‘Hana Yori Dango‘ started airing from October 21, 2005 till December 16, 2005 on TBS network. A total of 9 episodes have been aired. Each episode spans to around 46 minutes. On 2006 it was released in four DVDs. A DVD collection has been released, titled ‘Hana yori Dango DVD Box‘ where a photobook is also included. This series is based on the popular manga of Kamio Yoko.
The dorama focuses on Makino Tsukushi’s life and how she has to deal with countless problems, especially at her school. Her problems started when she decided to attend Eitoku Gakuen, an exclusive school where the rich and celebrities attend. The students are all from a high class level and make it a point to flaunt their riches, even at school at various levels. Students are driven to school with limousines, hummers and sports cars. They also make sure to wear the most elevated brands to display how rich they are. It’s quite impressive to see how ridiculously rich some of the students are and how they go to extents to display it.
To make matters even worse, there is a group of four students called ‘Flower Four’ or most commonly ‘F4′, who actually control the whole school because their parents give generous donations to Eitoku. F4 are the richest students, they do whatever they want and entertain themselves by ‘eliminating’ whoever comes in their way from Eitoku with a ‘red notice’. The student who gets a red notice ends up bullied and ostracized until they leave the school. Their system resembles the middle age political system where any sign of rebellion was stunted.
Since Makino is a ‘commoner’ and certainly cannot afford these luxuries, she feels excluded and tries not to stand out and attract attention. Nonetheless she still really hates how the F4 flaunt their power and does not willingly attend to these activities. Yet, she passively accepts it because she knows how proud her family are of her school. However this all changes when she crosses the path of F4 and clashes with their leader, Domyouji Tsukasa. Makino ends up getting a red notice, which leads the whole school to torment her but she refuses to leave Eitoku. A member from F4, Hanazawa Rui secretly helps her during this difficult time which leads to Makino falling for him.
Domyouji is used to being in control and when Makino refuses to bend at his will he is baffled and enraged. Things start changing when Makino punches him, which reminds him of the only person who wasn’t intimidated by him; his sister. Surprisingly he starts falling in love with Makino, but he isn’t very good at displaying his feelings so he ends up confusing her by his bursts of jealousy and his strange displays of affection. Without wanting to Makino’s life is turned upside down, getting unwanted attention and rivals, while she unsuccessfully tries living a normal life.
Tsukasa's way of settling the score
Tsukasa confessing again
Makino is thrown in a love triangle, trying to decide who she likes. However, Makino slowly starts trusting Domyouji and accepting him as he is. Most of the episodes see them facing rivals, misunderstandings and unbelieveable obstacles. However Makino also finds a lot of allies, who are determined on making the two of them get together, no matter what!
Inoue Mao as Makino Tsukushi
Makino Tsukushi is the protagonist of this dorama. She is a typical high school student from a middle class family. When she is accepted to the distinguished high school Eitoku Gakuren, she is horrified to see that the students attend school to flaunt their status and is disgusted at F4’s attitude.
However she sacrifices her happiness and attends, because her family are thrilled at the idea that she attends such a prestigious school. Yet this is only the start of her troubles. When her friend Sanjou Sakurako ends up spilling juice over Domyouji, Makino decides to stand up for her which leads to her getting a red notice.
Makino’s strong character is clearly portrayed when she’s being bullied by the whole school. She hates being pushed around and she retaliates and confronts Domyouji, something that would lead to him falling for her. Her stubborn attitude rivals to the one of Domyogi leading them to clash at every single opportunity.
It is also interesting to note that this was Inoue Mao’s first major act in a dorama, where she acted brilliantly and won an award as best actress in the ‘47th Television Drama Academy Awards’.
Matsumoto Jun as Domyouji Tsukasa
Domyouji Tsukasa is the leader of F4 and the heir to the international Domyougi Financial group. He’s a spoilt, arrogant and bull-headed person, who hates losing. Thus it’s quite common to see him beating people up when he’s pissed off. Also he seems to mix words quite a lot, leading to confusing and funny moments.
He falls for Makino, the only girl who doesn’t care about his money, fame or power. He awkwardly tries extremely hard to get Makino’s affections in the wrong ways. He threatens to kill her if she doesn’t do what he wants, claims that she loves him and buys expensive gifts to her family which lead to a very frustrated Makino. Jun Matsumoto is part of popular J-pop band ARASHI. He won an award as best supporting actor in the ‘47th Television Drama Academy Awards’.
Oguri Shun as Hanazawa Rui
Hanazawa Rui is the most mysterious and introverted member of F4. He frequently spends his time in the fire escape staircase reading or sleeping. Despite that he’s a member of F4, he doesn’t seem to enjoy their activities and he’s intrigued when Makino stands up for them to the point that he starts helping her.
Makino falls for Rui but quickly realizes that he has hidden feelings for his childhood friend, Shizuka and she urges him to follow her and quit holding back his feelings. Makino helped Rui express himself more and he slowly ends up falling for her too!
