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Vice Interrogation: Hanasakeru Seishounen

Gia takes on the latest shoujo romantic drama.

    
 

Vital Stats:

Title: Hanasakeru Seishounen
Japanese Title: 花咲ける青少年
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Licensor: Crunchyroll
Based On: Natsumi Itsuki's manga of the same name.

The Story

Kajika Burnsworth is the daughter of one of the wealthiest businessmen in the world. As a child, her mother died protecting her from being kidnapped, so her dad had her raised by a bunch of locals on a small Caribbean island with only a leopard and, occasionally, Lee-Leng Huang (of the also-wealthy Huang family). She lived there happily until she was about 15, when her leopard dies. Sometime after that her dad decides to let her do what she wants and she decides to go to school in Japan.
 
This is where things get weird. I mean, she has the protoypical anime high school experience: her classmates are dumbfounded by her poise and guilelessness, makes a friend, has some major drama with some bitchy girls in school, and then gets in trouble with a senior who's dating a mob boss or something...all in the span of like, ten minutes.
 
Which...might be an okay intro, except that immediately thereafter she is whisked right back out of Japan and into New York, where her father tells her that he'd like to tell her about her "destiny" within the family, but can't do so until she selects a husband. He proposes a game in which he causes her to come upon three men of his choosing-- without telling them OR her who they are --and if she picks one of them to marry (and gets him to love her back), she "wins." It's unclear WHAT she wins, except for her dad telling her about this mysterious "destiny."
 
In the second episode we meet what we assume is the first of these men, who reminds Kajika of her pet leopard, and is a beautiful but damaged bishounen who doesn't care about anyone or anything, including himself on some level. You can see where this is going-- considering the comparisons Kajika makes between this young man, Eugene, and her old pal Lee-Leng, I foresee a pattern of making wealthy pretty boys happier via her perfectly pure nature.
 

The Review

I've talked a few times about how sad it is that while women will happily cross over into entertainment more geared towards men, men as a whole avoid any entertainment that smacks of femininity. At the same time, I look at Hanasakeru Seishounen and think, "well, this is why." The animation is mediocre at best, and during Kajika's time at school in Japan-- or any time when the focus of the show is on women rather than men --it looks downright sub-par. No, considerably more time and expense is used on our bishies here.
 
The plot is at once both predictable and mystifying. It's predictable in that you can figure out exactly what has to happen for this kind of story to move forward, and mystifying because the characters' justification for doing and saying things seems often nonexistant. Considering how much she whines about her father's game in the second episode, you wonder why the heck she agreed to it in the first. Her father offered her no great prize, it's not even totally clear he'll explain this "destiny" to her.
 
Another problem with the series: with the exception of a 2-second reaction from Kajika's classmates in the first episode (when she talks about her true love, then confesses he's a leopard), the show is entirely humorless. Given the ridiculousness of the situation Kajika is placed in, a little humor would go a long way.
 
But that just isn't this show. This is classic, stereotypical romantic drama. So if that's what you like, this show will probably sit well with you. It's not without redeeming qualities even to me; against my better judgment I find myself curious about what monstrously awful platitude Kajika will use to tame Eugene. The meh look of the show may only be distracting if one isn't absorbed by the drama. Still, outside of its genre, the show doesn't have much to offer that you can't get better elsewhere.

IF, THEN

If you like these shows, you may like Hanasakeru Seishounen.
- Saiunkoku Monogatari
- Marmalade Boy
- Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru

Release Info

Released in US: Summer 2009
Status: Ongoing
Episodes:
- Currently episodes 1-2 and 16-17 are available on Crunchyroll here. Episode 17 is, as of this posting, only available to paid members.
N15PCAon Aug. 11, 2009 at 8:58 p.m.
 Kajika Burnsworth kind of looks like Tamoko from Immoral Sisters.   
sunfloweron Aug. 11, 2009 at 10:28 p.m.
The first couple episodes really misrepresent this series.  This is a shoujo series about the politics of a Middle Eastern country and the heirs and their factions fighting for control of it, and because of Kajika's grandfather and father, she becomes a part of it.  The "game" about her finding a husband is her father turning her loose in the hopes that she can bring about a solution to the mess, and she does.
 
It's really not a typical shoujo romance.
giaon Aug. 11, 2009 at 11:31 p.m.
@sunflower: If this is a political drama, then you're definitely right; the first two episodes TOTALLY misrepresent it. Because so far, it looks, smells, quacks, eats, dreams, sings, dances, and produces flatulence exactly like a shoujo melodrama...and a so-so one at that.
 
But if I have time to watch later episodes and change my mind, I will so note it for the record. :)
sunfloweron Aug. 12, 2009 at 5:31 a.m.
@gia: Oh, it has a shoujo feel to it all the way through, but it's less a romance tone and more like, well, Fruits Basket.  In fact, it's a lot like Fruits Basket in Kajika's relationship to all the characters and healing them and bringing them all together, though she's not a doormat like Tohru.  But yeah, the manga series is about the ruler to a Middle Eastern country and how all these guys and Kajika's family have ties back to an incident that caused the present political problems with people trying to kill everyone in opposing factions.  
 
The anime doesn't introduce us to this until a number of episodes in, and the prologue to the manga that sets the tone for everything isn't shown until episode 11 or so.   Personally I think the makers of the anime were afraid that girls wouldn't want to watch a series that was more political, which is stupid because the reason it was popular was because it was different from the average shoujo.  I'm hoping the second half of the anime returns to the roots of the manga (I've only seen the first 12 episodes of the anime, though I'm waiting for CR to catch up so I can watch the simulcasts.)  At this point, I'd rather have someone like CMX or Viz pick up the manga though than someone pick up the anime.
Elfieon Aug. 12, 2009 at 8:29 a.m.

Hey don't group Saiunkoku Monogatari in with this atrocity. 
 

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