Boys Over Flowers

Boys Over Flowers 5/5 stars (amazon)

Boys Over Flowers or Hana Yori Dango is one of those manga titles that I’m fascinated by because it has inspired many adaptations, some of them from outside Japan. Boys Over Flowers was originally the best-selling shojo manga in Japan but it is also:

A two season live action drama in Taiwan called Meteor Garden, which spun off a boy band called F4.
A Japanese anime series.
A Japanese anime movie which changed the setting from high school to dance school.
A Japanese live action movie.
A Japanese live action tv series.
A videogame for gameboy.
Assorted drama CDs, books, etc.

Makino Tsukushi attends the exculsive Eitoku high school for rich students even though she’s poor. She doesn’t fit in with the rest of the students who are constantly parading around with designer accessories. Her school is ruled by a gang of four boys called the F4 or “Flowery Four”. The F4 are:
Domyoji Tsukasa – The richest boy in school and leader who has a habit of malapropism. He has curly hair, anger management problems, and impulse control issues.
Hanazawa Rui – Seems curiously blank all the time. Likes hanging out on emergency exit staircases where it is nice and quiet. Deeply sensitive, as demonstrated by his tendency to slip away to play the violin alone.
Mimasaka Akira and Nishikado Soujirou are supporting characters who tend to use their status as rich playboys to date a ton of women, except Akira has a clear preference for older married women.

If someone recieves a red slip of paper in their locker, they know that they’re going to be severely hazed not only by the F4, but by almost everyone in the school. Tsukushi’s main ambition is to get through high school unnoticed. She blows off steam every day by yelling at the top of her lungs from the emergency exit stairs. Makiko, Tsukushi’s only friend in school accidently trips and knocks over Domyoji, the leader of the F4. He’s determined to punish her. Tsukushi finally releases some of her pent-up frustration when Domyoji refuses to forgive her friend. She yells that he’s spoiled and has never had to work for anything in his life. The next morning she finds a red notice in her locker. She’s shunned by the entire school and even Makiko is afraid to talk to her.

Tsukushi decides to respond with her own declaration of war against the F4. Her punches and taunts remind Domyoji of his beloved older sister. Rui seems to always be on hand to rescue her from hazing, and he and Tsukushi sometimes meet and talk at the emergency exit stairs, one of the few quiet and peaceful spots in the school. While she’s busy dodging garbage, running from student mobs, and working a part-time job after school, what is Tsukushi going to do about her feelings towards Rui and Domyoji’s sudden attentions?

The art in the earlier volumes is servicable but not specacular, sometimes the characters look a little stiff. Hana Yori Dango ran for 36 collected volumes in Japan, and from what I’ve read the art starts to evolve a bit after volume 10. I might be reacting to the early 90s character design and fashion. The strength of this title is the storyline and characters. There are some similarities in character to Domoyoji and Ryoki from Hot Gimmick, except Domoyoji seems slightly more violent and a little less misogynistic. Tsukushi isn’t afraid to stand up for herself in almost any situation, and it is fun to see her handle all the twists and turns that are thrown her way as she deals with the F4.