Thursday, February 7, 2013

JDrama Review: Hana Yori Dango


Note: Spoilers will be tagged as such *SPOILERS*

The Gist: Makino Tsukushi is a scholarship student at a ridiculously ritzy school run by F4 - part pretty boy, part bad boy, part future corporate owners of Japan. Despite trying her best to be ignored, Makino ends up drawing the ire of F4 when she stands up for a friend. As Domyouji Tsukasa, leader of F4 and inheritor of the Domyouji Financial Group, is determined to break her, Makino falls for Hanazawa Rui, Domyouji's silent and completely apathetic best friend who barely intercepts on her behalf. Not to be taken lightly, Makino stands up to Domyouji and knocks him on his ass. Shocked and intrigued by the new turn of events, Domyouji's interest in Makino turns sweeter. The love triangle that develops between the three is further complicated by Mama Domyouji's insistence that Tsukasa have nothing to do with Makino (that works swimmingly, as you'd imagine). Supported by the two remaining members and playboys of F4, Nishikado Soujiro and Mimasaka Akira, and Makino's best friend Yuki, Makino navigates the challenges of her unique high school while trying to sort out her love life.

1. Domyouji Tsukasa
Arashi's Matsumoto Jun portrays our leading man and pretty much kills it. Domyouji has to be a loveable madman, equally brutal and charming and Matsujun does it flawlessly. His childlike complexity had me crazy about him before I realized he was the main love interest. His compatibility with Inoue Mao, the actress who plays Makino, makes their romance totally believable.

2. F4

By the end of the show, you almost forget these guys are essentially the school bullies. While they are by no means angels, they look out for each other and Makino. The way they work through things and depend on each other is enviable. The scene where tension builds between them until they finally just beat the crap out of each other in public before falling down and laughing is probably my favorite.

3. The Families

Mama Domyouji really is a piece of work, but she's the kind of villain that I love. As much as you hate her, you are constantly hoping for reconciliation between her and her son. The total opposite lives that Makino and Domyouji lead are only highlighted by their families. Makino's family is totally adorable, willing to sacrifice whatever they have to to let her achieve dreams. When comparing HYD to the Korean make (another review for another time) the thing that really struck me was how much more I liked the portrayals in the Japanese version.

4. The Pacing

This show doesn't drag at all and if you can stop watching at the end of any given episode - you are truly talented. I powered through both seasons in about two days and have done so multiple times since my first viewing. The tension is kept up without overwhelming the viewer. HYD nails its story telling.


1. Weird Manga Tropes

So at respective points in the show Makino ends up as Domyouji's maid, someone gets amnesia, and their first kiss happens when Makino falls on top of him and their lips happen to meet. They seem to be drawn straight out of any number of shojo mangas. All of these things are pretty cheesy, but the story is so good that you have to forgive the strange detours.

2. Domyouji's Outfits

Are you seeing the fur on this? But really. Ok, they are definitely not all bad, but there are some very pointy shoes that make an appearance. Of course, the time the boys show up in sharp suits more than make up for it.

3. Yuki's Obsession

I love Yuki and Soujiro, but at times, Yuki just seems a bit like a weird stalker. Or, maybe just a high school girl with a crush. Either way, we do get some very nice moments between the two - such as the episode when Yuki's boyfriend dumps her or when Yuki helps Soujiro reconcile his first love.


1. Ok. I'm just going to say it. There's nothing I really hate about this show. Honestly, there just isn't. Any flaws this show has never go beyond minor annoyances.

So... if you haven't already watched this show, I don't know why you are still here reading this! The characters are really the phenomenal part of this drama, framed by good plots and cast beautifully. If there was anything this show left me wanting, it would be a little bit more physical affection between the our leads. With all the crap those two go through - you'd think they'd kiss a bit more.Still, there's a reason the manga was a bestseller and this story keeps getting remade. It's a classic.

Final Grade: A+


  1. this is my favorit drama.. thank you for sharing

  2. Do you live in the UK? Stumbled upon your blog here, pretty impressive

    1. I don't! I'm an American. Im glad you're enjoying my blog. I figured I watch so many dramas, I might as well write about it.

