Boys Before Flowers (25 Episodes)

EPISODE 01-25
((summary taken from aznv.tv and wikipedia))

Boys Before Flowers / 꽃보다 남자 / Boys Over Flowers / Kgotboda Namja

Geum Jan Di is an average girl who is admitted to the prestigious Shinhwa High School after stopping a bullied student from committing suicide. Once there, she learns that the school is run by a group of rich and good-looking boys called "F4" (Flower 4) who seem to enjoy humiliating and tormenting others. If someone opposes them, they're issued a red card in their locker and become the target of bullying by the entire student body.

When Jan Di's friend, Oh Min Ji, accidentally gets ice cream on the leader of the F4's shoes, Jan Di sticks up for her and ends up receiving a red card herself. Soon after, she declares war on the leader of F4, Goo Jun Pyo.

((This is the Korean drama adaptation of the Japanese manga Hana Yori Dango. It is the equivalent of Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden and Japan's Hana Yori Dango. This is the third televised version to air.))

Directed by: Jun Ki Sang
Cast: Koo Hye Sun, Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bum, Kim Joon




My Rating:


I've always been a fan of Hana Yori Dango, no matter what form it took: I fell in love with the manga, enjoyed the anime, and adored both the Taiwanese and Japanese live-action versions. In fact, Meteor Garden was the second drama I ever watched and is ultimately what got me hooked on Asian dramas. So needless to say, I went into Korea's recent adaptation expecting to enjoy it. I mean, how could they screw up a drama when the script and plot are basically handed to you on a silver platter...?

Unfortunately, the writer of Boys Over Flowers found a way.

I'm not saying the drama itself was particularly bad: There were parts of it I enjoyed a great deal. But as far as adaptations go, I found this version to be sorely lacking. Here's why.

First, the characters.

Geum Jan Di/Makino Tsukushi: In adaptations, some changes are acceptable and understandable given the right context (I love how they gave Jan Di a passion for swimming) but one thing that should be required is consistency. Here, there was none. One moment Jan Di would be the kick-ass, no-nonsense girl I looked up to in the manga--and the next, she'd be a weepy, whiny, damsel in distress. It's like she'd lose her backbone for 2 or 3 episodes, and then suddenly grow it back.

One important characteristic of the original Makino that I missed was her initial reluctance to fall in love with Domyouji. In BBF, Jan Di seems to fall in love with him almost immediately (even if she doesn't realize it because of her confused feelings for Ji Hoo). Part of what I loved about Meteor Garden, was the subtle and natural way their relationship progressed. It takes Shan Cai almost an entire season to even admit that she likes him. In BBF, they rush the romance to get to the angst, and then drag it for all its worth.
In the end, I had the same questions Jan Di did: what DID Jun Pyo see in her?

In the other versions, that question never once crossed my mind--it just seemed so obvious. Here, I wasn't so sure. I felt like Jan Di and Jun Pyo could've both found someone else and been fine, just like Jun Pyo's sister Joon Hee. They may think back on it with regret, but I think they could have found happiness with someone else if they had to.
For me, what it came down to was that Jan Di didn't have the same "Makino" vibe like the other adaptations had. And I can't even blame the actress... she could look cute and tough, while still looking vulnerable and sad. It's just the way the character was written that made her seem so inconsistent: I really wish they had kept her assertive like in the first couple of episodes, and not so wishy-washy and dubious towards the end.

Goo Jun Pyo/Domyouji Tsukasa: Jun Pyo was the same way. His character was much more consistent than Jan Di's... but they toned his personality down so much in the Korean version, that they took away a lot of what made his character so appealing in the first place. The main thing I loved about Hana Yori Dango, was watching Domyouji--the cold, violent, poessessive plutocrat--find love, and allowing that love to change him into a better (and happier) person. Honestly, here, that change wasn't a huge leap. He's a little less stupid, a LOT less violent, his unwavering devotion to Jan Di is a lot less overpowering... and honestly, he didn't seem any worse than the other F3. It was easy to love him: most of the time, he came off like a harmless dog barking behind a fence. Jan Di would've seemed strange if she hadn't swooned over him.
The saving grace was that Lee Min Ho is an AMAZING actor, and he really made you care about Jun Pyo . But again, I wonder how much more amazing this drama would have been had Jun Pyo been a little more like the character he's based upon.

