It's a gorgeous, spacious mansion, and four handsome, fifteen-year-old friends are allowed to live in it for free! There's only one condition—that within three years the guys must transform the owner's wallflower niece into a lady befitting the palace in which they all live! How hard can it be?
Enter Sunako Nakahara, the agoraphobic, horror-movie-loving, pockmark-faced, frizzy-haired, fashion-illiterate recluse who tends to break into explosive nosebleeds whenever she sees anyone attractive. This project is going to take more than our four heroes ever expected: it needs a miracle!
Yamato Nadeshiko Shichihenge♥ had twenty-four volumes published in English as The Wallflower: Yamatonadeshiko Shichihenge by Del Rey from October 12, 2004 to October 26, 2010. Volumes 22, 23 and 24 were collected into a single book. Kodansha Comics USA picked up the license and published the remaining volumes from June 21, 2011 to April 26, 2016, and republished the previous ones on August 21, 2012.
I don't know about you, but for me, the years 2002-2005 were all about punk rock. Even though I grew up in New Jersey, USA, and this manga was written in Japan, The Wallflower, a punky-gothic-shoujo manga, really captures that time period. Oh nostalgia...
This manga series is a difficult one for me to review. Mostly because, while I enjoy it immensely, it is hard to recommend it to others.
The uniqueness of this series does not appear to be unanimously appreciated, so I plan to do my best here to explain what this series is, and what it is not,
in the hopes that the people who would enjoy it will be able to find it.
At its core, this is an Ugly Duckling story, but it's definitely a different take on it. Sunako Nakahara, 15 years old, is the niece of a very wealthy widow and moving into her mansion to attend the high school nearby. The preexisting tenants, four 15 year old bishounen, are tasked by Sunako's Aunt with turning her into a lady.
If they succeed, their rent will be free. If they fail, they will owe 3x the amount of the rent. The Aunt is never home, instead she extravagantly travels the world and will check in on their progress randomly throughout the series.
Kyouhei, the most beautiful and most desired of the four boys, feels the pressure of this deal the most because he is poor, unable to work, and essentially homeless.
The catch? Sunako is the furthest thing from the ideal proper lady. She's a recluse who loves slasher horror movies, talks to her anatomical figure named Hiroshi-kun, has a phobia of attractive people, and is not interested in changing.
Hm. Why this manga loses readership...
I think many readers go into this series with expectations which will not be fulfilled. The story being told, and the method of storytelling used, in The Wallflower is atypical for a shoujo manga.
It seems the most common complaint about this series, by those who have dropped it, is it's lack of progression.
This is a valid critique in the sense that, yes, there is a lack of linear progression in character development, romantic relationships, and plot development.
However, the reason for that is because this manga is not telling a linear story. Instead, it is playing on reader expectations by subverting all the tropes. And how punk rock is that?
This series is not a romance, its a comedy. A crude, over the top, sometimes slapstick, comedy told in an episodic style for 36 volumes. Character and plot progression is often reset when a chapter concludes in a comedic fashion. Its like a punky Saturday morning cartoon where the monster of the week is nearly always Sunako.
There are romantic tensions and subplots within this series, but they are not the focus. The focus is the comedy that ensues when these strong personalities clash while trying to live together in the mansion.
I completely understand why some readers found its lack of progression and character development frustrating, but if you can come to see this story in the light of what it actually is, rather than what you might have expected it to be, its really quite charming.
I was sad to see it end even after 36 volumes, because I missed being with the characters. And I can assure you that the instances of character growth and romantic tension, while small, are there.
Why I think it's Actually Quite Refreshing
From the synopsis you would assume that the four boys turn Sunako into a lady, that all of them fall in love with her, and by the end of the series she must choose only one. But that is not what happens at all.
First off, the boys are not perfect whatsoever. Kyouhei is a brute, Ranmaru is a womanizer, Takenaga is a stick in the mud, and Yuki is childish. They all know each others flaws, but they act like brothers.
