Drama Recaps
Boys Before Flowers: Episode 1 [Korean Hana Yori Dango]
by | January 5, 2009 | 220 Comments

Word of warning: Lower those expectations, folks. Episode 1 of Boys Before Flowers was not a home run.

I’d say it got off to a choppy start, with good and bad points and a couple nice surprises. I’m not terribly disappointed, but I also wasn’t expecting gold, either.

On the other hand, I think I’m going to have a blast watching this, regardless. (Let’s just say: Before this drama, Jeon Ki-sang directed Delightful Girl Chun-hyang, My Girl, and Witch Amusement. Two of those were good, one was terrible — but all were hilariously watchable.) Either way, I’m set.


House Rulez – “사랑이라는 이름의 별” (A Star Named Love) [ Download ]

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Now that the drama has started, I’d like to write about it as its own entity, away from the established details of the Hana Yori Dango universe. (There are a few exceptions to this rule, but I’ll explain when I get to those.) The reason is, while it was fun to speculate before its broadcast, now there’s no more need to refer overly to “canon” Hanadan. I recognize that one can only say “Well, in the original series…” so many times before it gets really annoying. Plus, it alienates people who are watching without pre-existing knowledge.

Of course, you’re free to say whatever you like — these are mostly ground rules for myself.


In the spirit of that decision, I’ll be describing everything as though it were new, so fans of Hanadan, please bear with me.

The title “Boys Before Flowers” (or the Japanese hana yori dango) refers to the privileged quartet who rule the roost at their elite private school. They’ve adopted the name “Flower Four,” which gets shortened to F4, and are in their last year of high school at the incredibly exclusive school for the insanely wealthy, Shinhwa High School. It’s so sought-after that aspiring attendees are placed on a waiting list practically upon birth. The school starts with Shinhwa Kindergarten and goes straight through Shinhwa University.

Apparently “hana yori dango” is a Japanese adage meaning that food (dango) is more important than flowers (hana) — or rather, sustenance comes before superficial beauty. The manga twisted that to suggest that boys (dango) were more important than flowers. A third reading suggests that these four characters are “boys” before they’re “flowers” — that is to say, their roles as people are more important than their collective fame as Flower Four.


In this world, Shinhwa Group (“shinhwa” meaning “legend”) is the most powerful corporation in Korea, perhaps best compared to real-life Samsung, only bigger and more powerful. Shinhwa makes cars, owns department stores, and is virtually everywhere — its empire even includes an elite school. At the beautiful Shinhwa campus, pampered students flaunt their wealth and band together in cliques.

Unfortunately, just being rich isn’t enough to survive the teen tyranny at Shinhwa — outsiders or loners are often marked as targets by the bored uber-clique F4. Once a student is delivered F4’s “red card,” it signals the rest of the school to go all out in harassment and bullying.

This guy, having just received the dreaded red card, is immediately chased by students and beaten. He’s cornered into a bathroom, puts up a good fight, and manages to escape.

Geum Jan-di (actress Gu Hye-sun) arrives at the school bearing a dry-cleaning delivery, amazed at all the splendor. Students talk excitedly about the newest F4 victim, joking that they’d known he wouldn’t last long. Recognizing the boy’s name, Jan-di follows the crowd outside, where they all look up at the rooftop, where the battered guy stands poised to jump off the building.

The guy shouts to his audience, “This what you want, isn’t it? Fine, I’ll give you what you want.” He starts to step off the ledge — but Jan-di bursts on the scene, yelling to get his attention. She’s got his dry-cleaning! That’ll be $30, please!

Jan-di isn’t too quick on the uptake, because she doesn’t grasp the severity of the moment until the boy tells her to get the money from his family after he dies. At this, Jan-di gasps in horror: “Are you about to die? Why? You go to such a nice school.” He tells her, “This isn’t school, it’s hell.” Jan-di corrects him, saying, “Excuse me, but the real hell is outside.”

He asks if she knows what F4 is (she doesn’t), and explains that their red card makes you a hunted man. Finally realizing that this mysterious F4 is why he’s all bloody and ready to jump off a building, Jan-di indignantly asks, “And you’re going to let them get away with that?” If this was her school, she’d show them who was boss. The guy tells her that her friends are lucky to have a friend like her — and then jumps.

Everyone gasps — Jan-di lurches forward — and grabs him on his way over the ledge. Saved!

Photos are uploaded, news spreads quickly, and pretty soon, Jan-di is hailed as a hero in the media, a sort of Wonder Woman for the working class. As this occurred on a Shinhwa campus — and worse, a Shinhwa heir is involved (albeit indirectly as F4’s leader) — citizens denounce the Shinhwa Group. Housewives agree to boycott Shinhwa stores, candlelight vigils are held, people demonstrate.

Jan-di’s best friend Ga-eul and her boss cheer her on (the girls work after school at a neighborhood restaurant). Ga-eul wistfully wonders if the F4 boys are as cute as they say, but Jan-di is not at all impressed. She calls them Fly Four instead — dung flies.

Naturally, the outcry is a pain in the neck for Shinhwa Group’s CEO, Kang Hee-joo, who happens to be mother to F4 leader Gu Jun-pyo. She vents her ire on her secretary, Mr. Jung (perfectly cast, by the way): “You know why public opinion is frightening? Because they’re ignorant!”

What, then, can be done for damage control? Offer the commoner a scholarship to Shinhwa High School, of course!

Jan-di’s family is thrilled. Jan-di is not.

