First Impressions: Boys Over Flowers

Live-action shojo!

Cute rich boys! A spunky girl!

It’s kind of awesome.

My sisters have been bugging me for a while to watch their latest obsession, Kdrama, (the “K” is for “Korean,” fyi) and Boys Over Flowers was recommended to me yons ago in an Ouran High School Host Club forum. So watching the first episode got two birds with one stone! (Rather violent saying, but I can’t think of a better phrase to convey the same meaning at present.) I figured I’d review it here since it’s based on a Japanese shojo manga. Besides, we’re all about expanding our horizons and embracing all types of Asian culture here at Otaku Haiku. (And by “we” I mean me, ’cause Miss Pink is the only clown at this rodeo.)

Meet JanDi, our lumberjack protagonist.

ShinHwa is a school for the super rich that garners a lot of attention one day when a teenage girl making a dry cleaning delivery saves a tormented student from jumping off of the roof. After this event is broadcast far and wide thanks to the cluster of cellphones in the hands of the other students watching, ShinHwa School has some majorly bad press to deal with. As a way to combat the growing (and growling) negative public opinion, the dry clean delivery girl, Geum JanDi, is offered a full scholarship. She doesn’t want to attend some snooty school for the rich, but her kooky family pressures her into going with the promise that she can take up swimming again.

Meet the evil(?) pretty boys: at first I thought the "F" in "F4" stood for "F**kface."

Once at school she encounters, yup, you guessed it, snooty rich kids. But even worse is a group of four super rich, super handsome guys known as “F4” (the “F” stands for flower, because they’re sooo pretty). JanDi watches them maintain the admiration of the entire school while simultaneously tormenting one student after another just for kicks. She finally has to intervene when the leader of the group, JunPyo, has a run-in with her one and only friend at the school. In sticking up for her friend, JanDi becomes JunPyo’s arch rival. However, she’s also had random encounters with another member of F4, the quiet, dreamy, blond violinist JiHoo, who seems to get a kick out of her and indeed admires her spirit. JunPyo can’t get JanDi’s rebellious attitude out of his mind (it’s obvious no one has ever questioned his authority before) so he keeps escalating his revenge in an attempt to get under her skin. JanDi takes it all in stride (at least as much stride as any tormented teenager can be expected to have) until one day when a group of boys jumps her after swim practice. And that cliffhanger is where episode one ends!

JanDi's signature face. In the US that face = "I smell something bad." In Kdrama that face = "I'm independent and lovably cute!"

It’s a bit strange to watch a classic shojo story as live action instead of animation. For one thing, the episode, while interesting throughout, seemed kind of long, but that’s to be expected. A single episode clocks in at one hour and nine minutes, which is quite a stretch when you’re used to anime episodes that span a mere twenty-five minutes (shorter if it’s, say, Hetalia). Then there’s the acting, which is slightly cheesy and overly dramatic. I don’t know if that’s the Kdrama style, like the over-exaggerated pantomime acting in silent films, or if it’s just this particular series, but it was jarring at times. For some reason I can more easily accept an animated girl yelling ridiculous things in an open stairwell than a real life girl doing the exact same thing. However, just as with a silent movie marathon, I’m sure I’ll get used to the acting style after a few more episodes. The absolute worst thing about this episode is the subtitles. Those white subtitles were killing me!!! They were all wide and pushed to the edges of the screen for some reason on both a regular TV as well as a wide-screen, which was bad enough. But the white colour made them nearly impossible to read in some scenes. I wish to gods that those subtitles were the universally easy-to-read standard-issue yellow, but hopefully, just as with the acting, I’ll get used to it with time.

JiHoo, inventor of the Bieber-mullet. You're welcome, ladies.

Those points aside, the overall episode was great. The story is classic shojo fare complete with a spunky, stubborn heroine and rich, pretty boys. (Disclaimer: I rescind that statement about the boys being pretty should any of the actors prove to be under eighteen years of age. Man, it’s tricky when you’re dealing with real people!) The characters are fun to watch and identifiable. I was genuinely excited by both JanDi’s ice cream rebellion as well as the burgeoning love story unfolding. Her family is a little cuckoo, but thus far their scenes are relatively short. I’m dying to find out more about the F4 and what makes them such bastards, and I can’t wait to see JanDi’s inevitable winning-over of the group. Plus I’ve gotta watch another episode to find out how that cliffhanger resolves itself! From what I’ve seen in episode one of Boys Over Flowers, this shojo will be worth the eyestrain for any fans of bittersweet tsundere stories.

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