  3. Such a shame! I live in the UK been looking for anyone who shares the same J Drama addiction here. I can tell you are not a fanatic to a certain drama. I could not bring myself to watch any drama than Japanese ones. Lol

    1. It's tough. Part of the reason I started this blog is because I don't have any friends in real life who share my passion for dramas. I will say, I absolutely started out only watching Japanese dramas. The reason I really branched out is because I can get access to Korean dramas legally way easier than the Japanese. I'm getting fed up with all the wonky web players. In the US at least, Korean and Taiwanese dramas are all over Hulu and some on Netflix. If I could get access to JDramas easier, I would (though I am so enjoying Mischievous Kiss Season 2 right now!).

  4. My first drama ever. And to this day, still one of my (or just "my"?) favorites. I loved everything about it (yes, even Tsukasa's clothes - ok maybe not the fur haha - but I can imagine that insanely rich guys looks can be a little extravagant, and I think they did a pretty good job in HanaDan to make us believe that all the F4 boys had loads of money - in that aspect, there is just no possible comparison with MG, with its low budget). And I just LOVED MatsuJun; I also think he's the perfect match to play Tsukasa. Just perfect.

    On the "meh" side, as you call it, I agree: Yuuki can be a little annoying when chasing Soujiro, so I'm glad that the condensed format of the japanese version didn't allow so much time to spend with her. She still had good moments though, and I liked how she always defends and helps Tsukushi whatever the circumstances; she's a good friend.

    I also wish we could spend more time to see Tsukushi/Tsukasa having a real couple time, dating and such. It's like most of the show (both seasons) they fight to be together, one obstacle after the other (the first one being Makino herself - the girl needs 11 episodes to express her feelings; sometimes I just wanted her to snap out of it and accept reality. Her indecision made the relationship a little too unbalanced). That's why I really appreciate that they did a movie to conclude the story (even if, there again, they fight for their love - they actually spend the whole time together and have some sweet moments).
    Even if he backed off regarding Tsukushi early enough, in the end, I still feel a little bad for Rui; I wish he could have had a better ending (either a love interest, or a newfound passion, or even a work-related revelation).

    The amnesia thing here (even if manga-like) was pretty well-handled, as it brings something more to the romance and gives it a deeper dimension (in my opinion).
    First, you can see Tsukushi trying hard to recover her past relationship with Tsukasa, she really wants him to remember her, because she loves him so much. The impulse between those two always came from him, and she was the one receiving/accepting. At the beginning of season 2, the tendancy changed, but it reversed once again when she sort of gave up on him. With the amnesia episode, it's good to see that she's so active and really wants them to be together again.
    Secondly, you can see that Tsukasa's love for Tsukushi transcends memory. The way he finally remembers her is just so romantic. The part when he intinctively rushes into the snow storm to save her, even if he still doesn't know what she means to him, like he just feels in his guts that she's important, it just gets me every time. Beautiful scene.
    Plus, the situation is resolved in two episodes, and that is SO good ;)

    I've watched it so many times already and will keep doing so in the future. It's a drama I can always go back too, just to feel good. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one!

    1. Once again - twins! This show was absolutely my gateway to the drama addiction I am now sporting. Matsujun is my all time favorite everything and I have too rewatched this show a million times, but it just never gets old. It's so comfortable. I mentioned on my re-watch of Boys over Flowers that I appreciate they actually gave the leads some time to date, which is sorely lacking in this version.

      I just wish we could get a story that has some of the intimacy of the Taiwanese version without the total abomination that version descended to. At any rate, Matsujun will always be this character to me, no matter how many times they remake it.
      I mean, but how can you not love this show? It's just right, even with all the manga tropes. I don't even mind the amnesia in this one at all.

    2. Words of wisdom :D

      In a nutshell, the perfect mix would be the entirety of Hana Yori Dango, the romance development of Boys Over Flowers, and the intimacy of Meteor Garden.

      We can just imagine what that would be. Not sure there will ever be another version of this one. Or maybe in a few decades...