She refuses to go to the school, preferring her life as it is. Her parents, on the other hand, think it’s foolish for her to pass up a free education that even the rich and powerful would kill for. Plus, they wheedle, the school has a swimming pool… and remember how much she liked swimming? Jan-di is not so easily bought, but still, the end result is a foregone conclusion. The next day, she arrives at her new school.

Predictably, she is a complete fish out of water in this place where students flash luxury vehicles (Jun-pyo arrives by helicopter) and designer clothing.

Jan-di wanders around, searching for the swimming pool, when she hears the strains of a violin. Curious, she follows the sound and comes to its source: It’s Yoon Ji-hoo, dressed all in white, playing his violin out in the woods. As we all do.

When he sees her, she asks in a flustered tone for the pool, and he points her in the right direction. She runs off in mortification, but also impressed at Ji-hoo’s skills sensitivity pretty face.

Now for the Grand Entrance:

F4’s appearance sends all the girls squealing and everyone rushing to the entrance to welcome their overlords. No seriously, you practically expect somebody to genuflect at their feet. As it is, F4 arrives in a blaze of glory and glamour-shot backlighting.

Jun-pyo looks over at one of the bystanders, who immediately quivers in fear. In a supremely bored but authoritative voice, Jun-pyo asks Woo-bin for the rest of his juice, then pours it all over the hapless student.

(The guy had been bragging earlier about wearing a shirt only he and Jun-pyo owned, and Jun-pyo is not pleased to be caught similarly dressed.)

Afterward, Jan-di sputters at Jun-pyo’s assiness. She calls him a crazy bastard, then wonders if everyone else is also crazy, watching his reign of terror without saying anything.

This attracts the attention of the school’s three queen bees, who introduce themselves as Ginger (the leader), Sunny, and Miranda (or Shinhwa’s “jin, sun, and mi” — a way of saying they’re the most beautiful). Ginger’s affectation is to make horrified exclamations in English (e.g., “Oh. My. God.”), while Sunny’s my favorite because she seems vaguely dim. They stick up for F4 and tell Jan-di to watch what she says.

Deciding to acquaint herself with the members of F4, Jan-di and her brother surf the internet for their bios:

Song Woo-bin (actor Kim Joon) is heir to a construction enterprise; his father is a real estate magnate.

So Yi-jung (Kim Bum) is a pottery genius who comes from an artistic lineage; his grandfather also owns a famous art museum.

Yoon Ji-hoo (actor-singer Kim Hyun-joong) is the grandson of a former president, and the sole surviving descendant, as his parents died in car crash when he was five. His family owns a variety of rich-people toys, like an art center, a European soccer team, and a major league baseball team.

And then there’s Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho). The others are famous among rich society, but Jun-pyo, as the heir to Shinhwa Group, is known to practically the entire country.

Finding out how privileged F4 is sends Jan-di into a rage — life’s too unfair. She takes particular umbrage at Jun-pyo for being such an asshole, because if he was born so lucky, he should be thankful and act kindly to others.

Too late, Jan-di looks down the staircase and spots a set of legs — someone’s taking a nap on the landing below. It’s Ji-hoo, who saunters up to her, telling her in his soft-spoken way that she’s disrupted his sleep. He heard the whole tirade, such as her calling them flies, and tells her the guy’s name is Jun-pyo, not Jung-pyo — if she’s going to rail against him, she ought to at least get the name right.

Lunchtime. The Bimbo Trio make it a point to hover and comment on Jan-di’s poor-person lunch. The cafeteria serves gourmet offerings, but Jan-di ignores them in favor of her plain lunchbox (rice, egg, Spam), which they now ridicule.

Unexpectedly, Jan-di receives a friendly overture from another new girl, Oh Min-ji, who is sweet, pretty, and recently transferred from Germany.

Ga-eul expresses relief that Jan-di made a friend; she was afraid she’d wind up an outsider. Jan-di replies glumly, “I am an outsider.” Still, she figures she can lie low until graduation, which prompts Ga-eul to ask what happened to the fearless protector who used to always stand up for her in elementary school.

But Jan-di figures she’ll have to stick it out. Her father’s absurdly proud of her fancy uniform (as a dry-cleaner, he can appreciate quality), while her mother pushes her to work on her looks so she can snag a rich boy. (Nobody ever said kdramas were feminist.)

Jan-di’s patience is tried the next day, when F4 struts in looking cool, as usual, and a shy student presents Jun-pyo with a homemade cake and hopes that he’ll “accept her feelings.” Jun-pyo stares at her in his blank, haughty way, and takes the cake, as though accepting — to the girl’s excitement and the Bimbo Trio’s horror — until he then smashes the cake into her face.

Jun-pyo walks off, only to find Jan-di in his path, trying to do her best to tamp down her fury. She unleashes a diatribe:

Jan-di: “You! Don’t you even have the barest human courtesy? I don’t bother hoping you’d have any humility for your riches. But if you didn’t want to eat it, you could have politely refused. Or, couldn’t you think of the feelings of the person who made the cake and accepted?”

Unfortunately, Jan-di’s tirade is only in her head. When it comes time to say it, she backs down and mutters, “Never mind.” As Ji-hoo passes, though, he gives her a smile, as if knowing what’s running through her mind.

