Reviewby Casey Brienza, Sep 5th 2009
Boys Over Flowers
Tsukasa has recovered his memory—and his feelings for Tsukushi—just in time to learn that he must fly to New York City immediately after graduation. He swears to Tsukushi that he will return to her in four years and that his love will not waver. Can she afford—quite literally—to believe him? In order to put a seal on this promise, Tsukasa decides to fly Tsukushi out to a resort getaway on a private helicopter. A little bit of quality time together, and then the couple returns to chaos! Tsukushi's parents need to move out of their apartment again, and new financial constraints could put a premature end to her troubled tenure at the exclusive Eitoku Academy. She might not even make it to the prom! And with the F4 about to graduate, will this be the abrupt end of Tsukushi's encounter with those living the high life?
Well, the cover of the thirty sixth and final volume of Yoko Kamio's Boys Over Flowers looks promising enough: Loveable dormouse gal Tsukushi Makino is wearing a pretty white dress and holding a bouquet. The hunky F4 are all appropriately decked out in suits of varying rainbow shades. So what do you suppose is in the offing for this epic series' climax? Could it be…a wedding?!
Whoops! Sorry. Game over, play again. If you thought a wedding celebration might perhaps be in the offing, you would be very, very, very wrong. A picture perfect happy ending akin to what is illustrated on the book's cover apparently would be too tall an order. Unfortunately, this volume is better explicated by what it does not include than by what it does.
Take Tsukushi and Tsukasa's romantic Polynesian themed resort getaway, for example. It isn't ten pages in before Tsukushi takes an unplanned tumble into a cold outdoor swimming pool…and predictably enough comes down with a fever a few hours later. Which quite naturally leads to some high temperatures in the bedroom—literally. But guess what she and Tsukasa don't get to do? I leave it to your imagination—and needless to say, in your imagination is where “it” will forever stay. Horizontal action is in awfully short supply for a romantic drama's final chapter. Alas, fans of bodice ripping climaxes are going to be terribly disappointed.
And Kamio's just beginning the execution of her “inspired” How to Disappoint the Fans in Two-Hundred Pages plotting! The list of what this volume does not include just goes on and on. Much of the middle is meaningless filler: When Tsukushi returns, she gets to hang out with a couple of the other members of the F4 for a bit, but it goes precisely nowhere, despite Rui's reckless driving. Then she goes home to oogle her pretty silk prom dress (courtesy of Tsukasa), but this being that kind of shoujo manga, lots of unpleasant things soon start happening to it. In fact, so many bad things happen to it that she ends up not even wearing it to the prom….though happily she gets to dance with the F4 and hang out with her friends regardless. (The painfully proper prom night is about as "climatic" as it gets, by the way.)
The only really big plot wrinkle here is her family's new and improved financial troubles. They have to move out of their apartment again, and Tsukushi has to help them move. But money is going to be so tight that they decide that they will not be able to afford her final year at Eitoku Academy. Tsukushi is now within a hairsbreadth of seeing her fondest wish granted…except that it might not be her wish anymore, and she may well regret leaving Eitoku. Although this subplot meets with a favorable conclusion, that sadly can't be said for the overarching love story of Boys Over Flowers. Unless you think that a woman waving her man off to parts unknown for many a year while she waits faithfully for him back home is a “happy” ending. I will hazard a guess that if you a reading this review you probably do not think it is.
The book ends with a whimper in the form of side story about Akira titled “Night of the Crescent Moon.” It boasts a brooding boy with lots of selfish female family members who finds himself redeemed by the unselfconsciously virtuous heroine of the piece, Tsukushi. Clearly, unless you are a big Akira fangirl, this addendum is a pretty sorry sunset on the series as whole.
Boys Over Flowers volume thirty six boasts precisely one redeeming feature, and that is the quality of its artwork. Kamio's draftsmanship has improved steadily and subtly throughout the series eleven year run, and it is here that it reaches its apotheosis. The lines are delicate yet unshakably confident, and characters' expressions are charismatic (even when they are thinking, feeling, or doing nothing of note). Her style is quite similar to that of Fuyumi Soryo, but unlike Soryo she has not moved whole-hog into SF or historical fiction with highbrow pretensions. At least from an illustrative standpoint, Kamio is entirely qualified, and I hold out hope that this veteran of the field might make some sort of similar career move in the future.
But in conclusion…eleven years and thirty-six volumes...for this?! Where is the consummation, the wedding, the picture-perfect happy end??? The disappointment is almost inconceivable in its scale. It's awfully hard not to feel cheated as Boys Over Flowers limps dejectedly to an anti-climatic finish line.
Overall : C
Story : C-
Art : B+
+ Pretty interior artwork and an especially tantalizing cover illustration.
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