JMovie Review: Hana Yori Dango 1995
I have said it more than once…I am a lover of adaptations. If I like something enough, I am prone to watch multiple versions of it. My love for the manga Hana Yori Dango led me to the Japanese drama, then the Taiwanese drama, then the Korean drama, and then the Chinese drama. We shall not ever mention the abysmal Western take on that series.
Anywho, I was always curious about the first ever carnation of the series which was released in 1995, but I had a hard time tracking the movie down. I finally found it. The subtitles were not the best, but good enough to get the gist of what was going on. The movie very loosely follows the manga, which is no surprise. You’re taking serialized content that ran for 36 volumes and turning it into a movie. Of course you can’t include everything.
The ‘95 movie takes place at Eitoku University where Makino Tsukushi is a freshman. Ah, the 90s fashion! Truthfully, like with the Taiwanese series, you couldn’t really tell that these were some wealthy people based on the styling and clothes. Anywho, Makino crosses the 3rd year F4s and the fight is on! Well…you really get a bullying montage and that’s kind of it before it delves a bit more into the plot.
Uchida Yuki plays the main character of Makino Tsukushi. She does a good job with minimal cheese in her portrayal. Given that this is a 90s teen movie, excellency of acting is not required. But of our main cast, she is the best. The interesting thing to note is that she fights off the male bullies like no other, but is easily cornered by the female ones? What the what? How weird is that. We see nothing of Makino’s family in this movie. We do see her at her part-time job at the sweets store and her friend. She is the resilient weed like always and is constantly fighting. Oh…and of courses she still falls for Rui first.
Speaking of the second male lead…he is played by none other than the awesome Fujiki Naohito. Being one of his first starring roles the acting is okay, but you’ve definitely seen him do better over the years. Hanazawa’s first love Toudou Shizuka is of course present. She’s played by Eguro Marie. They cut a lot out so Shizuka comes back, makes her announcement and leaves which has Rui go after Makino out of sadness (and he acts like a playboy, too) which causes him to fall out with Domyouji Tsukasa—F4 leader.
Our (no-so-curly-haired) main man is played by Tanihara Shosuke. His portrayal of the brash and yet innocent Tsukasa is mostly good. There are times that the acting does fall a bit flat, but he’s mostly good. I do feel sorry for the costumes they put him in, but I guess if you have a body like his, might as well flaunt it. In this drama it’s lots of tight pants and unbuttoned vests, coats and no shirt. And that beach scene with teeny tiny bathing suit bottoms…yowza.
A good thing about this version as since it is a movie, they completely cut out the family aspect. No more of evil mother getting in Tsukushi and Tsukasa’s way. I didn’t miss her. Of course, that also means our two other members of the F4 get little to no screen time and are really just in the backdrop. I really would like it if Akira (Hashizume Koichi) and Soujiro (Saeki Kensaku) had more screen time or significance, but given the time constraints it makes sense that these two characters (like Tsukushi’s bet friend) are permanently in the background.
Tsukushi challenges the F4 right away. She wasn’t suffering for a long time in silence like when the manga started. Everything moves along quickly. Tsukushi developing feelings for Rui wasn’t too much of a stretch, but with the time constraints, you really can’t get the connection that should be there between our love triangle. Oh, we do see Tsukasa’s puppy love develop more so, but we can’t really see how he’s wearing down Tsukushi and it gets weird when the two go from being at each other’s throats to suddenly being almost friends.
And the ending! Oh, such a dramatic and cheesy ending! Tsukushi goes to the final party where she meets Rui. He shows her his plane ticket to America as he’s finally decided to chase after Shizuka thanks to Tsukushi’s prodding. Tsukushi then goes into the party alone and when she takes off her jacket she is not wearing the dress Rui bought her, but just jeans and a button down blouse. She’s definitely out of place. She catches everyone’s eyes and then the crowd parts and she and Tsukasa run into each other’s arms. LOL. Ah, good ol’ cheesy teen movies. They just don’t make them quite like this any more.
Despite the flaws from being a movie based on a rather long manga series, I don’t think it was a problem how they condense things. The biggest problem was really in characterization and the development of feelings which you don’t get to see as much in the movie as you could in one of the drama series or in the manga…or even in the anime.