Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box by Yoko Kamio: B

jewelryboxAfter Boys Over Flowers ended its serialization in 2003, Yoko Kamio published two follow-up stories—one about the wedding of Shizuka and another told from Rui’s perspective—that take place a year after the events of volume 36. These stories were released (along with some supplemental material) in 2008 as volume 37 of the series and immediately topped the shojo charts. VIZ has opted to give this volume the subtitle Jewelry Box instead.

The first story, in which Tsukushi and Tsukasa briefly reunite in France while attending Shizuka’s wedding, is a bit of a disappointment, since their first time seeing each other in a year is full of crazy derelicts trying to stab Tsukushi and Tsukasa calling her an idiot. The second story, though, is quite good, focusing on Rui and maintaining that lovely, melancholic air that he possesses. Rui is wondering whether he’ll ever fall in love again, and though he concedes that things with Tsukushi are over, there are still faint traces of his feelings remaining that spur him to do things for her that he’d do for no one else. Tsukushi and Tsukasa also meet up again in this story and, though fans are still denied an undeniably conclusive happy ending, there’s at least a strong suggestion of one.

The supplemental material is comprised of a series chronology, character growth analysis, quiz, and interview with Kamio. The chronology in particular is extremely helpful and furnished most of the facts in my first paragraph.

Fans of Boys Over Flowers shouldn’t expect anything earth-shattering in this release, but it’s worth the read and can serve as a handy resource, to boot.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Boys Over Flowers 36 by Yoko Kamio: B

boysoverflowers36After 36 dramatastic volumes, Boys Over Flowers has finally come to an end. It’s just too bad it didn’t happen sooner. The end of volume 31 would’ve been a good place, for example, with Tsukushi and Tsukasa finally realizing that their love is what’s most important in their lives. Instead, after Tsukasa recovers from a rather lame bout of amnesia, he announces that, due to his father’s sudden illness, he is taking off for New York after graduation and won’t be back for four years.

Although some very nice moments between the main couple result, like a night spent alone together and some endearingly misspelled skywriting, on the whole this volume is a disappointment on that front. With Tsukasa’s departure looming and Tsukushi forced to deal with her wacky family, they spend too much of this final volume apart for it to truly feel satisfying. Also, while I don’t really mind checking in on some of the secondary characters introduced throughout the series, I begrudge them the pages that could’ve been spent on the protagonists.

On the positive side, the volume provides some unexpectedly touching moments with Tsukushi and the rest of the F4, who are graduating, too. Instead of taking dates to the prom, they’ve decided that the last girl they want to dance with in high school is Tsukushi and we get a little farewell moment with each of them. Also, a bonus story about Akira, the least developed member of the F4, proves to be surprisingly entertaining.

Boys Over Flowers might end with a whimper rather than a bang, but don’t take that to mean that it isn’t ultimately well worth reading.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Boys Over Flowers 29-35 by Yoko Kamio: B

These seven volumes leading up to the conclusion of Boys Over Flowers, which now has the distinction of being the longest shoujo series I’ve read, feature some pretty drastic reversals of fortune. Through spontaneous trips to New York City, love confessions from unexpected sources, kidnappings, deserted islands, stabbings, and amnesia, Tsukushi and Tsukasa endure a whirlwind of on again, off again romance that can leave the reader rather dizzy.

Because it’s better simply to go with the shoujo flow than try to reconstruct a linear account of what happens, I’m going to forgo any attempt at a comprehensive summary and instead write a little bit about each volume individually.

Volume 29: B
boysoverflowers29Tsukasa is convinced that he can make his mother understand his feelings for Tsukushi. The two of them have a very sweet date, one of their first that’s uniformly happy, with visits to pet stores and attendance at a baseball game. Alas, this game is the scene for a record-breaking home run for an American player, and Tsukushi’s catch of the ball ends up televised in New York, where Tsukasa’s mother happens to see it. She yanks Tsukasa back to New York, and Tsukushi pluckily follows.

After a couple of dumb chapters wherein Tsukushi just happens to run into someone she knows, things pick up again when she finally gets to see Tsukuasa. He coldly tells Tsukushi to go home and that he’s staying in New York of his own volition. She is stunned, but then sweet Rui arrives to lend her his support.

Volume 30: B+
boysoverflowers30Rui reveals that he is in love with Tsukushi. Although they don’t really work as a couple—the one date they had in the past was pretty awkward—I still see why they’d be drawn together. There’s a certain aura that Rui exudes, a strong, wistful kind of pull, that produces romantic angst of such a wonderful quality that it quite literally makes my heart ache a little. Even better is that this time, Tsukushi’s feelings for Tsukasa don’t waver in the slightest.

