Friday, July 16, 2010

First manga review- Hana Yori Dango

As the first manga review on this blog, I would like to review my all time favorite manga- Hana Yori Dango (Boys over Flowers) by Yoko Kamio. It is the highest selling shojo manga in Japan with over 54 million copies sold. It was made into a superhit Japanese drama and it has been made into a Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese drama too. So what is it that makes this series so great?

Hana Yori Dango was the first manga that I read and introduced me into the wonderful world of manga. It is basically about a girl called Makino Tsukushi from a Japanese lower middle-class family who starts attending a school for the rich and the elite called Eitoku Academy. In Eitoku, there is a group of four ultra-handsome, ultra-rich and ultra-cool guys called F4 (Flower four). All the boys in school fear them and all the girls are gaga over them. Makino wishes to graduate without getting into trouble, but of course, if that happens, there would be no Hana Yori Dango.
In the very first chapter, she gets into trouble with their hotheaded leader Tsukasa Domyoji. Soon, she gets a red notice- a dreaded red paper given to those who displease the F4. Whoever gets the red notice has no choice but to leave school. However, being persistent, Makino fights up and refuses to leave. This impresses Tsukasa who is surprised at how strong Makino is.
In the first volume she also befriends Hanazawa Rui- the quietest member of the F4.
The story follows her struggles in school against the F4 and other classmates and soon a love story develops.
I am not reviewing Hana Yori Dango volume by volume. I always as a rule review manga series as a whole, or at least the whole of the first arc. These are my scores for HYD. (Out of five)
Story- 4.8
Characters- 4.5
The factor that sets Hana Yori Dango apart from most shojo manga is that the female lead is strong. Most mangas have a weak female lead who just waits for the hero to save her. The more I read shojo manga, the more I realize how weak the female lead characters of most shojo manga are.
The hero is also not perfect like most shojo mangas. Hana Yori Dango is down-to-earth realistic but that is more of a good thing rather than a bad thing.
The development of the characters, realtionship and plot is pretty solid. Unlike many shojo mangas, the heroine doesn't fall for the hero instantly or even in teh first few chapters. She takes her time.
This is one of the best mangas out there. It is certainly the best shojo manga. You should definately give it a try.
The drama was also good. Inoue Mao's acting was nice and Matsumoto Jun is a good actor too. But I would still recommend the manga over every other version because in the manga, there are far more events and the pace of story development is consistent. Due to time and other constraints, many of the best chapters have been left out in the drama.
Yoko Kamio is truly a great mangaka to have written a series this great. However, her subsequent mangas lack the greatness of Hana Yori Dango.
Before ending the post, I would liek to say that Hana Yori Dango had its weak points too. The hero is pretty unlikeable at first and is more easily hated than liked. Makino also becomes indecisive and nervous at certain parts in the story and acts out of her character. A few chapters
(especially somewhere in volume 7 or 6) could be somewhat boring. But hang in there and read it till the end. The end is not spectacular, but the journey is.

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