Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Wallflower review

The Wallflower
by Tomoko Hayakawa, translated by David Ury
Del Rey
October 2004

What an utterly weird little book. There's this misfit girl, Sunako, and her aunt, a wealthy landlady, who's offered four boys free rent at her boarding house (more like a mansion) if they can turn her niece into a pretty young lady. The girl is very socially awkward, shy and hates herself but loves horror movies. She's kind of like a goth, without the fashion sense. She gets nosebleeds all the time when she's nervous and refers to herself as a creature of darkness, and the boys as creatures of light. She's always afraid that she'll melt away from embarrassment. 

The boys try to get her out of her shell - at one point they all dress in drag and take her to a hostess club - kind of the Japanese equivalent of a strip club? No one really bats an eye at this. The boys are all very pretty and as popular as rock stars. After this, Sunako decides that she's too overwhelmed by it all, and murdering the ringleader of the boys is her only answer. She makes several half-hearted attempts to stab him. The boys all treat this somewhat as a joke. Finally, they get her to dress up nice at one party (with the promise of a gift of a pile of horror DVDs if she cooperates.) She makes a splash, and hits it off with an American (who might be named John) but then gets in an awesome karate fight with a bunch of guests for being too fresh with her. The aunt offers the boys half off their rent, not knowing that her niece was only playing the part for the evening.

I like the art style, especially the way the characters revert to being children whenever they are in the midst of a strong emotion. The book reads back to front, as is traditional for manga. The translation notes in the back are helpful - but I really do think that there is a lot that is lost in translation on this one. This is the first in a popular series that has been turned into a TV show in Japan.

I purchased a copy of this book.

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