Boys Over Flowers 13 by Yoko Kamio: B+

From the back cover:
It’s Tsukushi’s first time abroad, and she and her friend Yuki plan to tear up the slopes on a Canadian snowboarding adventure. But how much fun can Tsukushi really have with Tsukasa and those nasty Eitoku Academy girls always hanging around? Not much, it seems, because Tsukushi is sent out on a wild-goose chase to rescue Yuki in below freezing temperatures. But who will rescue Tsukushi?!

One guess who rescues Tsukushi. I was kind of annoyed that she blunders off into the snow so stupidly, but it does lead to one of the golden tickets of this series: a wet-haired Doumyouji scene! It’s been a while since the last one; Kamio must know how popular these are, and so spreads them out judiciously.

Anyway, Tsukasa warms Tsukushi up and she tells him he’s a good person. The rest of the F4 are proving themselves to be good guys, as well. Rui gets very peeved at the bitchy girls who tricked Tsukushi, and Akira and Soujirou—always kind of relegated to the background—show some unexpected sweetness. Not only do they intervene to keep Tsukasa and Tsukushi from bickering, they’re also the only ones to notice how upset Yuki is about the whole thing and offer her reassurance. They’re starting to emerge as better-defined characters now, and I like that a lot.

I wasn’t so keen on the last few chapters, though. After the group returns to Japan, Tsukushi and Yuki meet up with some old friends from middle school at a restaurant Doumyouji happens to be patronizing as well. He overhears them discussing a guy that once had a crush on Tsukushi, and promptly dislocates said guy’s neck. Um. Y’know, I like most of the silly twists and turns this series takes, but when it goes so far into the realm of wtf to manufacture a conflict between its leads, it’s hard to enjoy.

To conclude the review on a positive note, there was a bit of dialogue here that actually made me laugh out loud (a rarity, I assure you). It’s the morning after Tsukasa and Tsukushi have spent the night at a ranger’s cabin. They were discovered in a shirtless snuggle (sharing body heat) by some dudes, so Tsukushi’s kind of freaking out about that as they return to the Doumyouji villa. As I type this out, I guess it doesn’t look so funny, but I really did crack up when he said, “Oh, don’t get all grumpy just because somebody saw your little booboos.”

Juvenile, perhaps, but amusing all the same.

Boys Over Flowers 12 by Yoko Kamio: B+

From the back cover:
Tsukushi shocks everyone by making it all the way to the final competition in the Miss Teen Japan Contest. Her striking individuality and dumb luck have gotten her a long way indeed! Now the field is narrowed down to Tsukushi and Ayano, the competition favorite. The final event will determine the girl most likely to become a “good wife and wise mother.” Who is fit to judge such a contest? Why, twenty-one kindergarteners, of course! Unfortunately for Tsukushi, the innocent little darlings remind her of the F4…!

The contest wrapped up in this volume and I was pleased with how it turned out; to end otherwise would’ve required extra suspension of disbelief. Tsukushi’s final challenge (wrangling rich kids), and how she approached it innovatively and ended up befriending a rival in the process, reminded me a lot of Kyoko from Skip Beat!.

I was also happy that she spoke with Kinsan as promised. Their scene was good, as was the one she had later with Tsukasa when she revealed she’d hurt Kinsan. She also dared to ask Tsukasa why he does so much for her, but he didn’t answer seriously, and their outing (they were at the zoo on Christmas with a cute kid) ended in a suddenly-escalating fight that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Sigh.

I love it when Tsukasa’s serious and Tsukushi is forced to consider her feelings for him, so it frustrates me when that gets derailed. And now everyone’s on a jaunt to Canada with some bitchy rich girls, etc., so there’ll be some feuding and snobbery and stuff to get to before (finally) Tsukasa and Tsukushi are in a position where he can be sweet to her again. Oh well.

One-third of the way through now!

Boys Over Flowers 11 by Yoko Kamio: A-

From the back cover:
Tsukushi has just two weeks to prepare for the Teen of Japan contest! She can’t do it all on her own so Tsukasa’s sister, Tsubaki, offers her tutors in everything she’ll need to know to win. She must stay at the Doumyouji mansion while she receives her lessons. Can Tsukushi stand the rigors of this training, and will anyone bolster her spirits?

The contest gets underway! The latter half of this volume deals with the competition, and of course, Tsukushi manages to avoid elimination mostly through luck, but with the occasional shot of confidence afforded by Tsukasa’s antics in the audience. Although her success is pretty predictable, these chapters are still entertaining.

My favorite elements, however, are peripheral to the competition. First, I like that Tsukushi has realized her feelings (or lack their of) for Kinsan. She finds that learning of his fiancée’s existence does not hurt anything like learning Rui was in love with someone else and that her wishy-washy attitude regarding him is keeping several people in limbo. I hope her resolve to give a decisive answer after the competition will actually be carried out.

