Boys Over Flowers is a 2009 Korean drama based on Japanese shōjo manga Hana Yori Dango, created by Yoko Kamio. It is also the best-selling shōjo manga of all time. With its popularity, several drama adaptations have been made: Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and a Chinese version coming out later this year. Each version is made of two parts, like a season one and two. Of the different adaptations, the Japanese are a personal favorite.
: Geum Jan-di comes from a poor family and inadvertently saves a student from committing suicide. As a reward, she receives a scholarship to attend the prestigious Shinhwa High School. Her fellow students are rich, cruel, shallow, and follow the lead of the head honchos, the infamous and untouchable F4. They fill their boredom by tormenting whoever annoys them, and usually for something trivial.
The bullying process is always the same; a red card is placed in the offender’s locker, the card gives a mission for the whole student body to bully that person until they drop out of school. The bullying can become severe, violent and lead to a student being hospitalized.
After standing up to the kingpin Gu Jun-pyo, Jan-di receives the red card, but through sheer willpower withstands the pressure. Consequently and surprisingly, Pyo falls head over heels for her. The rest of the story deals with the characters’ numerous obstacles, including the love triangle between Pyo, Ji Hoo, and her Jan-di.
Rating: Pretty Good (4/5)
Out of the lot, the Korean version is quite a sugar-coated version. For example, it downplays Pyo’s major anger problems. There are many extravagant and drawn out moments, such as a lavish competition that decides the fate of Ji-hoo and Jan-di – where did that bingo like ball machine even come from? In the manga, it is a simple basketball competition.
The casting for Gu Jun-pyo was very competitive and Lee Min-ho came out the winner. He is a fantastic choice and did a great job working within the confines of the script. On a side note, let’s give a shout out to his perm!
Out of all the characters, his is the most complicated and intriguing. The environment in which he lives and was brought up is utterly bizarre, which in turn makes him bizarre. He is the next successor of the conglomerate empire and according to his grandma, the only purpose of his existence. His future is set in stone and very controlled.
The story follows him embarking on a difficult journey to mature, create his own identity and develop self-worth. Following this process is what makes you root for him and slowly forgot his wrongdoings.
Meeting Jan-di catapults these changes and makes him question himself and his lifestyle. His pursuing techniques are rather awkward and sweet, from buying her family appliances, entering a competition to help her win a phone, changing the location of the school trip, to following and vowing to protect her. Completely oblivious it’s because of his red card that she needs protection in the first place.
Our leading lady Geum Jan-di is played by Ku Hye-sun and she did well with acting and the portrayal of the character. Despite ticking all the boxes, I wasn’t drawn to her as a character nor as an actress, particularly compared to Lee Min-ho.
Her family runs a small dry cleaning business, but because of her father’s gambling problem, they are often accumulating debt from loan sharks. They are thrilled at their daughter’s opportunity to attend Shinhwa High School.
Jan-di is kind, loyal and has a courageous spirit, which she uses to stand up for the weak. Her goal while attending the new school is the keep a low profile, but that goes out the window when her friend is almost forced to lick ice cream of Pyo’s shoe, causing her inner vindication to emerge.
To begin with, she is a balanced person who stays true to herself, though she has a stubborn streak. The only real change that occurs is that she understands Pyo, has compassion and develops an authentic and unwavering love for him.
She does have some very cute moments that make her very enduring. For example. her enjoyment of the spontaneous beach holiday and her infamous roundhouse kick!
Upon meeting, Jan-di and Pyo are from polar opposite backgrounds and are flabbergasted at the others lifestyle and prerogatives. They really are cut from the same cloth and this is what makes them equals for their eventual mutual attraction. The OTP has minimal on-screen chemistry and it works to the story’s advantage because it emphasizes what an unlikely couple they are. Plus the story follows their individual lives, it’s more important that each actor embodies the individual character over the chemistry.
The rest of the F4 are comprised of Yoon Ji-hoo (Kim Hyun-joong), the strong but silent type, and his grandfather is the former president of Korea. Next, we have So Yi-jung (Kim Bum), he’s the ultimate ladies man and his family owns the country’s largest art museum. Coming up in the rear is Song Woo-bin (Kim Joon), also a ladies man and his family owns the largest construction company which have strong ties to the mafia.
This trio leaves much to be desired. For the most part, they go with the flow and take a back seat, amused at Pyo’s thirst for bullying. The only two glimmers of hope are Ji-hoo, who in odd ways protects Jan-di and Ga-eul who values friendship and keeping the bonds between the four friends. As the story progresses, these characters become more fleshed out and protective of Jan-di. As we glimpse further into their individual lives, a gradual respect for them emerges.
This drama has a feeling of both warmth and angst. It is important to remember that for the most part, this is a dark story. The never-ending obstacles become exhausting. After a few episodes, it’s easy to begin to forget that most of the themes are bad: extreme violence, bullying, sexual assault, and kidnapping to mention a few. But apparently, with a little understanding and the power of love, all can be overcome.
All that said, there are a few much needed comedic moments that warm the heart. For example, Pyo staying the night at Jan-di’s house and having a ball making kimchi and going to the bathhouse together with her family.
Boys Over Flowers, love it or hate, it’s a classic and a must watch.