This has to be one of my favorite shows. It is quick in the setup and developes almost every character perfectly. The acting is top of the line (it is no wonder Min-Ho Lee, the male lead, won Best New Actor for his role in this!) and the costumes and set make you wonder if they had James Cameron’s budget to film on!
The story is introduced in part through a news clip at the beginning. We are introduced to Shinwa group, a Korean company which became the major point of the overall economy. The Korean president gave the founder permission to build an elite private school system. The school is for the richest 1% and best looking 1%. Any student who is accepted to Shinwa elementary has a free pass to Shinwa High School and university (normally in Korea you have to apply for High School as well as college). Students who graduate from Shinwa University can have their pick of any job in the country, no matter their grades.
So now the main heroine of the story comes in. Jan-Di is the daughter of a family of dry-cleaners. She is delivering a uniform to a Shinwa high school student when the troubles begin. This student (whose name isn’t really important) has offended the “F4” of the school, the richest and best looking four boys. Because of this he is “red carded” which means it is open season for the students to attack him. He is beaten severely and teased, and ends up on the roof of Shinwa high, ready to jump surrounded by a large crowd of students who want to see nothing more. When Jan-Di realizes this kid is the one she has to deliver to she is determined to stop him. She is also offended that people who have it as easy as the Shinwa High students would bully for fun or be anything but happy with their school. The student jumps, and Jan-Di manages to catch him by his shirt, saving his life.
There is a huge media uproar over this- the “commoner” who saved the rich. A series of protests start against Shinwa, who the disgruntled masses see as elitist. In order to pacify the people, the President of Shinwa accepts Jan-Di to the school as a “Scholarship Student”. Jan-Di refuses to attend, but eventually gives in because she realizes how important this is to her family. At Shinwa Jan-Di sees the F4 for the first time, bullying a girl who tried to give a cake as a gift to the leader (he takes it and shoves it in her face). She imagines standing up to them, and does not, making her feel very cowardly. She goes to swim in the school’s pool, as that is her relaxation technique she uses throughout the show. Another student comes in and befriends her.
When Jan-Di and her friend are walking around campus eating ice cream, the friend falls and it accidentally ends up of Jun-Pyo’s shoes (leader of the F4 and heir to the Shinwa Group and it’s fortune, the one who shoved the cake at the girl). When Jun-Pyo demands the girl lick his shoe clean, Jan-Di looses it. She yells at him for his cruelty. He tells her to lick his shoe and all debts will be forgiven. So she does the only thing she can do- she shoves her ice cream in his face.
Jan-Di is understandably red-carded for this by the F4. However, some of the attacks are stopped by Ji-Hoo, a silent member of the F4 whose father, the heir to Shinwa before it went to Jun-Pyo’s family, and mother were killed in a horrible car accident, which he caused when he covered his father’s eyes while driving (he was 4). Ji-Hoo sees her as interesting but noisy,as the spot she chooses to rant when upset is above his secret sleeping alcove. Jun-Pyo steps up the organized trickery in order to get Jan-Di to come to him and beg for mercy.
Also watching these events are the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum type characters of Yi-Jung and Won-Bin, the last two members of F4 who are completely entertained by Jan-Di and Jun-Pyo’s war. Jan-Di refuses to let Jun-Pyo get to her, and he takes his tricks too far. He releases a rumor that she is pregnant with some boy from her old school. This of course ends up in the news papers (minus her name). When Jan-Di learns of this she finally goes to the F4. She yells at Jun-Pyo for starting a rumor like that about a girl who hasn’t even had her first kiss yet. She ends this with a roundhouse kick to his jaw, knocking him down, before she turns and walks out.
Apparently that kick was a hard one, because suddenly Jun-Pyo decides she must be in love with him, and that he will keep her around for entertainment. This is probably the coolest thing that ever happened to Yi-Jung and Won-Bin, now they have a new toy!
From here the series takes off. Jan-Di becomes the F4’s mascot, though Jun-Pyo is the only one she outright hates. He finds new inventive ways to spend time with her, like commandeering the school’s Yacht trip which was supposed to spend a month sailing through Europe and bringing it to the Korean fishing village where Jan-Di is working with her best friend Ga-Eul. He also starts assigning Yi-Jung to nab Ga-Eul as well, to make Jan-Di happier when she is taken to a private island for a paradise vacation.