Also, I love the comparison between Kinsan and Tsukasa and what they offer her. Sure, both are rich, and at first, Kinsan might seem the better option, seeing as how he’s more clueful in general. But a conversation with Kinsan actually instills some self-doubt in Tsukushi, as he advises her to drop out because the competition is particularly tough. Tsukasa, meanwhile, has absolute faith in her. When she’s rattled enough by Kinsan’s warning that she wants to give up, Tsukasa stops her and spends the evening playing goofy card games with her to keep her from dwelling on the issue. He may be a dolt sometimes, but he knows just what to say to encourage her. I love moments like this between them.

As a final thought, I know Tsukushi’s appearance gradually changes throughout the series and she ends up looking a bit cuter by the end. I wonder how much of that is art style and how much is actually IC changes for the character. Like… will all this training actually stick with her and affect how she looks and acts from here on out? It’d be pretty neat if it did.

Boys Over Flowers 10 by Yoko Kamio: A-

From the back cover:
Rich boy Tsukasa returns to Japan after he discovers the true identity of Tsukushi’s “Kinsan.” Tsukushi herself is having trouble accepting his identity. Then Kinsan invites Tsukushi to a swank party where they bump into Tsukasa, who causes a major scene when Kinsan declares his intentions toward Tsukushi! Still desperate for money, Tsukushi goes to Tsukasa who comes up with a plan that everyone can benefit from. That is, if Tsukushi can win a beauty contest…!

Even though it’s obvious that Tsukushi should not go out with Kinsan (and I hope she doesn’t, ‘cos that would annoy me), this arc with him is still really fun because it prompts all sorts of great scenes between Tsukushi and Tsukasa. I can’t help but love when Kinsan tells those gathered at a party he’ll introduce them to the girl he wants to marry and Tsukasa goes “Tell me that’s not you!” I also love that Rui seems to be helping the two of them now.

And, as silly as the beauty contest is, it’s actually shaping up to look quite fun. After Tsukushi’s dad borrows from loan sharks and loses all the money at the track, she has to go and ask Tsukasa for the loan, which is a pretty big deal. Then he broaches the topic of the contest and, having been challenged by some Kinsan-lovers previously regarding it, she gets fired up enough to enter it. Tsubaki actually comes to good use here by offering to tutor her, Princess Diaries style.

So, yeah, it’s all kind of crazy, but it’s back to the kind of crazy that I like.

Boys Over Flowers 9 by Yoko Kamio: B

From the back cover:
Tsukasa is headed for New York to break away from his Tokyo life, but just before leaving Rui whispers something to him. When this news finally sinks in Tsukasa goes into another one of his frenzies. Financial troubles weigh heavy on the Makino family as Tsukushi’s father is out of a job. It becomes clear that they are completely dependent on her marrying a rich boy from Eitoku Academy. A new boy enters the scene! He is a bit of a nut, but is determined to help Tsukushi.

This volume was better than the last, since it had no wacky basketball hijinks, and was evenly enjoyable throughout, but nothing really stood out as special. The best bits were, of course, the scenes between Tsukushi and Tsukasa, particularly when she found out he was intending to leave the country. I also liked that she realized that he was partly responsible for helping her get over Eitoku’s weird atmosphere and be herself again.

The plot where Tsukushi meets another boy who helped her find a part-time job was okay, but I was annoyed he turned out to be yet another rich kid. Thinking Tsukushi was getting duped by this guy, Tsukasa also returned. This was way too soon, in my opinion. I would’ve liked to see her miss him at least a little more. But then I guess that might prompt her to decide on her feelings, and there are 27 more volumes so you know she can’t be doing that now!

A few odd things in the text also caught my attention. I can’t compare it to the original, but one scene where Rui discussed his intentions regarding Tsukushi didn’t seem to jive with his later actions. There were also a few typos. My favorite was where some creepy dudes locked a door as a “precatution.”

Boys Over Flowers 8 by Yoko Kamio: B

From the back cover:
Tsukasa wants Tsukushi and Rui expelled from Eitoku Academy, and he challenges them to a basketball showdown. Later, thanks to Tsukasa’s sister Tsubaki, Tsukushi and Rui are forced to spend a night together. But Rui confesses to Tsukushi that he is still unable to forget about Shizuka.


A basketball showdown?! The girl you love has “sliced [your] heart into ribbons” by smooching your friend, and you challenge them to a basketball showdown?! It turns out that it’s actually Tsubaki’s idea to settle the issue with sports and it’s Rui who suggests basketball, but it’s ridiculous nonetheless. Thankfully the participants realize this, and the game itself isn’t that bad.

Tsubaki has another brilliant idea later—let’s make the new couple who haven’t boffed yet spend the night in a room together! This stupid notion does lead to something good, as Rui admits to Tsukushi that he doesn’t really know how he feels about her and can’t forget Shizuka. Tsukasa, of course, thinks they did the deed.

So, I dunno. Some good things happened in this volume, but Tsubaki and her suggestions just inject a dose of dumb that I don’t particularly care for and make the moments worth getting excited over fewer and farther between.

