Tsukushi Makino, a working-class girl, attends an elite elevator school called Eitoku Academy, populated by children from rich, high-society families. She is the "weed" of the school surrounded by all the rich kids including the "Flower" Four (F4). The F4 leader and son of the wealthiest, most powerful family in Japan, Tsukasa Domyoji, takes an interest in Tsukushi, because she is the only girl at Eitoku who doesn't fawn over him. However, his hot-headed nature and bullying ways are originally a major turn-off for Tsukushi, who has her sights set on someone else.
I began reading this manga under the false pretense that it'd be good, since I saw so many recommendations and good reviews, and apparently it's the most popular shoujo manga of all time (even though I'd never heard of it before stumbling upon a reccomendation on this site). But I was extremely disappointed.
Story - Absolutely dreadful. The only thing that kept me from dropping this manga was my curiosity. I wanted to know who Makino would end up with, and if she really would conquer against those who bullied her, like was established in the beginning of the manga. But that never happened. I
don't know about any of you, but I'd be pretty damned pissed at a guy who ordered the whole school to bully me, physically abused me and even attempted to rape me. No one ever thought about how the heroine felt, either. It was always made out to seem that all was her fault, and that she was supposed to fall in love with someone who "loved" her, even if they'd abused her in the past, and that she owed him everytime he saved her, even when she did not ask to be saved. The mangaka even tried to fix that issue by laying on a sad excuse like "he's different when Makino's around", and therefore he needed her, and because of that, they were meant for each other. That shouldn't excuse abusive behavior. This is the perfect example of what a romance SHOULDN'T be. And don't even get me started on the multiple potential love interests that pop up throughout this series. Seriously, how many men are going to fall in love with one girl?
Art - I have no complaints about the art. It's pretty fair, although I think the art became a bit more plain as the series progressed. It became neater, but lacked the same personality as the beginning volumes.
Character - I'm a bit split on this, because in my opinion, it seemed that every character besides the female lead and the male lead had great character development. In my opinion, Makino's character went backwards a bit. She was still as stubborn as she was in the beginning, but that isn't the same as being strong to me. There were many times when she could have justifiably supported herself, helped herself, and escaped that abusive relationship. But she did not, because everyone made it seem as though she had to stick around, as if she owed the bully something by unintentionally making him fall for her. With the bully, he never owned up to all of the horrible and abusive things he'd done. And he only apologized a total of what? Two times in the entirety of this series? His "character development", if you could call it that, was that he became less abusive towards those around him.
Enjoyment - I didn't really enjoy it much at all. Those are hours of my life that I probably won't get back.
Overall, I really did not like this manga. I suppose that since this is a pretty old manga, that it'd become an archetype, a basis for modern shoujo to base off of, and that would result in many of the cliches. One could even give credit to this manga for helping other mangakas make better manga. So, in a sense, I'm a bit greatful for all of the flaws in this manga. It COULD have been interesting, at the time. But, I think if it were me and I'd began reading this back then, as a female, I'd have still been disappointed in where this story went. But I guess with a manga like this, you either love it, or you hate it. It all depends on where your preferences lie, and your point of view. I view it this this one way, and I think it is awful. So I really, truly, would not recommend this manga to anyone.
Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) is a excellent example of why not all things popular are good. (In fact, they're usually the furthest thing away from being good).
Hana Yori Dango is long running manga considered to be the cream of the crop of Shoujo series in Japan. It has spawned several TV dramas in different countries, an anime series and three movies, one of which is an anime. It's story is very well known in many Asian countries, and is very much beloved and popular as well.
It is also the best selling Shoujo manga of all time in Japan, having sold 54 million
copies in Japan alone as of 2005.
...A title however, which it utterly does not deserve in the slightest. Why is that? Well, read on and see.
★ Story (1) - If there ever was a plot built entirely upon Shoujo manga cliches, this would be it. What starts off deceivingly about bullying in an outrageously top-tier school and the lone girl who rises up against it very quickly falls into a bubbling little mass and mess of one cliche after another.
As bullying is a serious problem in many parts of the world, but more so in places like Japan where the suicide rate is very high, the bullying aspect of this manga should have been treated seriously, and not used as a "romantic" plot device as the author makes it to be. The main female of this manga starts off strong and independent, promising to "take down" the bullies of the school and not give in to them whatsoever.
