To the Beautiful You/ Hana Kimi (Korean, Taiwanese, and 2006 Japanese Versions)

**Note: All 3 versions of this show have the same plot and just about the same setup. When I review the Japanese version, I am talking about the ORIGINAL (2006 or 7), not the 2011 re-make.

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“To the Beautiful You” main characters. L-R: Male Lead 1 (Min-Ho), Male Antagonist (Ha-Neul Kang), Female Antagonist (Kim Ji Won), Dorm Leader (Seo Jun Young, I think), Female Lead (Sulli), Random Friend (Hwang Kwang Hee), and Hopeless Love Triangle Member (Hyun-Woo Lee).

Overview:

“A high school girl who’s enthralled with a gold-medal pole vaulter devises a scheme to attend his all-boys school to be closer to him.”

–Netflix (though, I’d like to point out that he’s actually a high-jumper, I don’t know what Netflix is smoking).

Plot: 4/5

There are, as I said 3 different versions of this show, all with pretty identical plots. I’ve only watched the Taiwanese and Korean in their entirety, but I’ve seen the first half of the Japanese show. To make everything easy on you, I’m going to give universal names to the characters so you can more easily follow what the hell is going on, instead of slamming you with all these character names that change depending on which edition you’re watching.

FM1 (Female Lead 1) is a high school student who grew up overseas in America after her father died and her mother re-married. Her experience in America was a rather lonely one. Regardless of which version you watch- she was picked on by the American students and never really had friends. She was depressed and had no drive in life, that is, until she saw ML1 (Male Lead 1) compete in his track event (I think it’s always high-jump, but I’m not 100%, it’s been a while since I saw the Japanese and Taiwanese versions). His inspirational quotes and his story were taken to heart, and she turned her life around- becoming the fastest runner at her high school.

After winning a major track award (I think only the Koreans have him winning at the olympics), he is involved in a car accident and injures his leg. It appears he will never jump/do his sport again. FL1 then decides to cut her hair and forge her transcripts to say she is a male, and return to the country of her origin to attend his all-boys high school, majoring in track like him (in pretty much most Asian schools you choose a major in High School and most of your courses focus around that, we don’t have anything really equivalent in America).

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The Japanese cast… NO I AM NOT NAMING ALL OF THEM. The female lead is the one in the middle, directly under the blonde. I don’t know anyone’s names or which ones were the male leads…

She gets to the school and immediately ends up on the bad side of ML1, who is bitter and angry at pretty much everyone. Oh, and then it turns out she’s his new roommate. A friendly neighboring student, HLTM (Hopeless love triangle member), falls for her immediately, but thinking she is a guy it makes him question his sexuality, since he just can’t get her out of his head. The story revolves around her trying to help ML1 find the courage and drive to return to his sport (now that he’s fully healed) while maintaining her cover as a boy, her friendship with HLTM, and the strange/quirky school doctor, who figures out her secret pretty damn quick but lets the madness continue. The story takes a great turn early on when ML1 figures out that his “male” roommate is actually female, but he decides to keep the secret (and I think the Taiwanese version has him using his knowledge to put the girl in awkward situations he finds funny). Oh, and of course there is a rival for ML1 who tries to sabotage his return to the sport.

All in all, it’s actually a very funny show (differing degrees based on which version you watch). The plot is universal, pretty much, maybe tiny differences between them like which sport the male lead does, but I think in every case HLTM is a soccer player, and FL1 is a track star. They are surrounded by a quirky/fun group of friends who live in the dorms, and the dorm leader, who also does what they can to help out. The Korean version has a kind of female villain, I don’t remember one in the Taiwanese version or Japanese version, but they’re not important.

Acting:

Korean Version: 4.5/5

I really enjoyed the Korean version, starring SHINee’s Min-Ho as ML1 and Sulli (from SHINee’s sister-group Fx) as FL1. There are a lot of singers in this show, I couldn’t name all of them since when I was living in Korea I think most of their groups were just coming to the scene. The only actor I’m counting off here is Hwang-Kwang Hee, who is a member of the group of dorm friends. Everyone’s performance is very down-to-earth and realistic, but his character tends to go over-the-top a lot.

Also, though it could just be an issue with the writing, I can’t tell if his character is supposed to be gay and wants HLTM (Lee Hyun Woo) to turn out to be gay as well, or if he’s just angry about something I’m missing. There is definitely something I’m not following and that’s throwing off the acting score for me, but most likely it’s the acting. Also, what is his character’s obsession with chapstick???

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The Taiwanese Leads. L-R: Male Lead 1 (Wu Chun), Female Lead (Ella), and Hopeless Love Triangle Member (Jiro Wang, who makes the show HILARIOUS).

Taiwanese Version: 5/5

Another primarily singer-led cast. Ella Chen of S.H.E. plays FL1, who became a track star and overcame her obesity, inspired by Wu Chun (ML1). I think the Taiwanese version is the only case in which the FL1 was anything but just generally bullied? Not positive, but yeah. There are two reasons the Taiwanese version is my absolute favorite for this show:

Wu Chun (ML1) and Jiro Wang (HLTM) are buddies in real-life and (former?) members of the group Fahrenheit. I don’t know most of the groups music, so it’s not just singer-fangirling, but it gives a whole new dimension to the relationship between ML1 and HLTM. You can tell they are friends and most likely have been for a long time, and that helps add dimension to the story that is just lacking with the Korean version, where ML1 (Min-Ho) just generally seems to hate everyone. Also worth noting: This version contains Dansen Tang, who is my favorite Taiwanese actor, as the head of the dorm. So I love it even more.