The next encounter isn’t so easily dismissed. Min-ji and Jan-di eat ice cream cones and chat cheerfully, when Min-ji slips and falls at Jun-pyo’s feet, getting ice cream all over his shoe. Immediately scared and apologetic, Min-ji tries to offer to pay for new shoes, then offers to do “whatever I can” to rectify the situation. When he tells her to lick the ice cream off his shoe, Jan-di steps in, saying he should accept the apology — it’s not like Min-ji fell on purpose. So Jun-pyo turns his derision onto Jan-di instead:

Jun-pyo: “Is it your thing to be obtuse and interfering? Why butt into someone else’s business?”
Jan-di: “She’s not just anyone, she’s a friend. But I guess they don’t include words like ‘friend’ or ‘friendship’ in rich people’s dictionaries.”
Jun-pyo: “Friend? Let’s see some of that great friendship in action. You lick it.”
Jan-di: “What?”
Jun-pyo: “If you do it for her, I’ll let this go.”

Resignedly, Jan-di starts to bend over as Jun-pyo waits expectantly, but stops mid-bow. Instead, she shoves her ice cream cone in Jun-pyo’s face, causing him to fall over.

Jan-di scoffs, “So what, did you earn all that money yourself?” And no, her “thing” isn’t to interfere, it’s to stand up to the behavior of rich punks who rely on their rich parents.

Furthermore, she takes out a couple of bills (equivalent to a dollar) and throws three at him, referring to his stained clothing: “Our business charges 2,500 won, but I calculated using Kangnam [rich neighborhood] standards. If it still won’t clean, bring it by.”

That night, Jun-pyo remains in a dark mood, trying to figure out how to get back at Jan-di. I’ll admit I burst out laughing when the song “Never Say Goodbye” came on, since it’s one of the main themes of PD Jeon’s previous series, My Girl, and he likes giving little nods to his previous works. [ Download ]

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As the rest of the guys aren’t taking this seriously, they find Jun-pyo unusually fixated. Yi-jung suggests that Jun-pyo act in their “usual way,” and Jun-pyo’s gleeful reaction gives us our first glimpse of his, uh, not-quite-bright tendencies.

The next day, Jan-di gets the red card, but it doesn’t really mean much to her and she just tosses it away.

She finds out what the effects of red-carding are when she walks into class and her desk is gone. One of her notebooks is lying on the ground, graffiti’d with hate words, and when she bends down to pick it up, it jumps out of reach — someone’s tied a string to it.

Jan-di follows the leaping notebook out into the hallway, where her equally defaced desk is parked. Students start pelting her with eggs — and then a bucket of flour is dumped over her from above.

It’s the despoiling of her uniform that gets to her — she remembers how her father so proudly ironed it — and Jan-di shouts at them defiantly, “Go on! Keep going!”

When she looks to the crowd around her, Min-ji rushes off, too scared to show her support.

Meanwhile, F4 watches the proceedings on a television in their lounge. The other two (Yi-jung, Woo-bin) figure that’s the end of story, but Jun-pyo corrects them — it’s over when Jan-di comes begging on her knees.

I admit this is the scene when I totally fell for Lee Min-ho’s dunderheaded charms, because he’s absolutely convinced Jan-di will come through the door any minute now. He counts down, and his consternation when she doesn’t is hilarious.

Jan-di retreats to her shouty stairwell (“Do you think because my name is Jan-di [grass], you can trample all over me?!”). Again, she’s interrupted by Ji-hoo, who’s relaxing on the landing below.

Oddly, he asks, “Do you know how to make pancakes?” Confused, Jan-di lists the ingredients. Taking in her appearance, Ji-hoo peers at her closely, then wipes the flour from her face and uniform with a handkerchief. Surprised and touched, she promises to return it later; he answers that he won’t be coming back, since the stairwell’s gotten a lot noisier recently.

Jan-di’s mood lifts when she goes back to the now-empty classroom and finds a set of gym clothing and a stuffed animal on her desk. The toy has a voice-recorded message from Min-ji, which tells her, “I’m sorry. Forgive me for being a coward.”

When she goes for a swim, Jan-di finds the pool littered with trash — it’s Jun-pyo’s next phase in the Jan-di Tormenting Regimen.

In fact, Jun-pyo’s so into his plans to ruin Jan-di’s life that even his friends are surprised he’s still so fixated on them, a week later. Yi-jung muses, “Isn’t she the first to really stand up to F4?”

(Ji-hoo isn’t with them because he’s off sleeping in a new location, although how anyone can sleep with legs crossed like that is a wonder. Way to go, Ji-hoo.)

All the while, Jan-di cleans out the pool, picking out all the empty bottles and soda cans. By the time she’s dressed in the locker room, she’s visited by more of Jun-pyo’s minions, who grab her, ignoring her screams, and start to carry her off.


(1) Why hello there, familiarity. Waaaaay too much direct cribbing from the Japanese Hanadan. I was hoping they wouldn’t, and unfortunately, there were enough similarities that none of the plot points packed any punch. I suspect the drama will take off once it sheds the similarities, or so goes the hope.

(2) Character mimicry. As with the point above, it seems like a few characters have been lifted directly from the Japanese drama. Kim Hyun-joong playing Ji-hoo is fantastically cast — he looks and sounds the part completely. Only, it’s kind of like him acting as Oguri Shun, more than him acting as Rui. He’s pretty good, but I wish he’d do something to distinguish himself — add a little character tic, a variation or nuance — so that he isn’t just going to be labeled Shun #2.

(3) The overacting. There’s a lot of it. Jan-di, Jan-di’s family, the Tarty Trio — everyone’s laying it on rather thick. Gu Hye-sun actually looks fine as a 2nd-year high school student — but it’s her acting that’s the problem, because it’s like she’s acting 12 to overcompensate for being 25. If she just pulls back, she ought to be fine.

