Taking a different topic this time – some shoujo anime for you to take a look at and enjoy, because I know I certainly did… And judging by the fact that this manga got not only an anime adaptation but also a live version, it’s safe to say that this is one for the “classic” genre as we learn a little about Boys Over Flowers a.k.a Hana Yori Dango.
At this rate, it’s going to seem like Toei were the only anime company in existence during the 70s, 80s and 90s, but here we are again with another Toei adaptation (I swear I’m not watching Toei shows on purpose) of a popular manga that ran from 1992 to 2003 with 37 volumes in total.. Yeesh! And once again, expect the animation quality to fall in line with Toei’s standards. The anime was aired in 1996 and ran for about a year and covers the story of a girl named Tsukushi Makino and her life at the prestigious school Eitoku Academy.
So the story falls in the traditional shoujo vein where there’s a girl and some guys and some love connections/disconnections happening while they try to navigate school life. And this is what happens with Tsukushi when she gets to this elite school, but her troubles are increased because of the fact that she’s actually a rather poor student (financially) whereas her peers are all from affluent/wealthy/rich families. The reason she can afford to go to this school is because her parents have decided to “invest” in Tsukushi with the hopes that she’ll manage to land herself a rich boyfriend (no jokes) so that her life (and theirs by proxy) will be a little easier in the future. However, her poor status automatically puts her at a disadvantage but rather than feeling depressed about it, she goes about her life and tries to do her best not to let herself get put down by these rich kids. That is until she comes up against the F4 (Flower Four) – a group of 4 guys that are by far the most popular in the school – who soon become her tormentors and start make her school life a misery by hazing her. This doesn’t phase Tsukushi, who stands firm against the boys, however she finds that she slowly develops feelings for one of the guys in the group… Ahh.. Bet you saw that coming a mile away, but the story takes some twists and turns in unexpected directions so if you want to know what becomes of Tsukushi and the boys, then get to watching already!
I wouldn’t say that I’m a shoujo genre expert/fanatic but there are times when I don’t mind watching some drama in the form of teenage angst with a nice dose of romance thrown in. Like other genres, there’s something comforting in watching something that’s a bit more formulaic because you sort of have an idea of where everything will end up. This doesn’t detract from the show itself though and here are some of the reasons why:
While this does follow a traditional shoujo format, there are a number of characters here that our MC (main character) has to deal with. There are her friends, her adversaries, as well as her love interests (who are also her tormentors). So right away we have lots of dynamics going on, e.g. for the sake of self-preservation, there are times when Tsukushi’s friends deny her and make like they don’t know her, or there are times when the mean girls of the school invite Tsukushi out with them but for it to only become a trap. These are some of the tried and trusted shoujo-esque tricks but when it’s done right, you can really feel for the MC as she’s left to face all these trials on her own.
We have our MC and we have the friends and enemies, but then we have the addition of the complicated F4 to the mix. The reason why this show is really good is because instead of the love interest(s) being the nice-guy type that the MC pines for, they actually start off as complete jerks but as the show progresses we get to know more about each of them. And while their essential character types don’t change, their perception of Tsukushi slowly does and this changes the types of interactions she has with the boys. And in response, the characters around them also change – whether it be for better or worse. And not to be outdone by the boys, Tsukushi really is one of the strongest female protagonists in any show I’ve ever watched. I will admit that I’m particularly fickle when it comes to female characters in shows, but Tsukushi Makino really impressed me as a character because she never bends to the will of others and while she does have her moments of sadness, shock etc., she never forgets that she is a “weed” – someone who can’t be gotten rid of easily, no matter how much others try. So while she goes through changes herself, she also stays true to who she is and this was one of the best points for me.
I’m not sure whether saying “realism” is the right word for it, but having watched a few shoujo animes, I think I can safely say that this one at least tries to be a bit more realistic about certain issues, the biggest being bullying/hazing in school. You would think that maybe they would steal her books or move her desk and that would be the extent of it, but it really does get out of hand at times where Tsukushi’s life comes close to being in danger. And while that might just seem like they’re being dramatic, we know all too well that in real life life-threatening hazing does occur. They also deal with the issue of social status and the division between rich and poor throughout the show and this becomes a point of focus when one of the F4 boys wants to start dating Tsukushi and while her parents are overjoyed, his parents are less than thrilled because all they see is a gold-digger.
This is pretty much the appeal of shoujo for people who watch and enjoy it – the chance to sort of live vicariously through the experiences of the MC since these characters usually don’t have any sort of super powers and are just regular people like you and me. In this way we can join the MC on her journey, including all the drama and emotions that come along with it, as she eventually gets the guy of her dreams. And it sort of helps that this particular guy she ends up with is just fabulously rich… Haha!
In addition to the drama, this shoujo anime dishes out a healthy serving of comedy to balance everything out. And when you’ve watched shoujo animes which are just pure drama-fests (which I have and believe me when I tell you that it’s exhausting), you will really appreciate having a show that brings some comedy into the mix. The comedy is a welcome break and is entertaining because it can be quite silly or obvious at times but will still make you laugh.
So while shoujo might not be considered as something particularly mind-blowing or epic (when compared to other shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion), what defines an anime as “classic” is not limited to a certain genre. With this in mind, I would say that Boys Over Flowers definitely deserves the title of a classic and should be watched by anyone that enjoys a bit of high school romance. It’s a decent story that covers a lot and is probably my (as well as a lot of other people out there) favourite shoujo anime because it kept me entertained from start to finish!
Image credits: Toei Animation
End: Boys Over Flowers Anime Review