Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hana Yori Dango (TV Dorama)

GENRE: Shoujo Dorama (Romance, Comedy)
Directed by: Yasuharu Ishii
Actors: Mao Inoue, Jun Matsumoto, Shun Oguri, Shota Matsuda, Tsuyoshi Abe
2005 Katsuaki Setoguchi, Tokyo Broadcasting System Product Description:
Makino Tsukushi is the only poor student at Eitoku Gakuen, the school of the ridiculously rich and privileged that is ruled by Flower 4 or F4, a group of four boys who come from extremely powerful families: Domyoji Tsukasa, the leader and heir of the Domyoji World Finance Group; Hanazawa Rui, the introverted son of a large company; Nishikado Sojiro, a player who is the heir of a tea ceremony school; and Mimasaka Akira, a madam killer with ties to the underground. If a student gets on the F4's bad side, he/she gets a red notice and is bullied and driven out of school. Makino hopes to pass her days quietly -- without drawing any attention to herself -- but one day, she stands up to Domyoji in defense of her friend. The next day, Makino gets the dreaded red notice. Even though she is harassed, Makino decides to keep going to school because she is a "tough weed". She declares war right back on the F4. Her resolve gets the attention of her crush Hanazawa Rui and oddly enough, rouses romantic feelings in her worst enemy, Domyoji Tsukasa.

Season 1: 9 Episodes
Season 2: 11 Episodes

Hanadan DVDs
Hanadan Art Books & Manga
Hanadan Music
Everything Hanadan

Best depiction. Ever. >>> by skysenshi
Ok, this is the very first Dorama review in this entire site. It took me years to decide. I actually didn't want to put anything that isn't animé-ish in here but I believe the Japanese anime fandom has already -- long long ago -- reached a point that it embraced everything Japanese. I first almost faltered with Gokusen. But I'm giving in because...who can resist Hana Yori Dango??

I have actually reviewed the Taiwanese version's soundtrack back in 2003, and I remember making a few comments regarding the actual series. Taiwan's Hana Yori Dango, by the way, is Meteor Garden. (I'm not quite sure if the Chinese did an on-yomi reading of the title and ended up with that weird Taiwanese name.) There are many differences between the Taiwanese and the Japanese dorama that struck me. The most noticeable is that, despite the better looking actors of Meteor Garden, Hanadan's F4 are actually more accomplished as thespians.

I have my favorites in both series, so I was already thinking that if I were to form the best F4, they would be: Matsujun (Hallo? Is there any other choice for Domyouji??), Vic Zhou (the first time I saw him, I knew he was Rui), Ken Chu (I'm biased, I have been crushing on this dude since forever), and Tsuyoshi Abe (best-looking Akira, hands-down). Mao Inoue as Tsukushi Makino was a good decision. She captures the essence of the manga character with such precision that it really awed me. (I thought Barbie Hsu was too pretty and delicate for the role.)

Casting is Hana Yori Dango's strongest point. Though I did not feel butterflies in my stomach the way I did with the anime and Meteor Garden -- which I'm attributing to my overexposure to the story -- I observed that the characters were so well-portrayed.

Another powerful element of Hanadan was its story-telling. I quickly noted the differences from the anime and Meteor Garden. Apparently, the writers chose to concentrate on unexplored aspects of the manga, which I had never finished. This was a good move since it kept Hanadan from becoming Domyouji-centered, the way Meteor Garden had been.

The Rui-Makino-Domyouji love triangle had been developed so well that I found myself just as confused as Makino. In the anime, I had rooted for Tsukasa Domyouji. In this dorama, I couldn't believe that I actually wanted Rui to have a fighting chance, even if the actor isn't as hot as Vic Zhou. Shun Oguri is really good at being Rui, which is saying a lot, considering my fondness for Matsujun, who plays Domyouji.

What I like best is how relationships were fleshed out, and people get to see what happens to the other members of F4. They actually have lives! They don't revolve around Domyouji and Makino the way Meteor Garden's F4 did. It's really a shame because cutie Ken Chu as Soujiro could have had juicier scenes.

People might also be happy to know that the second season is actually powerful. The intensity stemming from complex relationships remained consistent all throughout, unlike in Meteor Garden where all Makino did was cry to "All By Myself" in every episode. (That was annoying.)

