Hana Yori Dango [Drama]: A fun and enjoyable adaptation

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.

hanayoridango

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?

The Positives

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.

hit-him

Go Tsukushi! Show ’em who’s boss!

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.

The Negatives

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.

bitch

Evil… or not really?

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.

Conclusion

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.

-S

f4

Cute!

Dream High 2 [Drama]: Lacking a lot…

After watching the first Dream High, I was a little cautious to watch the second series Dream High 2 (2012), since I didn’t think there was too much to expect from it. I was however sucked into it, thanks to a couple of idols that I really liked who were starring in it. Was it worth the watch?

Dream High2

What’s it about?

After a law is passed enforcing restrictions on underage idols, Oz Entertainment CEO Lee Kang Chul (Kim Jung Tae) takes over the long-neglected and drown-trodden Kirin Art School. His idols are transferred to the school, including girl group HershE and boy duo Eden. The schools’ students are at first starstruck, but it doesn’t take long for them to realise that they’re getting kicked out for the sake of the idols. In particular, Jin Yoo Jin (Jinwoon) the school’s rocker, doesn’t want anything to do with idols, and Shin Hae Sung (Kang So Ra), who dreams of being a singer, hates being looked down on. When the two set up rivalries with idols JB (JB) and Rian (Jiyeon), it seems their future at the school, and the chances of following their dreams, depends the outcomes of the schools’ assessments.

The Positives

Right from the start, I was really happy to see that Dream High 2 is not a follow up to Dream High; there’s no attempt to tie the two together apart from the setting of the series and a couple of other minor things. I think that the character development and ending to the first Dream High was handled well enough to be left alone, so I’m really glad that the writers from Dream High 2 kept it separate. I also like that the character struggles are different to the first season. Dream High had characters struggling to succeed, not because they lacked talent, but because there was something else about them holding them back. Dream High 2’s characters are either outright told they don’t have talent, or are already in a position of stardom, and are struggling with everything that comes along with it. It’s an interesting take on the same subject matter.

idols

Yes, idols have their problems too.

As much as I loved the first Dream High, you can’t deny that it’s quite far on the corny side. I think that Dream High 2 is more realistic in terms of characters and situations. There is a bigger range of different types of characters in the second season, from the quirky, weird high-school students, right through to the bratty and the losers of the school. If you’ve been to high-school you’ll know the different cliques of kids I’m talking about. The bigger mix of characters and the interactions of the main characters with the others helped cement the school setting. I also think the second series was better at pulling off more realistic situations for the characters to be in, and the characters reacted like high-school students. Even the problems the idol students faced (particularly Eden member Si Woo (Park Seo Joon)) felt very realistic.

The Negatives

The main problem I have with this series is that a lot of the time it’s either really flat or really choppy. There is hardly any character development in this series; with the exception of maybe one or two characters, all the characters are essentially the same at the end of series… apart from where there is inconsistent characterisation. I feel like JB and Yoo Jin are the two characters who suffer the most from random out-of-character behaviour, and I think this is done to make the romance in the series work. I’m not sure the writers knew what they wanted with the romance, and to make it fit the way they eventually wanted it, they were required to make random adjustments to characters. By the end, the couples felt very forced, and I honestly still feel they are around the wrong way. The final problem related to the writing of this series is the sudden and just plain bad ending. On a whole, a lot of this series is very disappointing.

jbyujin

I’m so surprised that in the battle for love, Yoo Jin never once picks on JB for bedazzling the hell out of his school uniform.

Another, relatively minor point, this series does not have the best acting I’ve seen in it. It might be because Dream High 2 uses younger idols, but I feel that the acting ability is very, very average.

Conclusion

Story: 5.5/10. All the right elements are there, but story falls flat far too many times.

Characters: 5/10. On one hand, I like the greater mix and different perspectives of the characters, but the severe lack of development and choppy characterisation is horribly noticeable.

I don’t know what it is about Dream High 2, but it just lacks that something that made the first season so enjoyable. It had the right elements from the start to be a great second season, but inconsistent characterisation and flat development just led it down the drain. If you’re a fan of any of the idols starring in it, you could probably get through with a lot of grimacing, but if you’re looking for something more, don’t waste your time. Overall I give it a 5.5/10.

