KDRAMAGUK : Korean Drama Soup

a landing site for quick, completely biased, and totally snarky korean drama reviews


Friday, January 29, 2010

Boys Over Flowers (2009)

Boys Over Flowers
꽃보다 남자 / Boys Before Flowers
(Jan – Mar 2009)

who’s in it
Lee MinHo (Nonstop 5, I Am Sam)
Goo HyeSun (King and I, Strongest Chil Woo)
Kim HyunJoong (member of SS501)
Kim Bum (High Kick Through The Roof, Dream)
Kim Joon (member of T-Max)
Kim SoEun (He Who Can't Get Married)

what’s it about
Follows a quad of over-priviledged prep school boys who call themselves “F4,” students who spend less time studying and more time harassing their schoolmates, kids they consider more peasants of their fiefdom than their peers. The leader of this tyrannical group is played by Lee MinHo; when he one day trips across an obstacle in the form of short-stuff Goo HyeSun and this charity case throws his life into chaos when she starts attending his school, challenging his authority and, last but not least, falls for his best friend, Kim HyunJoong. Boys is based on the Japanese manga Hana Yori Dango which has enjoyed tremendous success in various formats including an anime series and Japanese drama as well; Boys doesn’t stray too far from the source material…and yet, at the same time, it gallops like a madman so very, very far away.

25 episodes


wildcard factor
I don’t even know where to start for this one. There are so many reasons why you might fall head over heels crazy for this drama…and also so many reasons why you may hate it with a passion unparalleled. There seems to be no middle ground for this one, opinions are passionate and firm.

But here are four reasons why you may like it:

Lee MinHo – hotness

Kim HyunJoong – hotness

Kim Bum – hotness

Kim Joon – hotness

There you go, all the members of F4 in their hot volcanic glory. This drama launched all their careers in the way Park JiSung has launched Manchester United in Korea. Let’s face it, the dazzling beauty of a well-designed male form can blind a girl to anything, even the burning hole where a coherent plotline should have existed.

Also, I’d be neglect if I didn’t mention the great chemistry between Kim SoEun and Kim Bum.

Kim SoEun quite literally stole the entire show from right under Goo HyeSun’s pouty nose. Fans loved F4 and they loved the sidekick best friend Kim SoEun…the love for Goo HyeSun, however, was lukewarm bathwater at best.

after the first episode
I loved it. I really did. It was fun, funny and I believe I did mention all the hot men that catwalked around in the series.

gave up

snoozer moments
The repetition of JunPyo (Lee MinHo) and JanDi’s (Goo HyeSun) farce of a romance. By the end, I felt drained by it all. Let’s be frank here, aside from Lee MinHo’s insane attractiveness, why wouldn’t she just pick JiHoo, who was [arguably] equally hot but also nice to her? I had felt the same in Hana Yori Dango as well and my feelings have not changed for Boys Over Flowers. JunPyo/Tsukasa wasn’t a bad guy, yeah I get that, but seriously, JiHoo/Rui was the perfect boyfriend, no girl in their right mind would pick an emotional bully with the wicked witch of the west as his mother over a guy who looked like Kim HyunJoong, and played the violin so sexily, and brought you cough medicine when you were sick.

Instead of that, we had a painful lot of musical montages. A LOT OF MUSIC MONTAGES.

what didn’t work
The music was great in itself (in terms of quality) but horrendously used, so much so that it was not unlike spikes being driven into one’s head. I started to hear “almost paaaaaaaaaradise” in my nightmares.

what did
Did I already mention the very attractive leading men? There were four of them, so whether you prefer strawberry or chocolate or vanilla or chunky chocolate chip, there’s a flavor for you.