On the annoying side of things, Tsukushi just accepts Tsukasa’s cold dismissal and is on the verge of returning to Japan, when Kaede turns up at the airport and gives her one wish (in return for helping save a business deal). Tsukushi wishes for Tsukasa to keep his promise to have a hot pot dinner with her. A few days later, Tsukasa returns to Japan to spend just one day with Tsukushi, and it’s wonderfully sad and they’re about to have a tearful goodbye when suddenly some thugs with tasers arrive and kidnap them.

Volume 31: B
boysoverflowers31Tsukushi and Tsukasa awake to find themselves on a ship set on auto-pilot. When they arrive at a deserted island, Tsukasa proves himself surprisingly reliable by catching some dinner and, as they explore their surroundings, he reveals why he sent her away in New York and Tsukushi finds the courage to declare that she never wants to be separated from him again. Predictably, it turns out that their friends were behind the kidnapping, but neither Tsukushi nor Tsukasa is mad, since Tsukushi feels the experience has taught her what’s really important to her and Tsukasa decides that he’s going to leave his family.

Alas, Tsukasa’s sudden disappearance has hit the news. There’s a media frenzy upon his return and, in the commotion, he ends up getting stabbed by a guy with a grudge against his family. “Why is it,” Tsukushi wonders, “that every time I’m about to grasp that hand it just slips through my fingers?”

Volume 32: B-
boysoverflowers32Tsukasa nearly dies from his injuries, but miraculously recovers, though he has amnesia as a result and can’t remember Tsukushi. This ailment is untimely since, in grudging gratitude for Tsukushi’s life-saving actions after Tsukasa’s attack, Kaede says she’ll consider her son dead for one year. Throughout the rest of the volume, Tsukasa continues to be unable to remember Tsukushi while a very annoying, supposedly innocent girl at the hospital begins spending a lot of time with him.

A new romantic rival this late in the game is irritating. It’s strange—previous volumes prove I can accept and be entertained by all kinds of ridiculous drama, but this arc is just incredibly frustrating. I do like that we get a glimpse of a softer side of Kaede, though, and hope that it’ll be followed up on in the future.

Volume 33: B-
boysoverflowers33The amnesia plot persists and Umi continues to hang around Tsukasa, prompting him to wonder if perhaps she is the person he’s forgotten and taking credit for making a bento lunch that he found nostalgic somehow. Kamio-sensei attempts to portray Umi as naive and oblivious rather than calculating, but it doesn’t really work for me and I still hate her unreservedly. Thankfully, Tsukasa begins to realize that being with her simply doesn’t feel right and eventually scares her away with his temper, still awful when not modulated by Tsukushi’s influence.

Tsukushi, meanwhile, has become convinced that the Tsukasa she loves no longer exists and decides to see him one last time to return the mementos of their relationship. The encounter angers her enough to bean him in the head with the baseball she caught on their date and viola, his memories return. I’m more relieved than anything else, though there are certainly some nice moments after their reunion. The volume ends with them heading out to enjoy the freedom granted by their one-year grace period, promising to think about what to do after that when the time comes.

Volume 34: B+
boysoverflowers34Now that Tsukushi and Tsukasa are back on the right path—though Tsukushi can’t quite believe that it’s not going to all fall apart again, given their track record—focus shifts back to the subplot involving Yuki and her feelings for Sojiro. After helping him to attain a bit of closure regarding the one girl he ever really loved, she’s been keeping her distance. When they reconnect at a dinner to celebrate Tsukasa’s recovery, he offers to do something for her to repay her actions, and she asks him to instruct at her school’s Tea Club, unaware that the Sara in the club is the very girl that Sojiro once loved.

Angst ensues, but it’s enjoyable. Yuki is a strong and likable character (whose increasingly mature outlook has been an inspiration for our heroine), Sojiro has some unexpected layers, and it’s nice to give the main couple a break sometimes and let others bear the brunt of the drama burden for a while.

Volume 35: B
boysoverflowers35The Yuki/Sojiro storyline plays out to its conclusion and it’s awesome. Less awesome, alas, are the developments with our main couple. They couldn’t possibly be allowed to enjoy the year of freedom they’ve been granted! Instead, Tsukasa’s father collapses and he decides to go off to New York after graduation and take the reins of the company, leaving he and Tsukushi only a few more days together.

Firstly, this is entirely out of the blue and runs contrary to what Tsukasa was just saying a few volumes ago, about how he’s going to leave the family and all that. Secondly, as his departure approaches, the story turns into a tour of memories, with random reappearances by side characters that I don’t really care about.

