'One Piece," a new, modern entertainment-focused "Super Kabuki" play based on an eponymous manga series by Eiichiro Oda, closed last month after a hit Tokyo run that showed beyond doubt that manga-based productions are not the preserve of movies and television — where they have long been popular fare — but they can successfully translate to the live stage, too.

That magic formula has also spawned so-called "2.5-D" musicals (something between 2-D manga and 3-D theater) — a genre that's struck box-office gold with shows such as "The Prince of Tennis" and "Sailor Moon."

So it is hardly surprising that Japan's best-selling comic for girls from 1992 to 2004 — Yoko Kamio's "Hana Yori Dango" ("Boys over Flowers") series popularly known as "Hanadan" — is now the basis of a musical after long ago conquering anime, games, movies and TV. Despite the title's track record, though, the musical's director, Yumi Suzuki — known for her work with foreign plays and mainstream Japanese theater as well as musicals — confessed to being worried about taking on the project.