Another person who deserves special mention is Tang Zhi Ping, who plays Mei Tian, the school’s health official. He figures out the girl’s secret by like the second episode in every version, just BTW, and keeps the secret. But while in the Korean drama he is just like a friend to ML1, in this version he is a fierce ally of FL1 and she often comes to him when she is having trouble. The reason I love his character so much? He’s gay and, while usually you can’t tell (it isn’t like he’s walking around in a dress), he will go WAY OVER THE TOP whenever he needs to distract someone or just wants them out of his office. I love how he is always vaguely perverse and loves to creep people out 🙂 It’s worth a lot of laughs!

Japanese Version: 2/5

Let me preface it with this: Like I said, I’ve only seen the 2007 version, not the re-made 2011, so I’m talking about the ORIGINAL cast.  I don’t remember a lot about this, I think I made it like 5 episodes in, but I just really don’t like the Japanese version. It’s over-the-top, and that goes for the acting too. It feels like it is way too exaggerated, especially in, well, EVERYTHING.

I won’t call out specifics, because like I said, it’s everyone, it’s probably just the style of Japanese shows (i’ll elaborate on that later), but… Yeah, all I have to say is it’s too over-the-top.

Age Rating:

Korean: 10+

The Korean version is relatively serious. While there are some funny bits, for the most part it’s rather grave. There is no cursing, but a wee bit of violence (the female antagonist likes to hit the HLTM on the head and act like he’s attacking her). It could probably be shown to younger kids, I just rated it higher because, compared to the others, it isn’t as exaggerated and funny, it’s a bit heavier, so younger kids probably won’t be interested.

It should be noted, however, that there is one series of scenes where a guy who figures out the girls secret lures her out into the middle of nowhere and it makes it pretty clear he’s intending to rape her. It doesn’t get far at all before ML1 comes in and kicks his ass, younger kids might just think he wanted to beat her up all along, but yeah, be warned about that. That’s the only scene like that and it doesn’t last very long, but he’s definitely a perv.

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The Korean leads.

Taiwanese: 7+

Again, I just set it lower to demonstrate how much younger kids will like it. Taiwanese shows tend to be a bit over-the-top, not a lot, but definitely less serious than Korean shows of the same age range. Not saying the Koreans are funny, by over-the-top I mean, if someone gets hit on the head in the Korean, there are appropriate sound effects, the Taiwanese version is more likely to have some sort of comic “boink” noise when it happens. Stuff like that, it’s more the reaction to comedy is more overdone.

No scenes of concern here that I remember, but it’s been a few years. I just figured if i was going to review “To the Beautiful You” I might as well review all 3 versions, since I’ve seen them.

Japanese: 6+

Just because 5 year olds wouldn’t find this interesting. The reason I stopped watching the Japanese version was because it was too over the top. Remember what I said about how the Taiwanese version would have a “boink” sound effect for someone being hit (not always, but it’s more likely), the Japanese version would probably have a “boink” then little birds flying in circles while the person stares off into the distance with their head waving side to side.

I won’t make a generalization on Japanese shows, this is the only one I’ve seen so far, but compared to the Taiwanese version, it seems EXTREMELY over-the-top. Younger kids will LOVE it. Think the reactions characters have in shows for kids around 5-6, and that’s pretty much it. I didn’t like it, but that’s for you to judge yourself.

Fun Trivia:

Um… OK, not really sure what to put here…

Um…

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The Taiwanese Leads, including extra dorm members who make up Female Lead’s group of friends.

Sulli and Minho (the leads in the Korean Version) are from F(x) and SHINee, respectively. Their groups are considered brother/sister groups, since they debuted consecutively (SHINee first) and SHINee helped promote F(x) when they were first getting started. Also, rather comical, Sulli’s character (FL1) is supposed to have grown up for a while in the United States, but 2 members of her group (Amber and actress Krystal) are from the US and speak perfect English, while Sulli and Luna are Korean, and leader Victoria is Chinese.

The Korean version is the only one to use a western actor (Canadian-Korean Julian Kang) as the brother. Most asian shows, I’ve noticed, have “Americans” who are actually Russian or Swedish actors trying (and failing) at an American accent. Julian Kang is Canadian/French (and adorable).

Ella and Wu Chun (the leads in the Taiwanese version) either were dating when the show was filming, or started dating as it was filming, or dated after filming, either way, the on-screen chemistry translated into an off-screen relationship, which makes them the most believable match of the three shows. That relationship ended and Wu Chun announced late last year he had a secret wife and a 3 year old, with another child on the way (he quit Fahrenheit to focus on acting and his family).

Yeah, that’s pretty much all the trivia I know, and I’m not 100% on the Ella/WuChun dating thing, it was heavily rumored in Taiwan when the drama was airing, and I’m fairly positive it was confirmed at some point.

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