Boys Over Flowers 7 by Yoko Kamio: A

From the back cover:
Upon Rui Hanazawa’s return from France, Tsukushi’s feelings for him also return. Together, they share a tender moment that is witnessed by Tsukasa. Tsukasa is consumed with rage and swears vengeance upon both of them in spite of the well-meaning interference by his recently arrived infamous older sister!

Ah, the wonderful angst. One really has to be in a certain mood when reading this series, I think, and allow oneself to be swept along in the story’s momentum. It’s really more affecting that way and greater than the sum of its parts.

I absolutely love the fallout from Tsukushi’s kiss with Rui. She realizes how much her actions have hurt Tsukasa, and is stricken with remorse, realizing too late how much his good opinion meant to her, now that she’s lost it. She tells herself Rui is the one she chose, but can’t help comparing the two of them and finds, on an awkward date, that she can’t loosen up and be herself around Rui. All of this is great.

What’s somewhat less great is the entrance of Tsukasa’s sister. As a character, I suppose I like her fine, but her propensity to wallop on her brother gets annoying. I get the impression it was supposed to be funny, but it fails. The volume also ends on a cliffhanger that I’m not sure will lead to something I’ll like—Tsukasa pledges to get Rui and Tsukushi expelled, but I’d much rather read passionate discussions between he and Tsukushi than about threats to her academic career.

Boys Over Flowers 6 by Yoko Kamio: A

From the back cover:
Could Tsukushi Makino really fall under Tsukasa Doumyouji’s spell? Desire and jealousy walk hand in hand as the crazed Tsukasa seeks revenge on behalf of Tsukushi. Rui Hanazawa surprises everyone with his return from France. Tsukasa’s mixture of cruelty and compassion is as perplexing as ever.

What a difference a volume makes! Volume 5 contained some of my least favorite moments remembered from the anime, while volume 6 had some of those I liked best.

Just as Tsukushi began to feel that she could return Doumyouji’s feelings—in fact, just as she realized she could no longer claim there was “nothing” between them—Rui returned from France and threw her feelings into complete confusion. This paved the way for some really great chapters, where Rui acted strangely and Tsukushi found herself torn between the two boys—not wishing to upset the one who used to be her enemy but still drawn to the elusive Rui, who’d clearly suffered something in Paris. It all built up to an excellent final chapter.

I distinctly remember falling in love with the anime in a big way right about here, and when people describe it as operatic, it’s these events that I always think of. I could see a plot like this annoying me if not well-handled, but the lead characters are so great in Boys Over Flowers that I’m really enjoying it.

Boys Over Flowers 5 by Yoko Kamio: B+

From the back cover:
This volume contains innumerable ups and downs for our heroine, Tsukushi Makino. Tsukasa is as jealous as ever with the arrival of Thomas as lurid and embarrassing photos of Tsukushi and Thomas emerge. Just when she thought that things couldn’t get any worse, her tormentors up the ante of cruelty and violence! Will anyone come to her rescue?

I’m not a fan of prolonged misunderstandings in manga, so the “did Tsukushi sleep with a foreigner?” plot is not a favorite of mine. Possibly because of that, the crazed antics of Tsukushi’s schoolmates as they punish her on Tsukasa’s behalf seemed even more unrealistic than usual. It also didn’t seem like Tsukushi was quite upset enough when she believed she may actually have slept with the guy without remembering it.

On the positive side, Tsukushi did work out the truth before too long, and her confrontation with Sakurako (“I’ll never grovel for anybody!”) was good. I also liked that Tsukushi realized that although she didn’t care at all what anyone else thought, she wanted desperately for Tsukasa to believe her.

This set up the end of the volume, where the lackluster plot at least paid off with a rescue. Tsukasa finally realized what kind of person Sakurako was when she tried (and failed) to seduce him, and rushed back to Tsukushi’s side to proclaim his belief in her. I really liked that conclusion, though I’m still waiting for Tsukasa to simply tell the other kids never to mess with Tsukushi again.

Boys Over Flowers 4 by Yoko Kamio: A-

From the back cover:
Shizuka makes a shocking announcement at her birthday party, which could create some very intriguing possibilities for Tsukushi. Could Tsukushi possibly have Rui for herself? Tsukasa, clouded by the sound of flying planes, asks Tsukushi out on a date that goes very, very wrong.

With Rui out of the way, as he followed Shizuka off to France, most of the focus in this volume was on Tsukushi and Tsukasa’s developing relationship. Though they were still not completely friendly, it was interesting that they were at least able to have some civil and semi-thoughtful conversations. I really enjoyed the chapters about their date gone wrong.

Word got out about the date, which led to an about-face in the attitudes of Tsukushi’s classmates, who assumed she was now Tsukasa’s girlfriend and began doting upon her accordingly. Though she knew their attentions were phony, she couldn’t help enjoying them to some degree. Unfortunately, this led to my least favorite part of the book, when Tsukushi apparently spent the evening with a foreigner she met in the nightclub some of her new “friends” insisted she accompany them to.

Having seen the anime, I know what truly happened, but I still found it kind of annoying. But I guess it wouldn’t be shoujo soap opera without an epic misunderstanding of this sort.