If you base the story in real emotions, you can carry the audience through some extreme plot turns, but if you never ground those emotions (and keep exaggerating everything), it’s a lot harder for us to get invested. There were some moments that broke through that cartoonishness (Jan-di’s reaction to being egged, for one), so let’s hope they go in that direction.

(4) The English. Oh my God, the English. There’s a scene where Yi-jung, ever the player, makes a move on an older woman in a store as she shops for china plates. He, the ceramics expert, suggests a better selection, and combined with Kim Bum’s questionable English and the white lady’s questionable acting, the scene was unwatchable. (The mute button and embarrassed laughter came into play.) Ginger the English-spouting Mean Girl gets a little embarrassing as well, although I suppose it’s her character to be absurd.

(5) Kim Joon, wassup man, that’s da bomb, yo yo yo! Let me reiterate: Oh my God, the English. I wonder if they’re, um, incorporating Kim Joon’s pop-singing background into his character. And don’t get me wrong, I am ALL in favor of giving F4 some added flair — letting these actors make the characters their own, and whatnot. I am NOT, however, in favor of bastardized gangsta-rap-inflected Engrish. Please. Stop.

The apologist version: If one were to make a defense against those complaints, I suppose one could argue that some scenes are just so iconic that even if it’s a repetition, it’s so much a part of the story that one shouldn’t just ignore it. For instance, the red cards in the lockers. Also, I think that Episode 1 requires a lot of setting up, which necessitates repeating many elements that are familiar to those who know Hanadan. When Boys Before Flowers did diverge from the familiar moments, it did much better. Hopefully things will improve once the series really gets going.


The casting, hands down.

Surprisingly, the best part of Boys Before Flowers (for me) was Lee Min-ho. I was worried about him the most, but ended up totally relieved. He — unlike Gu Hye-sun, the Tarty Trio, Jan-di’s parents — did not overact. Also, he — unlike Kim Hyun-joong — seems to embody his character more than as a mere imitation of the Japanese Hanadan. He’s great playing the snide, arrogant leader of F4, but he’s also showing real promise at the character’s thick-headed, slightly ignorant side — he doesn’t play the character’s dumbness as overtly as Matsumoto Jun did, but it’s enough to be pretty funny. He totally looks the part, and acts the part, but so far isn’t just copying Matsumoto’s interpretation.

Despite my comments in the “Bad” section above, I’m actually pretty pleased with the overall acting. There don’t appear to be any glaring, unfixable deficiencies — I think flaws can be adjusted with some toning down and fine-tuning. Kdramas have typically done better (in my opinion) when they focus on the down-to-earth aspects of stories rather than the outlandish — Goong was better when it was about the troubled teenage marriage than when it was about monarchial conspiracies — so once the story gets going in earnest, I hope the drama finds its feet.


220 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. tlina069

    Giggles! I always enjoy reading your recaps. I didn’t really pay much attention to the acting actually…I was simply highly distracted the whole time watching Kim Bum! Hihihihi… ^_^ I kinda expected that the storyline of the first 3-4 episodes to be exactly the same if not 80% similar, so this episode definitely meets my expectation in that sense. The one thing that I am highly disappointed about the series is the soundtrack. I think it’s simply horrible. I wish they would have hired the music director for Coffee Prince rather than the one for My Girl. Meh.

  2. javabeans

    OMG yes, the soundtrack is awful. It’s like Witch Amusement #2. In fact, I think PD Jeon is using many of the same artists, fo’ shame.

  3. dieunni

    I can’t believe that it has already started!
    Thanks so much for recapping the show. I can’t wait until I get to see it!
    Kim Bum looks so cute.

  4. saraho

    Thank you so much!

  5. Philippa

    It’s so much like the japanese version… I still say the taiwanese version was the best, but the 2nd hyd was better the meteor garden 2…
    Thanks for the recap!

  6. valmy

    thanks for your review as i watched it w/o english sub.

    I was quite satisfied too but like you said Jandi acting during when she is mad/shouting or in general is a bit overracting. It would be great if she tune it down and bring it out more naturally.

    I felt that Ji-hoo (ahh…that’s his name) was more likable here… not too stiff… not to unapproachable yet very handsome and smiles here and there. They’ve met 3 times alrdy.

    I agree with you…I really like all the cast members thus far.

    I am looking forward to your next recap!!

  7. Liv

    Dont you all feel so relieved now that your wait is over (Im fairly indifferent to this particular story but I can sympathize cause Im on tenterhooks over Triple)? I hope its good – a lot of hopes riding on this one.

  8. Sammi

    I alway love to read your very detailed reviews. The first episode was pretty good with some odd scenes/acting in some parts but better than I expected since usually remakes turns me off. I lol-ed at the part “while her mother pushes her to work on her looks so she can snag a rich boy.” Aren’t all asian mothers like that?

  9. Angela

    Yay, I’ve been waiting for this!! Thanks so much for the recap!!

    I loved the first episode, but I agree, there were some things that bothered me (oh. my. god. The ENGLISH, lol). I wonder if the Korean audience is as bothered by it as us… or if it’s just so annoying because we realize nobody actually talks like that.

    Gu Hye-sun’s acting didn’t really bother me… probably because I was just so excited to be watching the first episode that I was all starry-eyed and swooning over the F4. I’m sure once it’s subbed I’ll notice… (though, if my first watch was any indication, I wasn’t too bothered by it).

    Lee Min-ho is AWESOME.

