Genre: Shoujo / Romance
Credits: (c) Toei, Kamio Youko, Shuueisha, ABC
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Tsukushi Makino had just moved into Eitoku High School -- a posh academy where the richest kids in Japan (and probably the rest of the world) get their education. Upon her arrival, she quickly learns that only money and its influence will spare her from discrimination. Being that Tsukushi has none, she decides to maintain a low profile for her own sake. But Tuskushi's spirited self can only take so much, and when she could no longer stand the sight of bullying and hazing around the campus, she finds herself at the wrong side of F4. F4 is a group comprised of the four richest, most influential, and best-looking guys in Eitoku High. F4 practically rule the whole school. However, even with the whole student body against her, Tsukushi refuses to back down... and declares a war of her own. Just when she thinks things couldn't get more complicated, her defiance gets her tangled on a more personal level with two of the F4 -- the brash leader of the group, Tsukasa Doumyouji, and the enigmatic Rui Hanazawa.
A breakthrough in the shoujo genre >>> by thundersenshi
I was moved to revise my original review of HYD because of a casual remark my cousin Firesenshi made. She mentioned that while she loved mecha anime, she was guessing that I was into shoujo (because I had nothing but praises for HYD and Kodomo no Omocha, both falling under that category). But I thought about it for a while, enumerating a couple more of my favorite titles such as Inu-Yasha, Rurouni Kenshin, Fushigi Yuugi and Vampire Princess Miyu to mention a few. And I realized that I was actually more into fantasy/adventure (mainly for its sorcery and magical aspects), samurai and sword action (for the touch of history in ancient Japan) and vampire anime (for my long-time fascination with these nocturnal creatures) than shoujo. In fact, now that I think about it, most shoujo, if not for certain comical factors they usually possess and a few exceptional romantic angles, don't appeal to me as much as the other genres I've mentioned do. But then again, I love Hana Yori Dango. And it's shoujo, isn't it?
Well, it's different. HYD is mature and fun, yet infused with a sense of realism. It is a totally refreshing shoujo anime, and I can safely say that it might as well be the best one I've ever come across. Given, the art isn't really something spectacular, and the music is average. But everything else is excellent. The characterization, for example, is something that really made me love this anime. Female lead Tsukushi Makino is unique; she's not your typical carefree, bumbling shoujo heroine (though she was kind of always sprawled on the ground during the first few episodes. But that was due to hazing, not clumsiness). Not that this kind of lively attitude is bad--it's just that these qualities in female mainstays are commonly used, but the creators still don't bother to put a little variation and dare to be different. Well, such is not the case with Tsukushi, who is spunky, spirited, and yet vulnerable...totally human. She is not spared from insecurities and the desire to be loved and respected.
But what I love most in HYD is the way she's involved between two other characters: best friends Tsukasa Doumyoji and Rui Hanazawa. No, come back here, I promise this isn't Dawson's Creek! This particular angle in the anime is actually very cute. It's so fun seeing Tsukushi and Doumyouji's everyday bouts. The latter, who is actually the arrogant leader of the F4, is quite inexperienced at being defied so he doesn't know what to do with Tsukushi. He annoys her on purpose just to confuse her as much as she does him, and the end results are always hilarious! On the other hand, there is also the enigmatic Rui Hanazawa, whom Tsukushi has found herself attracted to from day one. His quiet aloofness doesn't detract her feelings for him in the least, despite her efforts... She had once seen his vulnerability and caring soul, and it was simply too hard to forget. But how can she even hope to maintain a relationship with him, when her life in school is in complete chaos?
Smelling romance in the air already? Well, just don't be too sure of your assumptions. HYD is not your everyday shoujo, as I've overly emphasized. It's amazing, actually--this is the first anime that had me guessing on the main character's lovelife for the most of its run. Just when I thought I was sure about who Tsukushi'll end up with, something else happens and I go slumping back to square one. But it is fun! And wait until you see the constant nagging of Tsukushi's parents to get herself a rich boyfriend (which both Doumyouji Tsukasa and Hanazawa Rui are); you'll surely get a kick out of it.
HYD is very popular in Japan, but is a bit obscure as of the moment to foreigners (though not as it used to be, since lately I've been seeing a few mentions of it here and there). I'm absolutely certain this is because it hasn't been officially released outside Japan yet. Make sure to catch it as soon as it is! I, for one, was glad that I took the recommendation of this guy (take note: guy--and no, he's not gay) who works at my favorite anime rental store. And to think my friends and I were skeptical about watching this particular shoujo (we were thinking more on the lines of pure, unadulterated fluff, and sappy mush lines--hence the reluctance. Don't get me wrong--we still like romance, but not too much of it).
SKYSENSHI'S UPDATE (12.27.2004): Well, when my sister wrote this review three years ago, Firesenshi (the mecha genre fanatic) hadn't gotten hold of Hana Yori Dango yet. Now both Firesenshi, my brother Darth Paul, and the rest of my cousins have been stricken with the HYD fever. This editor is no exception.
Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 8; Characters 10; Sounds 8