Boys Over Flowers Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Boys Over Flowers

Boys Over Flowers Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     October 06, 2003
Release Date: September 09, 2003


Boys Over Flowers Vol. #01
© Viz Media


What They Say
Tsukushi is an average teenager who goes to a prestigious, elite high school. But after a run-in with the richest, most influential kids at school, will Tsukushi be put back in her place - on the wrong side of the tracks? Being chased by handsome guys has never been so grueling!

The Review!
After hearing for the longest time that this was one of those shows that would never be licensed for a variety of reasons, Boys Over Flowers has finally been properly released.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix here is very simple with the bulk if not all of the dialogue coming from the center channel while the music made use of the stereo channels. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 1996, the look and feel of the show is a curious one. The transfer itself looks good with only a few minor nicks and dirt in a few scattered places, with the main issue being the grainy feel to the look of it. The print itself is completely as the Japanese saw with the original opening and ending credits left intact as well as the title cards. The show’s color palette is very much real world style, which lends to a slightly dull looking print.

Packaging:
Providing for fans of both names, the cover works out nicely here as the top bar of the cover features in prominent type the English translated name but also nicely places the original Hana Yori Dango in there, as many fans only know it by that name. The center bar provides a nice close-up shot of the lead character while the bottom has some images from the show that are softened up a bit under the volume title. The back cover provides the logo again and a short summary of what the premise is. With a few shots from the show, a listing of extras and the episode numbers and titles, the cover is good all around with the exception of no real volume numbering. The insert provided has a full length shot of the lead in her school uniform while the reverse side has chapter listings for each episode.

Menu:
The menu layout is nicely done but much too heavy on transitional animations. Opening with one (after front-loaded skippable trailers for other shows) where we see the legs running, it settles into a nice relaxing series of images from the show playing out underneath the logo and selections. But every time you want to go to a submenu, you get more transitions. The set up menu looks a bit overwhelming as they’ve opted to not separate the audio from the subtitles, which results in three selections for each language. Actual menu load times are decent outside of the transitions and the layout is nicely done.

Extras:
There are a few extras included with the opening volume here. A two-page piece gives you a look at the profile of the main character and talks about her a little while there’s also a ten-page conceptual artwork gallery. Also included are three segments of storyboards to animation that can be reversed via the remote, showing just how they storyboarded parts of the episodes and what became reality.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Boys Over Flowers is one of those strange series that has been on my want list for a long time. Having seen a single episode (#37) at a convention back in 1998, both my wife and I really enjoyed it and wanted to see more. Yet for years on end, all we could hear were a variety of stories about it, ranging from the manga creator not liking the anime to the usual “it’s all gone up in flames” type. What lent any of the stories some amount of credibility is the fact that it was only released to video in Japan for the rental market and not in any other form. I don’t believe any laserdisc or DVD release has been done. That only made the announcement and arrival of this series all the more surprising.

The series is very much a girl’s tale, as it centers on Tsukushi Makino, a young woman in her second year of high school at the very elite Eitoku academy. The bulk of the students there are wealthy in general, with very few who make it in based on their grades or skill. At the pushing of her mother, Tsukushi ended up in Eitoku so that she could really make something of herself one day. Tsukushi looks at her time there as just something to get through without making any waves or causing trouble.

The school is a hotbed for trouble though, but generally only if you cause problems for the F4. This is a group of the wealthiest of sons attending the school, a group of four boys who have grown up together for many years now and take some amount of pride and fun in their status. The worst though comes from the groups’ apparent leader, Tsukasa. Tsukasa is unlike a lot of other anime males seen over the years in his design, particular the curly hair. All four of the guys in the F4 are attractive and desirable among the female populace, but there’s an odd energy about the way the social dynamics work around them.

When someone gets on their bad side, even for something as simple as getting some dust on one of their outfits, Tsukasa will make their lives a living hell through all kinds of torture, often enough to get the person in question to quit the school. Once the small piece of red paper is put in their locker, it’s all over for them. Friends will suddenly turn on them and engage in the practices used to root someone out, from egging them to getting rid of desks and more. And since it’s all sanctioned by the F4 and they’re backed up by their parents’ names and wealth, not even the mostly invisible school staff will do anything about it.

This is brought up by Tsukushi and one of her friends during one point where her friend isn’t sure that she’d be able to do anything, since when such things do happen she tends to disappear into the woodwork. This is almost as if on cue for her to have a problem, which leads to her falling down the stairs and shoving her shoe right into Tsukasa’s face. While she tries to apologize, Tsukasa gets ready to really lay into her, but is stymied by Tuskushi’s sudden verbal attack on him. It’s not long before Tsukushi finds herself red flagged and begins to undergo the treatment she’s seen others take.

But instead of quitting or just taking it, she decides that she’s going to fight back, something that apparently nobody else did before. This causes a variety of reactions, from the slightly amused Rui of the F4 to the complete shock of Tsukasa. Tsukasa finds this to be an interesting turn of events and provides her with a bribe of sorts, but she refuses and becomes even more red flagged as her classmates torture her. But this isn’t sanctioned by all of the F4, which sets the group up to be divided, something that helps Tuskushi regain some ground.

The realm of school and social dynamics as well as class warfare is much the storyline here as well as budding romances in young men and women. While this has been covered before, it hasn’t been done with as interesting a sense of style as this. The look of the show is very much storybook in its design. The school is surrounded by trees, but done up in a Disney-esque style from the 30’s and 40’s. The color scheme isn’t bright or vibrant, but using the softer more earth tone feel to it, which with the design really gives it an interesting look. Many sections are done partially, where you’ll see some background to the corner and the bulk of the screen is white, but there’s a fuzzy circle where we focus our attention on the action. It looks and feels so much like a storybook fairytale at times that it’s quite engaging on that level alone.

With a total of fifty-one episodes, this is a series that will take its time in wringing the characters through a number of situations. Tsukasa’s already become a favorite in his complete disconnect from reality at times. We can see Rui being the love interest easily who is falling out of love with his first love, a slightly older woman who has just returned from France. And we’ve barely touched upon her family or the other two members of the F4, all of whom begin dealing with Tsukushi differently once she starts to assert herself over the F4 members.

It took a bit getting into the show as the first episode is fairly dry and somewhat predictable, but once the interactions beyond the top layer of the F4’s personalities started to be touched upon and we get to see what’s making them tick, it became far more enjoyable. Combined with the look of the show and the very fun script, this is a series I’m definitely looking forward to watching over the next two years or so if it ends up running the expected thirteen volumes.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Profile,Character Sketches,Storyboard to Animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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