All in all, of these volumes, I loved the scenes between Tsukushi and Rui the most, followed by the resolution to the Yuki and Sojiro story. There are some really great moments with the main couple in there, but the amnesia plot and this latest announcement of Tsukasa’s kind of bum me out in that department. Instead of being excited at the prospect of what the final volume will bring, I’m now kind of wary.

Boys Over Flowers 28 by Yoko Kamio: B+

boysoverflowers28From the back cover:
Tsukushi’s friend Yuki is still fixated on Sojiro*, a member of the F4. While struggling to understand him she immerses herself in a mysterious event from his past. Meanwhile, spies continue to track Tsukushi and Tsukasa’s every move. The two of them will have to take some outlandish steps to outsmart the snoops and get some “alone time!”

* The back cover actually says “Akira” here. Tsk tsk, VIZ. While Akira and Sojiro might’ve seemed interchangeable at the beginning of the series, they certainly aren’t anymore.

Here’s another volume that very nicely balances the relationship between Tsukushi and Tsukasa with Yuki’s ongoing efforts to get through to Sojiro. On the former front, after an annoying bout of insecurity in which Tsukushi wonders whether Tsukasa just sees her as a novelty because she’s poor (since she hasn’t seen him return to the dingy apartment he rented next door), they proceed to have some cute/good scenes, like when she thinks that her laying next to him will help him sleep in an unfamiliar place (wrong!) or when they very nearly consummate their relationship.

Yuki, meanwhile, has been told by Sojiro that there was one girl he loved—whom we meet in a side story called “Story of an Encounter”—but he did her wrong by not showing up to a certain rooftop at 5 a.m. as she’d requested. Yuki searches through a bunch of rooftops until she finds the right one and drags Sojiro off to see what the girl had been trying to show him. Personally, I’m not sure what Yuki sees in Sojiro, but I like her calm determination quite a bit, so I’m interested to see where this’ll go.

Once again, not a whole lot more to say other than “it’s good and here were my favorite bits.” With this volume, it also beats Basara for the honor of Longest Shoujo Series I Have Read.

Boys Over Flowers 27 by Yoko Kamio: B+

boysoverflowers27From the back cover:
Tsukushi makes a shocking announcement at a party! Then her parents move into a tiny apartment, forcing Tsukushi and her brother to get their own place—next door to someone she knows. And Tsukushi’s friend Yuki is becoming increasingly infatuated with Sojiro, one of the F4. Is she willing to compromise herself for what she thinks he wants?!

So many nice things happened in this volume. It’s a feel-good volume on the main couple front and also significantly advances the subplot about Tsukushi’s friend Yuki and her feelings for Sojiro.

What did I love?
* Kamio-sensei evidently knows full well that fans squee when Tsukasa is shown when wet hair, because she finds a couple of excuses to depict him thusly in this volume. I don’t disapprove.

* Tsukushi makes an effort to be more forthright with Tsukasa, and ends up telling the gang that she loves him and they’re going out.

* All of the shoujo angst about Yuki’s confession to Sojiro and his subsequent attempts to scare Yuki by making it seem he intends to bed her are a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying this subplot!

* After a thief breaks into Tsukushi and Susumu’s new apartment, Tsukasa moves in next door and takes an adorable trip to a public bath house.

* There’s a really sweet scene between Tsukushi and Rui wherein he says he’s happy for her but a bit sad as well, since he looked on her as his pet.

Other than new plot developments, there really isn’t a lot to praise in this series that I haven’t praised already. I can only say that I really like the place that it’s in right now.

Boys Over Flowers 26 by Yoko Kamio: B+

boysoverflowers26From the back cover:
Tsukushi struggles to understand her feelings for Tsukasa, her on-and-off boyfriend, and he struggles to not destroy Tokyo. Will the man who came between them step aside? The meddlesome F4 try their hand at forcing Tsukushi and Tsukasa together. All the while Tsukasa’s mother’s spies are hot on their trail!

If I were to give a one-word reaction to the events of this volume, that word would be “hooray!” Tsukasa intercepts Tsukushi at a bus stop with Amon and makes another attempt at convincing her to be with him, saying, “I don’t want anyone but you. It has to be you.” While moved by his plea, Tsukushi remembers what will happen to her friends’ families if Tsukasa’s mother finds out they’re dating, and so she gets on the bus. Moments later, there’s a terrific scene where she comes running back and, honestly, I have goosebumps just typing about it!

