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  • The Wallflower: Sunako

    I'm taking a quick detour from my planned short series on Dragon Ball Z to talk about The Wallflower.

    Four incredibly good-looking boys live in a boarding school when the owner's niece is dropped off. The boys are given the challenge of turning the niece into a lady - if they succeed, they get free rent. Failure will result in their rent tripling.

    The challenge doesn't seem particularly difficult until Sunako shows up on their proverbial doorstep (in the bushes, actually) - hair hanging over her face and shunning all contact and things of light. The anime is hilarious and thought-provoking, a thrill that I highly recommend if you get the chance.

    All of the characters are decently well-written, but Sunako is exceptional. The series is up front about the reason for Sunako's strangeness - she was outright rejected by her first crush, saying that he "doesn't like ugly girls." Devastated, Sunako decides that simply never looking at herself is the answer.

    Throughout the series, she is coaxed out of her shell and ends up in meaningful relationships (friendships) with her "radiant" housemates. (Bonus points for the series: The men are up front about the stakes of turning Sunako into a lady. She is not particularly offended, and is therefore never a source of tension.) Oddly enough, it soon becomes apparent that not only is Sunako -not- ugly, but she is also talented and a really good fighter. However, these traits only come out when she is somehow motivated and aren't things that she recognizes about herself.

    Most of the time she is depicted, Sunako is drawn in "chibi" form - short, round, and usually faceless. Over time, I realized that while this is a 'default' appearance for her, it's the form of her low self-esteem. This is how she looks when she is feeling shy, upset, awkward, anti-social, and so on. When Sunako is feeling confident, that is when she appears in her full form. It's a fascinating and wonderfully executed choice - and the show never directly addresses it.

    I also appreciated how her character was handled. The Wallflower is primarily a comedy, though it deals with things often seen in dramas. While all of the characters have obvious flaws, hers are probably the most blatant. She has anxieties, she runs from her problems, in addition to her poor self-esteem. Though the guys have a vested interest in seeing her change, their attempts to force it on her are quickly tossed aside, and they develop genuine affection for each other. A main character who is obviously flawed in relatable ways, but is still portrayed as awesome? It's incredibly hard not to cheer for Sunako.

    I don't want to completely give away the series, but in the end, Sunako is changed - but not because her personality is altered. Many of her flaws and quirks remain in tact, but she appears to have gained a signficant amount of confidence.

    The Wallflower was an incredibly fun, quirky series. The character arcs and plots move along at a good pace, and I can't remember the last time we laughed so much at a series. I hope to find more flawed but exceptional characters like Sunako in more things we watch.