Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
The long-delayed crap finally hits the fan when Sunako's aunt discovers her wallowing in the darkness in her pit of a room. Infuriated at her lack of progress, she decides that Sunako needs a jump-start, and what better method is there than to force Sunako to have sex with her supposed boyfriend Kyohei? Afterwards Kyohei and Sunako are kidnapped by an army of Devil worshippers who have strong ties to Kyohei's past, and their only hope for salvation lies in... Yuki?
Wallflower has been running in place for so long that even the mildest of advances are as water to a trout in the Sahara. By that measure, this volume is a freshwater oasis. It is the first volume in recent memory to be composed of pure, unadulterated character development. Shallow, manipulative, and silly character development to be sure, but like that trout in the desert, we'll take what we can get.
The first two chapters are a two-parter that finally (sorta) puts to rest Sunako's aunt's impractical expectations of Sunako's imminent induction into the world of "ladyhood." Despite the time spent on Sunako and Kyohei's bedroom antics, these chapters are more remarkable for their occasional "Scary Sunako" moments, and for spotlighting Sunako and her aunt's deep mutual affection. The other two chapters are part of an ongoing plot that is continued in the next volume. In the first chapter, after Sunako and Kyohei are kidnapped, Yuki gets some much-needed depth when he attempts a rescue. The final chapter provides Kyohei with a little background. Unfortunately, the attempt falls flat due to the utter preposterousness of the developments. While passable as humor, expecting the audience to seriously accept that Kyohei is traumatized by being too pretty is asking for a bit much. Luckily there's just enough Sunako on tap to keep the manga's head (barely) above water: Sunako preparing—Sunako-style—for a party, Sunako's predictably ugly altercation with the Devil-worshippers, and to top it off, a couple of doses of Sunako's peculiar brand of twisted logic. Sunako and Kyohei's relationship also evolves ever-so-slightly as Sunako's constant rejection of Kyohei begins to take its toll on him. For the first time in the series, their relationship actually feels like more than a narrative convenience. As always, most of the humor in this volume is so self-indulgent (yes, I know the four guys are really, really pretty, give it a rest already) that it fails utterly, but some of the humor—more so than is the norm for this recent stretch of volumes—works quite well, especially once the identity of the Devil-worshippers is revealed.
There is very little new to say about Tomoko Hayakawa's art. It has become painfully apparent that it will never return to the quality of the first few volumes. Characters still spend far too much time in SD and other simplified forms, backgrounds are still used sparingly—if at all, Sunako is still a faceless blob some eighty percent of the time but is still stunning when fully drawn (how could anyone believe that she is unattractive?), and the majority of Hayakawa's time is still spent drawing her perfect, androgynous bishounen. Also returning this volume is Hayakawa's love of the macabre, this time in the form of the detailed religious statuary of the Devil-worshippers.
Del Rey continues to do well with their presentation. All aspects of the production are above average, although the translation notes are sparse. The author's extras are Hayakawa's usual band-babblings, as well as some stories about her beloved pet cat. Sound effects are left in situ with translations nearby.
Wallflower's greatest attribute has always been Hayakawa's obvious affection for her unabashedly antisocial lead. This volume, while not Sunako-free, is slightly Sunako deficient. It fills the void with an unusual amount of characterization for secondary characters, which is a welcome change of pace, even if the developments go beyond straining or spraining credulity and instead grab credulity by both ends and snap its spine over their collective knee.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : C
+ Multiple chapter stories; character development for Yuki, Kyohei, and Sunako's aunt.
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