꽃보다 남자 (Boys Over Flowers)- Full Series

The stars of the show L-R: Kim Joon (Reluctant mobster Woo Bin), Kim Bum (arts heir Yi Jung), Lee Min Ho (F4 leader Jun Pyo), Gu Hye-Sun (heroine Jan Di), and Kim Hyun Joong (F4's only nice member, Ji Hoo).

The stars of the show L-R: Kim Joon (Reluctant mobster Woo Bin), Kim Bum (arts heir Yi Jung), Lee Min Ho (F4 leader Jun Pyo), Gu Hye-Sun (heroine Jan Di), and Kim Hyun Joong (F4’s only nice member, Ji Hoo).

Overview:

Unassuming high school girl Jan Di stands up to- and eventually falls for- a spoiled rich kid who belongs to the school’s most powerful clique”

–Netflix

Plot: 5/5

The Netflix description is awful, let me elaborate for you:

This story takes place in a South Korea where only the richest and most elite citizens attend the disturbingly prestigious school chain known as Shinhwa Schools. It runs from Elementary schools through colleges, all based around one massive campus. The school has such clout that the show says employers will even put up restrictions on who they wish to hire by giving priority to Shinhwa High/University students.

Jan Di is the daughter of a hard working family that runs a dry cleaning shop. She is sent out to deliver a student uniform to a student at Shinhwa, and in trying to deliver it she finds the student, bloody and badly beaten by his fellow classmates, ready to jump from the roof of the school. She finds out that the student got on the wrong side of Goo Jun Pyo, the leader of the F4, the four richest and hottest guys at the school. When pissed, the group issues a “kill card” that signals to the other students to do their worst. The boy is at the end of his rope and, despite Jan Di’s urgings, jumps from the roof. He is saved by Jan Di, and the incident is caught on camera, which turns into a PR nightmare for the school- reports of bullying, and the people’s rage over the elite school run rampant, and the school is forced to bring in Jan Di (vehemently against her will) as a special scholarship student.

That’s the first 5 minutes.

Jan Di starts at the school, bitter about being forced to go to a place where the cafeteria is staffed by 5-star chefs and rich skanks. During her struggle to adapt, she befriends Ji-Hoo, the  shy grandson of a Korean President (who is most likely Austistic in some way) and falls in love with his prowess with the violin, only to find out later that he’s the right-hand of F4 leader Jun Pyo and second-leader of the F4. She is also befriended by Min-Ji.

The F4 meets Jan Di, who is defending a new friend from Jun Pyo's wrath. He ends up wearing that ice cream she's holding.

The F4 meets Jan Di, who is defending a new friend from Jun Pyo’s wrath. He ends up wearing that ice cream she’s holding.

The big inciting event (I know, it’s a big description, bear with me) is when Min Ji falls and accidentally drops her ice cream on Jun Pyo’s shoe as the F4 walks by. He demands she get on all fours and lick it clean, or risk his wrath. Jan Di, to stand up for her friend and give a big F-you to the guys who have been bullying the students, shoves her ice cream across his jacket and face. Oh, guess what? He’s the heir to Shinhwa group, the corporation that owns the school.

Naturally, a red card is thrown against her by the F4. She endures the tortures and torments of the other students, which grow increasingly violent, and is protected somewhat by Ji-Hoo, who falls for her. When Jun Pyo organizes for her to be attacked in the school swimming pool (sort of, he tells the students to scare her, they get far enough that I’m fairly sure they would have raped her, and Jun Pyo is PISSED when he finds out, he did not endorse an assault), and then he spreads a rumor among tabloids that she is a slut and pregnant, Jan Di snaps. She marches to the kind of club house that the F4 meets in and round-house kicks Jun Pyo in the face.

Thus starts the love story. Jun Pyo decides that Jan Di attacked him because she didn’t want him to believe she was a slut, because she is in love with him secretly. He also decides that he will let her experience what it is like to date a rich man. Jan Di hates his guts, but she endures being dragged around by Jun Pyo only when Ji-Hoo is also present, because she has a crush on him.

The story is about Jun Pyo learning how to be a normal, non-arrogant person, and Jan Di slowly begins to love him in return, though she always maintains a very close relationship with Ji-Hoo, who loves her desperately. The other members of the F4, Ji Young (who’s family owns most of the art museums in Korea) and Woo Bin (son of a powerful Korean mob boss who most students are afraid of) fall under Jan Di’s spell and everyone learns how to be better people and, in the case of Woo Bin, separate themselves from what their family wants for them and what they want for themselves.