    I am already thrilled to watch the second episode: I think this is going to be one of those series that I just sit back and enjoy without trying to analyze it much. I’ve always been a fan of Hana Yori Dango (all versions) so I can enjoy this one without comparing it to its many predecessors. Here’s hoping it remains just as entertaining (and that the English bits die).

  10. 10 Maica

    Thanks for the recap…:)
    I’m not liking the Korean Makino though. I think she is the weakest among her other east Asian counterparts namely Inoue Mao and Barbie Xu.

  11. 11 vdudettev

    thanks soo much for the recap,
    i watched the episode with no subs,
    so i didnt understand a word!
    and i totally agree with you on the “yo, yo, yo” from woo bin….
    ahahaha thanks and please continue…

  12. 12 Daniel

    I agree with you when you talk about the similarities with the japanese version, in some parts I couldn’t help but think “OMG, this scene was so much better in the japanese one”, but when they added their own ideas, it seemed so fresh and fun. It was highly entertaining overall, I think the bad points will be fixed, and I’m already in love with these characters again, it’s just starting 😀 I can’t wait for the next episodes.

  13. 13 trese

    my father sleeps with his legs crossed…hehe…

    I’m liking this. thanks, javebeans. A friend told me it was not that exciting, but your recap made it all so exciting and interesting. Hmm… sometimes not understanding Korean (language) has its good side. hehehe…


  14. 14 mei

    Ahh overacting…
    That’s one of the reasons why I stopped watching the Japanese Hana Yori Dango.
    The other reason was because it was like all the most cliche love-story situations, all in one drama!
    (Yeah. I know I’m probably the only one in the world who thinks that.)

    But I’ll still try out the first episode :]

  15. 15 Gia

    I agree with you on all the highs and the lows of the drama. I think once it settles in that it will get better (I hope). Supposedly in Woo-bin’s character description it mentioned that he went to study abroad but since he wasn’t there for long, he only learned how to speak hip-hop “gangsta” style English. It’s supposed to be funny I guess… but I was still cringing nonetheless. I was also laughing when I heard the Never Say Goodbye song. I was like huh sounds oddly familiar…

    Well thank you for your detailed recap. Oh and I downloaded the House Rulez song, they’re a favorite of mine.

  16. 16 bjharm

    I have not watched the first episode myself, but frankly found the..well dumbing down. more childish aspect of the bulling more appealing than the more realistic and sickening types shown in the japanese version.
    Though it early days, and I tend to mix up the manga and japanese drama together in my mind, but I remember the leader gets a group of boys to assault her, that was quickly getting on to a real rape when the second of the F4 saves her. {I believe in the manga rape was the plan all along}. I really never got to ‘like’ any of the F4 and more so as they really never paid for their bulling and while they did get to see some of the results of destroying someone’s life for sick kicks, they never really got any punishment, and indeed it was only the influence from the girl that they even saw anything wrong with it.
    I always thought the second F4 the blond was the worse , for he could see what they where doing was too much but never ‘bothered’ to do anything about it. The lead F4, will politely you could call him eccentric with a rather unhealthy fascination with his older sister [very japanese lol]
    I hope they keep to the light side of things with the bulling in this, so I can find the F4 more appealing. As for the ‘overacting’ well sounds like a TW drama, but maybe just getting into the roles, and they will settle down after a few episodes.

  17. 17 phiphi

    Woa, it’s a nice surprise that you recap this one and it was so quick.

    Haven’t watch the J-version but there’re differences from the Taiwanese one.
    Can’t help but dislike Jun-pyo’s permed hairs (and I thought Jerry Yan’s pineapple hairs was bad!)

    I hope Gu Hye-sun acts better here as she wasn’t so impressed in Strongest Chil Woo.

    Now I need to go watch it.

  18. 18 sonam

    I am so glad to read that Lee Min Ho makes his own interpretation of Domyoji. That’s what I had hoped. HYD with Korean sensibilities. You could tell by just looking at pictures of him that he was already in the act. That’s why it’s always best to cast real actors instead teen idols. I am just not into Rui….his pancake makeup and his nose really bothers me. I never cared for the Japanese Rui too. He looked too powdered and pale. I loved the Taiwanese Rui.

  19. 19 dremi

    All I can say is that Lee Min Ho rocks! And here I thought he was going to suck but he totally made me eat my words.

    However I’ve never been impressed with Go Hye Sun’s acting and I’ve seen all her series…my opinion on her acting has just gotten worse. Now I am more convinced that she is not suited as Makino. She totally overacts and it’s so annoying.

  20. 20 Em

    Wow! The first episode came out today (or so I’ve heard) and you’ve already watched and wrote a whole entire review on it. Awesome job! Unfortunately, I’m not Korean nor can I speak Korean so I wasn’t able to watch the first episode. I’m extremely glad that you wrote a review on the episode. It seems pretty interesting! I really do hope they come out with subs soon (but of course, it’s hard work). Then again, your detailed review is enough for anyone to understand what basically happened. Thank you!

  21. 21 Sue

    Thanks for the quick recap! 2008 was a k-drama bust for me, so I was really looking forward to this series as I very much enjoyed the Japanese Hana Yori Dango. I agree with all of your points, especially about the Engrish – wow, I was definitely cringing during those scenes. So far I’m not overly impressed with any of the characters, but I’m not disappointed either, so I’m happy – it seems like it will be a fun ride.

    I do have a complaint about Jan-pyo’s hair. In the manga, Domyouji was supposed to have this naturally unruly curly hair, whereas here it looks like a bad accident with the curling iron – I would definitely be ok if the hair deviated from the rest of the storyline.

