HanaKimi Live Special:
To sum up in one sentence: this is such a sad waste of 45 minutes. To elaborate a bit, I liked the rock paper scissor game and the cosplay contest(?) among the dorm heads (although, seeing Dorm 1 head's costume, I really wish they get Igarashi to cosplay instead, and I'm not even going to touch the fact that he's totally ignored in this special), but anything other than those two can just go straight to the cutting floor.
As far as I noticed, Sano and Nakao are missing from the actual broadcast (there is the word "LIVE" on the broadcast, although I'm not going to really trust that it was actually aired live), though they are around via prior recordings. IMO, there are too many spoilers in the preview for episode 12, even though I'd already watched 12 before seeing this. And I feel they re-use too much of previous episodes' footages. (I don't know. If they can't have more than 50% of new material, they shouldn't call it a special. I feel cheated.)
I noticed and nitpicked on little things that don't have much to do with the main plot...
Somehow, Mizuki did look like a guy crossdressing in that outfit for the Ikemen Contest in episode 2. I think it's mostly the wig. Her normal hairstyle always reminds me too much of Haruhi from Ouran Host Club. I would prefer Mizuki's bangs to be more similar to her manga counterpart's.
(Irrelevant side note: there was a rumor last year that Ouran was supposedly getting a live action version, with a (fake) cast list and all, but that cast list turned out to be eerily similar to a cast list for HanaKimi drama. I lost the original list, but this page talks about the rumor a little (I don't know this person, just randomly came across their post).)
Maybe I have a weird sense of humor, but when Sekime shows up for the dance off in episode 10, I expected him to tie Noe and/or lock him up somewhere, not tricked Noe to go to a non-existence convention. Sorry, but being tricked doesn't really speak well for Noe's common sense. Or maybe Noe is just a trusting soul. He wouldn't expect his friend to betray him...
And what's with people calling Sekime by the wrong name(s)? It's funny the first few times around, but when it is done repeatedly it made them seem impolite and/or insensitive. It is possible that I'm overthinking this matter, but it seems to me like they don't care for their friend if they don't bother to remember the correct name. Or maybe this is some form of teasing, in which case please just forget what I wrote in the last two sentences.
(Still, I really couldn't tell if he was serious when he said something to Mizuki in episode 12 about her remembering his name, so he would be stupid not to treat her well.)
(Also, on a somewhat(?) related note, I wasn't really bothered by the "shut up, Komari!" that the Hibari Three like to dole out to her. I guess Komari gets that (and tolerates it) because she's the newest member of Hibari Four and/or the youngest.)
And when did Nakao lose his headband (or whatever one calls the thing that hold his bangs away from his forehead)? I noticed for sure that his hair was down in episode 10, and I think he looked cuter that way.
I laughed when Umeda told Mizuki that she was "not alone". (Well, at least I have to try to work in a Mebi reference somehow. They said Ryuu's favorite phrase, "Is this for real?", quite a lot in this drama too. Though I don't remember if Noe ever said the phrase or was a recipient of it...)
Ah...of all the characters they have to make Noe be the one who vocalizes that accusation against Mizuki (that the guys all see what she wears over her chest and realize that she is a girl). Why can't they use a character I'm indifferent to?
Speaking of Noe, I honestly couldn't tell it was him dressing up for the cosplay in episode 9. (There was way too little of him and mostly in the background. His scenes also came by so quick, though I noticed the eyepatch.) I only know because I saw pics on Igarashi's blog.
(The fashion show in 12 is better, I would have known it was him without seeing prior pics. In fact, the only guy I still can't identify is the one in a white dress. Sorry, I fail so hard at face recognition.)
So, how did that cheat sheet on Nakatsu's desk get there? Did Kitahama plant it there himself? Well, I suppose it doesn't matter either way. The point is to show that sometimes generalization is not such a good thing.
I think Mizuki's home in California looks like one of those virtual houses on the internet, with the large and perfect looking lawn and unnaturally blue, blue sky in the background (in other words, the house looks computer generated to me). The mailbox thing is probably wrong (aren't they supposed to put the house number instead of zip code on it?), but what do I know? I've never lived in Anaheim.
Character-wise, I'm okay with everyone. Some I prefer more than others, but no one seriously annoys me, not even Hibari (I normally have no patience for princess-type characters, but Hibari is somehow played more comically than shrewishly).
I did have some reservations when I first saw Umeda, but in the end, I think he's one of my favorite characters. (I like his former girlfriend too. Their encounters are just so hilarious. Maybe they will get back together?)
I wasn't sure about Mizuki at first either. She nagged Sano way too much, and the way she did that was just not very charming. But maybe persistence is a virtue in this case. She did succeed in making Sano jump, after all.
Still, Mizuki (at least this incarnation of Mizuki) has way too much guilt complex. Somehow she manages to blame herself for every non-positive thing that happens, even though people keep telling her otherwise. There is this one line Umeda says to her that I really like and kind of sums up how I feel; it goes something like "a kid acting like an adult is not cute at all." Also... Sano throws this at her in one of their arguments: the world does not revolve around you. (I've used that exact phrase before in a story, so I guess that's one of the reasons it stands out to me.)