While the fangirl in me would’ve loved a big epic declaration of mutual feeling, that would be completely out of character for these two headstrong people. Instead, awkward tension ensues. Tsukushi is unable to express herself adequately and Tsukasa worries that he has misunderstood yet again. What’s different now is that Tsukushi realizes they’re on the verge of falling into their same old pattern and actually comes out and tells Tsukasa that she wants to be with him. The catch is that she wants their relationship to remain a secret. Amon has bought them some time by telling Kaede’s minions that he and Tsukushi are dating, but the problem of her threats has yet to be resolved.

It’s truly great seeing these two together, and even small things like hugs are so hard-won that they are elevated into monumental moments. Even though they still have to face Kaede—a looming obstacle that has Tsukushi thinking that their happiness is “like standing over water, on a layer of thin ice”—at least they’ll (presumably) be doing so together and seem to understand each other at last.

This volume also picks up the friendship between Sojiro and Yuki, spawned a few volumes back when he helped her get revenge on the boyfriend that betrayed her. I really like how Kamio is handling this subplot. I’ve read a few other series where the heroine’s friends get some attention (Kare Kano and Love*Com come to mind) but only in Boys Over Flowers does it feel like a well-integrated part of the main storyline. In fact, I am downright happy to let Tsukasa and Tsukushi remain united for a while and shift the focus to fleshing out some of the supporting characters. I’d also like to see some kind of resolution to Rui’s relationship with Shizuka, who at least gets a mention here after being off the radar for quite some time.

Lastly, I must spare a paragraph to compliment the cover to this volume. While Tsukushi’s face looks a little frenzied, I love Tsukasa’s expression and the colors are gorgeous.

Boys Over Flowers 25 by Yoko Kamio: B

boysoverflowers25From the back cover:
Tsukushi has an on-and-off romantic entanglement with a hothead named Tsukasa. Tsukasa has a sketchy relationship with his even more hotheaded mother, named Kaede. Kaede has hired a near sociopath to woo Tsukushi and destroy her son’s relationship with Tsukushi once and for all. Will Tsukushi fall for this?!

The fake “cousin” hired by Kaede, whose real name is Amon, is not my favorite character, but calling him a sociopath is pretty extreme. It turns out that, one his guise is dropped, he’s actually not a bad guy. Although he has a cynical outlook on love, and advises Tsukushi on several times not to go through suffering on Tsukasa’s account because their love can only last a maximum of a few years, he is still better able to understand her than most others and offers her a different kind of relationship, free from drama but also free from love.

While this whole idea of Tsukushi dating Amon seems mostly an attempt to postpone the inevitable moment when she and Tsukasa finally, irrevocably get together, it does still offer some worthwhile moments. Tsukasa has grown to see Shigeru as a friend, and has a couple of nice conversations with her, including one in which they finally seem to realize that their hyper-wealthy lives are not normal. Also, though he initially feels like there’s nothing he can do about Tsukushi dating Amon, he somehow (exactly how isn’t clear) resolves that he’s going to make Tsukushi his.

And, okay, yes, this is kind of an antiquated idea, but somehow I love Tsukasa for this unwavering devotion. If both of the lead characters were floundering and uncertain, this series would be a mess. With the looming threat to her friends’ families if she gets near Tsukasa, Tsukushi certainly isn’t going to make the first move, so it’s up to him to help this story go somewhere satisfying. Even though I’m well aware that he’s a fictional character, I still want to cheer him on.

Boys Over Flowers 24 by Yoko Kamio: B

boysoverflowers24From the back cover:
Tsukushi has been unconscious for two days and wakes up in Tsukasa’s cousin’s home! This terrifying man saved her life and now he’s courting her! What is the secret behind this mysterious cousin who so closely resembles Tsukasa, and what could be the reason for his intense hatred of Tsukasa? Why does Tsukasa not know anything about him?

I find I’m kind of running out of things to say about this series. Each volume is usually a combination of good scenes between Tsukushi and Tsukasa and silly plot happenings that often border on ludicrous. Volume 24 manages to be pretty decent without much direct interaction between the two leads, at least.

Tsukushi is pursued by a guy who claims to be Tsukasa’s cousin, though he pretty quickly reveals himself (to the reader) to be more than he’s letting on. Tsukushi’s rich friends are suspicious and take it upon themselves to investigate, and though this involves a bunch of mistaken notions about detecting, it’s all still kind of sweet.

The best part of the story at this point is kind of underplayed. Tsukasa has already asked Tsukushi if she’s never once regarded him as just a guy, and seeing a rival version of himself without all the rich boy baggage is bothering him. In an attempt to prove how normal he is, for example, he decides that he is going to travel by train. The experience is almost entirely played for comedy, but there is one moment with Akira where Tsukasa asks, “Akira, I’m not very different from these other guys on the train, am I?” Alas, he doesn’t get the answer he wants.

