Hana yori Dango article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 2, No. 3, February 1999
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Created by Yoko Kamio, Hana yori Dango has been running in the anthology comic Margaret since 1992. With a current total of 21 collected volumes in Japan, this series has found fame all over Asia. The TV series for Hana yori Dango ran 51 episodes, from 1996 to 1997. There are also several wonderful CDs and two movies --one animated and one live action.

Tsukushi Makino is an average high school student. She's made her way into Eitoku Gakuen, a prestigious, private academy where most of the students have been enrolled since childhood. Though Tsukushi comes from a middle class family, she is poor, compared to the rest of her classmates. Because of this and being a new student, Tsukushi has only one friend and feels out of place in Eitoku. This doesn't concern her too much, though; all she wants is to keep her head down and make it through to graduation. With a diploma from Eitoku, she can become whatever she wants and live her own life. But it seems fate is against our heroine's desire for a quiet, uncomplicated life.

Everything changes for Tsukushi when her friend, Makiko, has a little mishap. Makiko accidentally falls and lands on Tsukasa Domyoji, the volatile leader of the "F4." The F4 are a group of four good looking young men who are the richest students in Eitoku Gakuen. They are also above the rules, not the kind of people you'd want to upset. When Domyoji ignores Makiko's profuse apology, Tsukushi asks him to reconsider. His response -"Friendship is cheap among the middle class"- sets Tsukushi off. To the amazement of everyone, including herself, Tsukushi tells him off. Afterwards, she realizes that, in trying to protect herself in Eitoku, she had become someone she didn't like. Back in junior high, Tsukushi never took guff from anyone. Unfortunately, this revelation doesn't help her much when she discovers the "red tag" in her locker the next morning. The red tag is a sign from the F4 that a person is to be bullied by the school.

By the time Tsukushi makes it to home room, she has been egged and her desk is missing. The faculty is no help; her teacher merely tells her to order a new desk from the office. Disheartened, Tsukushi wanders to her favorite place, a quiet stair where, sometimes, she can secretly listen to Rui Hanazawa playing the violin. Rui is the quiet, detached member of the F4. To her surprise, he is there and actually talks to her. He seems unaware of the torment the F4 have caused her. She thinks Rui is different from his friends and wonders why he doesn't leave the F4. He would rather leave the school all together than leave them. When Tsukushi tries to tell him her story, Rui ends their little talk, saying "Other people don't interest me." Oddly enough, when he later comes across Tsukushi being attacked by some students, Rui tells them to let her go. "Don't misunderstand," he says, "I just don't like that sort of thing." Despite his apathy, Tsukushi recovers her hope.

The next day, Tsukushi's fighting spirit has returned. In an act of defiance and challenge, she actually kicks Domyoji in the face and gives him her own red tag. As a result, Tsukushi's life becomes irrevocably intertwined with the F4. Little does she realize that her attack on Domyoji will cause him to become infatuated with her, an infatuation that will change him, her and the F4, forever.

Hana yori Dango is an addictive emotional roller coaster which slowly reveals the complicated history of the F4. Tsukushi must deal with a remarkable variety of situations and complications, ranging from fanciful to very realistic. But it's not all drama and romance; there's also a healthy amount of humor in this series. If you enjoy a strong female lead who must overcome adversity, Hana yori Dango is well worth a look. And even if you prefer a more demure main character, you should at least check it out for all the cute guys!

 

NOTES:
Here's a blurb on the title:
The title Hana yori Dango is a pun based on a Japanese saying. The saying refers to something that occurs during hanami, or flower viewing, when many Japanese gather under blossoming cheery trees and have parties. "Hana yori dango," or "dango more than flowers," expresses the sentiment that some people are more concerned about the food and festivities (represented by dango, a Japanese sweet) than actually viewing the flowers. The expression suggests a focus on practical, secular matters as opposed to aesthetic and spiritual concerns. This can be considered complimentary or not, depending on how you look at it. In the title, Hana yori Dango, the "dango" has been changed to mean ‘boys'. More than once, in the TV series, we see Tsukushi walking past Eitoku Gakuen's many blooms without noticing them; she is usually too preoccupied with other concerns.

What does ‘F4' stand for?
F4 is short for "hana no yon-nin gumi" (the Flower Team 4). Since "hana" means flower and flower starts with an "f," their group nickname became F4. This adds another dimension to the title of the series.

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