-S

otp

Ui Bong (Jr.) and Lee Seul (Jung Yeon Joo), one of the few saving graces of this series for me (also OTP material for the win).

Dream High [Drama]: Fun!

I was in a mood to watch something funny, short, and teenager-y, and the 16-episode high-school drama Dream High (2011) was on my hit-list. The fact that it’s set in an arts school and stars some of my favourite K-Pop idols cemented my plan to check it out.

dreamhigh

What’s it about?

Go Hye Mi (Suzy) is a high-school student who is forced to give up her dream of attending the prestigious Julliard and training to become an opera singer because of her father’s debts. Instead, she auditions for the “third-rate” Kirin Art School, known for churning out pop stars, with her friend Yoon Baek Hee (Eunjung). She quickly looses Baek Hee’s friendship and becomes an outcast in the school because of her inflated ego and fierce pride. Put into the misfits class with country boy Song Sam Dong (Kim Soo Hyun), the “gangster looking” Jin Guk (Taecyeon), and Kim Pil Suk (IU) who has the skills, but not the looks, of an idol, all seems lost. Can their teacher, Kang Oh Hyuk (Uhm Ki Joon) spur the group into realising and finding their own dreams, or will the pressures of their difficult road get to them?

The Positives

This series is one to watch if you’re a fan of K-Pop. With major roles played by JYP, 2PM’s Taecyeon and Wooyoung, Miss A’s Suzy, T-ara’s Eunjung,  singer-song writer IU, and a number of cameos from other celebrities, you will be fan-girling/boying in every episode! The series also boast a pretty great soundtrack, with a number of well-loved K-Pop anthems, so you’ll be bobbing along the whole time. There’s also a couple of inside K-Drama jokes (cue: Almost paaaaaradiiise), that, if you’ve seen a couple of well-known dramas, you’ll pick up on. A lot of fun for anyone into Korean entertainment!

JYP

I will happily have JYP as a teacher!

There’s a lot of fun to be had when watching Dream High! There are plenty of funny scenes and hilarious characters to get you laughing and keep you entertained (JYP was amazing!). The humour occasionally draws on the audience knowing who the actors are, but most of the time I was laughing due to good writing of characters, and excellent delivery. There’s also some really cute characters (Pil Suk!) and really cute couples in this series. Be prepared for some ridiculously cute scenes and interactions between characters.

otp

Jason and Pil Suk.. aka everyone’s OTP!

If you’re concerned that this series might rely too heavily on cameos to get laughs, don’t be! Dream High has some of the best and most heartfelt character development to be found in drama. No matter what you think of the characters in the first episode, they will grow and change into completely different people by the end. I liked how the series balanced out the development of the characters; although there’s a change of which characters is “in focus” for development, you still get to see the other characters growing and changing on the sidelines, when it’s not their turn to be in focus. I liked that all the plot events are treated with a sense of realism and seriousness, which allows the associated development of the character to flow logically. It’s definitely one of Dream High’s strongest points.

The Negatives

Despite how enjoyable this series is, there are a couple of little drawbacks. For a start, especially in the first couple of episodes, the acting from the less experienced idols is a little stiff. I don’t know if it’s because of inexperience, or because the idols are working with others from their company (including their CEO), but there are a couple of times when they come awfully close to breaking character (Taecyeon’s probably the worst offender for this). It’s not a big deal, however, given how lighthearted the series is.

Anything else I should consider?

There is a bonus episode, in the form of a special concert. There’s a little bits that’s been cut to squeeze it into an hour format, but if you’re looking to check out some behind the scenes cuts and bloopers, and to find out what the actors were like on set, then you should definitely check it out.

Conclusion

Story: 7/10: Dream High has a very familiar feel for anyone who’s watched any western media of similar veins (e.g. Fame, Centre Stage), and although it may be predictable, it’s enjoyable nevertheless.

Characters: 8/10: With strong character development occurring throughout the series, and a bunch of likeable and interesting characters, there’s lots to keep you watching.

Dream High is a really fun and care-free watch. If you’re a fan of any of the idols starring in it, I’m pretty confident you’ll enjoy it, however, it’s also a cute and funny watch for people who don’t know anything about the actors, thanks to the great characters. Overall, I give it a 7.5/10.

-S

trio

The wonderful trio of (L-R) Jin Guk, Hye Mi, and Sam Dong!