The main antagonist of the story is Jun Pyo’s mother, who immediately goes on the offensive once she realizes her son has fallen for a poor student. She does everything she can to ruin the family and drive them into the ground, but to no avail, due to the scheming of Jun Hee, Jun Pyo’s elder sister who hates her mother and the rich prat her brother was and loves Jan Di for changing him.

Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) is a ruthless jerk, initially, with distinctive curly hair (I don't know why, apparently every version of the show has the Jun Pyo character with curly hair)

Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho) is a ruthless jerk, initially, with distinctive curly hair (I don’t know why, apparently every version of the show has the Jun Pyo character with curly hair)

I know, it’s a lot to remember, and it’s set up within an episode or 2 excellently. The show makes a GREAT comedy, and holds a spot as a ratings legend. It ran for 2 seasons, rather unusual for Korean shows which usually tell the story and are done,  but it’s worth it. Why? Excellent writing, and pretty men. The story avoids cliche events- like when Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo both go for Jan Di, there is no big fight over it, they just decide she will be the one to choose and do a bit of a competition, but they’re still best friends.

Acting: 5/5

This is the big debut of Korean actor Lee Min Ho (F4 leader Jun Pyo), who won a newcomer award for his performance. I’m a huge fan of his, the acting is always A+++. What is most impressive, in my opinion, is the transition from snobbish rich guy who is just playing around with Jan Di, to a man who actually genuinely loves her and wants to be the hero in her eyes. You really can’t tell when it starts, and not once does it seem awkward or forced. He’s brilliant in every show and it is definitely worth watching anything his name appears on.

Ji-Hoo comes off as very stiff and awkward, but I think that’s his character. He mostly stares at Jan Di looking vaguely surprised, and he has trouble speaking to others. If I didn’t watch some of the actor (singer Kim Hyun Joong) in variety shows or appearances with his band, I would think he wasn’t acting, but the difference is night and day. It is what leads me to think his character is autistic, along with other clues given in the show. Fellow F4 member Ji Young is played by Kim Bum, who gives another impressive performance- his character comes off as charming and cute one minute, and dangerously dark and cruel the next. His character is slowly tempered by Jan Di’s best friend, but that’s mostly a season 2 thing. Woo Bin (actor Kim Joon (and singer, I think)) is another brilliant character, though he seems more one-dimensional than the others. I blame the writing though, they went so deep into side stories that there really wasn’t room for one of his own. He is a bad boy who doesn’t want to be bad, and Kim Joon plays it to the max.

Also worthy of her own paragraph is Jan-Di herself, actress Gu Hye Sun. Again, she’s absolutely perfect. Her character doesn’t take shit from the F4, and she’ll smack someone if they deserve it, which is refreshing for Korean dramas. Hye Sun doesn’t let her character play the damsel-in-distress, instead she turns her into a damsel who may be in distress, but most of the time she can get herself out of it and is willing to dig her heels in and out last the stubbornness of Jun Pyo’s wicked mother.

Age Rating: 13+

The students at the school take any opportunity to try and force Jan Di out, for example, outright attacking her and knocking her out. Jun Pyo intervenes (I believe this was following a false claim she had cheated on him).

The students at the school take any opportunity to try and force Jan Di out, for example, outright attacking her and knocking her out. Jun Pyo intervenes (I believe this was following a false claim she had cheated on him).

There are some situations in the show that might not be advisable for younger children. I think the original Korean rating was 15+, and that seems rather reasonable. Like I said, early on there is a scene that implies the intention of rape, though the show makes it clear that Jun Pyo never ordered nor endorsed the action (he threatens to have the perps, who Ji-Hoo caught, red-carded and their families forced into bankruptcy, which his family has the power to do). There is also a bit of violence, and a LOT of bullying of Jan Di by the other students in the school, the girls especially, who resent Jun Pyo’s attraction to Jan Di.

Preview before allowing younger kids to watch, but I think most will be OK with it. It’s a great show that any age range will love- I think my mother has watched it more than I have (she’s a devout Lee Min Ho fan).

Fun Trivia

I don’t have anything for you here. Something to watch for– there is a gag reel (Koreans refer to it as an NG- for a “No Good” take, so you might have to google it by that).

“Boys Over Flowers” has been made 3 times (at least). There is the Korean version, a Chinese version (I believe that title is “Meteor Garden”) and a Japanese version. It is also a manga.

“Boys Over Flowers” is taken from an Asian expression (I think Japanese, Chinese, and Korean all have their own proverb for this) meaning someone doesn’t see the garden for the boys- like the boys are more beautiful than the flowers. It is also a play on words in Korean- 꽃 (Kkot) being the Korean word for “Flower” is also the first syllable in 꽃미남 (Kkot-Mi-Nam) meaning a handsome man (literally a flower-like man, or a beautiful man. there is another word for “handsome”, but the terms express the same thing).

 

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