Boys Over Flowers Vol. #11 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, May 09, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, May 03, 2005



What They Say
Tsukasa and Shigeru's relationship makes Tsukushi miserable, especially because Shigeru constantly talks about it! To make matters worse, Shigeru invites Tsukushi, Rui, and Tsukasa to her hat spring villa for an overnight double date!

The Review!
As the series gets closer to drawing to a close, the drama only manages to get even more intense as everyone seemingly hides their true feelings and goes into denial.

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 adapted 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 some of the secondary cast a chance at the cover with Makiko, Yuki and Kazuya all smiling in their own ways. All three of them have fit in at key times during the series so it's neat that they finally get a piece together. 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 picture of the three together in casual clothes 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. Makiko, Yuki and Kazuya get a bio/profile section this time around and we also get a series of production stills for all three of them as well. A series of storyboards is also included to cover part of episode forty-four..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This series drives me absolutely nuts, in a good way. Watching these overly dramatic teens go through their interpretation of romance and love is just far too comical and done with such a sense of over the top style that you can't help but appreciate it. It's trying to be larger than life and providing that feeling that young women have about their love lives and how they project it out that it hits that mark just right. With this volume being the penultimate of the anime series, there's a lot of ground to cover before the finale.

A lot of what makes this volume go around is the fact that so many of the characters are just in denial about what's going on. Tuskushi has convinced herself that she's happy about Tsukasa and Shigeru being together but it's eating her away from the inside but she doesn't recognize it. While she's grappling with this big change in her life now that she's free from Tsukasa's reign of terror, she walks into another situation. Her father has lost his job again but this time her mother has decided that they're going to take a job in a fishing village some distance from Tokyo, which means the family is moving. But unlike past moves, they're leaving Tsukushi in Tokyo so that she can continue to go to Eitoku and to make her mark on the world. Between what little they can send and what she makes with her job, Tsukushi should be able to live meagerly but well enough on her own. This is a huge shock to her that her parents would do that and their leaving is a very tender moment that strangely reinforces their bond rather than shatters it.

There are some changes elsewhere in the relationship dynamic as well. Tsukushi finds herself being oddly interested in Rui once again, though she avoids admitting it even to herself less she realize she's on the rebound and the two end up in a coffee shop together avoiding the rain one night. It's also the same shop that Shigeru and Tsukasa walk in on and the oblivious (intentionally or not) Shigeru decides that they should all go up to her families mountain retreat for some fun down time. Tsukushi tries to get out of it but she's thwarted by an amusing Rui and his desire for an open spring bath.

The time spent in the old house and spring up there is one of the key moments of the series and of the relationship between Shigeru and Tsukasa. Tsukasa's been so silent since the kiss with her that Rui and Tsukushi saw that it's almost like he's a completely different person. You can tell easily enough that he's not interested in Shigeru but playing along in some zombie-like fashion only to snap once in awhile at her. But Shigeru keeps trying because she has so much invested in him at this point and she doesn't want to give up. She's never lost before but it's not that kind of motivation that's pushing her but more that she hasn't wanted something like this before and will do whatever it takes to make it work, right down to being so incredibly honest and open with Tsukasa about things that you really do feel bad for her about it all.

Naturally, her moment of being so honest and open comes with a price and that's being seen by Tsukushi who of course misreads the scene entirely and can't deal with the thought of the two of them together. She can't admit to herself that she still holds strong feelings for him but it's almost boiling over within her that you expect her to just snap from it but she keeps denying everything inside and keeping her limited focus on Rui and the way the two of them seem to be much more open with each other than when they were dating each other. Rui's interesting during all of this because you can tell he's not interested in dating her but will play along in this role in order to bounce her back into Tsukasa's arms.

Every volume has been a roller coaster ride of emotions for the characters in this series and this one is no different. The highs are hilarious and the lows are priceless in how stark and blunt they are. This show gets more mileage out of some key shots than most other series combined. Using it as a mental playback device to Tsukushi's ability to freak out about anything and everything gives them that option, though I wish they'd not use it as much as they did her. But its so representative of what's running through her head at any given time that in a way it really is hard to not do it this way.

In Summary:
With only a handful of episodes left after this, it's becoming clear how the anime series will end but it will be quite a trip in getting there. This volume kicks the drama up nicely and ends on such a perfect cliffhanger that as much as you dread the end of the series you want it in your hands as quickly as possible. Tsukushi's life goes through so many changes that it'd be daunting to anyone that age but she handles it as well as possible and finds some moments of respite and joy in this volume that was really good to see. I absolutely love this show and the way it is so over the top with its characters, writing and style. It's easy to do over the top but it's hard to do it well and within the kind of rules that they establish here. Very recommended if you're into this kind of material.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Character Sketches,Storyboards

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: 24.95
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Boys Over Flowers