Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Many Faces of Boys Over Flowers Part 1

Cast of all drama adaptations of Hana Yori Dango aka Boys Over Flowers aka Boys Before Flowers aka Meteor Garden aka Meteor Shower, aka Boys Before Friends.
It's a scary proposition;  an American version of Boys Over Flowers, produced independently, and having a cast of unknowns.  But more on that in part 2.  Before we open that can of worms, here's a refresher on the faces of this much beloved production.

The multi-episode dramatization (not including the anime) of Yoko Kamio's manga, Hana Yori Dango, began with Taiwan's Liu Hsing Hua Yuan or Meteor Garden in 2001.

The main cast (Barbie Hsu, Jerry Yan, Vic Zhou, Ken Zhu and Van Ness Wu) ranged in age between 20 and 25, and had little to no experience acting in movies or television dramas.  The production quality was perhaps the worst of the BOF series produced so far, but remember, this was back in 2001 where you can see a marked difference in the quality of productions across the board.  And although the acting was a bit green, the hearts of the characters came through and made for a touching series.

Season one consisted of 20 episodes, and season two which aired in 2002 had 31, with songs by the F4 boys who recorded as F4 until their name change to JVKV.  Liu Xing Yu or Meteor Rain, a four episode series of side stories also aired in 2002.

In 2005, the nine episode Japanese Hana Yori Dango or Boys Before Flowers/Boys Over Flowers aired. The main cast (Inoue Mao, Matsumoto Jun, Oguri Shun, Matsuda Shota and Abe Tsuyoshi) ranged in age between 18 and 23.  Fortified with more acting experience (and a bigger budget), they skillfully brought this series to life.  The theme song was performed by Arashi, the idol group that Matsumoto is a part of.

Season two aired in 2007 with 11 episodes, and in 2008, the film Hana Yori Dango Final was released. Arashi again provided the theme songs for both projects.


Korea aired the next version called Kkotboda Namja or Boys Before Flowers/Boys Over Flowers in early 2009 with a more opulent feel.  Besides the leading couple, more time was given to developing the other characters.  The main cast (Koo Hye Sun, Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Bum and Kim Joon) ranged in age between 20 and 25.  This cast also had some acting experience behind them and the series enjoyed a high average rating after 25 episodes and a special.  Kim Hyun Joong and the idol group he belonged to, SS501, also contributed to the soundtrack.

In August of 2009, China aired a 36 episode season of Liu Xing Yu or Meteor Shower/Let's Go Watch Meteor Shower which started with the basic premise of the BOF plot and took the most creative license with it, changing F4's origin, adding fast cars and creating a different story, though keeping the essence of the original.

The main cast (Zheng Shuang, Zhang Han, Yu Hao Ming, Wei Chen and Zhu Zi Xiao) ranged in age between 18 and 25 with not much acting experience, but they all contributed to the soundtrack.  In 2010, a second 36 episode season aired called Yi Qu You Kan Liu Xing Yu or Let's Watch the Meteor Shower Together Again

Each version of the manga adaptation has its strengths and weaknesses, and all are thoroughly enjoyable and worth watching.  Although Meteor Garden seems to be a low budget affair (though they did travel to Spain in the second season) the actors are really endearing.  Perhaps there's a soft place in my heart for Meteor Garden because it was the first.  The Japanese version really gives off the feeling of the manga coming to life, though it does tone down the bullying.  In the Korean interpretation, the bullying is more true to the manga, and the wealth factor is raised a few notches with their sets and locations.  The Chinese production was really interesting because of how much they deviated from the original story, yet they managed to keep the characters intact.

The American version has huge shoes to fill and a BOF fanbase that will be watching closely.  Netizens will be swift and harsh with their criticisms if Between Boys & Friends (as the production is being called) disappoints.

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