# This Took Me Far Too Long The characters of *Aku no Hana* (*Flower of Evil*) are in middle school. In fact, since Saeki's PE shirt lists her class as 2-1, it's fair to say they're in the second year of middle school. It's more than a naming coincidence. *Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai* reminded me of my childhood (and university days) in a way I could laugh at; *Aku no Hana* is crueller but no less accurate. (I hasten to add that I never stole clothes or anything of the sort). School is the greatest concentration of pure evil I've personally encontered; people who will be perfectly upstanding citizens in later life (and I've met some of them since) act with the cruelty of psychopaths. For a self-conscious, intelligent student, precocious on some axes and grossly immature on others, it can be hell. You do what you have to to fit in, but feel incredible levels of guilt afterwards, because you're trying to apply ordinary morality to a situation where it simply doesn't or cannot apply. And so you begin to see yourself as evil, precisely because you're the only one there with a moral compass. Different people react differently to this. Some embrace it with Gnostic vigour - if I must be evil then I shall be evil, the evilist of all - there is no truer satanist than a teenage satanist (at least there wasn't when I was that age. No doubt many things have changed since). Others take a tack reminiscent of Graham Greene (who I'm sure Takao will have read), trying to do the best they can but embracing their own damnedness almost gleefully all the same. And I'm sure I don't need to mention the Faustian overtones of our tale, as Takao finds himself forced to bargain with a character who is, if not unusually cruel by school standards, unusually open and creative in her cruelty. But it's only Takao's self-regard that empowers her. Every teenager is forced to confront their own insignificance, as for the first time in our lives we start making life choices that close off certain options. You're forced to confront the fact that if you really want to be an astronaut, or a movie star, it's going to take a hell of a lot of work. If you're a bookish sort whose true wish is to live a life worth writing a story about, it's probably impossible; there's a particularly good scene in *The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya* where Haruhi talks about realising just how many people there are in the world, and the corresponding insignificance of her own place in it. Everyone (well, Kyon excepted) wants to be the star of their own story. Sometimes that means saving the world, as we saw in *Chuunibyo*. But if one reads Serious Literatureā„¢ rather than fantasy quests, it could equally well mean personal damnation. Good thing I stuck to genre fiction, eh? [Home](/) <div id="disqus_thread"></div> comments powered by Disqus