What Came First? Boys Over Flowers Edition

I like watching multiple versions of things. I really do. If something is based off of a book, then I don’t call all of its variations remakes of whichever drama or movie came first. It’s just another version based off the original manuscript. This is why I own multiple versions of movies and series like Mansfield Park, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, and Jane Eyre. If we talk about remakes that aren’t based on a book or something…I tend to be way harsh on the remake vs. the original, but there is always exceptions. This week’s edition of What Came First? covers the popular Boys Over Flowers/Boys Before Flowers/Hana Yori Dango.

Hana Yori Dango mangaI do hope that everyone knows that Boys Over Flowers (花より男子; Hana Yori Dango) is a manga series by Yoko Kamio. The manga series was serialized between 1992 and 2003 and has been collected into 37 volumes. This is by far one of the most popular mangas in form of just how many adaptations its received. It has movies, official dramas spanning multiple seasons, unofficial dramas spanning multiple seasons, an anime movie and series, plus I just learned that Yoko Kamio penned a “second season” manga with new characters but with essentially the same story.

Hana Yori Dango revolves around a poor student named Makino Tsukushi who manages to get into the elite Eitoku Academy which is only for children of the wealthiest families in Japan. Her parents essentially push her into going to that school not for an education and a good job, but to hopefully win a rich man!? At Eitoku, Tskukishi tries her best to fly under the radar, but when the creme de la creme F4 pick on her friend, she stands up to them earning her a Red Card…the F4’s declaration of war. This makes the whole school start bullying her. Tsukushi refuses to give in and starts fighting back, earning her the attention and respect of the F4. She falls for the quiet violinist Hanazawa Rui while his best friend and F4 leader Domyouji Tsukasa falls for her. Thus we get a long and complicated relationship and a deep and lasting friendship.

So what came first? Did you think I would start with the Taiwanese drama? If you think that version came first you’re wrong! I don’t know how well known this fact is, but the first ever live action adaptation of Hana Yori Dango is in fact a Japanese movie starring Uchida Yuki as our loveable weed Makino Tsukushi, Tanihara Shosuke as the immature Domyouji Tsukasa, Fujiki Naohito as the reticent Hanazawa Rui, Hashizume Koichi as Mimasaka Akira, and Saeki Kensaku as Nishikado Sojiro. And a fun fact…Fujiki Naohito made a cameo appearance in the 2008 finale movie of the hit Japanese drama. Alas, I have not seen this movie. I’m not sure how easy it is to find.

Next came the anime in 1996. It ran for 51 episodes from ’96 to ’97. I actually own two volumes on DVD. It’s fairly accurate in following the plot of the manga. Ah…there is an anime movie which is separate from the anime series which takes place in an alternate universe and has Makino has an aspiring dancer. The stand alone anime movie was released in 1997. Don’t expect that to follow the manga at all.  But the actually anime series does. The Japanese and English voice actors are all good. I do wish to eventually finish collecting the manga and the anime.

Meteor GardenIn 2001 we see our first live action drama series. Taiwan kicked off the drama series adaptations with Meteor Garden (流星花園; Liuxing Huayuan). Barbie Hsu played Shan Cai (aka Tsukushi), Jerry Yan played Dao Ming Si (aka Tsukasa), Vic Zhou played Hua Ze Lei (aka Rui), Ken Chu played Xi Men (aka Nishikado), and Vanness Wu played Mei Zuo (Mimasaka). I have to say that if we go by screen time of F4 members, the Taiwanese version does a decent job of giving the Nishikado and Mimasaka characters some more screen time than what you see in other adaptations. This version does not hold completely true to the manga, but it’s differences weren’t annoyances. I don’t think it was a huge deal to make Tsukushi an only child and it didn’t feel 100% out of place for them to switch from high school to college instead. That actually happens a lot in live action adaptations for various reasons.

One thing I can say about this drama is that since this was like one of the first major dramas for all actors, the acting isn’t quite what it could be. Jerry Yan has thankfully gotten better over the years. The production quality isn’t as stellar as later adaptations, but unlike some people who complain by how low-budget it seems, it doesn’t bother me whatsoever.

Also in 2001 came Taiwanese mini series Meteor Rain which had all of our original Taiwanese cast in it. These 3 episodes feature just had stand alone stories that took place at different times before, during, and after the first season of Meteor Garden and it was more so giving each of our F4 members their own episode (except for Hua Ze Lei/Rui).

Then one year later in 2002 our main Taiwanese cast come back for a second season! Meteor Garden II. I haven’t actually watched the second season, but it’s kind of a combination of original plot mixed with events that happened in the manga as they changed some things around.

Hana Yori Dango jdrama castThree years later, Japan launches it’s own live action series in 2005. Inoue Mao stars as Tsukishi, Arashi baby Matsumoto Jun stars as Tsukasa, Oguri Shun stars as Rui, Matsuda Shota stars as Nishikado, and Tsuyoshi Abe stars as Mimasaka. This adaptation is fairly faithful to the manga. In this drama series it’s our love triangle that gets the most screen time. Nishikado does get a bit more than Mimasaka. Poor Mimasaka, his character always ends up buried in the background.

This version HanDan is the first I ever watched. It is my favorite version. It will always be my favorite version. Next comes the Taiwanese version and then the Korean version, and then the unofficial Chinese version. Anywho, the HanDan story continues in 2007 with Hana Yori Dango Returns. Our original cast all reprise their roles and this second season again remains pretty faithful to the manga. One year later, we get another movie simply titled Hana Yori Dango Final. This is where it splits off from the manga and gives our main couple a new story arc that ends in what everyone wants to see…Tsukasa and Tsukishi’s wedding. Actually…I wouldn’t mind it if an alternate reality version cropped up that shows what would happen if Tsukasa did lose out to Rui.

