When FUNimation took over a bevy of titles from ADV they got a lot a lot of great stuff. Unfortunately they also got a lot of the mediocirty that plagued ADV's catalogue and undoubtedly led to their downfall. A prime example of one of those shows FUNimation probably could have done without is The Wallflower. On paper this 25 episode series from 2006 sounds appealing. Its concept is fairly unique (I'll get into that in a second) and it was directed by anime legend Shinichi Watanabe (Excel Saga, Tenchi GXP), so it would seem that the show would be an easy success. Unfortunately the jokes falter far too often, the story is repetitive and weak, and ultimately it's just not that entertaining.
The show focuses on the misadventures of four metrosexual boys, who are undoubtedly the most popular and good looking guys in school. As you'd expect there is a certainly level of vanity to them because, after all, they are revered as gods among men by their fellow students. Adding to their mystique is the fact that all four of them live together in a giant, gorgeous mansion. As you'd imagine the rent is kind of high so when their landlord brings them a proposition, they see it as an opportunity to make life easier for themselves. Boy, were they wrong!
The basic premise of this show sees the boys taking in their landlord's niece, Sunako. At first this doesn't seem like it would necessarily bad a bad thing. However, Sunako isn't exactly your normal every day girl. When she was younger she was called ugly by a boy she liked and ever since then she has been an introvert, goth, and all around wretch. She's miserable with life, doesn't keep up with her appearances, and has virtually no social life whatsoever. That shouldn't be a problem for the Kyouhei, Takenaga, Yuki, and Ranmaru, right? To say that Sunako makes their lives a living hell would be an understatement and she basically fights them every step of the way. Think of the show's premise as something akin to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but instead the boys have to teach Sunako about beauty and proper behavior. Essentially Sunako's aunt wants them to turn her into the perfect lady.
If they are successful with their goal they will be able to live in the mansion for free, however, if they fail their rent will be threefold. Naturally there's some monetary incentive to get the job done, but as we see in these first thirteen episodes it's not going to be easy.
From episode to episode The Wallflower takes the cast from one haphazard adventure to another. There's a strict formula here and the show rarely waivers from it, which definitely doesn't help matters out. Basically the guys concoct some way to improve Sunako's disposition, or are coerced by her aunt, and hilarious is supposed to ensue as they fail. Unfortunately the jokes come few and far between and the particular brand of humor just doesn't apply itself to the kind of show this is. A more tongue-in-cheek approach would have been more beneficial, though I suppose that isn't exactly what Watanabe is known for.
Throughout the show there isn't much in terms of development. Since each episode is fairly standalone you can't really expect anything but that, though it's worth noting the boys do make some progress with Sunako during these episodes. Sure it's not enough to save their necks from her aunt, but they can pass off some of it as an improvement. This plotline appears peppered through a gamut of clichéd anime episodes. There's a Christmas one, a Festival one, one where a character gets sick, and of course you can't skip the hot springs episode. None of these episodes are absolutely terrible, mind you, but they are certainly very underwhelming. The show doesn't do anything that hasn't really been done before and because of that it just feels boring.
In all fairness The Wallflower is not a "bad" show. It's just a series that didn't have its potential fully realized, not even close. The humor doesn't quite work, the clichéd moments are a little too much so, and the production values of the series give the impression Watanabe had to stretch a twelve episode budget to last for 25. Ultimately I just can't say who the target audience for this show is. I just know I'm not it. Due to the premise and the many moments where the show actually works I will say this one deserves a rental when you clear up some space in your queue. Just don't come expecting great things.
The Wallflower is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. While much of the art direction in this show leaves something to be desired, there are some fine moments within the video and some true quality to the image. Colors appear vibrant and natural, the picture is sharp, and compression artifacts are kept to a minimum. Some grain creeps into the image now and then, and it's not uncommon to catch some hints of aliasing either. Overall the show looks pretty decent, but it's not exactly going to leave you feeling wowed.
In all fairness I was pretty surprised to see The Wallflower receiving 5.1 support for its English track. This just isn't the kind of show that needs surround support to be successful, and while it's not the most powerful track, it's technically a smidge better than the 2.0 Japanese. Both tracks performed well regardless of their presentational differences, but in the end I feel the Japanese language selection won out due to the quality of the dub. The English track was just a little too grating on the nerves for my liking at times.
Clean animations and trailers are all you're going to find on this release for bonus features.
The Wallflower could have been much better, though in fairness it could have been a lot worse too. The show's premise is interesting as it forces four guys to turn a resistant girl from a piece of coal into a diamond. They develop a real relationship throughout these first 13 episodes and some bits are quite entertaining. Unfortunately the show is repetitive, clichéd, and downright unfunny at times. Low production values hurt the overall experience and in the end it's just an underwhelming show to sit through. If the 25 episode story was condensed into 12 or 13 episodes it may not have felt so drawn-out, but sadly that's not the case. Consider it a rental.
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