Shun is the former boyfriend of J-Pop idol Yaguchi Mari. He got the role as Rui because Jun told the producers that if they didn’t give Shun the role, he wouldn’t act as Domyouji. In real life, Jun and Shun are good friends, all the way from the Gokusen days.
Matsuda Shota as Nishikado Sojiro
Nishikado Sojiro is the son of the head of a prestigious tea ceremony school. His elegant appearance and manners are quite deceiving though. He’s a typical rich playboy, who is always playing around with different girls and avoids commitment. In the end he never seems to consider any girl seriously.
He’s often seen partying with Mimasaka Akira, with whom he gets along quite well, probably because of their mutual love for women. His attitude is quite laid-back, charismatic and full of confidence, however he tends to lose his temper if things do not go his way. Despite the fact he’s a social person, he’s quite cold and detached from anyone, except F4. Shota actually comes from a family of actors, so it was inevitable that he’d end up as one himself.
Abe Tsuyoshi as Mimasaka Akira
Mimasaka Akira is the most mature and reasonable member of F4. Despite being seen as a side-kick, usually he’s the one who patches up everything when something goes wrong and probably the person who keeps F4 together. He’s known to give a helping hand, whenever something comes up.
His family are bosses in the Underground. He’s also known to enjoy women who are much older than him, especially if they’re married and is considered a ‘lady killer’. And very much like Sojiro, he doesn’t take any relationship seriously and he avoids commitment.
Abe was actually born in China. His family moved to Japan at age 9 and he’s of mixed Chinese-Japanese heritage and speaks both languages fluently.
Sato Megumi as Sanjou Sakurako
Sanjou Sakurako came to Eitoku as a transfer student. She quickly bonded with Makino and became her first and only female friend at Eitoku. Sakurako was the only person who didn’t seem to mind that Makino was poor and also seemed to enjoy her mother’s cooking.
When she ends up spilling juice on Domyouji, Makino stands up for her. Sakurako ends up quitting school but Makino and her still keep in contact during her absence.
However Sakurako’s intentions are quite obscure. She is seen as timid and shy and yet in reality she’s quite different. Actually Sakurako is a manipulative individual who holds a grudge and a secret for many years. In the end Makino’s and Sakurako’s relationship is quite odd. They are friends yet rivals and they seem to always aim for the same goal.
Matsushima Nanako as Domyouji Tsubaki
Domyouji Tsubaki is Tsukasa’s gorgeous elder sister. She’s married to a hotel owner in Los Angeles and seems to live a happy life. She frequently visits Japan to see her brother. Apart from Makino Tsubaki is the only person who stands up for his nonsense and frequently punches him and pushes him around. Nonetheless they seem to have a strong bond, where Tsubaki is often seen offering advice and help to her brother.
Her warm and bright character livens up every episode she takes part. However in the past she has given up a love because of her mother’s pressure and she regrets it. When she meets Makino, she quickly warms up to her, maybe because their characters are so similar. She sees potential within Tsukushi and Tsukasa and so she is frequently seen as giving a helping hand.
Matsushima Nanako is a very famous actress who starred in the 1996 movie ‘Ringu’ which became a hit. Her popularity is widespread and she regularly tops such polls as ‘best jeanist’ or ‘favorite female star’.
This dorama happens to have an excellent soundtrack along with a brilliant cast. The opening song, Wish is actually by ARASHI, the group which Jun makes part of. This single was extremely popular and topped the Oricon charts selling a total of 303,812 copies.
Otsuka Ai composed and sang the image song for this dorama called Planetarium, which was released as her 10th single. Unlike the opening song, Planetarium was a slow and melancholic ballad. This single was another hit, getting the top spot on Oricon, selling 315,669 copies and ranking as Ai’s 2nd highest selling single.
I must say this dorama was quite entertaining to watch. Every single tiny detail and aspect about it was just perfect. The actors were well selected and fitted their role so realistically that the watcher could easily relate with how they were feeling. Inoue Mao really does an excellent job by portraying Makino’s woes and confused feelings and is extremely entertaining to watch. Also watching how carefully they selected the scenes and the high budget, I was thrilled to see how they replicated the manga scenes into reality.
Tsubaki realising how dense Tsukasa is
Tsukushi trying to learn the piano.
‘Hana Yori Dango‘ is definitely one of the best doramas ever released. There was nothing to gripe about and everything is definitely set to be of the highest quality. Despite only having nine episodes the series covered a huge part of the manga and it wraps up everything quite well in the end. Thus it is no surprise that this series got a high rating and fanbase.
What has brought this dorama to life, was the fantastic amount of chemistry between the characters of Tsukasa and Tsukushi. While their relationship is quite odd and awkward, it creates a spark between them which makes you feel that they’re made for each other, no matter how many problems may arise.
On a final note I do suggest you keep an eye out for ‘Hana Yori Dango 2‘ which will continue from where the first series ended and shall take the protagonists to New York.