Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Wallflower (Perfect Girl Evolution - Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge)

2000 Tomoko Hayakawa, Kodansha
Shinichi Watanabe (director), Nippon Animation, TV Tokyo, TV Aichi

The Wallflower DVDs
The Wallflower Books & Manga
The Wallflower Merchandise

Cover Description:
After years of sponging off a fabulously wealthy older woman, four ridiculously beautiful boys are confronted with the most horrifying challenge ever: use their bishi skills to turn their benefactor's socially challenged niece into a beautiful young lady or start paying rent! And this isn't just any ugly duckling they're facing; she's a psycho, paranoid, neurotic horror movie obsessed goth chick with a fetish for anatomical dummies, bad skin and a total ignorance of all things feminine! (And those are her better points!) But hey, rent's expensive and job openings for pretty boys are scarce, so our poor heroes are going to have to suck it up and attempt the ultimate combined exorcism/spa/makeover from hell! It's a Queer Eye FTSG of doom as the infamous Nabeshin unleashes The Wallflower!

Takes a while to get used to. >>> by skysenshi
I'm currently reading the manga and since that isn't finished yet, I opted to see the anime and review it first. For manga fans out there, I must warn you that the anime takes some getting used to. One of my former students wanted to cover my eyes when she found out that I was about to plop the anime into the DVD. She cried, "Noooooo! You mustn't see those fish lips!!"

Actually, the artwork, despite its crude animation, is very faithful to the manga. I think what nearly destroyed the atmosphere in the anime is the coloring. I suppose the men's lips shouldn't have been colored pink. It made them look gay and destroyed every fangirl's fantasy. (On the other hand, yaoi fans would probably enjoy making alternate universe fanfics outta these.) What's important to me, however, is that it managed to capture the heroine's creepiness perfectly well.

I did wonder how the anime would be able to catch the essence of the manga, seeing as the comic book version is taking quite some time to end while the animated version only has 25 episodes. They had to make a few adjustments, like who said or did what and what events triggered another series of disasters. I kept noticing slight differences, although the main storyline hasn't been drastically altered.

Halfway through the series, this version begins to veer away from the manga. It's a little bit more organized chronologically, since the manga's timeline seems to loop (i.e. celebrating Halloween and Christmas three times while the characters remain to be 15 years of age). New scenarios are introduced halfway through and I actually appreciated that.

Anyway, I've been yakking all this time about the difference between the anime and the manga when I haven't even begun to discuss what The Wallflower is all about.

You have a creepy girl named Sunako, who becomes the personal project of four gorgeous boys. Sunako's aunt orders them to turn her into a lady and in return, they get free rent. Unfortunately, Sunako would rather spend time in the "dark", with her horror movies and horror paraphernalia, and she finds herself annoyed with the boys' "brightness". She calls them "Creatures of the Light" and tries (but fails) to keep away from them. The results are simply hilarious.

One would expect this to be typically shoujo but it's not. In the manga, I keep expecting things to turn out one way, in accordance with shoujo formula, but things end up completely in the opposite direction. The anime is no different, although I noticed they romanticized many aspects somewhat.

Here is one of the instances wherein the boys try to dress the house up so that Sunako would be forced to wear a dress. (In the manga, she frequently wears a gothic Lolita outfit so that wasn't a problem.)

The thing about Sunako that got me really interested is that despite failing at being a "lady", she makes the perfect housewife. She cooks and cleans so meticulously; the boys shortly realize that they cannot survive without her.

As for relationships, the anime seems to have gone through them in such a swift manner. I don't know, I didn't feel the development at all. For instance, I've actually rooted for pretty girl Noi, who initially harbored unrequited feelings for the bookish Takenaga (the black haired shounen in the first huge screenshot). Their relationship was carefully developed in the manga, which is somewhat taken for granted in the anime. Cute Yuki's own love life, on the other hand, has been completely scrapped in this version.

Then there's the issue of Sunako and Kyouhei's complex love-hate-indifferent attitude towards each other.

There were episodes here that displayed Sunako's possibly romantic feelings for Kyouhei when in the manga, those feelings are largely unexplored. I have no idea if that's good or bad because I actually like the manga Sunako's indifference towards anything that didn't look like it came from a suspense thriller.

Still, it was a good idea to create a fork that delineates the difference between the two mediums. That helped me deal with my initial disapproval.

As for the music? Author Tomoko Hayakawa is reportedly a fan of J-Rock idol Kiyoharu, which is why his songs are featured as opening and closing themes. I enjoy the opening and ending animations, especially since they feature Sunako's "dark" friends (which can be kinda creepy, depending on your mood).

Overall, I think the creators did a good job, but I wish this had been longer. I know there were many times that I complained about some titles going beyond 13 episodes, but this is not one of those. The Wallflower actually deserves a longer series, complete with seasons and specials. The mangaka's original characterizations seriously need to be fleshed out in this format.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 9

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