Hana Yori Dango
I happened to start watching Hana Yori Dango recently, and totally got hooked. I’m not an avid watcher of j-doramas, though I’ve seen a few in the past, but I watched all of the first season at once (I kind of like how j-doramas are short and sweet at around 10 episodes, although I do like the k-drama standard of 16-20 episodes — but only if the series is good!). Then, happy to hear a second season was in the middle of its run, I tuned into that as well.
(Theme) SONG(s) OF THE DAY
Arashi – “Wish,” Season 1 theme song [ zShare download ]
Arashi – “Love So Sweet,” Season 2 theme song [ zShare download ]
For Season 2, I had to get used to the pace of one episode per week, and the wait for fansubs too, which was new for me. I’m used to watching k-dramas as they air in Korea, but I don’t need subs for those, so I’d forgotten what it feels like to be dependent upon the goodwill of others. Let me tell you, it reminded me of my immense appreciation for fansubbers. You’d think that as a fansubber myself, I’d be the last one to forget that, but no, being a leecher brought me new insights.
Thankfully (and quite remarkably), the subbers are lightning-fast for HYD2. I’ve been watching the later episodes raw, actually surprised that I can understand most of the story, and I’ve gone back to my old drama-watching routine of standing by with a pad of paper and a dictionary. But the subs are still quite crucial for getting the full enjoyment.
(That’s why it pisses me off to no end when I go to sites and see some leechers complaining about the speed — or lag — of fansub releases. What’s up with that, huh? Complaining how the wait is killllling them, how they’re dyyyyying to watch the next episode, when’s the sub coming out already?? I’d like to see them complaining after they’ve spent hours downloading, an hour watching the show, five to ten hours translating, getting back perhaps one thank-you for every hundred or thousand people who take it, and THEN reading a bunch of ungrateful people complaining how it wasn’t done faster. Most fans are great, but those few bad ones really sour the experience. To them, I say: Hmph.)
Anyway, back to Hana Yori Dango.
When I was watching Season 1, I thoroughly enjoyed it but felt it was a little over-the-top and melodramatic, mixing light and dark elements to create a strange overall tone. But then I read up on it and realized it was based on a (shoujo) manga, and the artistic choices of the dorama suddenly made so much sense. It made it so much better.
Hana Yori Dango, as a dorama in and of itself, is really well-done. It’s charming, funny, gorgeous to look at, well-written, well-paced. But Hana Yori Dango, as a dorama adaptation of a manga, is amazing. Fantastic. Superlative.
It also explains a few things I found perplexing, like Matsumoto Jun’s funky curly hairstyle. (I’d thought: “This guy’s a major pop idol in Japan, and this is the best style they could give him??”) Made a lot more sense to know the original manga character is known, and mocked, for his peculiar hairstyle.
(I think I prefer the Season 1 curls, which looks like a perm, to the big roller curls in Season 2, but either way, I’m surprised at how fast I got used to his funky hair. Haha.)
I also rather love the title “Hana Yori Dango,” which is a pun playing on the Japanese adage, “Food more than flowers” or “Food before flowers” (as in, essentials are more important than the aesthetically pleasing but ultimately superficial). The characters for “dango,” which is a type of food, are switched to mean “boys,” suggesting that boys are just as essential as food…
But there’s one more meaning, which is what really won me over:
The group led by Doumyouji calls themselves F4, for “Flower Four,” which is kind of girly if you ask me. I know Japanese society places a high premium on artistic beauty, including the art of arranging flowers, but the name isn’t really befitting a powerful group of bullies, is it? But if you bring in the title phrase, it could mean that the F4 members, and the violent and crude Doumyouji in particular, are at the core “boys more than they are Flower 4.” It hints that we’ll see these guys as singular, real people beyond the acts they play as members of F4. In meeting and falling for Tsukushi, Doumyouji will transform from the dictatorial leader of F4 to just a guy, who wants affection and respect and doesn’t care to hide behind the safety of his family’s zaibatsu (corporation) name.
(And then, of course, Tsukushi also works in a dango shop!)
CASTING and CHARACTER
First off, really great acting by the two leads. Inoue Mao as Makino Tsukushi is cute without being annoying, which is often not the case, and Matsumoto Jun does a really amazing job; he really sells Doumyouji as both a horribly mean and vicious person who is still relatable and sympathetic. And he inhabits the role so completely, he seems like he IS his character.
On top of that, they really got the flavor of Hanazawa Rui across with casting Oguri Shun, who looks and acts the part perfectly. I love that he actually looks like the manga character, which is sometimes really hard to pull off. Oguri Shun acts with that mannered politeness and quietness that totally characterizes shoujo heroes (he actually reminds me quite a lot of Matsuura Yuu in Marmalade Boy, although Yuu is much more outgoing than Rui).
I’m also much more accepting about character flaws when I realize it’s a manga adaptation. For instance, Doumyouji’s horridly callous mother, Kaede, is rather too villainous to be real for a normal dorama. But in a manga? Totally acceptable. Same goes for Tsukushi’s well-meaning but, face it, rather ineffectual parents. Honestly, they’re lovable but kinda incompetent. I’ve noticed it’s a trait of shoujo manga and anime to have silly parents acting even more childish than their teenaged children.
I have to give them kudos for knowing what to adapt and what not to. It adapts the best elements of the manga, but doesn’t get too bogged down in adapting it literally, frame by frame or plot by plot. (My argument for why the Harry Potter books have produced mediocre adaptations — such a strong desire to preserve the source material inevitably hampers the adaptation.)
Some well-executed parallels:
Doumyouji asking out Tsukushi
Doumyouji out in the cold:
And last but not least, the series is just gorgeous. The shots, the locations, the sets, the lighting, everything. Even the simplest shots are exceuted elegantly.
Credits to hanayoridango.org for manga scanlations.