Movie Review: Hana Yori Dango Final – The Movie

Sometimes when you watch a really great Japanese drama (Jdrama for short) based after your favorite manga series, sometimes you don’t want to see it end.

The live action Jdrama of Hana Yori Dango succeeds in doing a pretty good adaptation of Yoko Kamio’s popular manga series. I haven’t watched the Taiwanese version of HYD, which goes by a different name known as Meteor Garden, but I highly recommend the Japanese version. I’m actually surprised Japan hasn’t made a live action Jdrama of Hana Yori Dango sooner.

The series ran on TBS for two seasons. When the studio decided to make a theatrical movie to give a more definitive conclusion to the TV series, they delivered with Hana Yori Dango Final.

Tsukushi and the F4 are leading post-high school lives. Tsukushi is finishing up her time at law school, Tsukasa is running the Domyoji empire while patiently waiting to marry Tsukushi on her graduation day, Soujiro lectures at schools and conferences about traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, Akira works for his father in their shady underground business, and Rui––doesn’t have much direction for his life.

As Tsukushi and Tsukasa are getting their lives in order and eager to marry each other, Tsukasa’s mother invites Tsukushi and her family to have a sit down meal and to discuss the upcoming wedding. It is during this family get together that Tsukasa’s mother presents Tsukushi and Tsukasa with the Domyoji family heirloom, an exquisite tiara known as the “Smile of Venus.” Tsukasa’s mother explains that the tiara has been in the family for years, and is passed on to those who marry into the family. It is said that the tiara is supposed to bring endless love to the owner and their betrothed.

Tsukushi is both touched and overwhelmed by the honor. It may even weigh too heavily on her mind as she starts to feel anxiety about her upcoming nuptials, and what it means to become Mrs. Tsukasa Domyoji.

Mao Inoue as Tsukushi Makino (left) and Matsumoto Jun as Tsukasa Domyoji (right)

While Tsukushi and Tsukasa are about to share a private moment in the hotel room Tsukasa’s mother generously has Tsukushi and her family stay in, a thief breaks into the room and steals the tiara right from under the couple’s noses. A frantic chase through the hotel eventually leads to the thief escaping with the priceless heirloom, and Tsukushi and Tsukasa desperate to get it back before their big day. Keeping the theft of the tiara a secret from their families and friends, the couple packs their bags and embark on a globe trotting trip to track down the thief and the tiara’s known whereabouts. Somewhere along the way, this trip, which takes them to Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and finally a deserted tropical island, forces Tsukasa and Tsukushi to confront their deep seated fears, doubts, and concerns about their love.

The film is highly entertaining and has the same charm as the TV series. The entire cast from the Jdrama are back to reprise their roles, and the movie introduces a few new faces as well. What I enjoy most about this movie is how Tsukushi and Tsukasa are faced with plenty of challenges and questions about their relationship and love for each other. I especially like how there are some obstacles, mainly emotional ones, they have to overcome to truly know their love is rock solid. There are some twists in the film, but most are not too surprising. The viewer eventually catches on to what’s really going on before Tsukushi and Tsukasa does. I think the only complaint I have with this movie is how confusing some parts of this movie can be. I don’t quite understand the bits concerning Rui, especially at the end. It seems like everyone else has an idea of where they are going with the rest of their lives, but Rui starts and ends the film in the exact same position as he finds himself in the beginning. Maybe I missed something? A second viewing of the movie might be in order for me to understand the parts concerning Rui.

And what would a finale be without a wedding? Unfortunately, I haven’t read the entire Hana Yori Dango manga series yet, but from the summaries I have read, the final volume of the series does not end with a wedding if I’m correct. This live action movie is able to fulfill every fans’ desire to see their favorite bickering couple finally tie the knot. The scene is truly romantic and gorgeous to watch. You also get a “one year later” look at what all the characters are doing. Without really spoiling anything, we get the happily ever after you expect for Tsukushi and Tsukasa. Feel reassured that this couple and the rest of the F4 gang will do just fine.

Their happily ever after

Reviewer Rating: 9/10

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14 thoughts on “Movie Review: Hana Yori Dango Final – The Movie

  1. Ah, yes, I remember this film :p I watched it quite a while back, but I do remember having a ton of fun watching it. You’re correct in that the manga ends very differently from the J-drama; the anime actually sticks closer to the actual material. Regardless, I love both versions (and the Korean and Taiwanese ones as well) and am not the type of person to harp about staying true to the original.

    • I think it’s funny that other countries adapted this manga before Japan finally made one of their own. I really adore the Japanese version. I only got to watch the movie now because they released it here in the U.S. I only wished they would release the entire live action TV series here too.

      • Actually, there was a Japanese live-action film of Hana Yori Dango way back in 1995, but I’ve heard it wasn’t good. I’ve also heard that the Japanese wanted to turn it into a drama in the early 2000s, but by that point the Tawainese drama was already in production so they held off. If I had to take a guess why they waited so long, it was probably because the manga was nearing it’s end at that point.

      • Interesting. I never knew that. I guess I never heard about the 1995 Japanese version because it wasn’t as popular as its Taiwanese counterpart. I’m almost curious to see the ’95 version just to see why that one is considered awful compared to their much popular 2000s TV series.

