Lovefool 12.12.11 | Hana Yori Dang, That’s Mean

Love is often borne of bad decisions, as Lovefool finds within the the pages of Yoko Kamio’s classist shojo “romance” Hana Yori Dango, a.k.a. Boys Over Flowers.

 

 

Sometimes love makes me angry, y’all, and then it gets hard to write this column. For example, I spend week after week after week sneering at people in funnybooks who are making iffy life choices here in this column. Over here in real life, though, when one of my friends is possibly in a spot of trouble, I can’t do anything but make vague noises about how I hope they’re going to be happy eventually because what else am I supposed to say? How do I even go there? And then I have people in my life who are fabulous, wonderful, amazing and I would do nearly anything to bump a little of the manga magic I get all swoony about here their way but it’s never the good clichés that go screeching across my text messages screen. Fortunately, we’re not talking about my life this week because I will end up losing a friend if we do, so let’s talk about Boys Over Flowers.
 
Boys Over Flowers is Yoko Kamio’s millionty-volume manga series (released in English by VIZ Media) that makes me furious most of the time and I often find myself wondering if Japan is the worst place in the world to be a teenage girl after a session with a few volumes. Seriously, it’s almost a how-not-to book on how to be a human being. The story takes place, in large part, at a very exclusive private high school for very moneyed students that, somehow, our heroine has managed to get into and stay into despite the fact that her family is super extra broke. One day, she and her friend are walking the halls when Makiko, the friend, manages to literally stumble over BMOC Tsukasa and his friends, the Flower Four (which is apparently the thing to call a bunch of spoiled jerks who run that school) and there is a little bit of conflict. Tsukushi, our heroine, sticks up for her friend and then ends up with a red tag in her locker the next day. The red tag is a complicated way for Tsukasa and his friends to let you know that they’re going to be mean to you and for the rest of the school to know to stop treating you like a human being.
 
Seriously, what happened to Sharpie-ing bad words on someone’s locker? Then, over the course of 37 books, Tsukasa is pretty much a jerk and Tsukushi will stomp a very pretty foot or participate in a sporting event to determine if she can continue to attend her spendy school instead of just saying that she’s committed to her education. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only read about the first third of the series because it made me concerned I was going to grind my teeth into piles of dust in my mouth.) But in that first third, everyone is nearly unbearably shallow, even the heroine occasionally, and I once described our questionable hero as “kind of rape-y” in an earlier column. Bad decisions are made, things are said that I wouldn’t let my mama say to me and many of the things that I hate about manga are prominently featured. There’s a brief flirtation with a love triangle that’s pretty much a non-starter from go, for various reasons, and tends to showcase the icky parts of all three people involved.
 
Things like this make me glad I’m out of touch with being a teenager. We have Tsukasa and Tsukushi in 1992 and Edward and Bella now and, if you squint and have just the right kind of wrong day, it feels like there’s not much difference between them, right down to token attempts to try not to do what your sorta-kinda-boyfriend wants you to do every single time. I wonder if this is some strange phenomenon that I missed while being a total badass in high school, but if a boy had ever treated me with the classist disdain and horrible manners that Tsukasa displays in Boys Over Flowers, exquisitely combined in the moment where he screams at Tsukushi because she doesn’t want to accept an overly expensive gift from him because he’s being a jerk…well, he wouldn’t even whisper my name in a dark room because he’d be afraid I’d show up in the mirror. (Seriously, I have references.) Tsukushi, of course, is hailed as a heroine in the manga world because she called him out on it…nearly every single time. Of which there were many. Because she didn’t tell him to go away like any smart girl would’ve and kept sticking around for some reason and did not file a restraining order against him. People aren’t actually like that, are they? They’re not, right?
 
Eventually, of course, love starts to tame the savage asshole because that’s how the manga world works and he begins to feel like maybe someone you wouldn’t find yourself doodling elaborate death scenes in the margins of your notebook for him to star in. (Well, maybe still in algebra class because that’s boring.) He’s still not really a pleasant person and he needs to learn some manners but he stops forcing quite as much physical contact on Tsukushi (no, no, no, no, no, I cannot stress this enough, no, no, no) and lets her talk to other people every once in a while. He makes tiny little bits of effort, like straightening his hair because Tsukushi thinks it’s cute and he does, admittedly, save her life in a snowstorm when his other friends try to kill her but he still tends to think that he can, in fact, buy himself some love and Tsukushi occasionally still lets him manipulate her into weird situations and tell her who she can be friends with but, hey, apparently – that’s l’amour. | Erin Jameson

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