Wallflower Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What They Say
What Happens When A Hit Manga Gets Mugged By The Director Of EXCEL SAGA? Answer: THE WALLFLOWER! After years of sponging off a fabulously wealthy older woman, four ridiculously beautiful boys are forced to use their bishi skills to turn their benefactor's socially challenged niece into a beautiful young lady! 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!

The Review!
Murder, math and origin tales helps to bring Wallflower to a rather amusing midway point in the series.

The bilingual presentation for this release is pretty solid, particularly for the English side of things. The original Japanese stereo mix is done at 192 kbps and comes across well during the show though it doesn't exactly extend itself in any way. It's a good full sounding forward mix that doesn't have much in the way of depth and directionality but it serves the material well. The English 5.1 mix, done at 448 kbps, adds quite well to the original mix by providing more depth and placement to the dialogue as well as simply being louder. Some of this can be matched in the Japanese just by the volume control, but overall the English mix is quite solid and works well with the material without coming across as fake. We didn't have any problems in terms of dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.

Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The one word that can really describe this show in terms of its video quality is inconsistent. A good number of scenes are done intentionally noisy to showcase the horror aspect of it, but there is a good deal of noise in many other scenes as well that you wouldn't think there would be. And it's not a constant either as there are many scenes that are bright, vibrant and pleasantly colorful without all the noise. The bitrates for the release are pretty good which points more towards a source issue, or directors intent, that in the end can be pretty distracting at times if you're used to looking for it or it stands out in general. Outside of the noise, there are some instances of lines moving about during some of the pans and zooms but that's about it. Cross coloration is non-existent and colors tend to look solid when the noise isn't introduced, intentionally or not.

The front cover artwork for this volume is pretty amusing in a campy sort of way as it features Kyohei all dolled up in an appropriate outfit as he has a strawberry on his lips that's dripping down his chin. A rather psychotic Sunako is in the background to offset it, but the overt nature of what Kyohei looks like just makes me laugh. You have to wonder if this is selling the show to the wrong audience based on artwork like this. The back cover is fairly dark in order to play up the horror aspect and it features a number of small shots that show off the variety of the show better. The summary runs through the basics and the center section runs through the episode numbers and extras included. The rest is made up of the bilingual production credits and a good if minimal technical grid. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this certainly fits with part of the show as it uses the image from the front cover of the mansion and Sunako in her death form with the scythe. Expanded out a bit, it fills up the screen nicely and you can certainly see more detail in it here. The bottom portion is darkened out so that the episode selection and other navigation pieces can be found here, all set to some of the hard rock instrumental music that permeates the show at times. The layout is decent and easy to move around in, though I think they could have found a better font to fit with this design. Submenus load quickly and we had no issues with our player presets as the disc read everything correctly as just about every ADV Films release seems to do.

The extras are pretty interesting this time if you're into how the show originally aired. The home video version release used standard opening and closing sequences for each episode which is what we get during the actual episode presentation. When it aired however, they used different opening sequences which is basically just clips from the episodes with the credits on top of that. What is surprising is that it's only one opening which means they used clips from the early part of the show for the entire thing. That version is provided here as well as clean versions of the other opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Wallflower hits the midway point in its run, there's an amusing comment along the way that the guys really need to get cracking on turning Sunako into a proper woman. While that is the background gag to the show, it's thankfully not the main thing that's going on with each episode. This volume runs through a few rather fun stories and even manages to make an origin episode entertaining to watch. The best, however, always seems to come when Sunako herself gets involved in her diminutive form.

A bit awkward is what can be said about the first episode which is actually the second half of a two part storyline that started on the previous volume. The gang, along with Sunako and Noi, ended up at a hot spring only to have a murder take place. The events of the murder feel like a low grade Scooby Doo episode and you really expect someone to take off a mask at some point, but the real fun is just watching how excited Sunako gets about everything that's going on. A real live murder at a real live hotel just has her practically beside herself with glee. The core storyline is really forgettable but watching her go through the routine is a whole lot of fun. The only good thing to come out of this storyline is that entire goofy kiss moment between her and Kyohei.

A moment she's done her best to try and forget, mind you. Blocking it from her mind has worked fairly well but it continues to creep back in here and there which is causing her to essentially lock up and freeze. That's causing plenty of concern with everyone but they have bigger fish to fry up front as Sunako's aunt has informed the boys that she needs to score better than an eighty on her next math test. While Sunako practically aces everything she takes, math is her weak point, so much so that her last test earned her about three points. Takenaga is brought in to get her up to speed but it just goes in all sorts of weird directions as they struggle with it. Most amusing is how into it Kyohei gets about showing her what a little effort can do, and the others all pitch in through their own particular style. It's a good group building episode that just brutalizes Kyohei at the end.

The bonding aspect of it is really nice reinforced with the third episode here as a Christmas story is nicely truncated by having Yuki tell the tale of how the four guys all met a year prior. The different paths that led them to living in the mansion under the conditions they're in are fairly amusing, but none more so than when Kyohei arrives after everyone else only to have a horde of women after him. Though the guys are all different now in comparison to what they were, you can see plenty of them in their current personalities as well but it's all been adapted to deal with each other. Yuki continues to feel like the odd "kid" out with them early on, especially with his commoner background, but watching them come together in the way they do without Sunako around is quite a lot of fun.

Though Sunako is kept off stage for much of this episode, she comes back with a vengeance in the last one when Yuki brings home some mushrooms he got from the Gothloli girls. Red flags go up there but it's too late and Sunako has already eaten them. The fun part is that they turn her into a proper young woman and she quickly takes to the role with the maid uniform. Sadly, all her skills have dried up at the same time and she can't even cook well anymore which is something of a dealbreaker for the guys, even with the potential of free rent due to her being ladylike. Sunako spends the bulk of this episode in her normal form, complete with a great transformation sequence in Kyohei's arms no less, but it's when she goes back into diminutive form while wearing the maid outfit that I laugh the most.

In Summary:
And Wallflower certainly keeps me laughing. This show is definitely quirky yet predictable but it just seems to click very easily for me. Partially because of my familiarity with the manga version, but it's also simply because it has a great sense of humor that's very appealing to me. Not everything is a hit but it has a certain flavor that works well enough to help carry it through. It's also a series that I don't expect any kind of resolution on which helps to put it in the right frame of mind when watching that I'm just going to enjoy each individual experience. The cast of characters is fun, it has a lot of fun playing with the morbid material and it just wants to be different. Which can be said of a lot of Nabeshin shows and this one is simply no exception.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,On Air Previews,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Wallflower