Wallflower Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Wallflower

Wallflower Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 11, 2007
Release Date: December 18, 2007


Wallflower Vol. #1
© ADV Films


What They Say
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!

The Review!
When four pretty boys find themselves having to transform a gloomy and dark girl into a beautiful woman, their lives are turned upside down.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The cover art for this release certainly plays up the pretty boy angle as it features the four male leads along the bottom half where they're topless and surrounded by roses. The background behind them plays to the horror angle as it has a small death-like version of Sunako set against the mansion which in turn has dark skies behind it. It's a good contrast between the two but I can easily see the character designs turning away a lot of folks unfortunately. The logo uses a variation of what Del Rey does with their manga version but it avoids listing the original series name. 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, though the dated "Queer Eye" comment stands out badly, 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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)
Wallflower, originally known as Yamatonadeshiko Shichihenge, is a twenty five episode series based off of the manga by Tomoko Hayakawa. That manga has been getting a US release for a bit now by Del Rey and it's through that form that I originally fell in love with this series. The show in its translation to anime captures much of what makes the manga so much fun but it also adds some new elements courtesy of series director Shinichi Watanabe. Beyond this and some minor reworking of when events take place, the translation works well though sometimes seeing the guys in this form really takes away from the kind of designs that Hayakawa used in her manga.

The story is painfully simple but that's what allows it to work so well while being open ended. Four very beautiful young men are living in a mansion where they're getting very cheap rent from the woman who owns it, one very flamboyantly and adventurous of the Nakahara family. Her reasons for letting the boys live there isn't clear but she's going to make them pay up for their time there and the luxuries that they enjoy. To their surprise, her demand is that while she's away that they watch over her niece Sunako and turn her into a proper woman. Failure to do so will mean an exorbitant amount of money will need to be paid to her for all the living expenses that they've accrued.

The four young men are all fairly standard personalities when it comes to the beautiful boy realm. Kyohei is the rough around the edges blonde with an edge, Ranmaru is the redheaded ladie's man who knows exactly what it takes to get to a woman's heart, Takenaga fills the intellectual role while still being quite beautiful and Yuki takes care of the all too girlish in appearance pretty boy who constantly finds himself being thrown into situations that requires him to wear dresses. As a group living together, they get along quite well because they all have to suffer the same kinds of things due to their beauty. Kyohei relates this at one point where it's impossible for him to hold down a part time job because either his working there draws in women who never buy anything and cause a disturbance or because people who work there, usually his bosses, are interested in him in a more sexual way. Male and female at that.

So it's little surprise that when their gravy train of low to free rent living is about to disappear, they agree all too quickly to take on her request of handling her niece. What they were shocked to find out is that Sunako really is something like death warmed over. The same age as them, she's transferred into the same school and is now a part of their daily lives. Sunako is quite simply, priceless. The first few episodes are a difficult time to adjust to her since she's being abused by everyone and her overall personality is almost whiny due to her being turned down once by someone she liked. That caused her to retreat into herself, grow her hair long and stopped taking care of herself. She's still whisper thin and has a hidden beauty under it all, but her outward appearance is that of someone who has shrugged off living in general.

What compounds all of it is that she's turned to the world of horror for her companionship, to the point where she has friends in the form of medical dummies. She turns her room into a place of darkness which scares the boys constantly and she is very into morbid and bloody movies and games. What really cements things, though it's not given too clearly at first here, is that her perception of reality is slightly skewed because of what she went through. When she sees the boys she's living with, she's almost always blinded by the light she associates with them and calls them "Creatures of Light." This name is also applied to Noi, a beautiful young woman who is trying to win over Takenaga. Sunako is unable to look at people due to this and it leads to some fun situations, such as when she comes across Kyohei showering and she gets to see all of his… light.

Where Wallflower will run into some problems, even from fans, is in the character designs. While I love the manga designs, they're certainly not the norm and they don't translate well to anime form without being smoothed out a bit. The lipstick in particular really stands out and just feels odd. The boys are where the problem really resides and it took almost all five episodes here to really adjust to it. Sunako is a bit rough during the first few episodes as well but that mirrors the manga in some ways as Hayakawa didn't really find her groove for a bit. When that groove hits, such as when Sunako starts living more in her tiny small bodied form, it really works wonderfully here. Character designs change regularly here to fit the mood and the need of the scene so adjusting to that, like it's done in other comedies of this nature, is almost a necessity. There simply isn't any single vision of how these characters look but rather a multitude of visions based on events, moods and personal perceptions.

In Summary:
As much as I love Wallflower, it's easy to admit that first couple of stories are the weakest as it gets the setup out of the way and introduces the characters. Once it gets rolling, which is around episode four and five here, it starts to come together beautifully. I can appreciate the earlier episodes though simply because I know where it's going but the show has to survive on its own merits. Thankfully I think it really does show this as it goes on and fans of this particular kind of comedy are going to adore this show. It's spastic, frantic and out of control at times which fits in well with the directors preferred kind of show. You can see some of the same tricks he's used in other shows here and it really does suit the material. Wallflower hits most notes right for me, especially once I get past the initial translation from the manga, and just left me smiling and happy.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,On-Air Opening for Episodes 1-13,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.

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