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.