Guess what? She does, and very easily as well. What I find sickening and annoying, is how she feels she is constantly at fault and how she always apologizes to the bullies of the school who treat her pretty badly. Even after she dates one of them, when he treats her badly (physically abusing her far more than once, and really putting her down in other ways over the course of the series) she STILL feels like SHE and not him is in the wrong. The number of times she apologizes to him is too many to count. How many times does he say sorry to her? About two times during the entire 36 volume run of the series.
Other than how lightly the grave matter of bullying is treated, there is also the main plot problem, a plot (as I have said earlier) is built entirely upon cliches. Here's a list of what happens during the course of the series:
- Good girl falls for bad, abusive boy who bullies her to show his "love".
- Bad boy is outrageously rich and the good girl is dirt poor.
- There's attempted rape.
- Stolen first kiss, que cliche line, "Omg that was my first kiss oh noes I will never forgive him!!!"
- Other member of the bullying group falls for main girl.
- Main girl loses her house and *le gasp* then works as a maid for the male lead.
- Main male lead's mom hates his girlfriend, so she makes life a cliche hell for them.
- Relationship woes. Slap slap, kiss kiss, fight, kiss, break up. Rinse and repeat 50 more times please.
- Male lead rescues girl several times throughout the series in the nick of time.
- Male and female lead see each other in underwear/naked due to stupid series of events like getting locked in a cold cabin. "How should we keep warm?" "Let's take off our clothes and lie down together to preserve body heat!" Where have I heard that before.
- Every single other cliche you can think of. I'm dead serious.
Seriously, this is the entire story. You do not even have to read this manga to know what will happen, it's THAT cliche and predictable.
★ Art (8 and 5) - The artwork of this manga really needs two different scores as it is such a long running series, the artwork changes very significantly and obviously over time.
(8) The earlier volumes of this series feature quite detailed, unique artwork that pretty much screams 90's, so perhaps that is an acquired taste for some. Everything about the character's clothing, hairstyles, even makeup is very much individual to that character and well done. Shading, textures and detail are added on to all the characters and even the world they live in making everything stand out vividly.
(6) Later volumes of the series however fall rather short of the uniqueness that the earlier volumes had down to a T. While the lines are very clean and neat, the artwork is incredibly washed out and dull. There's no texture, no detail, no nothing. The pages look very neat and smooth, but very plain and boring. Not one thing stands out or is memorable. Everyone and everything is drawn much more sleekly, but unfortunately the author seems to have gone for clean, simplistic lines over artsy, original art.
★ Character (1) - Remember how I said the story was so cliche? The characters are pretty much reflections of that. Take whatever crappy stereotypes of Shoujo manga characters there are, group them all together, and you have the entire cast of Hana Yori Dango in a nutshell. There is not one unique of interesting personality among the lot, and every single character (even the side ones!) fall into already per-appointed characterization.
★ Enjoyment (2) - Really nothing is enjoyable here unless you love cliche, stereotypical, predictable series. If not, move along.
★ Overall (2) - Do yourself a favor and don't read this manga. Sure, it is not the worst series out there but it comes close to it.
If you want a series with a unique, wonderful cast of characters in a school (or rather, college) setting, check out something like the beautiful and bittersweet Josei series, Honey and Clover.
If you want a manga where a good girl does fall for a troubled boy BUT it is done very well and also features very realistic problems like abuse, drugs, etc that is handled well, check out the Josei manga, Mars.
If you want a comedy manga about an outrageously high class high school and a girl who becomes part of a group of filthy rich guys, check out the Shoujo, Ouran High School Host Club.
There are so many mangas out there that are truly worth your time. So don't waste it reading garbage like this.
Hana Yori Dango is the first shoujo manga I read, therefore it always hold a special place for me. If you have seen the anime or any of its drama adaptations, you should definitely check out this manga as well.
