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
Amazon.com 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
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