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...this is a tale of love, loss, regret, and war.
Declaration of War
Review by Matthew Anderson
51 Episode TV Series
Running Time: 104 minutes (4 episodes)
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, language and Adult situations)
Tsukushi is a student at the prestigious Eitoku High School. A simple city girl, she is very ill at ease with her fellow high society students. She really is unhappy with the rather brutish and arrogant F4, a group of very rich and powerful boys who rule the student body with an iron fist. Anyone they don't like, gets a red slip, which means death for your social life.
When Tsukushi's best friend earns the wrath of the F4, she decides to stand up to these pretty boy bullies. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with them, and they give Tsukushi a red slip. Now, the fight is on, with neither side backing down.
In war, affairs of the heart can be dangerous. When she falls for handsome F4 member Rui, will she continue the fight?
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: This looks pretty much like a direct transfer of the source material. The image is some what faded, and there is some noticeable film grain. There is some wrinkling in the video, which may distract people with bigger screen televisions.
AUDIO: The English 2.0 has a fuller sound than the Japanese 2.0. It has better directionality, and the voices and music are blended better. The Japanese 2.0 is free of the mono hiss usually associated with older titles, and it's louder.
EDITS: No edits. Everything is exactly as it was when it was on the TV in Japan.
Not really an edit, the music on the "next of" segment is different on the English dub.
EXTRAS: Nothing I would call exciting. There is a brief text profile on Tsukushi with some design sketches. There is also a multi-angle storyboard to screen comparison on three key scenes.
STORY: This is a shojo story, make no bones about it. Based of the manga by Yoko Kamio this is a tale of love, loss, regret, and war. The writing staff manages to balance the comedy with scenes of nerve wracking suspense, all the while giving the ladies some handsome boys to swoon over.
ACTING: The Japanese cast is pretty typical for this kind of anime. Maki Mochida is either squealing like a school girl, or sounding like one pissed off chick. Koji Yamamoto really plays Rui so low key and aloof, you would almost think he was disconnected from reality.
The English cast isn't too bad as well. Kelly Sheridan plays Tsukushi a little stronger than Maki Mochida. Michael Adamthwaite injects more energy into Tsukasa than his Japanese counterpart. Stephen Park does Rui about the same.
FAN SERVICE: There are quite a few bra and panty shots, but it's all in context of doing things like changing clothes or dancing. I'm sure fans of the manga can find the references better than I can.
When I first moved to Japan, I naturally sought out all the anime I could. Sundays at 9 on Fuji TV, I encountered a show that seemed to be about the trials of dancing. In the episode, I saw this cute young girl being brutalized by her fellow classmates. Totally shocked at what I saw, I asked my new Japanese friends if this sort of thing goes on in Japan. They told me yes, it happens quite a bit. As I watched, and the more "romantic" elements were presented, I opted not to watch it, never realizing that many years later, Viz would bring this series to me again.
The minute I saw the "Happy Days" inspired opening, I jumped out of my seat, yelling excitedly at the TV set. Don't let the rather happy and romantic opening fool you into thinking that this is a light and airy romantic comedy. It's not. While it does have some comedic elements, it's more of a war against the classes. In this war, the rich far outnumber the poor.
The champion of the down trodden is Tsukushi Makino. Very much as staff writer Kaylanii Xie describes she is "Naive with a backbone of steel". Time after time, she foolishly trusts someone, and then has to use her sharp tongue and "I don't give a damn" attitude to get out of the situation. Like most Shojo girls, she falls for not one but two resident bad boys. Every victory she earns, she looses ground, getting all dopey eyed for one of the jerks that caused all her problems in the first place. This is one mixed message this show is sending out.
Speaking of jerks, there is the Flower 4 or F4. Four of them there may be, but only two are of any importance, leader Tsukasa and lieutenant Rui. While they may be jerks, they can make the ladies swoon!
Tsukasa is the epitome of "bored spoiled rich kid". Using his fathers vast fortune, he has no problem getting what he wants. He toys with his fellow students, rationalizing his behavior as a way for his classmates to have fun. He doesn't care that his actions cause pain and suffering for others. The only thing he cares about is how to make Tsukushi his. The bastard even kidnaps her, and forces her to have a make over. Okay, it sounds sillier than it is, but the fact is that he does it just so she can hang with him. When she rejects his advances, the gloves come off.
Rui is the opposite of Tsukasa, as far as temperament. While Tsukasa is loud and boisterous, Rui is introverted, aloof, and totally disconnected from reality. Like Tsukasa, he says he doesn't care for others, but his actions speak differently. Several times he helps the very people that fear him. He seems very sweet on Tsukushi, actually talking with her almost as equals. Naturally, our heroine falls for his sweeter side, all the while forgetting that he is with the enemy. Ditz.
Waiting in the wings are three people who are even more dangerous than the F4. Called "The Three Bitches" by the DVJ staff, these girls put the bratty Nanami from "Utena" to shame. While the F4 are brutes, "The Three Bitches" are much more subtle. They have others do their dirty work for them. The also like to dig in the fact that they are rich, and Tsukushi is sooo not. I expect we have a lot more to fear from them in the future.
I have to admit, I'm hooked on the opening theme "Futsu No Nichiyobini" sung by Tomohiko Kikuta. His elegant and soothing voice really conveys the emotions of the song. It has a 50's rock and roll sound, that fits the opening animation musical number. The entire staff at DVJ found themselves humming along. This is one song I would buy.
I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this series. While it's shojo roots infuriate the hell out of me, I can't help but watch how Tsukushi gets out of the latest predicament. Kaylanii Xie on the other hand is totally addicted. She is dying for the next volume.
Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango) is an interesting entry into the shojo genre. One of the better entries, this may be "the one" that brings me to the other side.
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