In the times when feminism is yet to conquer Japan, Makino Tsukushi (the heroine) retaliates against the F4's bullying. Yes, I'm aware that she doesn't have the fighting skills of Wonder Woman but what makes her strong is the strength of her spirit. She's spunky, independent, hard-working, refuses to be a subject of social humiliation and stands up for what she believes is right - traits
that, I believe, perfectly define her as a "weed." And yet, despite all this, Makino has a warm and forgiving heart and sees people the way they are. It's true that she had her own moments of weakness but that just makes her more human and realistic in my opinion. However, the bullying part only covered like 20% of the manga - and the rest is your typical shoujo/romance plot between a rich troubled guy and a poor plucky girl.
And because of this, I'm not surprised at the number of readers who complain about how cliche it was. This manga is supposed to be a CLASSIC and since it was the best-selling shoujo manga of all time, it's no wonder that it's one of biggest inspirations from all the cliches you've been reading in the mainstream shoujo titles now.
But what makes this manga stand out for me are the CHARACTERS. Each of them are multi-faceted and well-rounded and for that, I was too emotionally invested with them more than the plot. They have their good and bad traits that you can actually love or hate them as the story progresses on.
Perhaps there are even a few people aware of the fact that Hanadan was Yoko Kamio's "experimental" work. Back then, she planned to make Makino end up with Rui - which explains why the Domyouji/Makino ship doesn't seem like a "match made in heaven" in the earlier volumes and "doesn't seem right" for super feminists.
But since the mangaka changed ships, transforming Domyouji from a mess to a human being (so Makino will change her opinion about him) became the basic premise of Hanadan - and I believe that it's one of the biggest strengths of this manga.
Both the character growth (especially that of Domyouji) and how the pairing development was handled is quite impressive. Every mistake and transgression he caused her, he pays for it a thousandfold. How he does it? Words of apology are the hardest things to come out especially from a character who has the biggest pride in this manga - but he did show it by RISKING HIS LIFE for her a lot of times. Not to mention that he has to undergo one hell of an emotional rollercoaster just to win her over. He suffered as much or even more than she does. I wouldn't date a guy like Domyouji in real life but since Makino is a character neither me or you can insert yourself into, I believe he and Makino suit each other well.
The change wasn't one-sided since you get to see that happen in Makino as well. Throughout the course of their relationship, they both became mature and better people. If you compare Domyouji in the beginning and in the end, you get yourself two different people. And not just Domyouji, you can also see how much influence Makino brought to the rest of the F4 as well.
As for the art, I'm probably part of the minority who wasn't bothered by the earlier style since I began reading this during the 90's. Trust me though - the more you read, the more you see how much both her art + story-telling improved.
What can I say? I absolutely adore this manga. I love it so much that I decided to write my first review for it.
I should start by saying that in order to read Hana Yori Dango, I feel like I had to overcome a few crucial things.
First: the art: I'm a stickler for pretty drawn manga (I'm shallow, hah), so when I first saw HYD, i was skeptical. It was a bit dated, with the characters all looking kind of...heavy? But the story was so funny and so engaging, that I kept going.
Second: the shoujo "cliches". Yeah, they are to be expected of
this genre, but when I encountered the first one in HYD, I wondered how it would be handled. Yokio Kamio knows how to write in cliches with panache and A LOT of humor, trust me. And her characters make what would be boring situations into something funny, heartfelt, and marvelous . And so I kept reading...
Third, and final: translation gaps. This wasn't a problem with the manga itself, but with my own resources. I'm not a native Japanese speaker, so I had to rely on the English Scanlations I found online. At a certain volume, I think in the late teens, there would be a lot of empty speaking bubbles. This is understandable, since this manga is long, and it has to be difficult to translate the entire thing. At first it frustrated me, especially since I was so hooked into the manga, but I went on, drawing my own conclusions from the pictures alone. Thankfully, these weren't very crucial scenes. I kept reading.
And was it was all worth it. The art grew significantly better, the plot just kept getting more exciting, and the translated speaking bubbles came back again (side note: the missing bubble encouraged me to buy the manga all the more!)
Before I knew it, 3 days passed had by, and I had read all 200 + chapters and extra side stories. Since that time, I have reread some of the chapters too.
Overall: I love this manga. It is one of my favorites. I love the characters, the story, the art. It is a masterpiece. It is no wonder that it is Japan's bestselling shoujo manga of all time. Braw Yokio Kamio, bravoo!