Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Wallflower (manga, vol. 16) by Tomoko Hayakawa

This volume (like all the others) is basically composed of several fairly standalone stories. In the volume's first story, Sunako becomes determined to make up for a past missed opportunity by going to Harajuku, where she discovers a store that is perfect for her. In the second story, Kyohei is broke, gets hit on the head after he's told that he should become a host in order to make lots of money, and starts pumping out pheromones and hitting on Sunako. In the third story, it's Valentine's Day, one of the most dangerous days of the year for the guys. The guys retreat to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, taking Sunako with them, but the girls still manage to find them. The girls attack, much like crazy zombies, but everything turns out okay and Sunako manages to get some of the guys' Valentine's chocolate, which is all she really wanted. In the fourth and final story, Sunako's aunt wants her to go to a party, but she needs to lose 20 lbs. first (she's gotten fairly overweight). Instead of just getting slim, Sunako becomes obsessed with building muscle and looking like something out of an anatomy diagram - not the image the guys and Sunako's aunt wanted her to present, since Sunako's aunt hopes to match her up with a prince at the party.

The volume has its funny moments (I couldn't help but laugh at the sight of Kyohei hitting on Sunako and her response to him), but still, it feels like more of the same. Sunako's come out of her shell a lot - a comparison between this volume and the first volume makes that clear, since Sunako would never have been able to withstand going to Harajuku at the beginning of this series. However, after 16 volumes you'd think the characters would have changed than they have. At this rate, the series could potentially wrap up in the next volume, or 100 volumes from now. Despite a few funny moments, overall it gets a little boring.

In this volume, one thing in particular bothered me. When Hayakawa sticks with drawing androgynous clothed pretty people, she does well enough, but there are some things she just doesn't have the skill to handle. In this case, it's muscles. It's bothered me in the past, since I found her previous half-naked drawings of the guys to be more horrific than sexy - I'm a fan of lean guys, but these guys aren't lean, they're bony. Their arms and shoulders are painful to look at. In the final story of this volume, Hayakawa's weakness becomes extremely apparent. When Sunako goes to the party, she's apparently supposed to be muscular, but she actually just looks like a bunch of stringy sinew stretched over bones. It's awful.

I continue to read this series because of its occasional funny moments - also, I can't help but be hopeful that Hayakawa will finally have Sunako and Kyohei realize their feelings for each other. However, if I couldn't get it for free from my public library, I wouldn't still be reading it. Nothing ever really changes, and that gets old after 16 volumes. Since I'm now no longer in an area where I can get access to this series for free, I doubt I'll be writing more about it.

As far as extras go, there's a note from the author with a nice picture of her Scottish fold cat, an afterword from the author with another picture of her cat and a short comic starring her and her cat, five pages of translator's notes, and a six-page translated preview of the next volume. Also, each chapter begins with a note from the author.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Ouran High School Host Club (manga) by Bisco Hatori; Ouran High School Host Club (anime TV series) - Haruhi, the only scholarship student at an elite school for the rich, is forced to become a host in the Ouran High School Host Club after breaking an expensive vase. Unfortunately, Haruhi is actually a girl - in order to stay in the host club and pay off her debt, Haruhi must make sure that no one outside the host club finds out that she's not a guy. Those who'd like another story starring a bunch of hot guys all the girls at school and elsewhere drool over might like this series. Personally, I prefer the anime over the manga, but they're both good. Like The Wallflower, this is another humorous series in which there's the potential for romance, but the main female character is too oblivious for anything to really happen.
  • Gravitation (manga) by Maki Murakami; Gravitation (anime TV series) - Shuichi Shindo is a singer in a band that he hopes will become famous. One day, he loses a page of unfinished song lyrics. The handsome and caustic man who catches it insults the lyrics and sticks in poor Shuichi's mind. Schuichi later discovers that the man was Eiri Yuki, a famous writer, and Shuichi seeks him out. The two eventually become lovers, but Yuki's emotional issues and Shuichi's rapidly developing musical career may tear them apart. Those who want another humorous story with famous and almost-famous guys and crazily obsessed fans might like one of the various versions of this series. The manga came first, and has some moments that I really enjoy, but overall I think that the TV series and OAV (not listed here, since it's best not to start with that) have much better and tighter plotting. This series isn't for everyone, since it features romance between two men - although neither the manga nor the anime are explicit, the anime keeps the physical aspects of the romance slightly more "off screen" than the manga.
  • S.A. (manga) by Maki Minami; S.A. (anime TV series) - Hikari Hanazono has always taken second place against Kei Takishima, which only adds fuel to her desire to finally beat him in something. Hikari has considered Kei her rival since childhood and is completely oblivious to his love for her. The two of them are students in the S.A. (Special A), an elite group at their school, and the story occasionally focuses on the S.A. as a whole or on one of the other S.A. students. Those who'd like another story in which there's the potential for romance between an oblivious heroine and one of the other characters might like this romantic comedy. I'll admit, I haven't read hardly any of the manga, but I've seen most of the anime (which has yet to be licensed in the U.S. - I plan to get it if it ever does get released here).
  • My Heavenly Hockey Club (manga) by Ai Morinaga - Hana Suzuki's favorite things to do are sleeping and eating. She'd never dream of joining a school club on her own, because it would interfere with her precious sleeping time, but circumstances force her to join her school's hockey club. The club is full of rich, attractive guys who hardly ever practice playing hockey, much less participate in hockey games - this club is mostly just an excuse for field trips. Those who'd like another humorous manga starring an unladylike main female character surrounded by a bunch of attractive guys might like this series. As with The Wallflower, there's the potential for romance between Hana and one of the members of the hockey club, but Hana's too oblivious to notice.

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