As for Sano, he was more moody than I expected. Still, I must have a high tolerance or something, because I don't think he's really a jerk. (Well, I wouldn't like his behaviors in real life, but even then I would try to understand.) If the worse he could have done were the blow-ups in episodes 3 and 10, (both of which reduced Mizuki to tears), I don't have any problem with him at all. A person could only take so much, and Mizuki was being extremely provoking in both cases. Not that I don't think he shared part of the blame, however. But at least he didn't snap her head off without somewhat (to me) justifiable causes.
(Side Note: I personally think it's fine for Mizuki to keep pushing Sano about the high jump, considering that it is somewhat a public matter since he has been famous/a public persona. But I want to draw a line at discussing his family. I realize that she has good intentions, but it seems intrusive to push him about his father, which is a much more private matter.)
Nakatsu seems to be popular among fans. I do like him, but I think he's too nice sometimes. (Agreeing to go on a date with Komari, while he likes someone else.) And nice guys finish last. Cliched but true in this case. (Not that I blame the poor guy in the least. He doesn't even have a chance to begin with. Or maybe he does. Perhaps the problem is he is too readily available... If Mizuki suddenly couldn't find him around, maybe she would appreciate him more. She seems to prefer to do the chasing anyway.)
Kayashima is eerily perfect from the beginning to end. I admit, without bias, that Yusuke Yamamoto is well-cast for this role. Interestingly, Kayashima seemed to be dating Komari for a while (and I hope I'm not the only one who think that they've both been rejected by Nakatsu).
Sekime & Noe: I've gathered from doing a little research when I first decided to watch the drama that these two are supposed to almost always appear together in the manga. So why does Sekime has more screen time here? And I don't know if this is true in the manga, but Sekime seems to put down Noe, saying something like "Why are you always building useless things?" I don't agree that they are useless though. At least these Noe machines further the plot, or makes lives more complicated for the characters in any case. (Not to mention Noe looks too cute when he demonstrates his inventions.) Randomly, Sekime seems to have his hairstyle changed as the series goes on... (especially noticeable in the flashback scenes when he is saying farewell to Mizuki).
All I know about Yao is that he's the only one among Dorm 3 who doesn't seem to ever wear a cape (maybe because he is a second in command, after Oscar?). Sad, since I was kind of looking for him, simply because I like the looks of his actor (yes, I'm that shallow). Other people I don't look for make more impression than he ever does. Guess I have to hunt down the actor's other works to see more of his acting. (Though he seems to be part of a boyband, so maybe I'll have better luck tracking down stuff related to the band. Apparently, one of his fellow bandmates is also in the drama, but in Dorm 1. Not sure of the name, but I think he is the one with somewhat long brown hair which looks a little wavy.)
Dorm 1 members appear well-built compared to members of other dorms, especially Dorm 2. Their facial expressions are terrifically hilarious, even more so than those of Dorm 3, which is sort of ironic since Dorm 3 people are supposed to specialize in drama. (To me, the only one in Dorm 3 that seems dramatic all the time is the dorm head. The followers are over the top dramatic whenever Oscar gets possessed, however.)
I thought I would not have an easy time warming up to the head of Dorm 1 (he's loud, rude, etc.), but I like him even before I like the main characters. Dorm 3 head, who hates to be called by his Japanese name, won me over since his first or second appearance. And of course I like Nanba, and not only because Hiro Mizushima plays him. His farewell to Mizuki is easily one of the best.
As for Sano's rival, the guy every character (and the audience) is supposed to hate? I don't think he is so bad, even in the beginning. In fact, I think he comes off better than Sano in some of their encounters, and I'm not talking about the high jump itself. I did have some reservations about Shirota, however, probably because I don't think I've seen him act, but my concerns were mostly laid to rest after the sea episode. (Couldn't take the character seriously before that, with the silly game/competition and all.)
Mizuki's brother is okay, even though he becomes a bit of a victim in this weird school... No idea if he's like this in the manga, but I like that he reminds her that she is being selfish. His words to her are actually sensible and, imo, what she needs to hear before the start of episode 1.
Mizuki's parents, however, seem a little clueless. Do they not know that their daughter attends an all boy school? And lives on campus with guys? Because if they do know, they sure hide it well. I don't know, didn't they have to sign some form on the school applications/paperworks? Or did Mizuki simply fake them?
I don't know why I save this for last, but Mizuki does so not look like a guy and it bothers me that she is easily accepted as one. Are these people vision-impaired or what? (Umeda knows, but he's an exception in the sea of clueless people.) No, seriously. Her voice isn't really deep either. I'm truly amazed that she manages to keep her secret for as long as she has. (Maki Horikita's acting is fine and for the most part convincing. But really, if I, who in actuality is no good at gender recognition, especially if the person looks androgynous, can tell she's a girl by looking from afar...everyone else probably can too.)
Personally, with the ending, I don't think a full second season is very likely, although a special (an actual sequel please; maybe about the Ohsaka school trip to California) or two would be lovely.