Meteor Garden I [Drama]: Dated, but a solid adapatation

After watching the Korean Boys Over Flowers, I decided to check out the Taiwanese adaptation of the same source material, Meteor Garden I (2001). This series is a lot longer, with 27 episodes, and actually has a second season that Boys Over Flowers lacks.

meteor garden

What’s it about?

Shanchai (Barbie Hsu) is from a poor family, but is able to attend the prestigious (and very expensive!) Ying De University thanks to her parents’ hardwork in paying the tuition. The university is ruled by the famous F4, four of the richest and best-looking boys in Taiwan. Shanchai, outspoken and headstrong, gets on the bad side of F4 when she confronts its leader, the violent Daoming Si (Jerry Yan). He soon sets the school against her, unknowingly finding himself attracted to her stubbornness. The situation seems hopeless to Shanchai, but is it possible she’s found an ally in Huaze Lei (Vic Chou), the only kind member of F4?

The Positives

One thing that struck me about this drama from the very beginning is the strength of Shanchai’s character. She’s a strong, independent character, who stands up for herself even when everything turns against her. She’s brave and intelligent, masters respect from all of the other characters, and is one of the better female leads I’ve seen in a long time. While not all of the other characters are as well created as Shanchai is initially (Lei is one of the exceptions), there is a lot of character growth going on for a lot of characters, especially for our male lead Si. The development of Si’s character is one of the best aspects of this series; he learns from all of his mistakes and gradually grows into a better person without losing his sense of personality.

shanchai

Shanchai (plaits) doesn’t take shit from anyone

Another thing I really liked about Meteor Garden is that it plays out very realistically. For example, Shanchai’s family’s financial struggles are highlighted in several different ways, such as her father leaving for better work and Shanchai’s “poor” dress-standards (as in she wears the same clothes over and over, and her clothes look older or cheap). Shanchai’s reaction to Si and her struggles against him are also pretty realistic; she knows that he can be dangerous, and she walks a fine-line between infuriating him and defying him. The couple’s struggle against Si’s mother’s acceptance is also really well done; Si never once stands idly by while his mother antagonises Shanchai, but stands up to her in every way he can.

Finally, this series has really good pacing along its whole length. Every major plot even is given its chance to be played out fully, and its consequences are allowed to sink in before the next even occurs. This allows the character growth I mentioned early, but also helps the story make sense. [SPOILERS] Instead of making it seem like Shanchai is forced into liking Si to stop being bullied, you can see just how and why she begins to fall for him, which cements the love story in this series [SPOILERS].

F4

The fabulous F4 (L-R): Mei Zuo (Vanness Wu), Si, Xi Men (Ken Zhu), and Lei

The Negatives

The major negative with this series is, unfortunately, its production value. This series is now fifteen years old, and boy does it show. From the fashion to the good old fashioned brick phones, almost any scene dates this series badly. I’d also say that it was one of the early Taiwanese dramas, since the editing and cutting of scenes and the actual sound is pretty shoddy. Since the actors are so young and inexperienced, the acting is also a little wooden, but it does improve gradually throughout the series. Overall, there’s nothing terrible plot-wise, just an old production.

fashion

Oh my gawd, the fashion!

Anything else I should consider?

This is just going to be a quick comparison to Boys Over Flowers; skip if you’re not interested. I really think that plot-wise and character wise, BoFs cannot hold a candle to Meteor Garden. I like Shanchai as a strong, female lead, compared to Jan Di’s wishy-washy character. I also liked Si’s more violent and explosive temper compared to Jun Pyo’s childish tantrum-throwing. The difference in characters left a lot of room for character development, which this series followed through on, unlike the Korean adaptation. This series also handled the large number of events better, giving the plot events a more salient meaning to the characters, and not rushing through it all, which was the major problem I had with BoFs. However, Meteor Garden, as the older series, does lack he production neatness and flashiness that BoFs is known for.

Conclusion

Story: 8/10: The plot pacing is really good, and the story is realistic and interesting, with the romance developing naturally and sweetly.

Characters: 7.5/10: Shanchai is a kick-ass main lead, and although the viewer’s initial impressions of the other characters isn’t as good, their character growth throughout the series more than makes up for it.

