After a few years of watching dramas, one thing that has become dauntingly clear is that wonderful male characters are much easier to come by than female. Dramas and films pop up almost daily with a new male lead that I just adore! Therefore, narrowing down my favorite male lead was extremely difficult. However, I found a way to pick without feeling I slighted any of my many mens.
If you know the characters in the picture above, you know my choice for what I call “Favorite Young Male (Romantic) Lead.” It may seem like an odd choice but I have my reasons.
[Just to preface: I have never read the Hana Yori Dango mangas, watched the anime, or seen Meteor Garden, so my thoughts aren’t clouded by anything outside the Japanese live action drama.]
When I concluded I was going to pick Domyouji Tsukasa (Matsumoto Jun) over every male character I’ve seen, I felt a little self-conscious. Mostly because I know that this pick definitely needs explanation. I believe that he’s a little unconventional, therefore, I have several ideas on my appreciation for this F4 leader but I only jotted down a few.
1. Rude boy meets Mr. Darcy.
I can’t say “I love bad boys” cause I’m not sure that’s really true of anyone(in staunch reality),though, I do seem to identify with characters that have a strange way or hard time expressing themselves. I find that (most) people think its easy to verbalize what’s on your heart but it’s not, not at all. For Domyouji Tsukasa, this is very true. Living the type of life he did, sheltered and formed him to be more demanding and impetuous, over forgiving or understanding. His view was limited to his world and how he ruled it, rather than the feelings and motivations of the people within it.
Like all “rude boys” Domyouji went against the rules, created havoc and never apologized. However, behind closed doors, Domyouji was an adorkable dufus who cares deeply about his friends. It’s true he was an angry kid but not unwarranted in his eyes. This particular attribute would liken him to a “Darcy” model. The idea that because he had little interaction with other people, outside his circle of influence, he didn’t really know how to act. Similar to Jane Austen’s Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Domyouji Tsukasa can be viewed, as an affluent but distant, perhaps prickly character that needs a little understanding and deeper assessment to comprehend. Therefore, he’s honestly a “Darcy-Heathcliff” hybrid. Domyouji is rich and entitled yet goofy, generous and innocent; unkind and broody but capable of unyielding unconditional love. These contradictions make him lovable, relatable and real.
2. The flavor of life
Regardless of the drama, each character comes from a particular background that shapes the way the character views the world and everyone in it, including friends, family and romantic interests or pursuits. In Hana Yori Dango, Domyouji Tsukasa is a rich boy with an attitude, stunted by abandonment issues. His wealth doesn’t equate to anything much without monetary value, with an absent father and a mother, who wields manipulation and control as loving kindness. His sister seems is the only family member that shows remnants a healthy love, demanding he live and act better, than his upbringing suggests. Though she has a positive influence on his life, she was older(and later married), with her own personal “mommy issues” leaving Tsukasa to battle with seclusion and solitude throughout his childhood.
This creates a teenager that uses his wealth and power to control and dominate others as an elitist superpower. I can’t say that this is something new, however, Domyouji’s life made him ripe for his encounter with Makino. Meeting her, awakens something inside him he had never truly tapped into before; romance. For, I don’t think that Domyouji was lacking in love from or for other people. He had a great group of childhood friends and a sister he respected but he had no challenges, therefore, never had to sacrifice anything, especially not his pride. Domyouji’s type of love was given in secret doses that many (outsiders) had no clue about. Amazingly, this ruthless individual, softens for Makino, not because she was this magnificent person, not even because he wanted to impress her, but because he realized that his life was so different from her own that he didn’t compute things the way she did and to better understand her, he needed to change, take a step back and see the world through different lenses.
3. Love can build a bridge.
Tsukasa is a jerk; a jerk who falls in love. I love that concept. I’m drawn to Domyouji for several reasons but one prominent reason has to be his self-abandon concerning love. Domyouji isn’t by any means perfect but once he realizes his love for Makino, he fights for her, determined to keep her. He goes all out for her, stretching and making a fool of himself. As I said, I don’t think he’d lived without love but I believe it was an unhealthy pacifistic love(from his posse) that allowed him to take center stage and control all aspects of his relationships. Once he meets and is attracted to Makino, he begins to understand the importance of surrender and compromise. This, then, begins to surface in conversations, actions and reactions to/with his friends and family. A simple attraction turns his world upside down and he doesn’t fight it. Instead, he reaches to grab it and believes he deserves it. You could argue that he felt entitled, but if so, it was short-lived. Tsukasa recognized his feelings and stayed steady in them, even his subsequent moment of falter was more a penance than a renunciation.
4. Too young to love.
Hana Yori Dango was written about high-schoolers. This is something I’m sure we know but I think it’s poignant, considering the clarity Domyouji had as a kid. As adults, we rationalize and talk ourselves out of things; making pros and cons or Top 5 lists, but Domyouji didn’t do any of this(seriously). He made decisions based on zero experience and believed those decisions were for the best. If it proved to be otherwise, he regrouped and tried again. Domyouji had such conviction as a young man, that I couldn’t help but be caught up with him. He wasn’t just swinging from the rafters dizzy in love but smart about love.
Even in the first season, he listens and tries to understand Makino. I can’t say he was selfless for I’m not sure human love is that capable but I believe he gave his best shot giving Makino some room to get her feelings in check. He knew she liked his best friend, and though he wasn’t necessarily going to step aside for them to live happily ever after, he didn’t try to wrongly influence or deceive her. He respected her feelings and allowed her to reason through them with doing no more than proving himself to be someone who loved her.
Domyouji undergoes a character reassessment, but he doesn’t change entirely. Instead, the things that were hidden from the rest of the world, become visible. He’s still not quite bright or the nicest person on the block but he has Makino. He grows up and becomes someone she can love unreservedly. Romantic leads have to do something that sets them apart from their dramatic rivals and “change” is usually the clincher. Domyouji couldn’t change his background or his status but he could realign his ideals and motivations. Again, it’s not this huge transformation, however, he demonstrates a genuine love for Makino that was strong and unmoving. He set forth to get the girl yet remain true to himself. He proves that Man can have it all, even if broken and bruised. Domyouji is a rude boy whose soul is unearthed by romance but without whimsy. He dives into love and chooses to be honest and forthright about his own feelings, then acting on them; believing, in time, his love would choose him. Luckily, he was right.