Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) Manga

Genre: Shoujo
General Audience
Shiina Takahashi.

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Thundersenshi's Description:
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.

(35 volumes as of December 2002)

A triangle that keeps you guessing. >>> by thundersenshi
What I like most about shoujo is that they're usually very entertaining, if not highly amusing. As a matter of fact, most of them are even funnier than your regular shonen watch. The best shoujo are usually quite special when it comes to humor--and Hana Yori Dango certainly falls under these ranks. Not only because it has the kind of comedy that really gets to me, but because it's got a great romantic angle combined with excellent characters as well. With all these, how can you go wrong? Well, the typical anti-shoujo will need a little more convincing, that's for sure...but let's see if dissecting it a bit further will make it more appealing.

It's a story set in high school, where the kids are at their rowdiest. You know how high school teen flicks always involve funny and crazy stereotypes? Well, in HYD, the word "rowdy" takes on a new level because of one thing: money. Where there's usually the rich and poor, the popular and unpopular, and the beautiful and ugly in a typical high school setting, Eitoku High takes a slightly different stab at this kind of scene. There's just the rich and richer, popular and more popular...and well, you get my drift. Maybe the labels on a typical high school setting would apply...if these students were simply enclosed among themselves in their own little world. But imagine how such an environment would be to an outsider...especially one whose own wealth increased five times wouldn't even compare to what an Eitoku "pauper" normally has. This is where lead character Tsukushi Makino comes in.

Now Tsukushi knows where her monetary value (the only thing that matters) stands. So how does an ordinary girl like her survive in a den of lions? Her solution was simple enough--pretend to be a weed among the carnivores. And it would have worked, too, only her circumstances were not as simple. Tsukushi knew well enough that she may not be rich, not beautiful, but she sure as hell knows she's not a wimp. When she sees a display of unfathomable arrogance and injustice done to her first and only friend in the school so far, her true colors finally surface and she unwittingly comes to her friend's defense. Never mind if she had planned on being obscure; she just crossed paths with Tsukasa Domyouji. And he's the leader of F4, high school boys (he and three of his best friends) who lord over the school. But she refuses to be intimidated and fights back. What comes after is a series of shocking encounters for Tsukushi as she learns firsthand the extent of Tsukasa Domyouji's influence. Now it's her turn to be tortured and bullied around mercilessly. And just when she thought she was going to drown from the misery, she finds a most unlikely saviour--Rui Hanazawa, Tsukasa's best friend. Rui is a quiet, contemplative boy who did save her once from danger, but continues not to interefere with anyone's affairs. However, his indifferent attitude does not stop Tsukushi from being attracted to him, as she senses the sensitive, passionate person behind the stoic surface. And this doesn't bode well for any of them--Tsukushi, Tsukasa and Rui.

Now if you have watched the TV series, you will understand that it is this curious mix of characters and their different worlds that keep one glued to boobtube. It's the same element that makes the manga a fantastic read. You think you've got the romantic angles and personality clashes all figured out, but somewhere in the middle, your guesses will turn haywire. You can probably attribute it to the fact that the mangaka herself went astray from her original storyline as she was writing this. It was as if the characters themselves had their own minds and they chose their own roles to play--thus, the chaotic melodrama was born. The manga is even worse than the anime, for it takes you further into the story that was cut short in its animated incarnate. Dedicated fans have a hard time deciding whether that particular decision of the mangaka was a curse or a blessing. There's also a few slight differences in characterization, especially in Rui Hanazawa's case (I think you will like him better in his original manga version). Of course, there were also a few chapters in the manga that never made it into the anime cut, and there's always those to look forward to when reading the manga.

Individual Rating: Art 7; Story 8; Characters 10

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