Hana Yori Dango

HYDIf you read my previous entry’s subject and understood it, then this is no surprise. Originally I was planning to speak a few lines about it in my regular blog, due to the horrible way RDoV turned out, but all of a sudden I found myself rewatching these episodes, barely a week after the first time, after midnight (the only time I’ve available since I’m busy finishing up other DVDs I have to watch and return). That’s when I knew: more categories!

HYD is hard to explain to newcomers. I always find myself giving a Jay Leno-sized monologue when trying to think up a satisfactory description, which is often, because throughout the day I’m always wondering: “What is a good summary for HYD that doesn’t require me to pull out a chart and laser pointer?” So, hopefully this will be my ultimate, succinct description, since it’s recorded online and not in my neurons.

Makino Tsukushi manages to attend the ultra-private Eitoku Academy, whose rich students are more preoccupied with the superficial things in life and fawning over the F4, the most feared yet revered group of the wealthiest (and handsomest) guys. Tsukushi tries to keep to herself until one day, she attracts the ire of Doumyouji Tsukasa, the F4’s leader. With a “red notice” in her locker, it gives the student body free reign to do anything possible to force her to quit. She’s not one to back down, though, and fights back, which is very attractive to Doumyouji. However, Tsukushi is more intrigued by Hanazawa Rui, another F4 member…

This 9-episode run condenses the manga — often, two or more events that happened individually in print all happen consecutively in one location, which is great, because it speeds up the action, yet it still manages to lag, especially when characters start flashing back to something that happened 20 seconds ago (which is not very uncommon in manga or on East Asian TV, I’ve found) or when it’s a lengthy musical montage with the insert song, Planetarium by Otsuka Ai. Also, they changed the events enough from the manga that what occurs are more like, “Are you serious?! They were there at exactly the right moment?? Did they synchronize their Blackberrys or send a Bat-Signal into the sky or something?!” instead of, “Yeah, I suppose that is as possible as my being struck by lightning because I wore an underwire while standing under a tree flying a kite with a key at the end during a thunderstorm.”

Even so, the storylines and events are secondary; it’s the characters and their development that have really captured me. I figured I would automatically like it, because it’s HYD, I just didn’t realize how much. Matsumoto Jun is, by far, the best non-manga Doumyouji. (It used to be the anime version that I thought was.) He can be cruelly asking Makino to lick off the syrup from his shoe one moment, arrogant the next, and then childishly handwriting a letter to “Kazu”[Rui], and it’s all believable, because he’s just so good at it. The other actors were also well-casted (especially Inoue Mao as Makino), but it’s MatsuJun that takes the cake for running with the role. (Maybe Justin Timberlake can take lessons.)

The one problem I did have with the characters is Rui — he’s so much more extroverted than the past incarnations. The characterization and acting seem very Rui, but he’s just too… active? Loose? Sassy? I’m not sure how to describe it, but this version is not 100% him. Anime Hanazawa Rui FTW (in the Non-Manga Face-off)!

Will this be complete without mentioning Meteor Garden? Well, since I already said it: I really can’t say much, because I haven’t seen it in years. IIRC, it was just above average. I liked seeing the characters come to life, albeit in Taiwan, but no way I felt the way I feel now after seeing the HYD dorama. It was always on my to-do list (rewatching it), but other shows got in the way, and it’s a hassle getting out the DVDs (don’t ask). I think Vic Zhou’s Rui (Lei) was more my speed, and Jerry Yan was pretty close, but couldn’t quite hit all the marks as Doumyouji (Dao Ming Si). Of course, this is only what my brain believes from THREE YEARS AGO.


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