Jan-Di falls in love with Ji-Hoo, the silent member of the F4. He is harboring feelings for a model friend of theirs, the only one he would talk to after his parents died and his grandfather left him. Slowly he starts to forget about the model. Ji-Hoo becomes Jun-Pyo’s rescuer, going to get Jan-Di whenever she is alone, either because of something he did or because of his evil mother (President of Shinwa, who makes it her personal mission to bankrupt Jan-Di’s family when she learns of Jun-Pyo’s feelings for her).
The story follows Jun-Pyo as he tries to make Jan-Di fall in love with him. He is a spoiled boy, and doesn’t really know how to treat women, so he can be an ass sometimes. Also, between his mother and other jealous girls at Shinwa high there are many misunderstandings, one of which ends in Jan-Di being severely beaten by the school until Jun-Pyo stops them and takes her back to his house to clean up. Jun-Pyo’s method of buying her and her family nice things annoys Jan-Di.
Over the course of the first season Jan-Di falls deeply in love with Jun-Pyo, but Ji-Hoo and her also become very close. When Jun-Pyo’s father suddenly dies and he leaves for Macau to take over Shinwa and finish his father’s business there, Jan-Di waits for him devoutly. Six months pass and he has not returned or called her, so she goes to Macau herself (after saving money for a long time). Jun-Pyo no longer looks at her, and acts like she isn’t there. When the F4 arrive he treats them the same, but they force him to meet with Jan-Di. He tells her she is a stain he wishes to erase, leaving her. This is because his mother has already driven Jan-Di’s family out of Seoul to a small fishing village, and Jan-Di is holding down multiple jobs on top of school. She was also almost killed because of him, so he feels if he stays away from her she will be safe. He returns to Seoul eventually, unable to stay away from Jan-Di. He tries to win her heart again from Ji-Hoo, who has comforted her, but it is complicated when his mother arranges a forced marriage between him and another girl who makes herself Jan-Di’s friend (she’s nice, not mean). Also, Ga-Eul has fallen in love with Yi-Jung, and he is starting to fall for her.
The story is a love story, pure and simple. It sounds complex, but all of this is hammered out over two seasons, with the death of Jun-Pyo’s father as the divider. There is a reason this is still considered one of Korea’s most popular shows of all time. It is funny and sweet, centered around Jan-Di’s important choice: Ji-Hoo or Jun-Pyo? And the second season holds a secret that changes everything and puts the evil mother of Jun-Pyo in her place.
I highly recommend this series. I can’t recommend it highly enough in fact. I’ve watched it two full times through! My only complaint is that the character of Won-Bin is really underdeveloped. He is always the grinning friend or the rescuer when Jan-Di is in trouble and Ji-Hoo cannot help. He acts as detective, muscle, and joker, but we don’t really see his personality until the last couple of episodes of the show. The writer develops Ji-Hoo, Jun-Pyo, and Yi-Jung perfectly through their love stories, but Won-Bin seems left out of all the fun. I would have liked to see more of him.
There is not a moment where this show is rough in the acting department. Every character is perfectly played out and brings from the audience the exact response the scriptwriter must have been going for.
This show has been filmed several times in Asia, and I’ve only seen this one. It is widely accepted as the best over the original Japanese version and Chinese version (called “Hana Yori Dango” and “Meteor Garden” respectively). It is a love story, but several sub-plots and adventures which take up around 3 episodes each keep the story fresh and alive.
Note on the Title:
The original Japanese title, Hana Yori Dango, is an old expression. It means “Dumplings before Flowers”. In Japan the festival of Hanami (a festival to enjoy the blooming flowers in spring) is marked by various food vendors who set up along parks where people go to look at the new flowers. Some people rush for the food booths, ignoring the flowers around them. The title “Boys Over Flowers” is a mixture of that, in Korean to say “Dumplings over Flowers” wouldn’t have sounded so pretty, so they changed the title slightly. It holds the meaning of not seeing anything past the beauty of the members of the F4. I had to wikipedia that one ^^ It is translated to english as “Boys Over Flowers” or “Boys Before Flowers”, just so you don’t get confused.
This is the show that made the career of Min-Ho Lee (Jun-Pyo). He won Best New Actor for his role, but he was nominated along with other members of the cast. This is also (in my opinion) actor Kim Bum(Yi-Jung)’s best role. The songs are beautiful, the costumes grand, and the sets have to be the coolest things I’ve seen on TV since and before. It has all the power of a full length movie (though it is around twelve times as long). If you haven’t seen this you definately need to! I would also like to point out that since its release in January of 2009 it has remained on the top of the “Most Popular of the Week” list for dramas online.
Show Link: Boys Over Flowers (English Subtitles)