piranha: stylized white figure lifting a red barbell with weights (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
i watched this a while ago, but wanted to wait with reviewing it until i had finished the manga. i chose it because it's another incredibly well-liked shoujo, it's tagged as a "gender bender", and the live action has two of my favourite actors in the lead role.

the manga (affectionately abbreviated as 'hanakimi'), written by nakajo hisaya, started in 1996, and i had to remind myself of that at times because, while the art doesn't show its age, the pace does -- it gets very slow at times, and there is a bit too much extraneous filler stuff that i'd prefer cut. but since i have not read much shoujo, i have no complaint about the storyline being overdone. at the time it certainly was not, and it does in fact retain some facets that i have not seen a lot. for example, there is an actual gay man in this manga, who even gets to have his own small arc, including an onscreen kiss. i find this very cool in a genre that usually only teases with pseudo-gayness as fan service, if that.

anyway, the story is that ashiya mizuki (horikita maki) had been idolising high jumper sano izumi (oguri shun) after seeing him in a competition, and when he seemed to drop out of the sport after an accident, she decides to transfer to his school to encourage him to return to high jumping. the twist is that his school is an all-boys school, but that doesn't deter her; she cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy. when she arrives at school, she happens to be in luck and gets assigned as his roommate. yes, i know -- how much more feeble a setup could you design if you tried? :)

summary opinion: enjoyed the manga, hated the live action.
hanakimi mangahanakimi live lead actors

there's no sign here of what annoys me most in shoujo: vapid, simpering girls who always need to be rescued, and rich and good-looking boys everyone fawns over, but who're real jerks. there are also no conniving female rivals, and we have a few good supportingfemale characters -- they don't play much of a role, but at least they're there.

while the setup leaves a lot to be desired, mizuki is a good protagonist -- she's a bit naive and impulsive, but not dumb, or totally clueless, and not conniving at all. she doesn't only have her heart in the right place, she also acts on it; and she is fierce and outspoken when it comes to helping her friends. and sano is a good guy; he's quiet and keeps people at a distance, but he is not a jerk, and while he is at first annoyed with this perky stranger intruding in his life, once he comes to appreciate mizuki he behaves generally very well. they become true friends before we see any romantic feelings. and while he ends up helping mizuki get out of a number of scrapes, and keeps her secret (which he finds out very early on, unbeknownst to her), she helps him too, with his jumping, and his brother & his father (with whom he is not on speaking terms initially), so this is fairly equal relationship.

it annoys me a little that mizuki is EXTREMELY clueless when it comes to realising her feelings are being reciprocated; at some point sano pretty much tells her, and she STILL thinks "oh, he likes me just as a friend". when a guy in a japanese manga holds your hand repeatedly, you really ought to catch on, since that is not something guys generally do with other guys. she isn't nearly as dense when nakatsu tells her. it takes a long time for that to be resolved, maybe a bit too long, and in the face of too much evidence.

some of the supporting characters are also neat -- there's nakatsu shuuichi (ikuta toma) who comes to question his sexual orientation when he finds himself falling in love with mizuki, and the above-mentioned gay man, umeda hokuto (kamikawa takaya) who is the school doctor and mizuki's confidant (not surprisingly he also finds out that she is really a girl very quickly). and then a cast of many, most of whom provide comic relief. i really like kayashima, the boy who can see auras and ghosts, because he is so laconic.

there's a lot of silly humour, which i don't care much for (i am probably much too old for this manga, *heh*), but which also didn't annoy me much. the manga also falls seriously short when it comes to gender bending -- we really have nothing more here than crossdressing; mizuki doesn't once ponder how different her life is as a boy, and what that might mean.

the live action ruins almost everything that is good in the manga for me. which is a crying shame, because it actually manages to improve on some of the really weak aspects of the manga -- mizuki gets a much better reason for transferring to sano's school, the denouement is handled more realistically, most of the filler is cut, and nakatsu becomes more of a real person. ikuta toma is now on my list to watch because he managed to play this character -- who provides much comic relief but also has actual feelings and issues -- straddling perfectly that line, which is an awesome feat, and not one the manga itself manages.

i read the manga in scanlation, which is very uneven because it's done by a lot of different people for some of whom this was their first attempt -- some of it sucks rocks, some of it is good. the chapters that suck, suck so hard that i'd need the raw to figure out what is really being said. i have not seen viz's version, but even if this is old viz it's bound to be better.

unfortunately the live action screws with both lead characters. sano is more gloomy and never becomes as introspective and caring as in the manga. i like oguri and i wish the direction hadn't hobbled him, because he is definitely capable of portraying the manga sano. and i cannot for a moment believe that horikita is a boy -- she manages to pull it off occasionally, but most of the time the mannerisms scream "girl". that really surprised me because she did a fantastic job acting in nobuta wo produce, and a decent one in kurosagi. here she just fails; she's also way too shrill when chiding sano -- the manga mizuki never actually berates sano. now, mizuki being too girly is already a problem in the manga, but with a real person acting the part it becomes much more glaring. in the manga at least mizuki has some boyish traits to the point that when she is finally discovered some of her classmates don't even believe it, while in the live action she spends proportionally more time in a dress "pretending" to be a girl, which is the last thing she should be doing.

