Boys Over Flowers: Hana Yori Dango
Makino Tsukushi, a seemingly normal girl attending a prestigious high school, runs afoul of the gang known as the "F4", the four most popular and richest boys in the school. When they start harassing her for standing up to them and defending another girl, the headstrong Tsukushi "declares war" right back at them. Though the F4, especially its young, hot-headed leader, Doumyouji Tsukasa, resort to more and more drastic measures, Tsukushi keeps fighting back, gaining a few allies in the meantime from her tenacity and her genuine kindness. Has the heretofore unchallenged F4 met their match - and will they actually grow up for a change? Or will Tsukushi buckle under the pressure?
This is one of those series that reminds me why my parents put me through public schools. (Just kidding.)
In all seriousness, Hana Yori Dango is a very solid series that deals with growing up, finding one's place in life, and not letting anything get you down no matter what. Tsukushi is the kind of character that you can't help but root for, because you know she's doing the right thing. And each episode reflects that - she even makes friends out of the F4, even when they're fighting, and they end up seeing her as much more than an adversary, but a genuinely cute girl who (gasp!) thinks for herself. She refuses to be subservient to them (she knocks out Tsukasa a couple of times), and they don't know whether to be irked or awed. She's not intimidated by the fact that they're the sons of company presidents, politicians, and entertainers, that they're so powerful that school faculty practically kowtow to them. It's as if the F4 wasn't really complete until there was someone to really challenge them. Or, alternatively, be a love interest. (This is shoujo. Of course one member of the F4 or another will end up liking her. That's what eyecatch sequences are for.) And Tsukushi does even earn a few allies, like the beautiful Toudou Shizuka, a successful model, and hapless Kazuya, the nouveau riche transplant from Hicksville. ("Skooshi-chaaaan!")
There are a few other noteworthy things about the title. The animation is quite different in style from most anime, loaded with pastels; and the use of line isn't as apparent as usual. There doesn't seem to be much outright black in the artwork, so much as dark browns, lending to a softer feel overall. Though the opening's dancing sequence is remarkably intricate and well-animated, the actual episodes lend themselves more to still shots than anything else. Very pretty, but not particularly eye-popping, and it doesn't need to be. The music is almost exclusively classical in style, and though usually okay, sometimes can be a little overbearing. It's not as bad on good-quality tapes, of course, but I've seen tapes of HYD where the music was so blaring, I couldn't get into the show at all! Also, though the time period of the series seems to be modern-day (approximately the mid '90s), the opening track is straight out of the '50s, and the record playing in the opening sequence is a bit of a stylistic throwback. It's like playing the Happy Days opening song in front of Melrose Place. A nice song that doesn't quite seem in place, and I'm sure I'm missing something here.
On the whole, Hana Yori Dango is very well-done, and definitely worth watching if you're a fan of shoujo soap operas. It's a good deal more serious on average than Marmalade Boy (not to mention Kodomo no Omocha!), but there's more than enough here to keep a fan's attention. The character-driven plotline runs smoothly, and the F4 turn out to be much more developed than the stereotyped school bullies I'm used to seeing in movies and TV shows. The character of Makino Tsukushi will definitely win you over with her determination and self-confidence. And by the time each tape of Hana Yori Dango ends, you'll be at the edge of your seat asking for more. Now that's anime for you.
The animation and music keep it from being the best of the best, but it's definitely a series worth watching. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Tsukushi has to run through a gauntlet of perils, and she must almost daily find ways to avoid being subjected to physical or psychological harm. Several episodes may be way too intense for younger children, as there is a serious threat of violence, and not of the slapstick kind. There's also implications of rape in one episode, and the emotional intensity of this show begs parental discretion.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (20/51)
Boys Over Flowers: Hana Yori Dango © 1997 Kamio Youko / Shueisha / Toei Animation
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