by Carl Kimlinger,

The Wallflower

GN 14

The Wallflower GN 14
It's tough to be a sensitive, super-cute teenager, especially when your girlfriend is in America buddying up with the local beefcake. Poor Yuki knows that his girlish good looks simply cannot compare to the manly allure of a native English speaker. Lucky for him—or not, as the truth may be—he has Japan's two leading adolescent experts on English and machoness on hand to tutor him. Later a spat with a school buddy gives him a new perspective on how well-liked Ranmaru, Takenaga, Kyohei, and shockingly enough, Sunako are by their peers. Sunako for her part is busy being as scary and twisted as always. The boys dream up a cunning plan to get Sunako into a dress, only to find that a change in dress in no way changes the antisocial loner within, and indeed may have unexpectedly dire side effects. Like a hostage drama. Heck, even leaving her alone in the house with Kyohei, the closest thing the world has to a potential romantic partner for her (which really isn't very close at all), can't curb her dark tendencies—naturally the whole experience only gets her to thinking about Kyohei's corpse again...

Wallflower has settled into a comfortable, nay fossilized, routine of outstanding chapters separated by formidable wastelands of enjoyable but utterly forgettable filler. Volume fourteen is one such wasteland.

Not that it isn't an amusing wasteland. After a dozen or so volumes, the boys have endeared themselves enough that they can almost carry a short chapter or two without Sunako's help, and even when doing painfully obvious message stories with Yuki ("be yourself," now there's a message that hasn't been beaten to death and then flogged back to life) there's enough off-the-cuff humor on hand to save them from drowning in their own earnestness. Kyohei and Takenaga's lessons on how to become a "super-macho English speaker" are a kick, and a little goofy squabbling between the guys goes a long way. Nevertheless, Sunako is still the star, and the most memorable moments, even in a wasteland of filler, belong to her. Her overreaction to the discovery that her new dress makes her stand out is priceless, and who else could transform harmless cosplay into a hostage drama or a night alone with a cute boy into a desperate fight for survival (and chocolate)? However, even Sunako can't compare to the hilarity of the American stereotypes on display in that first chapter. When asked why so many Japanese girls fall for foreign guys (they do?), the Wallflower guys reply: "Because they're blonde and macho." "Because they speak English." and "Because they're well endowed." Why, thank you.

Sunako withdrawal always makes the limitations of Tomoko Hayakawa's art more obvious. The volume has only enough Sunako impact shots, rendered with detail and panache, to highlight how oft-lazy the rest of her manga can be. Her skinny, creepily effeminate bishounen with their bobbing Adam's apples get all the attention that her hormonal skills can muster, but neither they nor cool non-SD Sunako are present enough in this volume to overwhelm her usual flaws—her sudden transitions with their confusing dearth of setting-establishing detail, her near-constant use of simple SD, and her sequences overcrowded with itsy-bitsy panels and text. Her omnipresent character simplifications can, along with facilitating some breezy humor, help to emphasize those Sunako impact moments, but this volume simply hasn't many (or any) of those moments. The closest it gets is a few brief fights during the "survival" episode, and a shadow-shrouded Sunako roaring in the shopping district dressed in full, black-veiled Victorian funeral garb. Which was admittedly pretty neat. But not neat enough.

If you've read any of the previous volumes, you've seen what Del Rey has to offer for this manga. The "special extras" after the story are translator's notes on the volume's few cultural references, an un-translated preview of the next volume, and Tomoko Hayakawa going off for several pages on how completely adorable her cat is. Sound effects are in Japanese with unobtrusive English translations nearby.

Toss any expectations beyond those for a passing diversion and some good chuckles out the window. Wallflower is back to treading water. However, diversions and chuckles it has to spare, and darned if those four super-hot guys don't finally start growing on you (so long as you can stomach their physiques). Just don't go in expecting any of the series' rare meat. You'll starve.

Production Info:
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : C+

+ Funny, largely entertaining filler; non-Sunako characters finally start growing on readers.
Is still filler; Yuki chapters do a face-plant whenever clumsily stumbling through more serious territory.

Story & Art: Tomoko Hayakawa

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Wallflower (manga)

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