J-drama Nostalgia with Hanazakari no Kimitachi e

Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, better known as Hana Kimi (For You in Full Bloom) has seen multiple adaptations from its original manga source back in 1996. There’s been the Taiwanese adaption, Korean adaption (To The Beautiful You) and Chinese adaption (Runaway Sweetheart). There’s even a side story Special and remake of Japan’s own adaption in 2011, but today we’ll be looking at the superior 2007 series, the first adaption of Hana Kimi that aired on Fuji TV and to this day is continuously ranked in the top 100 J-drama shows ever made. Let’s get our nostalgia gears grinding.

A show special to our hearts

Hana Kimi is very often said to be the first Jdrama many viewers who would end up being a J-drama fanatic first discovered and watched, kick starting their love of Japanese shows, with myself included. The series encapsulates a simpler time, when we were all much younger and more carefree and our surroundings and entire world weren’t consistently burning to the ground. And for such simpler times, Hana Kimi’s premise couldn’t be any less basic.

We follow Ashiya Mizuki, a Japanese born young lady who currently resides in America. She is exposed to the talent of Sano Izumi, a Japanese athlete who excels in the high jump and she immediately falls for him after seeing him on TV. Now as a passionate and supportive fan, she finds herself applying to the same high school as he is called Osaka High, located back in Japan to encourage him to stick to the career after hearing of the recent news tha he has quit. While trying to befriend and help the troubled boy find his passion once more, she must also hide her gender as she’s masquerading as a male in the all boys school!

This aspect more than anything is not new at all in the sphere of a romantic story set up in both manga and J-drama formats (Ouran High School Host Club and Ikemen Desu Ne to name a couple), but it’s all light hearted and played on being silly and fun. The most traumatizing moments if anything is the fact that good boy, supporting side character Nakatsu Shuichi is falling head over heels for Mizuki! Poor, poor Shuichi, making him really question his sexuality. Worst yet is him being a prime example of second led syndrome, but we’ll get into that in due time. The school doctor Umeda Hokuto, is quick to notice her true gender, so that’s an immediate curve ball in Mizuki’s plan. And even the school’s own council are causing mayhem through school events to better their own standing within the school and by doing so often causes Mizuki to slightly fumble in her identity hiding. And as Sano’s roommate, how long can she keeps up the masquerade before it detriments their kindling romance?

When casting decisions are flawless

As an otome enthusiast, nothing gets me feeling a love triangle as much as suffering from the second lead syndrome. Hana Kimi is one of the earliest and everlasting examples of this with Shuichi Nakatsu achieving this feat mostly thanks to the talented performance actor Toma Ikuta provides. Ikuta as Nakatsu oozes charisma, playfulness and all round good guy energy who deserves the best treatment and nothing less. Ikuta is just one name most of us will be familiar with, having starred in even more movies and shows that are just as popular since Hana Kimi ended, from 2015’s Ouroboros and 2010’s romantic movie Hanamizuki.

In fact Hana Kimi kick-started so many careers of its stars and even supporting cast members who would go on to be featured in a vast amount of notable J-dramas that are often targeted at the same demographic. Leading lady Maki Horikita starred in both Atashinchi no Danshi and Nobuta wo Produce, two more well-known romantic school based J-dramas around the same time. Its leading man, Shun Oguri, appears in even more shows, from a number of live adaptions of anime such as Gintama and Gokusen and other notable J-dramas from Rich Man, Poor Womanto Hana Yori Dango. He stars with his costar Hiro Mizushima in Tokyo Dogs, a crime drama. Mizushima stars in Zettai Kareshi, Mei-chan no Shitsuji, and Black Butler alongside his co-star on Hana Kimi, Yu Shirota. With my personal favourite guy from the show, Yusuke Yamamoto is featured in Great Teacher Onizuka alongside Yu Shirota again, as well as Paradise Kiss, Kamen Rider Kabuto and Atashinichi no Danshi, coming full circle in being part of Horikita’s reverse harem once again.

With so many cross overs with co stars appearing together in other series around the same time it again makes for such nostalgia viewing most certainly after well over 10 years.

What makes Hanazakari no Kimitachi e a timeless classic

Did anyone else see or at least know of the live action Ouran High School Host Club? I considerate it as the failed attempt at a live action manga, the complete opposite of Hana Kimi. Ouran High School Host Club’s comedic elements were far too borrowed and slapped on its live acting that made it overly cheesy and too far out of reality despite being clearly set in our world. It made the acting and overall performance so jarring that it was more cringe worthy than funny. Hana Kimi on the other hand has live action meeting anime effectively; it is over the top with very enthusiastic and passionate acting across the whole of its cast while including beyond bizarre and silly humour, but it’s never too much. There’s no big and bold manga text or manga “expressions” being thrown around at every given moment, and when it does, it does not come off as painfully obnoxious or unnecessary (when a class prank has a stupidly big bowl falling on Mizuki’s head and sees literal stars being a prime example).

This first adaption of Hana Kimi actually altered much of the plot from the manga source to add even more comedy. It was a clever decision to make the already simple plot as engaging as it could be. From Taiki Kayashima sensing ghosts to the third dormitory’s leader Masao Himejima being an overly theatrical person who calls himself Oscar M. Himejima, the series is filled with colorful characters portrayed with so much passion by their actors who are loving every second of performing that it becomes exciting to see how they’ll relay their dialogue to match the sheer enthusiasm of the characters in the manga panels. They really did bring them to life.

Hana Kimi is also notable by being not only a hilarious ride, but having plenty of softer and more serious moments between these many scenes. A lot of meaningful and close to home topics are explored between the slapstick and gender bending comedic moments, most obviously shown in Sano’s character arc. His development is the most impressive to watch unfold and see progress which is definitely helped by Ogori’s portrayal. His initially distant and uninterested stance is juxtaposed to his more free and content self by the time he has accepted Mizuki. At the point he has discovered her true gender and exhibited appreciation for her help, he shows many moments of jealousy to Nakatsu’s relentless advancements towards her and it’s the first telling signs of him turning over a new leaf.

But most importantly is his feelings towards his once passionate career. Such drive and motivation had turned into obligation, with him winning medals and beating his record that has turned him unmotivated and unloving towards the sport. Once Sano knows of Mizuki’s true gender, he starts training once again, and when he isn’t, he does everything he can to keep her identity hidden from everyone else. Her dedication has changed Sano’s life and mindset completely and it’s so wholesome and rewarding to see both main characters’ hard work paying off.

Goodbyes are always hard

Hana Kimi is one of the most unforgettable J-dramas out there due in part to its overwhelming success and continuous recommendation from many J-drama watchers to this very day. The title actually is a blueprint to what we can expect from a school based J-drama, and how it can be a success. Out of all the adaptions of the manga out there Hana Kimi of 2007 struck the important balance of being emotional/serious and hilarious, homing in specifically on a troubled youth struggling with athletic aspirations while also making the journey light hearted. You’ve got to hand it to them, it was certainly an awesome time.

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