Boys Over Flowers posterIn January of 2009, South Korea launched their own version more commonly known by the English name Boys Over Flowers (꽃보다 남자; Ggotboda Namja). There’s a lot that has changed from the original plot, but the overall story of our poor girl coming into conflict with the elite Flower 4 is still the same. This version probably has the most flashy production. We have all the designer clothes, fancy cars, etc. The Japanese version was a step up from the Taiwanese version and the Korean version leaves both the first series in the dust.

The Korean drama stars Goo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di (Tsukishi), Lee Min Ho as Gu Jun Pyo (Tsukasa), SS501 leader Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo (Rui), Kim Bum as So Yi Jung (Nishikado), and Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin (Mimasaka). You know, out of this F4, the Mimasaka character again fades far into the background. Kim Bum’s Yi Jung definitely got more screen time…which also happened in the Japanese drama, too. While I did enjoy the Korean series, I really got annoyed by the end and how they did things. It just did not work…for me at least.

Meteor Shower posterAnywho. Since the Korean version was hugely popular (and lets face it, the manga series was hugely popular as well), China decided to cash in on the Hana Yori Dango franchise. You do have to note, though, that is is an unofficial adaptation that was not officially approved by the publisher of the manga series. The two season drama which started airing in August of 2009 (I think the second season finished airing in August 2010) was called Let’s Go Watch Meteor Shower (一起来看流星雨; Yi Qi Lai Kan Liu Xing Yu). The second season was called Let’s Watch the Meteor Shower Together Again (一起又看流星雨; Yi Qi You Kan Liu Xing Yu).

The Chinese drama starred Zheng Shuang as Chu Yu Xun (Tsukushi), Zhang Han as Murong Yun Hai (Tsukasa), Yu Hao Ming as Duanmu Lei (Rui), and Zhu Zhi Xiao as Shangguan Rui Qian. This version is one of the least faithful since it is unofficial, but like with all the other adaptations it carries the overall story of the poor girl who gets caught up in a rich foursome’s schemes along with some of the more major events from the manga. Like the Taiwanese version, the Chinese version starts with our girl and H4 (instead of F4) in college.

The next adaptation comes in 2014. The god awful disastrous American version called Boys Before Friends comes out in January I think. This low budget series makes I’m sure makes the lower budgeted Taiwanese version look even better. There’s bad acting and them trying to make the drama more accessible to Westerners ruined a lot of charm of the original. Seriously moving the drama to college (graduate school level?) just because high school wouldn’t work doesn’t float. We’ve heard bullying horror stories in the US, haven’t we? So why does moving to college make more sense in that case? I didn’t complain about the Taiwanese or Chinese versions doing college over high school probably because I didn’t read the reason for it, lol, and it honestly didn’t hurt the overall story.

There was funding issues, main cast quitting, and a whole lot of drama going on behind the scenes, so I guess it’s no wonder that this series never even finished. Considering how unfaithful it was and how bad the acting was and how they really lost sight of the heart of the story, I don’t think its a bad thing it was never finished. While I don’t like this drama, I have to say its corniness and bad acting had me laughing out loud over the sheer stupid.

After the disaster at the beginning of 2014, an Indian drama was launched in the summer called Kaisi Yeh Yaariyan. Looking at the overall plot, they made a LOT of changes to the official story…so I guess we can actually crown this drama the least faithful.

I have watched part of the Taiwanese version, all of the Japanese version (minus the original movie in the 90s), part of the Chinese version, all of the Korean version, part of the US version, and part of the anime. I’ll probably definitely finish the Taiwanese and Chinese versions and the anime. Don’t know if I’ll try to find and watch the Indian version and I’m just not motivated to watch 6 bad episodes of the US version.

So…what do you think? Any surprises?


  • Yeah. I also strongly believe that if there are variations of a series, movie, whatever they are not remakes but just another version based off the original. While I have not seen Boys Over Flowers or read it. I will now! I’ll start off with the manga series and then I will end with the Japanese drama series.

    P.S. Oh, no! Tsukasa won! No! Damn, poor Rui he could not win the love of Tsukishi.

    • It’s one of those weird things you see in manga. Girl A likes Boy B while Boy A likes her and Boy B likes Girl B. Then Girl A finally gives up on Boy B and starts falling for Boy A just when Boy B realizes that Girl B probably isn’t the right one for him and starts falling for Girl A. Alas, it’s too late for him. I guess an exception to that would be Parfait Tic. In the end, the girl ends up with her first crush. That had such a back and forth it was really ridiculous at times.

      HanDan remains one of my favorite manga series, so I hope you enjoy it!

  • I’ve watched the three versions – Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean (well, skipping here and there from time to time). I like the Taiwan version because of Jerry. I think he’s the most handsome of all three leading guys. For me, the acting was average and the chemistry between Barbie and Jerry was alright.

    I think chemistry between the leads is important and for that reason, I love the Japanese version. I could feel it and they’re my fave couple of the three versions. I like that they kept things simple (and not as flashy like Korean version). The second couple in Korean version saved the day for me. I love So Yi-Jung and Ga-Eul together. And I like the boys’ friendship there. Not a fan of the main couple, I’m afraid. I just didn’t get Jan Di-Jun Pyo story and even the love triangle. Weird right ‘coz lots of other people got it. I’ve given up trying to find out why.

    P/S : I’m a big fan of “Pride and Prejudice” and other Austen’s works. Have watched the BBC 1995 version like 22 times (I wasn’t married then! 😀 ) and the movie version starring Keira Knightley about 10 times (yep, I’ve got married by then 😉 ) I have the 1940 version on DVD. Not completely faithful but it has its charm. Have you watched “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” (the American drama web series) ? Love it!

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