Series: Hana Yori Dango
Other Titles: Boys Over Flowers
Genre: Drama, Romance, School Life, Shojo
Series Run: 51 Episodes (aprox. 22 Min per)
Distributors: Viz Media, Discotek Media
Requested By: Janie
I make no secret of the fact that I am a hopeless romantic who has a taste for the dromatic. So, when the lady of my life requested that I review one of the few anime she has seen within the genre I was ecstatic. Moreover, the fact that it is a shojo in a high-school setting made me wax nostalgic about our own romance so I was all-in. While I don’t regret my gunge-ho approach to this series there were some moments that went way over the line of what was acceptable and made this an uncomfortable watch. But I will address that later in the review.
On a personal note, Dear I hope you like this one.
Hana Yori Dango is a school-life anime surrounding the exploits of Tsukushi Makino, a new student at Eitoku Academy who happens to be of lesser means. Desiring nothing more than a low-profile existence among the upper-crust of society Tsukushi’s world is turned upside down when she encounters an elite clique of popular men known as the F4. From here, she begins a chaotic, fish out of water story where the boys are constantly involved. In the midst of this, she manages to fall for two of the Flowers Four creating a romantic triangle with two distinct flavors.
The first relationship is your standard aloof love interest angle with Rui Hanazawa. I like the quiet, kind, artist, nature of the character and his dynamic when opposite Tsukushi elegantly done despite the lack of dialogue between them However, this ceases to be when their growing relationship is subvert by his returning flame, Shizuka Toudou. While Shizuka was a welcomed addition providing exposition on the F4’s history, a humanizing character for the group as a whole, and a sort of guide for Tsukushi she felt more like a protagonist in her own right rather than a supporting character. But, by far, the worst thing the writers of the anime could have done was use the sympathetic character to remove Rui as the love interest for the secondary alternative.
The secondary Romance begins with the leader of the F4. Tskasa Domyouji. To say that I despise this character is a gross understatement. His personality shifts between childishly lording his status over characters to picking on Tsukushi to being uncharacteristically nice to her. Worse yet he seems to have an almost incestuous fixation with his sister who happens to look like our main heroine. As if to feed into the creep factor he holds her down and nearly RAPES her in an early episode.
While he does mature throughout the series the and eventually becomes worthy of the love interest role the aforementioned moments irredeemably corrupted the character to such a degree that I cannot stand his on-screen prescience. Even after he redeems himself by softening up I still detest the character I am supposed to root for. In short I found him to be a pretty face with little more than a base understanding of social functions that was easily overshadowed by almost every other character.
this brings me to the side-characters which can be summed up in the phrase as bland as white bread. In fact, the only two character’s whose names I remember without consulting MyAnimeList ar Soujirou and Akira and their main functions were to act as the F4’s exposition and voices of reason. Otherwise, every other character in the series is a direct embodiment of their trope. The childhood friend is a cookie-cutter childhood friend. Tsukushi’s family seems to be the cliché poor family composed of the overbearing mother, the pathetic father, and the annoying little brother. After that every other character just blends into the background until they decide to cause trouble or just randomly speaks up. To remind Tsukushi of her place.
The focus on the pauper-versus-prince wealth disparity that persists throughout the series is a glaring weakness in storytelling. While this is a universal plot element that transcends its medium it actually weakens the relationship building aspect of the show. Combine this with the night-and day dynamic between Tsukushi and Tsukasa and the viewer gets a dysfunctional relationship that feels forced and unrealistic. Sure, one might see it as a clear case of opposites attract but, Boys Over Flowers executes this poorly.
Thus I come to the shows worst flaw of this entire narrative. its execution If the story of an independent woman finding herself in a high-society prep school featuring a cast of bishounen men is familiar to you have likely seen a reverse-harem anime in the last 20 years. While the show’s formula is well-trotted ground for many anime fans at this point the story’s progression is painfully slow providing the viewer with very little pay-off. For any romantic plot steady character growth and interaction is key. Hana Youri Dango’s characters grow at a snail’s pace making its run a slog to get through.
Alongside the painfully weak story Hana Yori Dango suffers from an eye-ruining animation style that seems to be a halfhearted attempt to simply colorize the cells of the original manga. While the muted colors and stark background would have translated well to the manga format the same cannot be said for animation. In fact. I found the lack of vibrancy and life in some scenes to be somewhat distracting at times. Aside from that character movements seem a bit stiff which forces some of the dialogue-heavy moments feel more like poorly animated GIFs rather than properly animated sequences. But, discounting my nitpicking, I feel that character and background designs are beautiful when assessed separately as portraiture.
Much to my delight, Hana Yori Dango scores highest in the category of sound design. Unfortunately, this applies to the series’ soundtrack rather than its vocal performances. While they can be taken separately, I feel the two are inexorably linked and aides the viewer in suspending their disbelief. For their time, the talent did a passable job of bringing the characters to life. But, it is important to remember that the 90s were an awkward time for anime dubs and this anime suffers greatly from the growing pains of the time. Thankfully the music does a great job of distracting us from the flawed delivery.
For the most part, the music of Hana Yori Dango does quite a bit to amplify the high-society feel of the show. The opening and ending themes are light and airy J-pop pieces that connotes a relaxed and energetic tone. This does a great job of setting the tone as a slice of life piece. Intermittent pieces like Tomaso Abononi’s Symphony No. 5 adds depth to the upper-class feel of Eitoku Academy. Together, classical and popular styles fill the gap created by poor voice acting. Sadly, it isn’t enough.
I watched the series in its English dub as distributed by Viz Media as instructed by the one who requested this review. While it was nice to hear popular 90s era voice actors like Micheal Adamthwaite and Stephen Park in the roles of Tsukasa Domyouji and Rui Hanazawa I feel that Kelly Sherodin was completely miscast as Tsukushi. This led to my great dismay as her pronunciations of the name Rui as Luis grated on my ears. Alongside this, some dialog was stiff and stilted leading to an overall flat delivery. The lack of compelling delivery forces me to dislike the dub but only slightly.
I do not usually give my recommendations separate from my conclusion but since the following are TV dramas rather than anime I feel obligated to break form and inform you as to the existence of two great shows. If you wish to see this concept done properly I point you to the Taiwanese Drama Meteor Garden as I believe the acters Vic Zhou and Jerry Yan provide the best characterizations of the two male leads. While the Karean variant has its merits, I find it slightly less appealing. Still, feel free to check both out for yorself as this is a matter of preference to me.
In conclusion I feel that Hana Yori Dango suffers from a lack of proper execution. But, it is still a salvageable piece. In many ways it is the progenitor to great series in its genre and I encourage fans of pieces like Ouran High School Host Club to check this out, The dub is currently licensed by Viz Media and is available at Rightstufanime. Please feel free to enjoy Boys Over Flowers and stay tuned here for more reviews.