In this Cinderella-esque tale, scrappy, stubborn Makino Tsukushi (Inoue Mao) is one of only a handful of students at her elite boarding school who doesn’t come from a wealthy family. Having gained entrance through hard work and superb grades, she finds herself hating both the school and her new classmates. When Makino steps up for a fellow student who’s being bullied, she earns that attention – and ire – of the school’s reigning king, Domyouji Tsukasa, the hot-tempered, arrogant leader of four boys known collectivley as the F4 who rule the school. Makino isn’t about to bow to them, and so sparks a long chain of events in which each of the boys go through a process of self-awakening, and sparks begin to fly between Makino and Domyouji…
An enduring classic and arguably the most famous Japanese drama ever, this is considered by many to be the best adaptation of the Hana Yori Dango manga, though the personal favorite of many is the Taiwanese adaptation Meteor Garden.
I love both, but this adaptation certainly has better production values and fashion. Matsumuto Jun and Inoue Mao (the latter of whom had only supporting roles before being cast as the lead character in this uber-popular manga) are two of Japan’s top stars, and fellow castmates Matsuda Shoda and Oguri Shun also went on to super-stardom, so this can serve as a crash course in more of Japan’s leading drama thespians.
It can be argued that the best romances are the ones which convince us that the two leads could not be with anyone else, that they are meant to be in some way and that no one else could make them as happy as they make each other. Hana Yori Dango portrays this better than perhaps any other drama I’ve seen. Boys Over Flowers, the Korean adaptation of this story, had a bigger scope, higher budget, and better production values. Yet Boys Over Flowers, despite all its potential, and leaving aside even its problematic plot, lacks something that Hana Yori Dango was able to capture – a touch of magic that gives the Japanese adaptation its elusive brilliance.
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