  22. 22 Suhir

    I think my expectations are so high I can only be disappointed. But at least I won’t be too attached to the canon of hanadon. I have read the manga seen the anime, seen the live action versions and seen the taiwanese version. At this point I can no longer keep the original story straight. I agree that some originality is in order.

  23. 23 Penn

    Just finished watching episode 1. I haven’t seen Hana Yori Dango in a while so I find it refreshing. Totally looking forward to episode 2. I recognized “Never Say Goodbye” from My Girl immediately. I like the song but I rather prefer they use original soundtracks. I agree, the English is annoying but Kim Joon’s character should be shot. I wish Asians stop trying to sound ghetto. I’m Asain and I like hip hop but I don’t talk as if I’m from the Bronx. If I was raised there, that would be different but I’m not. Love you recaps, javabeans.

  24. 24 cosmopolite

    WOW. Judging from all of the comments so soon after this post was published, I’m assuming I wasn’t the only one looking forward to this recap. lol.

    Good or bad, I think I got myself into the mindset of watching this regardless. Pitiful much?

  25. 25 haezi

    i was also pretty impressed with the first episode since my expectations after the first preview were low. lee min ho has a knack for balancing tough charisma with humor so i had no worries he would pull off the part, but i hope the drama doesn’t backslide from this point on…at least it seems like the director and writer put a lot of thought into staying true to the original work while still putting a twist to the details so that it doesn’t all seem like deja vu so i’m looking forward to the next episodes. in fact, i really thought they did great in finding the balance and paying attention to the details…they explained the reason for jandi’s entry into such an elite school more satisfactorily with a korean flair (we have all seen the power of korean netizens!) and they used the kdrama favorite, flashbacks, effectively to add to the egg scene. how she covers up her sadness with the line afterwards about how the flour and eggs are such a waste is in true “weed” style.
    i completely agree that the cast is definitely the best part of the drama in comparison to the other hyd adaptations and, while there are some loud similarities between this version and the previous japanese one, I actually think it’s a good idea to take a little of what worked in the past to stay true to loyal fans (though, why must kim where a similar white outfit to shun’s first outfit?), while making a few changes to appeal more to koreans and give people who have seen the other versions another reason to watch. i always felt the three girls in previous versions to be extremely annoying but in this episode, they were actually comical with their overacting and exaggerated american accents…i think they’re channeling all the brainless popular girls from previous movies like clueless and legally blonde.
    plus, i actually thought kim bum’s english was good and the line was believable…but, yes, the foreign actress was definitely an amateur but i don’t think the scene was that bad.
    anyway, hope you keep up with the summaries since it’s always interesting to see what you have to say. thanks!

  26. 26 hanneebuff

    haha! i thought i was the second one to comment and I was wondering why that is so. good thing i refreshed the page. ;P

    thanks for the recaps javabeans. that was extremely fast of you. i have always prefered the character of domyouji/dao ming si over rui/hua ze lei that’s why I’m happy when you said that Lee Min Ho did a good job in portraying the role. i would like to see how he pars with jerry yan and matsujun. can’t wait to see khj’s acting either since i also loved his character though not as much as domyouji. (let’s say that he’s my first love but domyouji is my true love. haha!)

    let’s see how the episode goes tonight.

  27. 27 sonam

    Just watched it on youtube without subtitles so I am grateful for your recap.
    Love LMH the way he acts and I love the way they dressed him. I am relieved I like the Korean Makino. I liked the Japanese one a lot and was worried. But as I watched the episode she grew on me and I am already bonding with her. Rui is worse than I thought he would be. Hate the way they dressed him. But Lee Min Ho makes up for it and I am very content!
    About the soundtrack I actually liked that one song they use when she’s swimming and is getting harassed. It’s not the greatest song but I like it. It reminds me of the Taiwanese soundtrack which I liked a lot. I actually didn’t care at all for the Japanese soundtrack…..Too much R&B for me R&B have gotten to be too much about sexy sound and technique and less about blues and heart. Also I am just not used to Asians doing R&B….sounds weird to me.

  28. 28 minime

    The outfits were not as “cartoonish” as I supposed.
    The acting of the main leads is wonderful and cutsey.
    Setting of the school looks all rich and F4ish.

    There is no distinct soundtrack. The moment the F4 walk into the school with that shining ray of heaven’s light behind them, i heard a jumbled mix of music. I still cant figure what it is.

    Hyun Joon cannot act for the life of him. The shot of him playing the violin was no way near mesmerizing as the slowmo camera was trying to suggest. I just saw a guy with an unusually shiny face. (i do think he is different from oguri shun though. There is something about the way he uses his eyes in the acting that sets him apart from the whole nochalantness of his manner)

    The other 2 F4 look like little kiddies.

  29. 29 lisa

    I’ll read this after I watch the episode tomorrow. Oh, I hope the bad parts aren’t too bad…

  30. 30 MishLovesBeingOdd

    To be honest I really liked the drama, now granted I watched it without any subs so maybe I won’t like it when I know what they’re really saying, but as for things such as the overacting, i just saw it as them trying to incorporate the manga… I mean sure it could have come off a little more skillfully, i love facial expressions the facial expressions Inoue Mao used, but Gu Hye Sun’s “overacting” really didn’t bother me that much. Thanks so much for the recap, it really helped a lot!

