Ten years have passed since Tsukushi Makino and Domyoji's F4 graduated from Eitoku Academy - a once prestigious school which is now suffering a decline in funding and student enrollment. Oto attends Eitoku Academy but is secretly just a"commoner" who is struggling financially due to the bankruptcy of her father's company. She is afraid her secret will be disclosed if she becomes the target of "commoner hunting" which Kaguragi's C5 is doing to maintain the school's dignity. Meanwhile, Momonozono Academy where Tenma Hase serves as student council president is quickly catching up to Eitoku Academy as a result of Tenma's achievements. Tenma and Oto are in fact engaged to one another and are to be married, but only on the condition that Oto attends Eitoku Academy until she turns 18.
(Source: TBS International)
Cast & Credits
I must say right now that my overall rating is completely biased. I am a huge fan of Hana Yori Dango because it was one of the first Asian dramas I watched in high school and the OST pulls at my heartstrings even today. So as you can imagine, Hana Nochi Hare brought back many feels, which was of course its ultimate goal and I must admit it makes up for its plot flaws, at least IMO.
The plot is nothing special or groundbreaking. Kaguragi Haruto is the new Doumyouji while Edogawa Oto is the new Makino. There are a few changes e.g. the new Makino has not always been poor, her family bankrupted while the new Doumyouji is basically the same (with the same flaws and quirks as the original one). You could even say that the plot of Hana Nochi Hare is the recycled version of Hana Yori Dango - and you would be right. This whole drama is meant to be a fan service to HYD fans because it does not offer anything special, different or new. The OST is not on par with HYD OST and neither the actors are as charismatic as the HYD ones but that is the point - there is only one HYD and nothing will ever manage to top it.
The proof that this drama is a deliberate fan service is that they re-shot the classic scenes e.g. Doumyouji waiting for Makino in the rain. And I still loved it. Hana Nochi Hare didn't even try to recreate the magic of HYD (they know it is impossible), it is just meant to pull at your heartstrings for a little while and maybe even pay a tribute to the original series, actors and fans. If you are a fan and look at it from this perspective, then you will probably find it at least a bit enjoyable.
Hana Sugisaki and Taishi Nakagawa as Oto and Tenma were brilliant together. I'm convinced Taishi only took the second male lead in order to work with Hana again. Sho Hirano was charming as the male lead Haruto, though his acting was a little on the weaker side. The supporting cast were also fun and did a reasonably well job. I was a bit conflicted about the "friend group" thing between Oto, Konno, Airi, and Megumi as this does not happen in the manga. It felt a bit unrealistic to be honest, especially for Megumi.
The highlight of the series were the cameos [I cried when Tsukasa (Jun Matsumoto) appeared]! I was a little disappointed by the ending. They are obviously hoping for a second season since it only covers seven volumes of the manga. "Hana Nochi Hare", while not as good as "Hana Yori Dango", will hopefully delight old and new fans.