and the humour is horribly, horribly over the top, even for japanese standards; ruining tertiary characters like hamejima (the very dramatic leader of dorm 3) and tennouji (sports-obsessed dorm 1 leader) in the process. they were a bit overdrawn in the manga as well, but in the live action i can't take them seriously at all, and to add insult to injury hamejima is made butt ugly.

last but not least, the gay doctor has been de-gayed. the photographer who follows him around and teases him without mercy is a man in the manga, but in the live action they've made him a woman, and while the good doc is hinted at also liking men, there is no relationship for him, and no kissing. instead it's implied that he'll end up with the photographer, whom he's already been said to have dated once before. *yuck*. bastards.

so, read the manga if you like shoujo, crossdressing girls as boys, don't mind the slow pace (23 volumes; licensed by viz). the art is decent throughout -- strangely enough it becomes really good at some point in the middle, and then towards the end gets worse again. there is no anime, which strikes me as odd. don't watch the live action.

ps: ok, i am officially an arashi fanboi now, *sigh*. so sad, but i can't help it that so many of their songs are so catchy that i find myself singing along all the time. ah, the joy of men who sing in the high tenor range. but guys, what is it with your totally non-sensical lyrics? i don't really care because i can still totally ignore japanese lyrics, but it's startling how often i can't even decipher the plentiful engrish.


on 2011-02-26 02:36 (UTC)
torachan: anime-style me ver. 2.0 (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] torachan
HanaKimi is one of my favorites. I took a look at the drama when it first came out, but it was so ridiculously hammed up and over the top that I couldn't stand even a couple minutes.

I really love that Umeda is gay in the manga because while there are a couple gay students (and Nakatsu, but he is shown to be "really" straight in the end when it's revealed Mizuki is a girl), a lot of times when there is same-sex activity in school settings, there is an assumption of it being something you grow out of (especially at an all-boys or all-girls school), but having a non-subtextually gay adult allows for a world where queer people actually exist outside of school crushes. (And he's not just there for comic relief, either, which is the usual main role for a queer supporting character.)

japanese boy bands

on 2011-02-26 08:28 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
I don't read manga or watch much live-action Japanese TV (I did watch Nobuta wo Produce on your rec!).

I'm just fascinated by the cultural ins-and-outs of Japanese boy bands - as you say, they tend to sing in a high tenor range (and by comparison to US/Western boy bands don't seem to have at least one bass or baritone for some kind of variety/balance).

It's my understanding that at least traditionally, Japanese men tended to speak as low in their range as possible and women as high as possible. I remember watching an X-files video that had samples of German, Spanish and Japanese dubbed X-files and I found both Mulder and Scully's Japanese pitches completely implausible (and curiously, the German Scully was noticeably low-pitched).

It's maybe a generational break? Or something to do with being a "boy" vs a "man"?

Re: japanese boy bands

on 2011-02-27 08:25 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
This is all incredibly interesting. Again, from my understanding of Japanese culture, an adult man is certainly allowed to be in relationships and drink alcohol (and adult women have stricter standards applied to them) but obviously you can't generalise from Western cultural rules (men are allowed, women aren't, therefore girls are held to stricter standards than boys), because it sounds to me like here the boys are being held to at least as strict rules. Thanks for telling me so much about it!

Re: japanese boy bands

on 2011-02-28 06:28 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
The impression of you I have is that you're quite good at combining teen-like gushing over pretty with observing, learning and research.

I will forgive you for not knowing so much about the female idols, although if you're planning to write a serious sociological study, you will have to do that extra research I am afraid ;-).


coincidence

on 2011-03-03 06:11 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
Oddly, (maybe the world wants me to become interested in idoru?) another friend, [personal profile] alias_sqbr posted some stuff about Namie Amuro, who I see was also an idoru who had a shotgun wedding. She seems to have survived and now has a more adult (Japanese R&B) music career. I suspect she (particularly as a woman over 30) is more my taste than yours :-).

Re: coincidence

on 2011-03-04 01:10 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
Yes, I was also wondering to what extent her limited success in the early 2000s was a matter of being too close both to being an idoru and the whole pregnant-married-divorce story, and now some time has passed.

I don't think I've been seriously caught up by idoru, it was more an amusing coincidence in timing. And I definitely have a weak spot for manufactured teen stars who go on to become independent mature successful adults, partly because it's quite rarely successful - it must be very, very hard.

Re: coincidence

on 2011-03-04 01:57 (UTC)
aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] aquaeri
I found the Namie Amoru/Yamapi single and yeah, overprocessed - which reminded me of Madonna/Justin Timberlake "4 minutes".

In the case of "4 minutes", the Glee version is better anyway, not as processed, the brass actually makes sense (a school cheerleading band) and it's Chris Colfer singing Madonna's lines and Amber Riley singing JT's.

(If you're not up with Glee, these are the actors of two of the characters the show is less focussed on, Chris' character Kurt is gay (as is Chris) and Amber is a generous-shaped black woman; and probably the two actors who I think deserve success outside Glee the most - Chris perhaps more as an actor, but Amber as a singer - I wish they'd give her more to do on the show.)

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