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花のち晴れ 花男NextSeason

Hana Yori Dango

Back in the early 90s, Shueisha published a shojo manga called Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) by Yoko Kamio. The title is a pun on the phrase “dango over flowers”, referring to the chewy dumpling-like sweet one might eat during a sakura viewing. The story was typical of the time: a “normal” girl works hard to get into a super elite school, which is ruled by a group of super rich boys. She gets in the leader’s way, and sparks fly. Lots and lots and lots of drama happens before they finally get a happy ending.

The manga ran for 37 volumes, and was pretty popular, ending in 2003. It was so popular, in fact, that it spawned an anime series, an animated film, two live action movies, and about nine TV dramas around the world – and this is just based on a quick wiki search. I know of at least one tv adaptation not listed on the wiki, so there may be more.

The 2005 Japanese tv series was how I got into the whole thing: a friend lent me her VCDs, and I ended up watching the whole thing in one sitting. It was basically my first binge-watch. (I think. It might have been the Robotech/Macross series instead.) The tv series, like its Taiwanese and Korean counterparts (I haven’t watched the other adaptations), was highly entertaining and somewhat problematic. The reason I loved the Japanese version the best was because (1) it was the first one I watched, and (2) they got Makino Tsukushi, the heroine, just right. As I said, the story had problematic elements, but Tsukushi was perfect – fierce and stubborn and always standing up for what she believed, even if she wasn’t always kind and she held a lot of prejudices against the rich kids at her school. She’s basically my Elizabeth Bennet. (Sometimes Doumyoji is my Darcy. But only sometimes.) And of the adaptations I’ve watched, only the Japanese series came close to getting her character right.

Fast forward to many years later: a sequel series was announced. The run for Hana Nochi Hare ~HanaDan Next Season~ (Sunshine After Flowers) started in February 2015 as a web series on Shonen Jump +, with a simultaneous release on Viz Media. I started reading it on Jump+ but decided to wait for released volumes after the third chapter or so… and then forgot to look it up again, until recently.

Rather than focusing on what happens to Tsukushi and Doumyoji after the events of HanaDan, or on the rest of the F4, this series is set in Eitoku, the elite school that the characters have left behind. With a new rival school on the rise, and the absence of the F4, student intakes have declined at Eitoku. To uphold the old Eitoku image, Haruto (who idolises Doumyoji) starts the Correct 5, a group of students to keep the others in check. Enter Oto Edogawa, who had been pretending to be rich to fit in at school when in truth, her father’s company had gone bankrupt…

The rest of the story (so far) is pretty predictable, falling back on the same tropes and events that made HanaDan so popular. This is fine with me as I wasn’t expecting anything else, but I do hope that it would stay away from the amnesia bit. I’ve only read the first three volumes of the five currently available, and this is how I think it compares:

Hana Nochi Hare

1. I like Haruto a lot more than I liked Doumyoji. This is easy, I suppose – Doumyoji isn’t exactly the most likable male shojo manga lead. While Doumyoji had been a temperamental bully that Tsukushi had to “tame” (or rather, confront head-on), Haruto’s main flaws made him kind of endearing to me. When he treats the “poor” (translation: not filthy rich) characters badly, it is obvious that it’s out of cluelessness rather than a feeling of superiority, although this being a HanaDan sequel, of course there’s some “I’m awesome because I’m rich” humour every now and then.

2. Oto Edogawa isn’t Makino Tsukushi, and she would be the first to admit it. In fact, she said something to that effect at one point. But she’s great in her own way, and I can see how the story is set up that I can look forward to some amazing character development where she’s concerned.

3. TWO main female characters. It’s the first thing I noticed when the first image that came with the series’ announcement. Two girls on the cover! Tsukushi isn’t the only female in HanaDan, and not even the only awesome female character in HanaDan, but I’m so pleased to see two girls on the cover, and one of them part of the Correct 5, too. Gone are the days when Tsukushi is the only girl allowed in an all boys club!

4. Speaking of Airi, though. Aaaaaaaaggh. I got so frustrated when her character arc started to follow one of the more problematic characters in HanaDan. It was over quickly, though, and it looks like both Oto and Airi might end up friends. *relieved sigh*

5. A love triangle can’t be avoided, since this is a HanaDan sequel. Just like with HanaDan, it’s obvious that Oto and Haruto are the endgame. But. I do like Hase! He’s got all the charm and too-good-to-be-true vibes that Hanazawa Rui (from HanaDan) had, but unlike Hanazawa Rui, he doesn’t appear to be daydreaming with his head in the clouds all the time. In fact, he seems like the sturdy, charismatic leader sort, so I would like to see how things will play out between him and Oto.

6. The parents… well. In HanaDan, Tsukushi’s parents were the most ridiculous people I’ve encountered in fiction, except maybe for Mrs. Bennet (ahahaha) so it’s easy for Oto’s mother to appear as nothing more than a spoiled, selfish adult in this one. The other characters’ parents have yet to appear, and I really do hope that this story will avoid the Disapproving Rich Parent trope with Haruto’s family, or at least deal with the trope a bit differently.

Conclusion: I think this manga may be rekindling mylove for shojo manga! I also wish that it would be made into a live action drama one day, preferably with Kamiki (or someone as good) as Haruto.

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