Well, I’ve finally come around to checking another adaptation linked to the Japanese manga “Hana Yori Dango.” I’ve previously checked out the Korean and Taiwanese dramas, but this time I turned my attention to the Japanese school drama Hana Yori Dango (2005). This 9-episode drama is only the first season of the Japanese adaptation, with a second season and two movies.
What’s it about?
Makino Tsukushi (Mao Inoue), born to a poor family, attends the prestigious Eitoku school. She’s doing her best to keep her head down and not be noticed as the school is ruled by the infamous F4, the four sons of the richest and most influential families in Japan. However, when her only friend at the school, Sanjyo Sakurako (Megumi Sato), accidentally crosses F4’s leader, Domyoji Tsukasa (Jun Matsumoto), Tsukushi she stands up to them, making herself a target for the whole school to bully. When things start to go too far, Hanazawa Rui (Shun Oguri), the only kind member of F4 steps in. Naturally, Tsukushi starts to like Rui, but is it possible her stubbornness and determination has stirred something in Tsukasa?
I found the characters in Hana Yori Dango to be pretty likeable. Having most recently finished the Taiwanese version with the lead Shanchai, I was worried that Tsukushi would be more of a push-over, but she proves to be both intelligent and plucky. She doesn’t back-down from what she believes in, and it’s very easy to cheer for her throughout the series. Tsukusa is cute and also sweetly stupid, which is emphasised throughout the series, although I did have issues with his characterisation (see below). I also really like Rui’s odd but adorable character. I also really like there is a decent amount of attention to Nishikado Sojiro (Shota Matsuda) and Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe), the other two members of F4. I also loved the unique character of Okami-san (Takako Kato), Tsukushi’s boss- she improved every scene she was in, and never failed to make me laugh! Helping the characters along is the fact that the cast all had a very good handle of their roles, especially the relatively younger main cast.
The second thing I really liked about Hana Yori Dango is that it’s very easy to watch. The pace moves quite quickly, so you’re getting through a lot of content in a decent amount of time. However, the quick pace doesn’t neglect the logic or meaning of the plot, and the story that plays out is easy to follow and by no means boring. I like that there’s quite a few unique events to this adaptation, so you’re not trying to predict the order of events as you watch. I was left wondering where they’d take the story at the end of the series, leaving the opening for the second season perfectly.
Although not always the case, as I’ll remind you that while bullying her, Tsukushi’s classmates put fucking SNAKES IN HER LOCKER, Hana Yori Dango is a much lighter adaptation. There’s no shots of Tsukasa being violent and/or forcing himself on her like there are in the other adaptations, and certain characters seem to be forgiven pretty quickly. In a similar vein, Tsukasa’s mother Kaede (Mariko Kaga) is a touch inconsistent with her attitude towards Tsukushi and Tsukasa, especially in the last episode, which makes the earlier troubles seem pointless.
Speaking of, Tsukasa’s characterisation seems to be the weakest point of this series. He goes from being right up there as a sadistic psycho to an awkward, cute boy in love very, very quickly. His characterisation quickly jumps between these two extremes throughout the drama. I get that it’s Tsukushi that calms him down and helps him grow as a person, but he shouldn’t be reverting to his old self the second she’s off-screen!
Anything else I should consider?
From what I can tell from the first season, Hana Yori Dango presents the same plot I’ve seen already with slightly different characters. It’s a lot lighter and cuter than the Korean and Taiwanese adaptations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lacking the details of Meteor Garden, but with an easier plot than Boys Over Flowers, it’s so far very watchable and fun. I’m interested to see how it unfolds over the next season.
Story: 7/10. This series is fun and easy to watch, with a quick pace that doesn’t neglect plot points.
Characters: 7.5/10. The characters are all pretty adorable, each with their individual quirks. The young cast does a great job.
Hana Yori Dango is an easy, fun watch with a great cast and some good characters that you quickly like and become interested in. The story unfolds well and sets the scene for the second season. Overall, I give the series a solid 7.5/10.