Once the truth about the cousin is revealed, Tsukushi gets good and fired up and demands to see Kaede. While she’s feeling rebellious, I’d like to see her finally confess her love to Tsukasa, but I have a feeling that’s still several volumes away, at least. Sigh.

Boys Over Flowers 23 by Yoko Kamio: B

boysoverflowers23From the back cover:
Tsukushi ends her visit at her parents’ quiet seaside home and returns to Tokyo. She is welcomed back with a “girls’ night out” and ends up meeting a ton of guys! Unfortunately, they all turn out to be losers. In fact, one of the boys is downright terrifying and bears a striking resemblance to a certain curly-haired ex-boyfriend! Could they be related?!

The fishing village story line wraps up fairly decently, actually, with some nice awkwardness between Tsukushi and Tsukasa (in which she has trouble not confessing her love), the “No-Account” dude being reunited with his girlfriend, and, back in Tokyo, the Makinos being given use of a condo by Shigeru. It turns out that all of Tsukushi’s rich friends wanted to lend her accommodations and had talked about it at length to figure out whose generosity would put the least strain on her. Aww.

Of course, Tsukushi is determined to get a job so that the Makinos no longer need depend on Shigeru and so that she can fund her brother’s high school ambitions. Sakurako dangles the carrot of a high-paying job that she knows about and manages to get Tsukushi to attend a group date along with Shigeru and Yuki. These scenes with the four girls hanging out (and trying to help Tsukushi forget Tsukasa) are a lot of fun and I hope we see more of them together. I can even forgive the ridiculousness of encountering a Tsukasa look-a-like on the date and Tsukushi’s subsequent moron moment as she keeps mistaking him for Tsukasa.

As usual, the final scene of the volume offers some particularly scrumptious angst between our two leads. It’s worth noting that Tsukasa, who had said that if the two-month dating experience didn’t work out that he would let her go, is being true to his word and not exerting any effort to get Tsukushi back. I’d like this scene better if the Tsukasa look-a-like didn’t show up at the end, but it still serves to acquaint Tsukushi even further with her true feelings, so I can’t complain much.

I can complain about the Story Thus Far, however. Usually, this is pretty decent but this time it contains errors. It says of the final chapter in volume 21 that “Tsukushi does not reveal the real reason for leaving Tsukasa, and instead, tells him that she no longer loves him.” Er, that’s completely untrue. She specifically mentions his mother and the threats on her friends’ families. Also, how could you tell someone you no longer love them if you’ve never told them you love them in the first place? What she did do was allow Tsukasa to think calling things off was easy for her because she had no feelings for him.

Boys Over Flowers 22 by Yoko Kamio: B-

boysoverflowers22From the back cover:
Tsukushi has left her on-and-off boyfriend Tsukasa, his mansion, her school, and Tokyo altogether! Down and out, she heads for the seaside village where her family has gone to live and work. Unfortunately, her parents are about to be run out of town. Just then, visitors from Tokyo arive!

What a disappointment! After the awesomeness at the end of the last volume, I was expecting something much better than this. Instead, we get a ridiculous plot where Tsukushi flees to the fishing village, where her incredibily annoying parents have told everyone that Tsukushi is engaged to Doumyouji and are racking up bills with the expectation that he’ll pay them. She also meets a slacker surfer guy who is waiting around for the girlfriend who left him to return and who has garnered a reputation as a “no-account.” Inexplicably, everybody in the village seems irate that Tsukushi is hanging out with this dude, and there’s a completely dumb scene where they all turn out at her parents’ house to confront her.

Meanwhile, Tsukasa is reverting to his violent ways, threatening his friends with bodily harm when they come to talk to him about what’s happened and being cruel to a girl who takes advantage of Tsukushi’s absence to confess her feelings for him. This, at least, is better than the fishing village story line and I kind of love the scene where Rui, having seen Tsukushi on TV (some kind of program was filmed at the beach and had Tsukushi in the background), goes to goad Tsukasa into going to see her, pushing all the right buttons by exaggerating her frail condition.

Ultimately, the best part of the volume is the ending, in which Rui and Tsukasa turn up at the village just in time to prevent some angry mob action. Yes, it’s completely goofy, but that Rui came himself (thinking he had failed to motivate Tsukasa) is actually pretty sweet. I’ve learned my lesson, however, and shan’t be anticipating any greatness out of the next volume just because this one ends well.