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.
Recently, Vol. 30 came out of two separate successful shoujo series. Yet while the reaction of most online fans to Skip Beat! 30 is “Yay! I’m so happy that it’s still running!”, the reaction the The Wallflower 30 tends to be more “EEEENNNNDD!!! EEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNDDDDD!” Partly this is due to The Wallflower’s writer having little to no idea on how to resolve her romance without destroying her comedy, as I’ve noted before. But another reason is that The Wallflower is so episodic. If you jump from Vol. 6 of Skip Beat! to Vol. 25, you’re going to be somewhat lost. This is much less of a problem with this series, where even in this volume, where three of the stories interweave a small amount, each can be read on its own if you just happen to pick up that month’s Betsufure after a 4-year-hiatus.
There is also, every chapter, the illusion that progress is being made and characters are growing. I’m not sure how much of it is deliberate, actually. But every chapter in this volume has that one moment where a character (either Sunako, Kyohei, or both) has that moment of realization where they understand what someone else is thinking and what needs to be done. Their empathy with Sunako’s aunt when she’s once again taken advantage of; Sunako noting that “I’ll just pretend we’re not friends” is a horrible strategy when trying to avoid having your friend get bullied; Kyohei realizing that there is a difference between ‘watching Sunako get embarrassed’ and real emotional and physical pain; and Sunako finding that regarding Kyohei as a ‘bright, shiny object’ as she always does is only what everyone else in the world has done to him forever, and he HATES it. You sense that everyone is gradually growing up… yet you aren’t surprised when they backslide next month.
Because everyone still serves the comedy. Which is how Ranmaru can be the most awesome fiance ever in one chapter and then (literally five minutes later in story terms) announce he’s going to go out and pick up more women. (By the way, props to Takenaga for calling him out on it – Noi wasn’t even there to impress!) Meanwhile, Tamao gets a bit more development here, but I’m not sure it’s to her benefit. She’s always been the nice, perfect princess who loves Ranmaru no matter what and doesn’t get angry, but now we see her life at school involves another, less perfect princess bullying her every day, and she simply takes it with a niceness that borders on surreal. Thank God Sunako shows up (looking gorgeous, by the way, one of the best ‘Sunako pinup’ shots in ages). Oh well, it could be worse – she could be Yuki, who the author has totally forgotten about.
This series continues to have all the weaknesses that it’s well-known for, and is not getting rid of any of them soon. (My favorite being the author’s complete inability to draw backgrounds half the time – the story could take place in a white void for all we know.) But it also continues to have all of the same strengths, and Kyohei and Sunako are both perfect for each other, even if they don’t see it. Best of all, the series is still funny, as everyone in this manga, except maybe Yuki and Tamao, are completely insane. Which is why we get shots of the leads dressed as PIRATES! in the first chapter here. Looking forward to the next 30 volumes!