Shoujo love: if you think you know this story,
you may yet be surprised.
Happy new year, otakus! In February I’ll have been blogging about anime for an entire year, which I can hardly believe. I’m working on a few fun changes for Otaku Haiku, and of course there’s the awesome anniversary special to look forward to, but for today let’s start the new year off right with my review of a most excellent shoujo series: Boys Over Flowers.
I wrote about the setting in detail in my First Impressions post, so I’ll just sum it up briefly here: Geum JanDi is cute, spunky, and comes from a very kooky, but very poor, family of dry cleaners. By being a good Samaritan she is given a full scholarship to ShinHwa, a very ritzy, private school for the super-rich. Once there she encounters the F4, a group of four of the wealthiest and cutest guys around. They can also be a**holes. Everyone at ShinHwa either admires them or fears them too much to do anything about their evil ways, but not JanDi. Soon she begins having encounters with the group, and the leader, Goo JunPyo, gets more and more upset about this poor upstart until he gets it into his head that she must have a crush on him. After that turning point (which is very early on in the show) he begins wooing her in his blunt and aggressive way. The problems arise one after another, from JanDi’s initial hatred of JunPyo to jealous schoolmates to the big bad of the entire series, JunPyo’s evil mother, who hates the hold that JanDi has on her son.
Yet for every bad thing that comes JanDi’s way, something equally good works in her favor: she has a low-key job at a porridge shop with her best friend, and thanks to her earnest and caring nature she gains powerful friends such as a famous model, JunPyo’s sister, and the rest of F4. Most notable on her friend roster is JiHoo, the quiet, musical member of F4. He starts out viewing her with detached fascination, but soon their friendship grows to be the strongest on the show. Perhaps there’s even more than friendship on their minds… but what about Goo JunPyo, who began courting JanDi in earnest and seems to have true feelings for her? And how will the rest of F4 react? And don’t forget JunPyo’s evil mother, who seems intent on destroying JanDi…
That’s just the tip of the iceberg in this shoujo Kdrama. There’s romance in spades, as well as heart-wrenching drama and action. Sometimes it gets to be too much, and the situations become melodramatic to the point of being laughable, but even so I never stopped enjoying this immersive series for a second. The episodes seemed long at first, but the more that I watched, the more surprised I would be when the closing credits flashed onscreen. The white subtitles bothered me less as well because I was so eager to continue the story and find out what happens next. Speaking of which, the show is excellent about ending on cliffhangers, constantly drawing you back for more and more. There were many sleepless nights as I drank caffeine so that I could watch “just one more episode!” However, the series as a whole came to a definite conclusion, which is an aspect that I enjoy and find refreshing (especially after watching so many open-ended anime series).
The cast is adorable. JanDi is genuine and sweet, and though she makes some questionable decisions (especially based on her own sense of pride) she was never stupid, which made her identifiable and the sort of girl you’d want to be friends with in real life. The boys of F4 are indeed super cute, and each plays his part perfectly, especially Minho Lee as the blustering and prideful, but at times sweetly innocent Goo JunPyo. The story was originally a Japanese manga called Hana Yori Dango, and it’s currently the best-selling shoujo manga of all time. As such, it was turned into an anime as well as a live-action television drama in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. While the Kdrama is the only one that I’ve seen thus far, I can’t imagine loving another version as much as this one. Everything from the setting to the characters came to life beautifully and drew me in completely. If you love shoujo like I do, you really can’t afford to miss Boys Over Flowers in any form, but especially the excellent and enthralling Kdrama.
Rating: ★★★★★ There may be better Kdramas out there, but I’ve yet to find one as addicting and indulgent in romantic fantasy as this one.