Each of the characters have romantic plot lines, but each relationship develops slowly, and in a manner that is very true to the characters' unique personalities and situations.
They do not all fall in love with Sunako, but they do all come to value her for exactly who she is. Even with her stubborn, selfish, fearful, nature.
The truth that this manga pursues for its characters is that not all of them are ready for romance.
Some have had traumatic past experiences with love and family relationships that have damaged them. And this new found friendship among the residents of the mansion, no matter how bizarre it seems, is enough for them right now.
I love this valuing of friendship, especially between males and females.
The boys can often get Sunako to pretend she is a Lady to achieve a certain goal, but afterwards she goes right back to being a goth with a bad attitude.
Sunako has serious issues with body image, self worth, and human connection. The boys seem to realize this about her, as well as, the fact that they can only do so much to help her with it.
The bulk of the work is on Sunako's end and needs to start with her realizing she has an issue, and becoming willing to work on herself to better her life.
Sunako thinks there is something fundamentally different between her and the so called 'Radiant Ones'. So when the boys focus on getting her to change her self image while still accepting her for who she is it hits me right in the feels.
That being said, the boys will also hit her with a reality check when necessary, which also hits me in the feels.
And yet, despite their efforts, Sunako continues to resist change.
I love this aspect of the story, because rather than seeing it as a dead-end, it feels very true to Sunako's character.
Sunako is not miserable. In actuality, she lives an extremely comfortable, indulgent, life. Her only misfortune is that she has to go to school and has nosebleeds when the boys are too handsome around her.
There isn't actually any catalyst for her to change her ways at 15 years old.
Sunako is not a lost cause. She is good at plenty of things other than the one thing her Aunt wants for her. And even the girls in the series whom she befriends adore her for her talents and friendship despite the rest of her quirks.
The Crude Humor
The comedy, and general storytelling, in this series is rather brutish and unrefined.
Along with the fact that these princes are NOT Prince Charmings comes Kyouhei constantly calling Sunako a bitch, and Sunako repeatedly threatening to murder them.
Sunako makes references to how much she would like to see a crime scene and a dead body.
The boys endure an absurd amount of sexual harassment, like when their adoring female fans attack them in a mob formation.
This manga feels like its about real (rude) teenagers.
Even if so much of it is absurd. These characters are very young, living unsupervised in a mansion, and combating a whole slew of unrealistic, extreme, altercations which are often as bizarre as they are entertaining. Their selfish, stubborn, unwise, and childish behavior feels quite realistic.
C'mon didn't you curse a lot and do stupid things as a teenager too?
And as someone who generally prefers sweet, relaxing, nonabrasive stories, the irony of my enjoyment of this series is definitely not lost on me.
The art style and quality is all over the place in this series. Most of the characters spend the bulk of the time in chibi form, which to me makes sense because that is often used to demonstrate comedy and the bulk of the series is comedy.
Even when characters are out of chibi form they are often looking slightly off. Almost like they are monsters. Hands and feet might be HUGE and attached to stick skinny arms and legs. Faces might be extremely pointed with eyes positioned in ways that really throw off the perspective.
Sometimes the boys look alike, but they have such distinct personalities that I usually had not issue telling them apart.
It is not a favorite art style of mine at all. Even when the characters are in their bishounen glam shots, like on the covers, I'm not into it at all. That being said, I do feel like it fits this story perfectly.
Kyohei and Sunako
The friendship that blossoms between these two gets very close to love. By the end of the manga it is hard to argue that they will not end up together in the future. And thats okay. It doesn't feel like an inconclusive love story because neither of these two are ready for a romantic relationship.
They both need a friend they can trust first.
This manga is not going to give you anything you would typically expect from a shoujo manga, and that is what is so fantastic about it.
If you're a sucker for unlikely friendships, like me, then read this series.