  2. I’ve yet to watch this but I did watch the two seasons of the Jdrama, which I agree were really good~ It’s kind of funny that the manga doesn’t show their wedding because the last volume’s cover appears to be their wedding (Tsukushi is in a white dress)! Talk about deceptive! xD Still looking forward to eventually reading the rest of the manga and watching this movie too~ (and the anime too I guess). I’ve watched a bit of the Taiwanese adaptation, Meteor Garden. It was quite different but still really interesting. It’s definitely interesting how different countries retool the modern Cinderella tale. I stopped watching because of the big move, but I definitely want to watch it again.

    • I remember the manga’s last volume cover! I really loved how it was drawn. The cover for the last volume seems to have a similarity to the cover image for the live action movie. There are some notable differences, but overall it’s the same. I’m guessing it’s a homage to it? I am curious to watch Meteor Garden, just because it came before the Japanese version of Hana Yori Dango. Still, I liked everyone they cast for the Japanese version. I think all the actors fit the role well.

      • I didn’t like who they cast as Rui. He didn’t look like Rui to me, but I agree, everyone else fit their character’s image very well. And in the end, I ended up liking the j-drama’s Rui too because the actor did a good job. And now that you mention it, the movie’s cover does look like it may have been inspired by the last volume’s cover (Rui is in a white tuxedo just like on volume 36). Awesome~ >w<

      • I actually liked the actor they cast as Rui. I remember it took me a while to warm up to the guys cast as Soujiro and Akira. I wasn’t too sure if they could pull them off, but in the end I loved everybody.

  3. The Tawainese drama has it’s problems – a lot of the actors were chosen more for their looks than their acting abilities, and the production values aren’t great, yet I would still recommend the first season because the Tawainese drama is the most faithful of all the live-action adaptations. As for Rui seeming strange in the movie, the impression I got is that they were trying to make it seem as though he wouldn’t take over his family’s business because it doesn’t suit his laid-back personality. And you’re right that the manga doesn’t end with a wedding – which is why I’m glad that the movie does because it gives Tsukushi and Tsukasa the ending I always wanted for them. Truthfully, it was really hard for me to say goodbye to Hana Yori Dango – because even though the story had reached it’s natural conclusion, I still love the characters and wanted to continue following them.

    • The Rui bit in the movie was really hard to follow, but I can see how he would be rebelling against taking over the family business, now that you mention it.

      I can relate to not really wanting to let go of your favorite characters once you have seen their story to completion. I would love the idea of seeing a manga volume where we follow Tsukushi and Tsukasa managing married life and raising a family. I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be a dull moment between these two at all.

      • Yeah, the differences are really interesting. Meteor Garden’s mom is still very much a schemer (I think even more so than the manga counterpart because of how she was the one who bribed someone to get Tsukushi/Shancai enrolled), but she’s lost much of her iron-cladness, I feel (and it’s been replaced by her “hysteria”). She comes off as goofy and overly naggy (her being the family accountant is downplayed for example). Like she seems to pick fights with the dad for really random things at times and she isn’t the one to get him in line. It’s Tsukushi/Shancai. She seems to constantly have to tell her parents to stop fighting.

    • Huh, that’s interesting to know about Meteor Garden. I’ve only watched like 2-3 episodes before I put it on hold and those first episodes were pretty different from the manga. Like, Tsukushi isn’t in highschool but at university (from what I could grasp) and she’s studying a specific branch of philosophy (Confucian thought) and she’s much more lady-like than the Japanese Tsukushi. Her parents were also a bit different, I can’t remember why, but I do remember thinking her parents were different than how they were portrayed in the manga. There are also additional characters that don’t appear in the manga, like Tsukushi’s teacher. But it’s good to hear that overall it does stay faithful. I really have to watch it again now. Maybe I’ll do a few episodes today. :3

      • So I went a head a watched some episodes last night. I agree with you now, it is pretty faithful to the manga. There are changes in how things occur (from time to time) but all the major events are accounted for. Personally, I think Meteor Garden’s Rui and Yuki are exactly how the characters would look if they were real people. And with the exception of Sourijo, the casting was pretty good (in terms of how the characters should look). I did think Meteor Garden’s Tsukushi was a tad too pretty and that’s why I actually think J-drama’s Tsukushi is a better choice. She looks more like a regular girl just like Tsukushi should look. Although I still feel they changed the parent’s personalities a bit, especially Tsukushi’s dad. In the manga, he gave me an impression of this goofy earnest man, but in MG he’s sort of …petty. Like he’s willing to eat his daughter’s soup when she’s sick and he’s constantly fighting with his wife (whereas I swear he was way less confrontational in the manga). Tsukushi’s mom is closer to her manga counterpart, but I felt they made her a bit too “hysterical” (and all the bad that word implies). Like she starts feeling weak when Tsukushi considers quiting school, which I thought was too much. And I swear, the sole reason for enrolling Tsukushi in the school wasn’t to marry her off in the manga. I recall she also did it to show off that her daughter is smart (and what not). And I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I got the impression that Tsukushi was accepted because of her grades -although not high enough for a scholarship- (and not as MG implies because of her mother’s connections and bribes). /rant

      • I would love to watch Meteor Garden now, just so I can compare the two. I can’t speak for MG, but I did notice that the parents in the Jdrama version have changed from their manga counterparts too. I think in the manga, Tsukushi’s dad has always been irresponsible with money and Tsukushi’s mom was more of a schemer when it came to wanting her daughter to marry someone handsome and rich. She also tended to be more of the iron-fisted matriarch type in the manga. In the live action series, the father is more about trying his best and the mother is much kinder and gentler? Tsukushi’s mom in the Jdrama hardly tried to aggressively urge her daughter to get closer to the F4 compared to the manga version. I find these differences quite interesting.

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