The Wallflower Vol. 10 (Del Rey)

wallheaderLooking like a piece of amorphous goth candy, Sunako faces perhaps one of the largest challenges any strong-headed teenager can: an apology.

 

 

192 pgs B&W; $10.95

(W / A: Tomoko Hayakawa)

 

Sunako, the heroine in Tomoko Hayakawa's Wallflower series, is constantly struggling with the idea of beauty, thanks to a meddlesome aunt who wants to change her from an ugly gothling to a respectable, Barbie-loving young lady. In this latest installment, not only must Sunako perform the impossible and apologize, but she must do so to a person who is too beautiful. Yes, you read that correctly: she has to say "I'm sorry" to a human being who has the unfortunate curse of being too attractive.

 

The cover to The Wallflower Vol. 10. Click thumbnail for a larger image.That human being would be Kyohei, one of the four young men tasked with bringing about Sunako's metamorphosis. With a lines like, "You saw first-hand how much Kyohei has suffered because of his good looks," clearly readers are not going to be taking this story too seriously. Yet somehow, Hayakawa manages to relay some reasonably serious subject matter. Amid the various pop culture references, such as plugs for Tim Burton's film Sleepy Hollow, and brief homages to The Ring and the Virgin Mary — in a truly impressive image of Sunako bedecked in 60-watt light bulbs with a plate of fried shrimp in her hands — Hayakawa taps into Sunako's guilt centers with rather pleasing results.

 

Since much of the story deals with Sunako winning back Kyohei's affections and their blossoming relationship, readers will understand the string of competitive battles that follow, including one rather spectacular relay race that finds both Sunako and Kyohei facedown before the finish line. Eventually, the two make up, and for the remainder of the tale readers find themselves in surprisingly palatable courtship stories. One particularly warm winter plot involving a Kotatsu Nabe party in a rather idyllic setting, which Americans will find an equivalent in images of sitting by a fireside with hot cocoa.

 

Again, Hayakawa dazzles with her artistic abilities by rendering some incredible moments, such as the scene between Sunako and Kyohei on pages 43 and 44, where three-quarter closeups and soft lines makes for an especially touching reunion. Even the chibi moments carry a bit more weight to them when Hayakawa illustrates Sunako's feelings of guilt rather vividly and dramatically by sending a butcher knife into her until she bleeds out on the page. Yeah, Hayakawa likes to be punny, but overall it's clear she also likes to illustrate, and the fact that she does it well certainly doesn't hurt.

 

So, if readers can put up with some of the flakiness that is inherent in a story like this, and they probably can, since they have probably made it through nine volumes already, then they will find more development here and some surprisingly satisfying exchanges that might make it easier to continue the journey through this story. Hayakawa has certainly made it easy to say yes to this volume of her work. | James Nokes

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