Hana Yori Dango: Final opened in Japanese theaters yesterday and wrapped up one of the most successful dramas in recent years. The series, based on a Yoko Kamio manga, had two runs of 11 episodes; “Hana Yori Dango” in 2005 and “Hana Yori Dango 2” in 2007, both of which got a consistent 20 share in the ratings. It’s really not hard to figure out why it was such a hit. Take a funny, likable actress like Mao Inoue, stick her in a winning formula (spunky average girl gets accepted by the super rich cool kids), and voila! Cash in. Now I’m going to briefly spoil the TV show so I can talk about the movie. Avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it and care.
In the first series Tsukushi Makino (Inoue) is a poor girl attending the insanely rich Eitoku Academy. A group of 4 arrogant heirs dubbed “F4” runs things at the school and the richest of them all, Tsukasa Domyoji (Jun Matsumoto of Arashi), is their leader. Domyoji rules the school by fear, and if anyone crosses F4 he issues them a “red notice”—which basically equates to a standing order for the entire student body to harrass the person in question mercilessly until they quit the school. Makino hates everyone at the school, especially F4, but decides to just lay low and try to muddle through by staying invisible until graduation. Her plan goes awry when she protects someone that annoys Domyoji, earning a red notice herself. Harrassment goes on for days but she’s too stubborn to quit. Domyoji can’t stand Makino because he feels like her resistance is making him seem like a weak leader, so he keeps making things worse for her. Meanwhile when things get really bad, Domyoji’s fellow F4 member Rui Hanazawa (Shun Oguri) saves her a few times, causing her to develop a huge crush on him. Later on in the season Makino gets completely fed up with Domyoji and knocks him out with a right cross. Suddenly he starts to see her differently. For the rest of the season he persues her in various ways an arrogant jerk would, until she starts to see some good in him and the two fall in love. Unfortunately his mom is an evil hag and forces Domyoji to move New York to learn business in the final episode. Domyoji and Makino share a final kiss and agree that after 3 years they’ll be together again.
The second series, “Hana Yori Dango 2” basically revolves around Domyoji and Makino’s relationship being counter-productive to Domyoji corp. The two keep going back and forth on whether they love each other or not and there are plenty of silly misunderstandings, meddling crazy people, stubborn arguments, and a brief love triangle with Rui Hanazawa until everything finally works out in a way that makes everyone happy. In the final episode Domyoji proposes to Makino, setting up the events of the movie.
Hana Yori Dango: Final begins as Domyoji holds an extravagant press conference to announce his wedding to Makino the following spring. The press is playing her up like a modern-day Cinderella and everything seems to be going well. Later, the families offer congratulations to the couple. Even Domyoji’s mother—who was formerly vehemently opposed to the relationship and tried desperately to break them up at every opportunity—is suddenly happy for them. She even offers Makino a family heirloom: a tiara worth 10 billion yen (about $95 million USD) called “Smile of Venus”.
Later in their hotel room, Makino begins to worry that her life is about to take a drastic change from what she’s used to. Domyoji consoles her by telling her he’ll spend the rest of his life protecting her, but just as he says that a man dressed in black crashes into their room through a window and steals the “Smile of Venus” tiara. Domyoji tries to chase the man but he vanishes into the city. By the time they get back to the hotel room the glass is completely cleaned up and the window is replaced as if nothing had ever happened. Obviously there’s some sort of conspiracy going on. Could Domyoji’s mother be meddling again, hoping to make it look like Makino carelessly lost the tiara herself? Or is someone at the hotel trying to cover up the crime? Domyoji and Makino are determined to get to the bottom of things, and end up going on a wild adventure together which takes them through Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and various places throughout the world. And don’t worry fangirls, the rest of F4 will show up too.
Official website (dead link removed - http://www.hanadan-final.jp/)
Nikkan Sports just posted this article about the premiere. So far it’s a huge success. The movie was shown on 400 screens to packed crowds, totaling over 400,000 people in 1 day alone—almost twice as many as “Crying Out Love in the Center of the World” which went on to gross 8.5 billion yen a few years back. Given the vast female audience ranging from young elementary school children to women in their 40s, Toho fully expects “Hana Yori Dango: Final” to gross over 10 billion yen. After such a smashing success expectations for a sequel will rise, but director Yasuharu Ishii maintains that the entire cast and crew went into this film with the intention of it being the final chapter.