Both soundtracks for Season 1 and 2 are gripping. Season 1's Planetarium by Ai Otsuka is so adorable that I feared it would be hard to match. Good thing they brought in Hikaru Utada for Season 2's Flavor of Life. You definitely cannot go wrong with Hikki singing in the background. Hehe.

Ok, I will be a girl here and rave about the women's clothes. Anyone who has been immersed in the anime would probably agree that its fashion was so so so so bad. It seemed to have caught the tail-end of the most horrible styling phase of the 90s.

So you can probably imagine how delighted I was when I saw Makino's numerous boots. Of course, it doesn't make sense that she'd have a lot of totemo kawaii footwear since she's supposed to be dirt poor. But allow me to suspend my disbelief and just bask in their glory.

I also love how the older women (they're ALL so darned gorgeous!) assemble their outfits. Very tasteful and classy but very far from matronly. It's been five years since this series aired yet the ensembles seem to have stood the test of time.

Individual Rating: Casting 9; Story 10; Characters 10; Sounds 10


  1. yehey! you liked vic zhou as rui. :-D love the guy! utada hikaru rocks! how come you did not include boys over flower as part of your review? there is also a hana yori dango: the movie.

  2. Hi, Tess!
    I have Boys Over Flower the anime, manga and the movie. :) I included the link in this comment. :D Those are really old reviews, though. Written way back in 2003. =^.^=

  3. my mistake... i was talking about the korean series "boys over flower" since you've compared the taiwanese series "meteor garden" and japanese live series "hana yori dango". i was thinking that probably you forgot that there is an equivalent korean version which was shown last 2009. the japanese live "hana yori dango" has a movie, too. according to my friend the best version of domyouji aka jun pyo in the korean version played by lee min-ho. i haven't seen the anime version yet, it's still in my "to do" list.

  4. Ahhh! That's cause my sister didn't finish the Korean version. The men are cute but the female lead was irritating daw. So I kind of skipped that. :D

  5. Sorry for the lengthy post (^_^)
    if we're talking about best f4 i'll say the korean f4 are the most good looking, most fit in the role if we're talking about physical appearance.
    Overall my F4 will be Lee Minho as Damyouji,Vic Zhou as Rui, Kim Bum as Sojiro and Tsuyoshi Abe as Akira.
    Matsujun was good but he lacks the finesse and talks like a delinquent,plus Damyouji is supposed to be tall,he may be pretty but he shrinks besides the towering height of the other F4 members. Jerry is almost as good as Lee Minho but Lee Minho is much more good looking.
    At the beggining of the series Kim Hyun Joong was almost my first choice as Rui he looks the part & he captured the detached nonchalance of Rui but when it comes to showing angst & raw emotion he failed miserably. Oguri Shun was really good as Rui but the way the series portrayed his character it felt (to me at least) that he isn't really interested in Tsukushi romantically, especially he still keeps close relations w/ Shizuka. Vic Zhou is just perfect, physically he's pretty & fragile looking, the way Rui is supposed to be, he emits the aura of mystery that makes you wonder what is he thinking.
    Ken Chu was good but not great plus the series didnt give him much to work,well not until Meteor Rain & he is not a pretty crier. Matsuda Shota just disappear, he doesn't have the pressence that the other F4 members had & he really can't act. Kim Bum was really great,he's a convincing playboy when he smiles,I can feel he's hurt when cries,the back story utilized really Kim Bum's acting capability.
    Unlike skysenshi I don't think Tsuyoshi Abe is the best looking Akira, I think Vanness Wu looks better but to each is own, I chose him as the best Akira because out of the 3 series his Akira is the only one that got depth, he was convincing as the F4's mediator.I'm not sure if Kim Joon could've done better if his character was given more back story to work on,there wasn't much exposure for me to decide if he's convincing enough. As for Vanness, he was forgettable,even when he was given more exposure in season 2 I just couldn't care less about him, which is odd because in the manga I like Akira better than Sojiro

  6. Hehe. I didn't like Vaness Wu's hairstyle when he was doing Meteor Garden so I thought at first that he was ugly. I've been seeing Vaness in other dramas and it seems he has matured both as an actor and as an eyecandy. He also looks a whole lot better with short, layered hair.

    My sister told me to stay away from the Korean version because the girl who played Makino was annoying, although I must agree (judging from the posters) that the Korean F4 are the best looking of the bunch.


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