  31. 31 trese

    really? i can’t find in youtube..:(

  32. 32 christina

    thank the LORD you mentioned the AWFUL english. it’s hilarious when that ginger girl keeps saying stuff like, “OH MY GAWWD” and “TERRRIBLE”, but the whole ghetto engrish was AWFUL. i didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. such a cringe-worthy moment.

    the only song i liked was the my girl song. everything else was questionable. the theme that’s played when the F4 walks in reminds me of a song on home alone.

  33. 33 sonam

    trese, search Kkotboda Namja.

  34. 34 0216

    this does sound very promising….thanks for the quick recap!

    i think i’m one of the rare ones who hasn’t watched either the Jap or Taiwanese version….so I’m coming into this cold – which could be a good thing since I have no basis for comparison now…

  35. 35 Jay

    I just finished watching and even without speaking korean I understood because I agree that this episode followed the japanese version closely. I didn’t notice Kim Hyun Joong’s copycat interpretation until I read some of your translations in your review but I totally feel he did a great job esp for a rookie(tho my fangirlness for him could be preventing a true critique). Gu Hye Sun’s overacting almost totally turned me off! I even thought I wish she’d mind her own business and stop being so annoying at one point even tho I’m fully aware that those are points of Tsukushi/Jan Di’s character, the way she sticks up for others. I hope she calms down because she will ruin the show for me honestly. And i was so shocked at how good Lee Minho was! When he was being a bully it was actually believable unlike in the jdorama. As much as I love MatsuJun the bullying in HYD was laughable but his charming point was when he got went all goofy for Tsukushi so I’m curious to see how Lee Minho takes that on. So that whole yo yo yo what’s up man is supposed to be a characteristic?! well they should have put that out there like have him talk to that white girl like that and see him get rejected sumthin cuz that was just awkward for everyone involved

  36. 36 ajmystro

    i really can’t watch boys before flower with a critical eye becasue i know i would ruin it for me…so there was never a high or low expectation. though, i hope they lose the english…except for Ginger (it kinda makes since why ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Terrible’ are the only english words she knows…for now). Gook Ji Yun portrays her very well.


    i loved the fact that it was funny in a cutesy kinda way…i even prefered this first episode to the japanese version’s. and might i add that i love the school uniforms they choose for the drama…thumbs up to the stylist.

  37. 37 deeta

    Oh dude, I am so thrilled you’re capping this. I have never been this excited for a drama in a very long time.

    I actually think, the first episode passed my expectation. Really. Lee Min Ho is so far the best thing on the show, he does things with so much subtleties that I’m really amazed that he could do Domyouji without resorting to excessive yelling or goofing (something Matsujun did, and Jerry Yan did too a little). The first moment that caught my attention was Junpyo’s reaction in Jandi’s imaginary tirade. When she pointed her finger at his face and called him off, and for a split second his head sprung back in shock (but then resumed the indifferent act) as if he never ever got this kind of reaction before. For some reason, that one sticks to me.

    I agree with you on GHS, she’s great; if she dials down the cutesy overact, she’d be perfect. She nailed the egg/flour scene.

    Admittedly, I went into this as more of KHJ’s fan, but even so, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he’s not that bad! His body language and mannerism is a bit awkward and that’s probably attributed to the fact that the guy himself is actually like that. I’d like to see him relax a bit and work on a better posture, that would be great. I actually don’t see much of Shun Oguri in him (or any of the Japanese casts on the Korean casts for that matter), he’s quite okay.

    Gawd, I hope with this Jeon Sang Ki can redeem himself of the horridness that was Witch Yoo Hee.

    ETA: One bad thing I wish they’d dial down is the make up. Jandi and Gaeul look so caked up, so white, compared to their necks.

  38. 38 Toni

    Like Suhir, I’ve read the manga, seen the anime, the Japanese version as well as the Taiwanese version, so watching the Korean version without subs was not a problem. I don’t understand Korean but I knew what to expects and reading your recaps really made it complete. I actually don’t need English subs for this episode (it’s following the story line pretty close).

    As you said, I hope it does deviate from the norm and with 24 episodes I think it will. They just have to get the preliminaries out of the way and while some people may feel it’s rushed, I see them doing so to get to their (Korean) version. Although the manga can hold it’s own with 24 episodes.

    ** Also, I like the [Oh. My. God] I know it’s just 3 words but it’s actually articulated well.

  39. 39 nixxochick

    I know its the first episode and I shouldnt really be asking for much but its TOOOO much like the Japanese version that I lost interest halfway through the episode because I knew what was coming next….hopefully it doesnt stay like this.

    What I really liked and disliked about this was Kim Hyun-joong’s acting…I like how its similar to Oguri Shun’s but just like you mentioned hes Oguri Shun #2

  40. 40 question

    The music is pretty off and I hope they do go in a different direction than the japanese version. I want to have some suprises.

  41. 41 JOY

    Honestly, I’m kind of really disappointed.
    Meteor Garden was a WONDERFUL rendition of Hana Yori Dango, and honestly probably the best. Although the casting in it wasn’t the best, the story and characters are so well played out. You honestly fall for the story and get caught up in the emotions.
    On the other hand, the Krn. version seems like it jumps into the plot way to quick, using up enough interesting stuff to cover a good 2-3 episodes. I’m pretty sure the plot is going to get laggy later and, well, korean dramaish. Lol. I don’t know I just feel like it was made especially for those who have already seen the drama, rather than a story on its own. The casting is quite wonderful though, but my expectations really were too high.
    On another note, Kim Hyun Joong <3!

  42. 42 sugarpunch

    thks for your recap! it has helped those of us who cant understand korean but want to watch the raw version anw:D and i think they copied the bear message from the taiwan version too! the drama looks promising though!