If you like series' with crude humor, read this series.
The absurdist humor included in The Wallflower is sure to make you laugh, and you don't need to read it all straight through, so I highly recommend you try out a couple volumes for yourself.
Hilarious premise -- Sunako, the \"wallflower\" of the title, is not just shy but a certifiably insane horror movie maniac -- but eight volumes later this manga STILL shows absolutely no movement towards any kind of resolution, either of the main plot or of the romantic subplot. I love the characters, but I can only take so many gag chapters. Recommended if you\'re a Japanese horror movie fan or love parodies, but you have to accept that humor takes precedence over the plot.
This is a hard one to review, because it's so variable in quality. The best bits are really good, while the worse bits are really annoying.
The premise and overall theme are great. It's a quite different take on the whole ugly-duckling-becomes-a-swan storyline that should be familiar from things like "My Fair Lady", "Pretty Woman", and all the other stories that have a man turn a girl into a lady. Here, even four highly motivated pretty-boys have a heck of a time with just one very difficult young woman. She doesn't want to change, not in the least, and while the boys
can often find a way to persuade her to play the part of a lady for a particular reason, she pretty soon snaps back into her reclusive, horror-movie-loving, not-taking-care-of-herself nature.
It's these snap-backs that make it a little hard, sometimes. Quite often, they're used as a method of hitting the reset button so that the next episode can start from the exact same place the previous one started with, like your average saturday morning cartoon. Real character development is agonizingly slow, and all too often an episode is "Let's have the boys cart Sunako off to some other place where nobody knows her, so that she can freak out, scare everyone around, and totally ruin the boys' plans before it's all resolved at the end with a heartwarming moment."
It feels to me that the creator is dragging out the story much more than it really should be. On the other hand, Sunako does manage quite a bit of character development over time, as do the boys - especially main interest Kyohei. I like that acceptance of Sunako's weirdness becomes as much the theme as her changing; she grows and evolves, but doesn't simply get remade into something different.
The art is mixed. When the artist could be bothered to actually draw the characters properly, which tends to be in more dramatic scenes, especially fights or contests, or opportunities for the boys to look hot, it's excellent. However, Sunako especially spends much too much time being rendered as a chibi (perhaps because this is supposed to be Sunako's own self-image) which gets a bit tiresome.
Overall, a flawed execution, but for me the good episodes were good enough to recommend it strongly but with caveats.
When I first started reading Wallflower, I had made the assumtion that it would just be one of those mangas where they turn the girl into a perfect lady, all of the guys fall in love with her along the way, and she picks one of them at the end to make your average shoujo manga. A few chapters in, I realized this would not be the case. While it starts off with the simple plot of the boys having to turn the girl into a perfect lady, it slowly evolves into an even greater message that I think can be simply put by a
line said by Kyohei, "You're okay just the way you are." I like this manga because it isn't typical or simple. Though overexagerated and completely illogical at times, the message stays true throughout the series.
One asspect of the story that I personally like but many people hate is that the plot and developement is slow. This is not a manga to read if you're just looking for a quick fix and I can honestly say I don't see it coming to an end very soon. I for one like the slow flow; it's easier to digest the manga and it feels like I'm growing alongside the characters. I find that with the slower pace, Sunako's character developements seem more realistic.
The art is decent and gets better throughout the story(in the beginning I couldn't tell the difference between Kyohei and Ranmaru). One thing that grows boring after awhile though is the fact that Sunako is almost always drawn in chibi form. The purpose of this is to emphesize her true beauty when she is drawn normally, but seeing simple chibi after simple chibi can get boring as you read. Overall, the art is beautiful, but could use work.
Lastly, the characters. There is such a variety of unique characters throughout the story and I've fallen in love with them all. While the main focus is Sunako's developement, all of the main characters subtly change along with her.
If you have the patience, I highly suggest reading this manga. It's funny, romantic, and like nothing you have ever read before.