If you can look past its poor production, I really think Meteor Garden is an excellent adaptation of Hana Yori Dango. What it lacks in style it more than makes up for in strong characters and a good plot. If you can stand dated feeling of the drama (and don’t mind picking on it just a little bit), I would recommend checking it out. Overall, I give it a solid 7.5/10.

-S

pineapple hair

The dreaded red card (and Si’s dreaded pineapple hair)

Boys Over Flowers [Drama]: Doesn’t quite stand the test of time…

Continuing my Lee Min Ho phase, I finally turned my attention to the Korean drama that launched him into fame; Boys Over Flowers (2009). This 25-episode series is actually an adaptation of Yoko Kamio’s manga of the same name (Hana Yori Dango in Japanese), and it created quite a buzz back in the day. But can the series hold up to a relatively new drama watcher six years later?

Boys Over Flowers

What’s it about?

Geum Jan Di (Ku Hye Sun) is an ordinary girl from a poor family. By chance, she finds herself attending the prestigious Shinhwa High School, usually only open to the wealthiest families in South Korea. The school is ruled by the Fab4 F4, a quartet made up of the wealthiest, best looking male students, who are treated like walking gods. This group includes Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho), heir to the Shinhwa Group fortune and leader of the group; Yoon Ji Hoo (Kim Hyun Joong), grandson of a previous President and music prodigy; So Yi Jung (Kim Bum), son of an old family famed for their pottery; and Song Woo Bin (Kim Joon), who comes from a family with strong connections to organised crime. Jan Di is disgusted with F4’s treatment of fellow students, and refuses to bow down to them. Her defiance sparks the interest of Jun Pyo, who makes it his personal mission to force her to leave the school. However, amidst all the bullying, is it possible that he may harbour other feelings? And why is Ji Hoo so nice to Jan Di in contrast to F4’s treatment of her?

The Positives

As far as I’m aware, this was the first main role for the majority of the cast, especially Ku Hye Sun as the main character, and the F4. These five actors put in a lot of effort, considering their age and relative lack of experience. I can see why this is the drama that jump started Lee Min Ho’s career; he captures the immature, angry teenage character very well. The other three F4 do a decent job, with Kim Hyun Joong especially bringing Ji Hoo to life. Despite her character’s inconsistencies, Ku Hye Sun manages to pull off a solid performance, as does Kim So Eun, playing Jan Di’s best friend Choo Ga Eul. All of the actors seemed to have really good cheistry on screen, which I think really helped bring a lot of the scenes to life; both the cute, funny scenes, and the angsty, angry scenes. Of course, there is some cringe-worthy moments with some of the other young cast, but that’s to be expected. On a side note, shout out to the kids who play the younger versions of the F4; they were completely adorable!

Inserting this photo purely because of Jun Pyo's accessories...

Inserting this photo purely because of Jun Pyo’s accessories…

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about the character Ji Hoo, who, in my humble opinion, is by the far the most well-developed character in the series. Although I understand he differs quite a bit from the base character and the other portrayals, I absolutely adored the character. He’s adorable, kind, and sweet, but in no way a push-over, standing up to many other characters throughout the series, including the grand Jun Pyo himself. I only wish all of his hard work paid off in the end but *sigh* that’s drama I guess… I’ve never had second lead syndrome so bad before.

The Negatives

Well, it is really tempting to dedicate this section to Lee Min Ho’s notorious “poodle” hairstyle or the costume choices of some of the characters, but there is so much more to talk about. Well really there’s three things, but they’re three big things. So let’s start with the script. Not the strongest. I don’t know if it was just the sub that I was watching, but some lines definitely placed on the corny spectrum. The random bursts of English, laughable in many dramas, was downright out of place and annoying here.

Secondly, character development was all over the place, with the exception of Ji Hoo I’ve already mentioned. I was expecting Jun Pyo, the childish, angry male lead, to go through a transformation into a mature young adult, without missing the unique punch of his character, but sadly his development is minimal. Jan Di is quite an inconsistent character, appearing as a plucky and confident character in some scenes, and completely useless in others. Throughout most of the series, it really felt that Jun Pyo and Jan Di were the type of main characters that have things happen to them, rather than doing things themselves in their own storyline; very, very odd. The treatment of Yi Jung and Ga Eul feels tacked on in the last few episodes and doesn’t seem to sit smoothly with Jun Pyo and Jan Di’s story; it was like the writers wanted to develop them as characters, but couldn’t be bothered going the whole way with it. And then you have the neglect of poor lonely Woo Bin, who, apart from an odd scene here or there, doesn’t get much of a background at all.