  43. 43 bbm

    Thanks alot javabeans for your lovely recaps. i think this first episode is actually quite watchable. they better tone down the overacting or maybe i give up watching this. and what’s up with that soundtrack/score??? i found the music accompanying F4 first grand entrance to be out of place at all, it’s like in a thriller movie or something…

  44. 44 blue_penguin

    Hey there =D Thank you for your recap on this series! I know that I’ll be running to see what you say after I watch my episodes. I’m a long time reader of your site and I am always impressed by how precise your criticisms and raves are. Thank you!

    I’m a huge hanadan fan, like the millions of other fangirls, but I walked away from this first episode with a smile and little else. I guess the story is too familiar because I wasn’t struck with an impression in one direction or another. It was enjoyable but felt like fluff to me. I’m sure as the story diverges from the manga, I’ll have more to look forward to and get excited about.

    I am excited for the second episode because in the previews, we saw that Jan Di rescues Jun Pyo from the water! This is an unexpected direction and what I can deduce from the soompi forums is that this Domyouji has a hard time with water due to a past incident. =D

    Lee Min Ho is amazing and really sells the effortless authority angle, without the punching and yelling that we saw in the Japanese interpretation. I always like it better when a drama’s fight sequences are realistic, otherwise why bother at all? Those little things (so obviously fake) were what bothered me about the Japanese version. Here, JunPyo is almost lazy like a cat and doesn’t even deign to raise his fists. It rings true that he’ll have the other students do the dirty work (beatings and eggings) and instead take pleasure in delivering the personal humiliations face to face. We understand the power and strength that lies beneath this lazy surface. It makes me anticipate when Jun Pyo will actually blow his fuse. This is what really sold me on LMH’s interpretation.

    Did anyone else catch that mixed up metaphor Jun Pyo attempted? He used “wolf” instead of the right animal (I forgot!) and Woo Bin corrected him in this “oh geez” expression. Classic Domyouji language mistake! And it was so subtly executed in this scene that I don’t think most people caught that bit! =D Completely characteristic of Tsukasa.

  45. 45 Toni

    @ JOY, it is kind of rush but generally for someone in the East, they have either read the manga, seen the anime / Japanese version / Taiwanese version, or at least heard about it. So to do the complete series again would not attract viewers.

    Why tune in when you’ve seen the same thing 1 maybe 3 times (or like me 4 times). 🙂 I cannot watch a drama twice. I can forward to my favorite parts but that is it.

    ** As for those who have not, it’s a story that’s complete in their eyes because they know nothing about the priors UNTIL they delve deeper.

  46. 46 nixxochick

    sorry to be posting again but as i was reading some of the comments i had to repost just to clear up that the only reason the Japanese Hana Yori Dango was so fake/over-reacted was because it was following the Manga……soooo sooo sorry but I’m a huge HYD fan that I just had to say that
    sorry once again

  47. 47 belleza

    Waiting until Wednesday to start on HanaDan (in 720p yo, accept no substitutes!!!), so just some random observations . . .


    As the great author Humingyay said “For love, you must let lightning strike you down! You must go in a circle!” (Really, he actually says this in the J-drama!) Sigh. Doumyouji baka is so adorable LOL!!!

    Let’s just say that, after the uhhh cringeworthy “multiculturalism” during first episode of HanaDan Season 2, I’m just about okay with any attempt at English.


    “Apparently “hana yori dango” is a Japanese adage meaning that food (dango) is more important than flowers (hana) — or rather, sustenance comes before superficial beauty. The manga twisted that to suggest that boys (dango) were more important than flowers. A third reading suggests that these four characters are “boys” before they’re “flowers” — that is to say, their roles as people are more important than their collective fame as Flower Four.”

    Mm hmm!! As you mentioned, the pun is often read in opposite ways.

    “Candy before flowers” translates to something like “pragmatism over romance” or “sense over sensibility.” The title goes back to a core theme of the story: should Makino follow her brain or her heart? Which is the true path of love?

    But because the boys are also “flowers”, it’s, as you mentioned, also read as “substance over image.” That’s part of the Pride and Prejudice-style reading of the story. Makino and Doumouji may think they know each other; but not at all.


    SO. HanaDan landed a 14.3 for Episode 1, which is so far the best performance against East of Eden. At the same time, East of Eden, coming a hilarious week of PR controversy, has dipped down to 28.0, a otherwise fine rating but the lowest in about a month. Coincidence? Will a pissed off Fangirl Nation give a middle finger to EofE? 😀

  48. 48 Jennifer

    Penn, this may come as a shock to you but slang is used by everyone. It’s not exclusive to the “ghetto” or “The Bronx”.
    It’s not the words per say (The youth of America in general uses “yo” and “wassup” all the time). It’s the phrasing that’s off and…let’s be honest, a Korean saying it just seems ridiculous.

    I did not enjoy the Taiwanese or Japanese version. I’ll give this one a shot but since my expectations aren’t high to begin with, i’m sure i’ll slightly enjoy it.

  49. 49 crazylazybum

    i hated the first ep. totally bad acting. horrendous. unwatchable. puke inducing esp as you said, the engrish. gosh. dont think i’ll catch the future eps.

  50. 50 tokai

    Jan-di makes funny faces. Cute. That’s definitely refreshing to watch.

    But the F4 (except the blond guy) remind me a bit too much on The Beatles with their looks (or is it just me?)… dunno if that’s good. 😉

    Well.. it was watchable for now. Mostly because the funny Jan-di faces.. less because of the whole story, setup, etc. 😛

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