The Wallflower, Vol. 27

By Tomoko Hayakawa. Released in Japan as “Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Friend (“Betsufure”). Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Every time I review a volume of this manga, I feel the need to explain my continued enjoyment of it. I enjoy the romance, while acknowledging it will likely never be satisfactorily resolved. I enjoy the comedy, which admitting that a lot of it is the exact same situation written over and over with variations. And I like the art, despite the author’s complete lack of attention to backgrounds and Sunako still being superdeformed much of the time. Despite all these flaws, I enjoy this manga as it’s a classic example of an artist knowing she has a narrow range and using that narrow range to her best advantage.

Since about Vol. 15 or so, the series has gotten into a pattern. The majority of the stories feature the stormy friendship/something more between grumpy Kyohei and twitchy Sunako, and yes, after 27 volumes, she’s still occasionally freaking out about his “brightness” and wanting to be a creature of darkness. Generally once every two volumes or so she will throw in a chapter about the stoic Takenaga and his gorgeous yet lacking in self confidence girlfriend Noi; or playboy Ranmaru and his far too tolerant fiancee Tamao. Once every 5-6 volumes we may see a chapter devoted to cute and sweet Yuki, who’s the guy on the cover of this volume, but generally not; the author doesn’t know what to do with him, really, as he’s far too normal. His own girlfriend is notably also very normal.

No one reads Wallflower stuff for normal. You read it for things like Sunako deciding that after the events of last volume she’s leaving the mansion again and working at a maid cafe… with the creepy otaku therein. (Word of warning: otaku are portrayed entirely negatively here.) Or Sunako getting possessed by a ghost – again, the others note – who wants to satisfy her desire to pick flowers with an incredibly handsome man (read: Kyohei). Or Sunako getting the flu and Kyohei being forced to take care of her, in what might be the most fanservicey chapter this story has had to date. Or even for the token Ranmaru story, where he is kidnapped by an S&M club and held for ransom.

The little things in each volume are what keep bringing me back. We actually see Sunako transform from superdeformed to her normal self (in three poses) in the first chapter, which once again makes us wonder about how this works in the ‘real world’. The chapter with the ghost shows off Kyohei’s reluctant caring side, as this particular possessive spirit isn’t as selfish as prior ones have been, and he can’t simply tell her to get out and give Sunako back. The chapter with Ranmaru is fun and horrible at the same time, as he blows off his fiancee, who is there to learn from Sunako how to make him delicious food, to date more cheating wives. Tamao is clearly ready to sacrifice a pile of money for his well-being, and though he is grateful, and seems to have some feelings for her (note she’s probably the only woman he won’t actually sleep with, and we all know what that means with playboys), we still question why she puts up with his assholish tendencies. (Luckily, Sunako is there throughout to make these points, as she gets kidnapped as well.)

Then there’s the flu chapter. I’m not the audience for this shoujo material. 18-19 year old girls are. And boy howdy, does this chapter deliver. Kyohei’s half-naked throughout, but that’s not the type of service we’re talking about, for once. No, this is all about the torrid sexual tension between these two epically stubborn people. Sunako’s flu-ridden fever dreams are about Kyohei kissing her, and it’s driving her insane. Kyohei, meanwhile, just wants her to change and get better, but she refuses to do anything she tells him and is generally a horrible patient. This culminates in his blindfolding himself and stripping her naked so he can change her sweaty clothes, which she finally acquiesces to. (It’s very noticeable that for almost 25 pages or so, she’s not superdeformed in the least). And then she runs out into the rain, and he’s going after her screaming that she’ll get more sick, and then they trip and fall on top of each other…

…and then a lightning bolt comes down from the sky and strikes the both of them, ending the chapter. It’s like the hand of God, but more accurately it’s the hand of the author, reminding us all that the manga is still running in Japan and she really does not want to resolve it at all. Sigh. Oh well, in this manga filled with frustrating characters and situations she has now rewritten at least five times each, we still find little oases of awesome. That’s why we keep coming back to this even after 27 volumes.

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