It's okay Woo Bin (L) and ** (R), I care about you.

It’s okay Woo Bin (L) and Yi Jung (R), I care about you.

Finally, the plot’s pacing was terrible, and this partly accounts for the poor character development I was talking about above. Looking at the other adaptations of Hana Yori Dango, they all have two seasons while Boys Over Flowers has one… this rings alarm bells right from the start. And, as you’d expect, there is way too much crammed into 25 episodes that certain plot points lose their impact because of the speed they occur and then become meaningless. Take for example (SPOILERS/) the kidnapping of Jan Di that occurs quite early in the series; the kidnapper is introduced as an initial nice guy, we’re shown he’s not so nice, the kidnapping occurs, and Jan Di gets saved, all in the space of two very quick episodes. There wasn’t even time to appreciate the whole “wow he’s actually not the nice guy we thought he was” theme or to really acknowledge that Jan Di was in danger. Finally, the whole incident becomes meaningless as Jun Pyo doesn’t even develop as a character after learning the kidnapping was an indirect result of his earlier bullying habits (\SPOILERS). And don’t even get me get me started on the mess of the last two episodes where it feels like the authors try to squeeze in an entire second season…

Anything else I should consider?

As I already mentioned, this Korean drama is an adaptation of a popular Japanese manga. In fact, it is not the only drama adaptation of Hana Yori Dango, others include the Taiwanese Meteor Garden (2001) and its sequel Meteor Garden II (2002), and the Japanese Hana Yori Dango (2005) and its sequel Hana Yori Dango Returns (2007). I will eventually be getting onto these series as well, so if you like the sound of the drama, but want to check out the best adaptation, watch this space 🙂

Conclusion

Story: 6/10: The story itself is actually good! There’s a lot of cool things going on in the plot, but the drama rushes through everything too quickly for big events to really leave much of an impact on the audience. If it had been stretched across a second season or if there had been less crammed in, the story-line would really be able to shine.

Characters: 5/10: Sadly the poor character development and inconsistent characterisation of several key characters, including Jan Di and Jun Pyo, causes the whole series to suffer. But not Ji Hoo, though, because he’s the best.

I can honestly see why this drama became popular back when it first came out, the attractive cast, international filming locations, luxurious and wealthy characters and settings to play around with, and love story involving a lot of obstacles for the main couple to overcome is a set up that would suck any drama viewer in. Although I can confidentially say that Boys Over Flowers doesn’t drag in its plot; I can’t help but feel that the story races forward with little acknowledgement to the grander meaning of each plot point and poor and inconsistent character development, especially for the main characters. I can understand the writer’s desire to adapt as much as the original source material as possible, but I really think this drama suffers from it. With less cramming of events and more character development, this drama could have really stood the test of time. However, I don’t really think Boys Over Flowers should still be considered a suitable “gateway drama” to Korean dramas. Overall, I give it a 5.5/10, and a suggestion to stay tuned to see how other adaptations stack up against it.

-S

Let's take a moment to appreciate one of the worst families I've seen in a Korean Drama yet...

Let’s take a moment to appreciate one of the worst families I’ve seen in a Korean Drama yet…

La Corda d’Oro [Manga]: Run-of-the-mill shoujo with a nice musical aspect

La Corda d’Oro (Kiniro no Corda) (2004-2011) is a 17-volume (75 chapter) manga by Yuki Kure. It is an adaptation of role-playing game, and has also been made into an anime (more information below). I was initially drawn to this manga because it’s set in a musical school. Having played the flute throughout primary school and high school, anything involving music, especially at school, really interests me.

La Corda d'Oro

What’s it about?

Seiso Academy is a prestigious school with two education streams; the musical department students and the regular high school students. Every few years it holds a prominent musical competition, which, although technically open to all students, is only ever full of the musical department students. However, this all changes when regular student Kahoko Hino meets Lili, a musical fairy who gives her a magic violin and a spot in the competition. Although reluctant, Kahoko agrees to compete and meets the other competitors; violinist Len Tsukimori, flautist Azuma Yunoki, trumpeter Kazuki Hihara, clarinetist Shoko Fuyuumi, and cellist Keiichi Shimizu, who greet her with various reactions; some are friendly, but some feel she shouldn’t be there! Luckily, Kahoko’s fellow regular classmate pianist Ryotaro Tsuchiura also joins the competition. As the competition continues, Kahoko finds unlikely friendships forming with the other competitors… and maybe a little love?!

