Boys Over Flowers Vol. #09 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2005



What They Say
Tsukasa finally recovers from the beating he received from Junpei and his gang, and invites Tsukushi to his grand birthday party to introduce her to his mother. Meanwhile, Tsukushi scares herself by thinking he wants her to be his fiancÚ when she isn’t even dating him!

The Review!
Just when you think you've got your opinion on the Domyoji family down pat, then enters Mother.

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. While the dialogue is clean and clear throughout the show, there are moments where the slightly muffled nature of the recording is more noticeable than others; 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. Depending on the setup and equipment being used, this could either be slightly noticeable or glaringly so. With this volume, the amount of grain seems to have increased a bit and made the print a bit more problematic. 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 central picture for this volume gives Tsubaki a shot at things but with just a facial close-up it doesn't have the same impact as her overall shots do. Having just arrived in this volume, and presumably not making a long-term impact, it seems right that he gets at least one cover shot. 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 Tsubaki in a somber moment with a shawl drawn over her 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. Actual menu load times are decent outside of the transitions and the layout is nicely done.

Extras:
The extras are a bit minimal but what we've seen in the past. Tsubaki's character gets a bio/profile section this time around and we also get a series of production stills for the Domyoji mansion.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
What a continually cruel and twisted show this thing is. Every time you think someone's going to come out of an episode without being too completely messed up, something comes along and runs them through the gutter again.

The fallout from the fight in the last volume has Tsukushi having dreams about Domyoji dying by suicide as he leaps from the top of a building, which seems partially attributed to the way she can't express herself to him or really figure out what her feelings are for him. When she wakes up from her feverish sleep to find herself in the hospital, she rushes to the VIP wing to see him to make sure he's all right. It's at a time like this that you have to remember that the F4 really are just high school boys, seventeen or eighteen years in age, and the cruel joke they play on Tsukushi is most definitely in their character just from their age alone, never mind their quirky and twisted personalities. Teasing her about Tsukasa's fate puts her in a foul mood though and she of course overreacts and actually calls Tsukasa a dog.

Ah, all the yip yip sounds caused by that were perfect, especially the little dogs that started running around behind his head.

This set of episodes ends up turning its focus into an interesting area as we learn that it's Tsukasa's eighteenth birthday soon and he's ensured that Tsukushi will come for it. Even though she claims to not like him and has certainly said worse, she's still set to go but she's worried about what to give him as a present. In addition, she's mortified by the hair cut her mother gave her that made her look like Kintaro (which is sad, as it proves how much anime I watch as I thought the same thing when they first showed her new hairdo). There's a really great scene where Rui offers to fix her hair for her and she lets him do it. The way he does it is priceless and the conversation the two have is very interesting. To see Tsukushi so relaxed around him now and knowing nothing can happen has really changed the dynamic between the two.

Tsukushi's eventual arrival at the birthday party brings his friends worst fears to life though; finding her outside as she tries to get away after seeing all the fancy cars and people arriving for what she thought was just an average birthday party, she's wearing a dress of her mother's from when she was young and she looks completely out of place. Taking her to Tsubaki, there's a fun little dress-up sequence which is very comical when Tsukushi compares herself to Tsubaki and the differences in their bodies are pointed out to exaggerated fashion. The fear among the four working with Tsukushi is that Tsukasa's mother is going to be there and she's ultra critical of everyone. Just the few glimpses we catch of her before the party prove she's a stickler and nitpicker but being as big a part of the Domyoji family as she turns out to be, none of it is surprising.

The meeting of the two of them, never mind Tsukasa's introduction of her, is beautiful in that you know it was going downhill before either of them said a word to each other. Tsukasa's movements and touching of Tsukushi is something that you can see causing problems within his mothers eyes the moment she sees it and it becomes something she's intent on stamping out immediately as she cannot allow something like this to happen within the family. The fallout is amusing as things just collapse all around them after Tsukasa's mother tries to humiliate Tsukushi and to simply dismiss her outright. Learning how family life was for the Domyoji's certainly explains a lot about Tsukasa but he's still a character that I hate to like based on his past actions.

In Summary:
This series continues to be one that I know I should not like but the way it plays itself so seriously yet over the top just makes it highly engaging. The outrageousness of the actions of some characters provides plenty of laughs as does the smaller incidental humor moments. The cast has changed pretty strongly since we first met all of them but the ones I was the happiest to see in this set of episodes is Tsukushi's own parents and how they dealt with Tsukasa's mother when she comes to visit them. This show is just impossible to hate though as something about it just has us wanting to see more and more the minute we have it. This is one of those shows that insists on being watched the minute it arrives.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profile,Character Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: C+
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