Horikita Maki as Ashiya Mizuki
Oguri Shun as Sano Izumi
Ikuta Toma as Nakatsu Shuichi
One of many romantic comedies depicting a girl cross dressing as a boy for her own reasons, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen Paradise, is a spin off of the shoujo manga of the same name (minus the Ikemen Paradise) written by Hisaya Nakajo.
The story of Hana Kimi is fairly straight forward (like any other romantic comedy). Ashiya Mizuki, while living in America, sees footage of a boy named Sano Izumi doing a high jump. Feeling inspired by how beautiful his form looks and taking to heart his words of encouragement to young people all over the world, she is determined to meet this person for herself. And so with the mindset of a
That is the original storyline of the manga, which then continues on to detail the life of Ashiya Mizuki as she struggles through life as a boy in an all boys school, living in the dorms with boys, eating with boys, going to class with boys, and trying to avoid showering with boys.
Ikemen Paradise takes this straightforward plot and throws in a spin of it's own. While with similar concept, much is changed making the Japanese live action adaptation a stand alone series capable of shining on its own.
Ashiya Mizuki, in this version, goes to Japan for the same reasons, except this time, her goal from the beginning is convincing Sano Izumi to return to high jump. Because while in the manga, Sano's withdrawal from the sport was due to his pressure and a car accident, the reason in this version is much different. While at a competition in America, Mizuki is attacked by a gang of young men, and in order to save a complete stranger, Sano ends up getting hurt thus causing him to back out of the high jumping arena. While his injury was not enough to keep him off of the field forever, his reasons for leaving were very much on par with the reasons given in the original manga version: he felt pressured into being the best high jumper by his father of whom he already had terrible relations with.
The story takes off from there with a lot of difference from the original story, but having it's own episodic side plots on top of the ultimae base plot. Our team of boys continuously jump into dorm competitions lead by the three dorm leaders and involve themselves in strange activities courtesy of the school's planning. Other changes include a female version of photographer Hara Akiha who shows up for every event in the entire series, and a much more involving adult presence in the form of Sawatari whom I assume is just the principal's assistant who jumpstarts each and every event for the boys.
And so Ikemen Paradise, while taking from it's manga base, presents a whole different story line concerning the blossoming romance of our main couple as well as the road to discovery, both for Sano Izumi as well as Ashiya Mizuki.
The series itself is full of fun and hilarious antics surrounding the boys of Osaka Academy. With a bigger comedic tone than the original manga, the series was a laugh fest of entertainment and enjoyment. While I personally preferred the sweet love story of the original manga more, the live action version did not really pale too much in comparison. It had it's charm, filled with hilarious comedic moments, inspirationally cheesy monologues, as well as a spunky new type of Ashiya Mizuki and the acting god who is Ikuta Toma-sama as Nakatsu Shuichi.
It is unfortunate that the series did not develop the blossoming love story between Sano and Mizuki that made Hana Kimi so special; but the change in characterizations and story line really DID help to make the series a separate entity from the manga itself. In contrast from the manga, I found that I ended up loving the character of Nakatsu Shuichi so much that I instantly became a fan of Ikuta Toma. This series was made for him, allowing him to carry the show all the way until the very end despite his character being supporting to the main couple. But to my dismay I really didn't care for the love story between Sano and Mizuki as much as I had in the original manga version. Instead, I often times found myself wishing that Mizuki would turn her attention to Nakatsu; ultimately, this is taboo for a fan of the Hana Kimi love story.
But I stand by my own opinions. Ikuta Toma's big break as Nakatsu Shuichi in this series left a very deep impression.
The series itself was wonderfully fun to follow along with. Japanese humor still stands as some of the best and I wouldn't mind rewatching this series over and over again -- even if only for the Nakatsu Shuichi wonders.
thoughts: Hanazakari no Kimitachi e: Ikemen Paradise (Japanese) - a more in depth look at the series in discussion