The Wallflower is the latest anime comedy series from Shinichi Watanabe (a.k.a. Nabeshin), whose Excel Saga is one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, his previous show, the musical Nerima Daikon Bros., was ultimately disappointing, despite a promising start. I’m happy to say that The Wallflower fares better, mainly because it’s not nearly as blatantly repetitive.
The plot is mildly reminiscent of My Fair Lady: Four beautiful guys, Ranmaru, Yuki, Kyohei, and Takenaga, agree to transform creepy goth girl Sunako into a respectable young lady. If they’re able to do it in a limited time, they can stay at Sunako’s spacious mansion, rent free. If not, they have to pay triple the rent. Talk about pressure.
Why is Sunako such an “ugly” girl? A couple years before she had been told off by the first guy she had a crush on. Self-fulfilling prophecy, it seems. And she has no desire to change into a pretty girl, and freaks out the guys with her eccentric behavior, like her obsession with the dead.
In trademark Nabeshin style, there’s comedic blood aplenty; Sunako finds the four guys so radiant that even looking at them causes a major nosebleed. It’s not often you see that anime cliché being executed by the female character, especially when the guys don’t even perform any fanservicey actions to warrant it. Another trademark to his directing style is a wide range of character design that vary as the mood requires. At certain times Sunako will be drawn without eyes—her long unkempt hair covering them—and in super deformed style to accentuate silly scenes; at other times there will be close-ups of her face, showcasing cringe-worthy details like bad skin and moody eyelashes. There’s some variety here, making it more engaging to watch than if the animators were constantly stuck to the model sheet. That said, there are times when Sunako gets stuck in SD mode too long, particularly in episode 5.
Also trademark Nabeshin: a breakneck pace that crams in as many gags as possible. Not all of them stick, but there are quite a few winners, like Sunako’s aunt’s ridiculously long limo, some visual shots and slapstick, and a line that had me laughing out loud, said to Kyohei by a former smitten boss in flashback: “The more I stare at your ass, the better it looks.” I also rather liked its parodying of another anime cliché: Sunako, all alone in the park, is approached by two hoods with evil intent—but who freak out when they get a look at her face. The lessons in being a lady, with Sunako doing the completely wrong thing on each initial try, are well-executed too. There are other jokes I liked, but it would take too long to list them, and I don’t want to ruin them for you.
I do have a complaint about the four guys, who, at least in these first episodes, act pretty much the same, which would seem to make some of them superfluous. Obviously Nabeshin had to work with the material he was given (the original manga), but it’s still disappointing. The series might’ve benefited from featuring fewer guys or giving them more traits to differentiate them from each other.
The dub mostly consists of ADV veterans, although Sunako is voiced by newcomer Hannah Alcorn, who had previously only worked on Magikano and UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 3. I thought she does a good job; at times she almost sounds like a stereotypical witch, perfectly appropriate for her dark personality. Yet she can sound cute, too, like there’s a happy girl inside Sunako waiting to come out. I also liked Tiffany Grant as Sunako’s histrionic, globe-trotting aunt, though she sadly doesn’t have a major role.
In addition to the first five episodes, the DVD contains clean opens/closes, an on-air opening for episodes 1-13 (which, as far as I can tell, uses some different scenes from the DVD, as the DVD version contains rear male nudity), and trailers. It’s not a lot of material; I was hoping for a commentary by Nabeshin like Nerima Daikon Bros. had. Hopefully future volumes will have a little more, though I can see why ADV didn’t put too much on, since The Wallflower wasn’t a hugely popular title. The video quality is consistently good throughout, though.
The Wallflower deserves more attention in the R1 anime community. The premise is old as film itself, and the guys can be redundant, but it has a lot of energy, and the execution is solid enough that the episodes fly by. I’d recommend at least giving it a try, especially if you liked Nabeshin’s previous work.