The Positives

This is a reverse harem, so you know that all of the male characters are going to be stereotypes. Having said that, however, that majority of them are likeable. I also quite liked Kahoko as the main, even though she occasionally fell into typical shoujo-protagonist behaviour (especially in the latter half), she’s still a reasonably strong main. I really like how she dealt with the dilemma of feeling like she was cheating by having a magic violin, and how she perseveres under pressure and anxiety. She’s quite the little determined character, and isn’t so easily pushed around.

As I already mentioned, the thing that really drew me to this manga was the aspect of music. I thought that it’d be interesting to see how something audio would be represented in such a visual medium. I think it’s handled pretty neatly. The way the artist depicted the characters playing was pretty cool; runs of notes, swaying in the music, etc. I could almost hear the songs they were playing. The music pieces mentioned in the manga are also really nice pieces. I recommend checking them out if you’re unfamiliar with them (listen to the songs when the characters are having their spot in the competitions!), if not all of them, then at least “Ave Maria”. As mentioned, the art was nice when the characters were playing, and it’s pretty good throughout the whole manga. Character styling is nice, the attention to the instruments was good, and all-around the art is attractive… until you see it in colour and realise that half of the characters have green hair. Not like, Zoro, Freed or C.C. green, but horrible, oddly coloured green. Or light blue. Or purple. I know this is anime, but I think it would suit the manga more if the hair colours were normal.

 

The Negatives

I have to say that Lili’s intervention (and history hinted at in the first few pages) would have been more interesting if it had been explained and expanded on slightly more. With only a few appearances, most of them being “here’s a magic violin, go ahead and play”, the character seemed sort of odd. Not a major negative of the manga, but something that sort of stuck out.

Another thing about the manga that I really didn’t like was how one of the characters, the flautist Azuma Yunoki, was portrayed. This character was an asshole and it was played off like he wasn’t. I’m sorry, but no. I don’t care how difficult his family life is, the way he treats Kahoko is cruel and irritating. More annoyingly, she lets it happen, and doesn’t take the opportunity to stand up to him. Typical shoujo main characteristic. (Also why is the flautist always portrayed as the bitch?! We’re not that bad!). On a related note, Aoi Kaji, a character who is introduced later in the manga, is really quite creepy but played down as being “cute” for transferring to Seiso Academy purely because Kahoko attends it. Not cute. Creepy.

You may be pretty, young man, but I can not stand you.

You may be pretty, young man, but I cannot stand you.

The above things, although annoying, are still quite trivial compared to this last negative. The manga noticeably loses pace after the competition, and seemed to be really stretched out to cover a number of other aspects of school life (Sports Festival, Cultural Festival (Romeo and Juliet production??), and then some other competition thing I didn’t care much about). Usually I love seeing this kind of thing in a school setting, but it just wasn’t exciting enough after the events of the competition. As the manga continues, you start to see that the romantic story in it really isn’t very good. Of course it’s a reverse harem, so almost everyone has a thing for Kahoko, and you can tell which person was being batted for the most throughout the manga… personally I didn’t think he was the best fit, because he’s the typical “arrogant-but-really-just-need-some-understanding” character stereotype that I can \not stand. Finally, and related to all of this, the ending is a massive let down. It’s not even really an ending. It just sort of… stops.

Anything else I should consider?

I’ll put this here as a reference for anyone who wants to check out the whole La Corda d’Oro series, because I was really confused. Basically, La Corda d’Oro (manga) is based on one of the games, and has been adapted into an anime called “La Corda d’Oro: Primo Passo”. There is also a two-episode special called “La Corda d’Oro: Secondo Passo” which was made to promote the game. There is a spin-off manga called “Linden Hall no Aria” which is based at the same school but with different characters. That manga was adapted into the anime “La Corda d’Oro Blue Sky”.

Conclusion

Art:  7/10: I quite liked the art in this manga, which is surprising, given that it’s a shoujo. Although I wish I could un-see the hair colours.

