Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Oct 12, 2009

Boys Over Flowers - Yoko Kamio

Yoko Kamio’s shojo series Hana Yori Dango, translated as Boys Over Flowers, ran in Japanese publication Margaret from October 1992 to September 2003. In 1996 it won the Shogakukan Manga Award in the shojo category. It’s still the all time best selling shojo series in Japan.

Synopsis: The series begins with high school student Makino Tsukushi trying to blend in at the elite Eitoku Academy. Since the academy is the choice school of wealthy and high society families, Tsukushi does not relate well with many of the students being from a family that is very poor. It is her strong sense of justice that catches the attention of the F4, or Flower Four, the four wealthiest and most beautiful boys on campus. Headed up by Tsukasa Domyoji, the heir to the large and successful Domyoji Corporation, the group also includes Rui Hanazawa, Akira Mimasaka, and Sojiro Nishikado. When Tsukushi becomes the target of the F4’s harassment, she clashes wills with Tsukasa Domyoji. Tsukasa becomes infatuated with Tsukushi because she is one of the first girls who doesn’t fawn over him for his money. During the course of the series, Tsukushi develops feeling for Rui Hanazawa, Tsukasa’s best friend. However, she learns that Rui is trying to overcome his feelings for another girl and does not reciprocate Tsukushi's feelings at the opportune time. Meanwhile Tsukasa continues to pursue Tsukushi, and as Tsukushi notices the changes in Tsukasa’s personality for her own benefit, she begins to develop feelings for him too. These two angsty teenagers from opposite backgrounds must overcome numerous obstacles to unite their ever-diverging lives.

Review: My expectations for Boys Over Flowers were not set up to disappoint. I honestly approached it like I would any other series I start reading. I didn’t know it was the best selling shojo title in Japan until I started doing my research. I can only fathom that it earned this title because the target audience devoured it, and it ran for sooo long. Admittedly, I, too, was engrossed by the clashing characters - at first. It was not until I was asked to do a review of the epilogue volume, though, that I seriously sat down to analyze the plot. That’s because the ending of this series was such a puny finale for a decade’s worth of emotionally invested readers.

Main character Tsukushi Makino is a strong and determined girl that like her name “weed” continues to thrive despite a pitiful environment. Her character alone holds this series together as it struggles to an anti-climactic ending. Although Tsukasa does eventually become a decent guy, the amount of torture he puts Tsukushi through in this series left me dumbfounded as to how she could continue to love him. I found Rui Hanazawa to be a better match for Tsukushi, since he understands her better and supported her more throughout the story. If only Kamio had paired them together there at the beginning of the story, it would have saved me from this excruciating drama that is Boys Over Flowers.

Despite the uncertain emotions, the evolution of Tsukasa and Tsukushi’s relationship is slow enough that it is possible to believe her feelings could change towards him. Yet just when you think the two will finally be together, Kamio writes another crux that pulls the two apart. Lather, rinse, repeat. It makes me wonder if Kamio’s editors were telling her to find ways to drag out the story. Every shojo plot twist you could think up, Kamio probably tried to implement it. I’d finally had it when Tsukushi decided to be with Tsukasa after denying her feelings for so long, and Kamio writes Tsukasa to have amnesia and forget who she is. What the heck?! From there the story goes downhill.

As for a happily ever after to Tsukushi and Tsukasa’s relationship, that’s up for debate. There is a wedding in the final volume, Jewelry Box, but it’s not for the main couple. Although there is promise of a future relationship, Kamio leaves no lasting assurance that Tuskushi and Tsukasa do have a good life together, and for such a long-running and emotional series, it’s just unacceptable. I feel sorry for all the people who spent a decade reading this series. I can only imagine the amount of hate mail that Yoko Kamio received from irate fans.

The only redeeming quality of this series is the artwork. Kamio has a good grasp of paneling and toning. It’s interesting to see the evolution of styles throughout the decade on her characters. I found Tsukasa Domyoji’s character design to be the most interesting because of his hair. He reminds me a famous boy band member from the late 1980s. Kamio does backgrounds and settings well, too. From seashores to cityscapes, she has a good sense of perspective.

As for this series as a whole, unless you absolutely want to torture yourself and wind up disappointed at the end, stay away from Boys Over Flowers. It’s not worth the time or emotional investment.

Romance Rating: Steamy - There are two bedroom scenes in this series. One is between supporting cast members, and though there is little nudity it is evident what's happening. The second scene happens between our main couple. There's implied nudity, and just when you think the two love birds are going to get intimate, Kamio writes it out of the plot. More irate fans!

Media Status: Boys Over Flowers is available from Viz Media in 36 volumes. The epilogue volume is translated as Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box. A Hana Yori Dango anime series of 51 episodes was produced by Toei Animation in 1996. The manga series also spawned five television show productions occurring in the countries of Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. In 2008 Hana Yori Dango Final was released in theaters in Japan. It was the best selling DVD for 2008 in Japan.


Diana Dang said...

There is so much one can do with that many volumes. I'm glad I didn't read so much into the series (only read the first three or four). But I definitely adore the Japanese drama series. It was perfect, both seasons.

Squeak said...

It's my favorite manga despite your rating. I love it and honestly it's the standard to which I hold all the manga I read. Which is why I guess I watch more anime than read manga.

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