Here’s the follow-up post to the first season with my review of the 11-episode Hana Yori Dango Returns (2007). Minor spoilers for the first season within.
What’s it about?
It’s been a year since Makino Tsukushi (Mao Inoue) confessed her love to Domyoji Tsukasa (Jun Matsumoto) as he left for the USA. However, in that time she’s hardly heard from him, and has started to think that he no longer wants anything to do with her. Her fears are confirmed when she receives the dreaded red notice again, even though Tsukasa’s away! Hanazawa Rui (Shun Oguri) urges her to fly to New York to sort out exactly what’s going on, but can she find Tsukasa in the maze of buildings and people? And what if he really no longer loves her?
I quite liked the plot for the second season. There were a lot of different plot elements to be included, and I think they were all handled pretty well and worked together nicely. I also thought the pacing of the plot was spot on. Overall, we get a more mature, more focused plot, which really helps our characters shine. Plus I love the whole [MINOR SPOILER/] Tsukasa moving next door to Tsukushi sub-plot. It’s so cute! Especially his relationship with her younger brother! [\MINOR SPOILER].
I also think the majority of the characters were developed in the second series really well (with the exception of Tsukasa, see below). I especially liked that Nishikado Sojiro (Shota Matsuda) and Mimasaka Akira (Tsuyoshi Abe) were further developed, and not just left out of the action. I think that Tsukushi also matures in the second season, understanding more about the how the world works, especially the world of big businesses. She proves to be a relatively intelligent female lead, and she’s got a lot of guts (I especially love the piano scene at the birthday party!). Rui, as ever, remains adorable in the second series. Perhaps even more adorable?
As a carry on from the first season, the characterisation of Tsukasa is still pretty bad. We’re meant to see him maturing and developing as a person, which, on the surface he seems to do during this season. However, it only takes a couple of scenes of him losing his temper that you realise, actually, nothing has changed. He again swings between his out-of-control, psychotic persona, to his bumbling, boy-in-love persona. And it’s really annoying. In fact, I don’t care about him that much as a character, which is markedly different from both the Taiwanese and Korean adaptations. I could almost argue that, in this adaptation at least, Tsukushi should be focusing all her attention on Rui.
Finally, the last two episodes. Obviously [MAJOR SPOILERS/] ahead. I really don’t like the way amnesia is handled in this series, specifically the fact that Tsukasa remembers everything except Tsukushi. For me it wasn’t that big an issue in the Korean version, but in the Japanese version, Tsukasa can remember coming to the town, but then can’t remember why. THE WAY YOU CAME WAS NOT NORMAL, WHY ARE YOU NOT ACTIVELY TRYING TO REMEMBER THIS?! Also the fact that the rest of F4 don’t really try to intervene when crazy psycho girl (aka Nakajima Umi (Erika Toda)) basically worms her way into Tsukasa’s life and takes over it. Although, admittedly, seeing Rui act cold and bitchy towards Umi was kind of funny.
I’m also not a big fan of the last big sequence of Tsukushi trying to get to her graduation (? or prom? It’s not too clear). I know it’s typical shoujo-y stuff, but the big build up with all the problems and then blah blah everyone’s waiting for them blah. It was unnecessarily dragged out. But it’s also likely I had soured towards the season after the memory loss incident, so others viewers may have enjoyed it more. [\MAJOR SPOILERS]
Anything else I should consider?
To be honest, you could finish the series here without watching either movie. There is one movie that’s chronologically set at the end of the series (look out for the review), but if you’re happy with the ending here, then don’t feel guilty stopping.
Story: 7.5/10. The plot runs smoothly and fits together a lot of different plot elements, however the last-minute drama in the final episodes soured my mood towards it considerably.
Characters: 8/10. We’re treated to some nice character development for the majority of the characters. Except, you know, our male lead.
To be honest, Hana Yori Dango Returns is a much better sequel than I expected. There’s some genuinely good development in both story and characters, and some sweet, funny, and emotional scenes. However, it does get a little silly towards the end, and it’s disappointing to see Tsukasa staying the same throughout. Overall I give it a 7.5/10, putting it equal with the first series.