Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
An illness causes Sunako to miss celebrating Halloween, her absolute favorite holiday, leaving her inconsolable and locked in her room - not a good thing when the domestically incompetent guys are depending on her for cooking and cleaning. When even Noi's eager assistance proves inadequate, only one solution remains. Later, a renowned gang boss comes looking to pick a fight with Kyohei but instead winds up becoming completely enamored with Sunako, much to everyone's dismay. Later still, Kyohei's insistence on eating hot pot around a kotatsu (a low Japanese table) leads to extreme efforts by both him and Sunako to make it happen. When the group gets invited to a classical Japanese hot springs resort, Noi convinces Sunako to distract Kyohei so she can have quality time with Takeyama, but naturally things do not go quite as planned.
The first volume established this adaptation of Tomoko Hayakawa's quirky spin on shojo reverse harem series as one of the funniest anime in recent memory but raised concerns about whether or not it could maintain its torrid pace, given its heavy reliance on comical overreaction. The second volume at least temporarily puts those concerns to rest. Although the humor's effectiveness drops off a little in episodes 8 and 9, it still offers plenty enough laughs to continue to warrant a strong recommendation even for those who do not normally care for shojo style. If you are not watching this series, even if because you detested the manga, then you are missing out on a real treat.
As before, Sunako lies at the center of it all, serving as the driving force for much of the action and reaction in the series. Portrayals of Goth-favoring characters usually takes a more decidedly emo approach, but The Wallflower strikes comic gold by poking fun at Goths in a light-hearted fashion. Scenes of Sunako joyfully chasing after Jason from the Friday the 13th movies in one dream sequence, or giggling in near-ecstasy as she washes the entrails of her anatomical model Pedro (while everyone else cringes or runs in fear at the sight), are sure to tickle a viewer's funny bone, as is all of the friendly “creepy girl” grief she gets in the shopping arcade and hot springs resort or her epic, fantastically over-the-top ping pong match complete with special moves that would rival anything in Balls of Fury. (A “Genocide Corkscrew” strike?) This volume does not delve into the motivations for her behavior anywhere near as much as the first volume but still manages a few serious moments of introspection and relationship-building, especially with Kyohei.
The guys also do their best to provide comic and dramatic support, as their inability to deal with Sunako's strangeness or common household chores, and the way women fall over them, still amuses. Kyohei has gradually assumed the leading role of the four, with the rest fading to thinner portrayals as the series progress. Noi provides a nice “normal girl” contrast to Sunako in an increasingly prominent supporting role, while the caricatured gang boss in episode 7 makes an effective guest appearance. Granted, some of the jokes amongst the supporting roles are too retread to be entirely funny even with this quality effort (how many other times have we seen the “I'm so incompetent I can't wash dishes without breaking them” gag?), but the humor still works much more often than not and insight into Kyohei's background provides much of the volume's minimal serious content. If only the producers would get rid of those irritating “Goth Goth loli loli” girls. . .
Although many series have occasionally put their characters into chibi form for highlight scenes, only extremely rarely does a series also do the reverse. That Sunako normally appears in chibi form, and only appears in her true beautiful form about once an episode, makes for an interesting and distinctive contrast as well as an intriguing bit of personality shorthand; taken in a psychological sense, it speaks volumes about her self-image. Other characters are well-drawn, pleasantly-colored examples of typical shojo styling, though the series still makes regular use of anthropomorphic, colorless superdeformed versions. Background art and animation prove adequate to the task of supporting the humor and visuals but neither especially impress.
The production also still does quite well on the sound front. It continues its penchant for mixing metal numbers with eerily ominous tunes, more laid-back jazzy numbers or sentimental pieces, or whatever else may be needed to properly stoke up or mellow out the content. The opening and closing numbers remain the same, as does the exceptional effort by the English dub. Hannah Alcorn has Sunako's twisted giggles and mood swings down just right, and Chris, Greg, Vic, and Josh never miss a good chance to ham things up as the guys. Jessica Boone also distinguishes herself as Noi, and supporting and guest performances are generally on the mark. Interestingly, the dub script retains many original Japanese terms, like onsen and nabe, while the subtitles translate them (“hot springs resort” and “hotpot” respectively).
The Extras for the second volume are an exact repeat of the ones on the first volume: a clean version of the DVD opener and closers and a clean version of the original broadcast opener. The art box is also available with this volume.
Volume two marks a slight overall drop-off from volume one due to a couple of slightly weaker episodes, but it never fails to be terribly funny for long. In a dollars-to-laugh analysis, it still delivers.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Tremendously funny, excellent English dub work
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