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Review: Boys Over Flowers (Vol. 32)

Reviewer: Shannon Fay

Manga-ka: Yoko Kamio
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: October 2008

Synopsis: “Although Tsukushi Makino is from a poor family, she attends an elite school for the super rich, where her life has become intertwined with the “F4,” the ruling boys of the school, in a whirlwind of love and confusion! Tsukushi’s on-and-off boyfriend Tsukasa is hospitalized after a gruesome head injury! While his life hangs in the balance his devious mother shows no emotion at all! Could a mother really be so heartless?! Even if Tsukasa is able to survive, he may never be the same again…”

This volume of Boys Over Flowers (or Hana Yori Dango for you purists out there) ties up one cliché plotline and moves onto another: out with the controlling family and in with the amnesia. It’s not surprising that the manga pulls out such a tried and true trope: it’s used just about every other rom-com road block to keep the two leads from getting together. Heck, it’s more surprising that it took 31 volumes before one of the leads lost their memory. Yet despite being a cliché and a half, this new arc manages to be funny and heart-touching.

The book picks up after Tsukasa has been attacked and is now in the hospital. While he fights for his life, Tsukushi faces off against his controlling mother. Tsukasa’s mother has been the main villain for several books now, but in this volume she and Tsukushi manage to reach a temporary peace agreement. Tsukasa’s mom will probably be back to menace the couple in future volumes, but it was nice to see something of a resolution to her arc.

The story really gains momentum once it focuses on Tsukasa’s recovery in the hospital. Because of the attack Tsukasa has forgotten all about Tsukushi and their relationship. This leads to a hilarious scene where the cast tries to restore Tsukasa’s memory by re-enacting a scene from volume one (“Not even the readers remember that old plot,” Tsukushi complains when it doesn’t work).

But the manga doesn’t play Tsukasa’s condition just for laughs. Having Tsukasa forget all about her puts Tsukushi in a very painful position. After pushing him away for so long, she suddenly has to try and convince him that they love each other. Matters are made worse by a third party, a cute, cheerful hospital patient named Umi. Tsukushi can’t help but resent the fact that Umi is able to crack Tsukasa’s shell, making Tsukushi feel worthless.

I really like that Umi isn’t a conniving boyfriend stealer. All she wants is be friends with Tsukushi and Tsukasa, but her actions just cause the rift between them to grow. In the past, Tsukushi’s rivals often end-up becoming allies and part of the supporting cast. I hope that happens with Umi, since I really like her and the dynamic she brings to the manga.

The other characters also shine in this volume. Of course the focus is on Tsukushi, but whenever the minor characters show up they hit all the right notes. Even usual write-off characters like Tsukushi’s little brother seem full of life in this volume.

Volume 32 is a great mix of comedy, romance and drama. It’s nice to see the manga rediscover it’s funny bone as the previous arc was getting a little too angsty for me. Not that the characters don’t have a tough time of it here, it’s just balanced better.

The art for Boys Over Flowers is an interesting halfway point between old-school shojo and a more modern style. Yoko Kamio draws plenty of detailed backgrounds but also uses lots of fun screen prints and tones. That’s actually a good summary of her art as a whole: it’s cute and detailed but never at the expense of the atmosphere (and likewise, the atmosphere never obscures the narrative).

Boys Over Flowers is not the most original manga in the world. Lots of romantic-comedies have come out since it’s initial release that use many of the same things it’s based on (though to be fair, it’s not like amnesia was unique plot device even back in 1992). But it’s a solid series worth checking out for any fan of high-school romance.

Review written September 17, 2009 by Shannon Fay

Shannon Fay

About the Author:

Shannon Fay has been an anime and manga fan ever since junior high when a friend showed her a raw VHS tape of ‘Sailor Moon Stars.’ After watching it, she knew she didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t include magical transvestites and alien boy bands. Along with her reviews on Kuriousity, Shannon Fay has also written manga reviews for Manga Life and Anime Fringe. She is also a freelance manga adapter and is currently working with the manga licensor Seven Seas.

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