Let's start off the new me with another fangirling post.
This is a love letter I wrote to Hanadan last year, in celebration of its 10th year anniversary. As my Arashi favorite would say:
(Ang yabang lang eh noh? Hehe.)
I first learned about Hana Yori Dango through Meteor Gardent, the Taiwanese TV drama adaptation that became so wildly popular in the Philippines sometime in the early 2000's. I didn't watch MG during its peak, but some years after, when local channels were beginning to show weekend re-runs. Sure it was ye olde rich boy (Dao Ming Si / Domyouji in the Japanese original), poor girl (San Chai / Makino in the Japanese original), love-hate, love story with plenty of passionate declarations and desperate I-want-you-and-no-one-else-please-come-back chases, but what I thought pretty refreshing about the story was that Dao Ming Si falls in love with tomboyish San Chai not because she dresses up and he realizes she's a hot chick after all, but because she's brave and has integrity. His struggle to win her over was equal parts entertaining, agonizing, and endearing. Because of course, in true melodrama form, his quest to win her heart was complicated by the fact that he starts as a total jerk. He is the arrogant heir to a family fortune and the school's resident tyrant. He likes inflicting misery on random nobodies who displease him in some way. When his attention turns to her friend, she unthinkingly gets in the way. She saves her friend - hooray - but ends up becoming his target. And so he actually victimizes her for a time. When she finally stands up to him, punching him roundly in the face, in that instant it's as if he sees her, truly sees her, for the first time. The series is ridiculously addicting, if you like following characters tortured by longing and unrequited love. Of course they end up together, but only after much struggle (and 26 or 27 episodes).
So years later (many many many years later), I found myself looking for a copy of the jdrama version since the story was based on a Japanese manga. And Oh. My. Ggggggggg. I LOVED IT. If you just suspend disbelief and cynicism and let yourself by wrapped up by the feelingzzzz, I guarantee you this is a story that will have you hugging yourself in happiness, your heart filled with rainbows and sunshine. YESssss.
Hanadan completely obliterated MG in my mind (sorry MG fans). I thought the story and character development was so much more satisfying and rounded out in Hanadan. True, it felt hurried especially in season 1, but I can forgive that small flaw because so so many other things were done right and done well.
1. Makino felt like an actual girl you might know. Only more awesome. Inoue Mao was so great in this series as Makino Tsukushi and the writers wrote her character so well. She's compassionate but not a push-over, cute but not trying too hard, warm and generous and a loyal friend who would stand by you no matter what. As the designated "feisty" female, of course she had a fight mode, but thankfully she was not permanently stuck in it. I liked that she was brave and strong-minded bu wasn't constantly arguing or fighting.
|"Don't be so full of yourself!"|
|"I'll take you on, any time!"|
2. Domyouji was every bit the stupid, violent, lonely, loyal, tragically permed but somehow suddenly wonderful character he was meant to be. The jdrama does not chicken out on portraying Domyouji Tsukasa's more distasteful qualities. Because Domyouji doggedly pursues the girl and swears his undying love, viewers conveniently forget that he was an abusive bully at the start of the story. All they tend to remember is the Edward Cullen version of him, the devoted suitor. But Domyouji has some serious issues, and the Japanese version never lets us forget that. He doesn't magically turn into a well-behaved prince. He does not even lose the terrible perm!
Domyouji starting random fights
I just needed an excuse to post this one
because this scene was beautifully
shot. The still does not do it justice.
|A distressed Domyouji|
saying goodbye to his best
|A contrite Domyouji begging|
for a second chance
Domyouji actually goes through struggles to change as a person. He doesn't just get amnesia and have his entire personality rebooted into the ideal doting boyfriend. Ahem.
I liked that Makino started seriously pursuing a career path after Domyouji broke her heart in season 2. She started studying to enter law school. And I liked that Domyouji wasn’t just some spoiled rich kid yearning to escape family expectations. He had ambitions, leadership qualities, a compelling personality that naturally drew people to him. What he lacked before meeting Makino was a moral center on which to anchor such a personality.
5. Makino gave a reason for choosing Domyouji. 6. And you can clearly see why Domyouji loves her so much too. Makino explains it simply… she chose Domyouji because she feels the most like herself around him. She doesn’t feel the need to be “proper;” she is not shy around him. She expresses herself freely, including disapproval of his actions when called for.
|An enamored Domyouji 'crushing' on|
Makino for defending her frenemy
Most of all he admired her fighting spirit, how she never lets anything get her down. She was someone that cannot be bullied or bought. Someone, finally, that he can trust.
|Makino and Domyouji on an|
actual happy date
|"You have nothing to worry about."|
And Makino, even while indecisive about him at first, was at least always fair to him. She gives him a shot. She shows him kindness even after he had been cruel to her. When she mistakes his gallantry for thoughtless insensitivity and then realizes the truth, she is woman enough to apologize. And when she finally acknowledges how she really feels, she was not so proud that she would not chase after his plane to make her confession. She's kind of badass in her emotional fearlessness.
|"You're stupid, selfish, and self-centered,|
and yes I do love you..."
|Domyouji, all bluster and bravado gone,|
when Makino returns his feelings
And they almost succeed at making a long distance relationship work. Although we don't see it first hand, we learn in season 2 that they spoke on the phone almost everyday after Domyouji leaves for New York at the end of season 1. (Am I just imagining this? I rewatched season 2 again I can’t find the reference for this anymore hahaha!)
7.b. Plus… plus, plus, plus…. Domyouji genuinely cherished and respected Makino. The Domyouji character is best known for his grand gestures of love: letting himself be beaten in order to protect Makino, beating the sh*t out of guys who call her ugly, refusing every other girl's advances. In the Taiwanese version, he chases after her bus to beg her to stay with him. But for me, the best moments of Domyouji, which I only saw in the jdrama, were the small gestures.
|Domyouji twirling around lampposts|
When he points out that he has never seen anyone enjoy their food as much as she does, he says it amusement. When she suggests that they play badminton in the park by borrowing other people's rackets, he responds with incredulity, but gamely follows her lead.
He is also visibly discomfited when Makino assumes a subservient role to him. In other Asian dramas I think this is the part when the male lead would try to dominate the girl for rom com laughs, making her do this and that, crazy difficult things, and the guy would gloat because the girl can't say no. But Domyouji never gets this way. Even when Makino works as a maid in his house, though he briefly entertains kinky fantasies about her as a personal maid, he doesn't actually take advantage of his position. In fact when they are alone, he insists that she act normally. He doesn't even want her to call him sir.
And I love that this Domyouji almost never bought Makino clothes, except for the prom dress (I am not counting the black dress he buys her back when he hadn't properly figured out his feelings for her). I love that he wasn't constantly trying to upgrade her looks as if her looks wasn't good enough. And even when he does buy her a dress she never gets to wear it. Circumstances are such that she forgets to bring the prom dress, and in fact misses the entire event. This exasperates him but in the next breath he laughs it off, and when he looks at her grubby appearance, it is with affection. She is who she is. It wasn't how she looked that mattered to him.
And that's how he proposes to her. Her in her grubby uniform, him in his pompously gold tuxedo. To the cheers of a stadium full of people. Look at them below.
How can you not root for a couple that looked at each other like that?
7.c. I guess, in the final analysis, that is one of the great strengths of their story. You just cannot imagine them with anyone but each other - because they really do make each other happy.