Jennifer Griffith's Reviews > Boys Over Flowers: Hana Yori Dango, Vol. 1

Boys Over Flowers by Yoko Kamio
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Dec 07, 11

Read from November 01 to 30, 2011

UPDATE:
Finished the series. It ended much better than I expected it to, and in the end, I liked the protagonists and the growth they exhibited. Kudos to Yoko Kamio for seeing a way through for her characters to change and become better than they started.

For a long time I thought I'd rather my kids didn't read this, but there may come a time when I wouldn't mind--so long as they finish the whole thing. All 36 volumes! Ha ha. 12/11

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I'm working my way through the 36(?) volumes of this manga series, my first foray into the manga genre. I loved living in Japan at the time this was first published (the early 90s), and it gives me insight into the Japanese teen mindset.

As a mom, I think it's important to realize that although manga look like bubble gum comic books with their bright colors and their big-eyed heroines, the topics tackled in this series are heavy. There's a lot of physical violence, including domestic violence to excess, as well as bullying, assault, suggested sex, even an attempted rape. It's not kiddie fare at all, and I'd definitely put it squarely in the PG-13 category (and then not encourage my 13 year old son to read it.) Some of the characters are drawn scantily clad from time to time (although this particular series has no nudity. Yet. I'm in the 28th volume at this point.) The main characters remain virginal, although their friends continually tease them about that fact and urge them to consummate their relationship.

While all these issues are discussed, and it's (in my opinion) too much for a younger reader, I simply find it a strange format for this discussion, e.g., unexpected. I guess I grew up reading Charlie Brown comics, and while Charles Schultz made reference to world politics via Linus from time to time, it wasn't ever like this.

Parents whose kids are drawn to manga (and I'd imagine most kids are) should be aware that they're not the comic books we grew up reading, and might be wise to screen any series a child selects--because with dozens of voulmes in a given series, the kid could be immersing in that world for a good long time and seeing those images created by the artist as well.

As for this particular series, the main character, Tsukushi, is a girl whose parents are bent on sending her to an expensive, elite high school even though she is not wealthy. They make inappropriate sacrifices for her to attend, and she feels obligated to keep going even when the hazing begins. And it is cruel. She is singled out and bullied to within an inch of her life by a cruel group of four outrageously wealthy, handsome boys called The F4.

Tsukushi falls in love with one of the F4, the only one to defend her, but learns he has a tragic secret in his love history. Then a different, violent member falls for Tsukushi. Throughout the series to this point they have shared an extremely volatile relationship, and as an outsider who has a happy, stable, non-violent marriage, it's troubling to see a girl resubmit herself to this boy again and again because he "needs her," and she "makes him a better person."

The author of the series herself in a sidebar at one point suggests to her teen readers that this is an unhealthy relationship she is portraying, but I fear the opposite message is the one that sinks in. If my daughter ever ends up reading these years down the road, I guess I'll take it as an opportunity to discuss this as a "what not to do with your life" example.

The series must have merit, like so many controversial but unappealing book club books do for me, because it is clearly eliciting strong reactions from me. I'm not going to recommend everyone go out and get their hands on some manga right away, but it's out there, and parents ought to know what their kids are reading.
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