Story: 5.5/10: Would have scored higher if the story-line wasn’t stretched out, the love-story flat, and the ending disappointing.

Characters: 5.5/10: The main character is likeable for her determination, but the males are stereotypes or otherwise played off as not being as mean-spirited as they really are.

This is a standard run-of-the-mill shoujo, but noticeable for the aspect of music included in it. The characters are, for the most part, likeable, if not a bit boring, and the art is quite nice. However, the manga’s ending and the predictable love story are major let downs. Check it out if you’re a fan of music or the original game, but don’t expect too much. Overall, I give this manga a 5.5/10.

-S

Mini-Reviews: Fruits Basket, Ghost Hunt, Ouran High School Host Club [Anime]

So, I’ve already reviewed Fruits Basket, Ghost Hunt, and Ouran High School Host Club in their manga forms, but I also wanted to give a review of them in their anime forms. Instead of doing a full-length review and essentially repeating myself for the plot and characters, I decided to take a quick look at each one, point out the main differences between the anime and manga and give a very brief review and a rating. Hope you enjoy 🙂

Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket

The anime adaptation (2001) of this manga is only 26 episodes long and covers volumes 1-7. However, to get a more dramatic ending, the revealing of Kyo’s “true from” takes place at the end of the anime, when in the manga it occurs in volume 6. Apart from a few other minor changes, which you expect to see in such a short adaptation, the anime is fairly faithful to the manga. However, only covering the first 7 volumes means that the anime does suffer from missing out on the darker aspects of the story and the more in-depth focus on the characters. There is a stronger focus on the friendship between Tohru, Yuki, and Kyo, which, at times, makes the anime feel a lot sillier than what it should be. Having said, however, the characters are bought to life really well, and the bright colours of the art really suits the story. The soundtrack is quite good, and helps draw out the comedy elements of the story. I particularly loved the fanfare that played whenever Ayame’s intense personality came out. The opening and ending themes are cute, but nothing special, and the overall art style remains typically shoujo.

Conclusions. The anime is a lot of fun, but without the entire story being adapted, it feels a bit silly in places. However, the characters are bought to life really well, the anime is funny, and I like that the writers went to some effort to give the series a tied-up ending. Overall, I give it a 6.5/10.

Ghost Hunt

Ghost Hunt

Every case but the last one is covered in the 25-episode anime adaptation (2006) of Ghost Hunt (volumes 1-9). I’m a bit disappointed that “The Forgotten Children”, which is one of my favourite cases, wasn’t covered, but at least you miss out on the weird twist that is revealed at the end of the manga. Overall, the anime adaptation is very faithful to the manga, the characters are bought to life really well, and the scary scenes have the right creepy atmosphere. The art is very similar to the manga, which is a good thing, and the music really fits the spooky atmosphere. I particularly liked the starting theme.

Conclusions. This is a good little anime to watch, and is a really nice adaptation of the manga. Although the series is not really concluded, partly due to the case-by-case approach of the plot, it doesn’t matter too much. Even if you haven’t read the manga, this is a good anime to watch. Overall I give it a 7/10.

Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club

This shoujo manga was adapted into a 26-episode anime (2006). The adaptation is bit haphazard; volumes 1-5 and 7-8 are adapted, but with changes to the order of events and the combination of other events; volume 9 is adapted to the ending of the anime, with some aspects of volume 6, and the inclusion of a non-cannon character, Éclair Tonnerre, who is quite similar to Princess Michelle of the manga. All things considered, however, the anime is fairly faithful to the manga in the way in depicts the events and the character; it’s obvious the writers were attempting to make events more salient and give the series a better conclusion than what it would otherwise get. What I really liked about the anime is that the characters’ personalities are captured really well. Tamaki’s flamboyancy really comes out in the animation, and contrasts with Haruhi’s straightforward and apathetic nature. The emphasis of the anime adaptation is fun and humour; the sound effects and music during the comedic scenes highlights this well. Although the actual artwork itself is not super amazing, it gets the job done.

Conclusions. Overall, this is a pretty good adaptation of the manga. The focus on the first few volumes means that you don’t get all of the character development that goes on in the manga, but you do get the fun, over-the-top, Host Club atmosphere. A must-watch if you loved the manga. Given it’s such a short adaptation, I still think it deserves a 7/10.

 

-S