anime should be a means of escape and it isn’t meant to portray reality. Others will say that the choice in character animation better conveys the mood of the show, and better allows for the viewer to identify with the material. Whether or not that is the case here, it is tough to say at this point of time. But what is driving these points of view?
Realistic animation is usually not that big of a problem. Of course, the sliding scale of what does and does not constitute life like animation is hardly objective in nature, but bear with me. Does Summer Wars have realistic animation? What about GTO? Planetes? Genshiken? I’m not going to speculate on what point of the aforementioned spectrum these shows lie, but where does animation cross the line from fantasy to reality. Take GTO for example. There isn’t any moe in the show, the characters are life like, and the problems are relatively plausible-ish (kind of) (maybe), but the animation never really was a turn off for people. Have we refined our tastes in the last decade, allowing us to pass off realistic animation as ugly, and thus cheap. Perhaps. But then again, people always do profess a love for the classics.
Maybe its the message. All the above shows end in a relatively happy, upbeat, look toward the future type manner. Is that required in anime? Where was it written in stone that things have to be happy. Last time I checked, Evangelion 3.0 was 95 minutes of bummer. Of course it looked pretty, so maybe there is some sort of minimum standard. You can have a sad story or life like characters, but if you have both then that’s a deal breaker.
Personally, I don’t think anime, and its animation style (whatever it maybe), need be an escape from reality. Animation in anime is used instead as a medium to convey the story in ways that real life may not be able to. Whether that be through mood in animation, as looks to be the case in Aku no Hana, or through technical limitations, as is the case in every space anime ever, the animation is just another character. Like the offices in Mad Men changed between seasons 3 and 4, like Baltimore in the Wire, or the black and white in Schindler’s List, there is more to a story than the plot and the characters. Don’t forget the small things like ambiance. Aku no Hana may turn out to be pretentious as fuck, but I kind of like the fact I can’t see people’s faces at a certain distance. Isn’t that just like life (in the pretentious sense, of course).