Yoon Ji Hoo/Hanazawa Rui: I know that many people will disagree with me on this point, and that I'm probably exaggerating things... but since this is my own personal review, I figured I might as well call it like I see it: His character annoyed the crap out of me! Somehow, throughout the course of the series, he ended up becoming much more important than he was supposed to be. It's like the writer took his character and gave him a freaking halo. And what was with the random musical performances scattered throughout the episodes? I know Ji Hoo's actor is actually a singer, and that in the manga he plays the violin, but it got really annoying after awhile, especially since they placed such an emphasis on it: There would be a problem, and Ji Hoo's solution would be to grab his guitar/violin/piano and strum a tune. Yes, music soothes the soul, but seriously!
But what bothered me the most was how they turned him into Jan Di's personal savior. If she was upset, he was there. If she was depressed, here comes Ji Hoo. If she wanted to be alone, here's Ji Hoo sitting near by, just in case she needs a tissue.
MAKINO IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THAT WEAK.
And I never could understand why they placed such an emphasis on the Jun Pyo/Jan Di/Ji Hoo love triangle in the first place. Honestly, there are enough outside forces to move the plot along without it, especially when its already been done, and we know the outcome. I would have preferred that they focus more on Jun Pyo trying to win over Jan Di; on Jan Di fighting against her feelings for Jun Pyo; of them fighting together against his mother; etc, etc.
I'm almost positive that the writer had some huge crush on Rui and was a Rui/Makino shipper. Why else would she include so many pointless scenes of them "together" that are usually only found between canon couples in Korean dramas. It's like she broke every rule in the book, just so she could fulfill her stupid Makino/Rui fantasies. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there were more JH/JD scenes than there were of JP/JD.

On the other hand, I did enjoy his back story, and like how they gave his character some purpose and depth... in the manga and OTHER dramas, I always felt bad for him. At least, here they gave him something, even if it wasn't a mutual romance.

If you couldn't tell by now, my biggest complaint was with the script and the writer. As a hard-core Domyouji/Makino shipper... I am still furious at the way she handled their romance. From episode 18-22 the story drags like crazy, and emphasis is given to the alternate pairings (Rui/Makino and Domyouji/Shigeru). At this point, I was seriously afraid the writer had gone crazy and forgot who the canon couple was supposed to be... it was ridiculous and unnecessary, and could have been used in a much better way than it was. The fiancee arc dragged for much too long. In every other version, I like Rui and Shigeru, even when they threatened my beloved canon... but in Boys Before Flowers, I started to despise them both and just wanted them off the screen.
Luckily, the scenes with Jun Pyo and Jan Di were all perfect--it's the only reason I really stuck with this drama till the end. The two had amazing chemistry, and every scene they shot together was very sweet (even if their story was mishandled). If the script had given them something more to work with, it would have been wonderful.
This drama's saving grace was its ending. Honestly, if they had tried to end it any other way, I would have given this drama a 1 and cursed the writer and PD for life. Thankfully, the final two episodes brought back a lot of what was missing from the middle episodes; it was like a return to the original story, with our beloved characters actually acting like themselves. It was refreshing and made me forgive most of the travesty that was the horrible second half (even if it didn't make me forget). Plus, I loved how they resolved the Soujiro/Yuki storyline. And the location shots were really breathtaking.

In conclusion: strong actors and great location shots are great, but if it doesn't have a strong script to back it up, I get lost and frustrated pretty easily. For a regular drama, I'd say this was entertaining and a good way to waste some hours. But as an adaptation for a popular manga series... it left a lot to be desired.

PD Kim, and horrible writer: MAJOR FAIL.
Everyone else: you did great.

5 comments:

Anonymous said... Reply to comment @ May 26, 2009 at 11:57:00 PM MDT

haha. I like your comment. I was excited about the Korean version before because some of the KDramas are good like Goong S. I was disappointed because they said that if the BBF came first it will be dominating. And BBF is the best version. Shoot how about the story line? BBF dragging out the story. Pushing Love Triangle. Thus, Lee Min Ho reading magazine. BOF had a good twist but not that superb.

Anonymous said... Reply to comment @ October 7, 2009 at 11:23:00 PM MDT

After reading your comment, i think u have to watch BOF China version. It might interest u.

ANGELA JEWELL said... Reply to comment @ October 8, 2009 at 12:58:00 AM MDT

(I'm already half-way thru the Chinese version, and already like it tons more than the Korean version, lol)

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Anonymous said... Reply to comment @ March 26, 2010 at 1:49:00 AM MDT

I think Ji Hoo's character is not stupid,the show is trying to show that though Ji Hoo is practically everything a girl would want,sometimes it's not enough.The music part?The show,shown by the script and all,probably emphasises on love,and slow stuff.

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