Also, actress Lee MinJung had a supporting role and even as the second-girl who tried to pry Lee MinHo from our heroine, she was beautiful, lovable and a real shining star. It was obvious she was going to go on to do better things in better dramas, including snagging a leading role somewhere else. She’s currently starring in Smile You and rawking the role. I love her.

what made me want to gouge my eyes out
Honestly? Too much, including Goo HyeSun’s wardrobe comes immediately to mind. It was so toxic it could have blocked out the sun.

what kept me going

Kim SoEun and Kim Bum’s contrary love connection. What was really interesting about their story was that it was uncharted Hana Yori Dango territory. Fans already knew how it ended for their equivalents in the Japanese version but it appeared the Korean take on the couple was going to deviate from the original...or was it? It was really enjoyable to follow their progress not really sure how it would resolve.

Other factors:
predictability Since I’m familiar with the anime and have seen the entirety of the Japanese version, pretty predictable for me
engrish Kim Joon did a very weird thing in the whole drama where he bursted out with random explosions of English…it was kind of cute and endearing and funny…but still really awkward. Did I mention he was a really hot boy? Never forget that appreciating the visuals is probably the most important factor when watching this drama.
originality This was the third version based on the manga...original doesn’t quite apply.
eye-candy This was the Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory of pretty boy sweets
hair and fashion Very stylish. They were supposed to be filthy flippin’ rich

is it worth trying to find?
Hot men. It’s up to you to decide if that’s good enough to watch 25 hours of anything.

total enjoyment factor 
Eps 1-3: 7/10
Eps 4-18: 10/10
Eps 19-25: 3/10
These poor actors were worked like slaves by the end of the shooting schedule due to their popularity, and also suffered a disturbing amount of car accidents. You could see the exhaustion on their faces, and dare I say it, their performances as well. Kim HyunJoong, for example, looked like a skeletal version of himself and appeared one blink away from a dead faint—seriously. No amount of make-up could cover those dark circles of pain under his eyes!

Overall: 6/10

Honestly, I just really don’t know what kind of number a drama like this one deserves. It defied logic. It even defied gravity. Was it fun? Yes, you could definitely say it was fun[ny]. Was it good? No, not really. In fact, I really wondered what kind of kickin’ herb the director was smoking when he directed some of the scenes. They were mad nutty.

I admit, there were definitely moments I loved it with fierce feeling and then there were the moments I hated it with an equal passion. Kim Bum was gorgeous in this…Kim HyunJoong was ridiculously fair and I’d already had a whiff of the idol singer’s charms from his We Got Married stint…Lee MinHo rocked the curly-chestnut hair like no man on earth could possibly have rocked such a strange hairdo…and Kim Joon held his own against all the other handsome boys. But the redundancy of the plot and the exaggerated music-video-esque quality of some of the scenes started to become too much. I started to lose my connection with the characters and I definitely started to have some not-so-nice thoughts toward Goo HyeSun’s indulgent victim character who seemed to constantly dangle somewhere between shrill and shriller. But aside from its flaws, the best thing about this drama was its ability to bring kdrama fans to an animated and kdrama-loving crescendo. Love it, hate it, casual viewer or not, it was really fun to discuss.

total disdain factor

why this review is completely biased
It’s a coward’s review actually, a coward that doesn’t really know what to say about this drama and one that is afraid of Kim HyunJoong and Lee MinHo fans. I honestly believe that a great kdrama won’t necessarily be one in contention for best writing or best directed (though that sometimes can help)…but how much happiness it can bring to its fans. In that regard, Boys Over Flowers was a great success no matter what anyone says because it brought so many people happiness and so many new fans into the kdrama culture. But unfortunately, while fun is important, one cannot deny this was a bit of a mess. Thankfully, it was a hot mess, I guess.

could a non-kdrama fan like this
Yes. There is something about the Hana Yori Dango series and its very exaggerated Cinderella storyline that people of all cultures seem to really dig. There needs to be a comprehensive study on this phenomenon.

I’m too frightened to say it wasn’t a good drama but too honest to say otherwise. I’ll just say I completely understand why the fans of Boys are so passionate but I also completely understand why the antis are just as ardent.

Also, as an fyi, if you like stories about “princes” and their aristocratic friends, poor but spunky heroines with helpless fathers and ambitious mothers, teddy bear museums and trips to Macau, I recommend Goong (Princess Hours), if you haven’t already watched it.

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