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To all the Flower Boys I’ve loved before

So, Meteor Garden ended its run a couple weeks ago and I’ve got flower boys on the brain. More specifically, the many, many flower boys who have populated the Hana Yori Dango/Boys Over Flowers universe over the years, which includes the 2005 Japanese drama series Hana Yori Dango (and its 2007 sequel), the 2009 K-drama Boys Over Flowers, and now this 2018 Chinese version of Meteor Garden, a remake of the 2001 Taiwanese drama of the same name. That’s a lot of Flower Fours, and a lot of beautiful people playing F4.

Initially I wasn’t intending to write about Meteor Garden (aside from a few scattered Twitter outbursts), but it sent me down memory lane back to the days of the Korean Boys Over Flowers, which were magical and frenzied and addictive. (It’s funny to think now about how much I deliberated over whether to translate the title “before” or “over”—how was I to know I’d end up on the wrong side of history on that one?) And that made me nostalgic for the fandom fervor of those days, which either didn’t care that the story was occasionally a hot mess or loved it more for it.

It also gives me an excuse to revisit previous iterations of the story—and who doesn’t love a thoughtful, in-depth, and totally-not-shallow examination of some of our favorite flower boys of dramaland? It’s not me being superficial; it’s for research and science! This is very important work, everyone. Necessary, even.

(Honestly, though: This may be a bit of a ramble. Sort of like a Thing vs. Thing, but with even less focus.)


Boys Over Flowers, 2009

It was a curious exercise to approach Meteor Garden through the lens of all the shows that have preceded it, to anticipate all the story turns and character arcs and still, inexplicably, find it just as shiny, heart-fluttery, and addictive as the others. Okay, not exactly as much as all the previous versions, because there are some things it does better and some things it doesn’t. In fact, I’d say that about each version—I’m not sure there’s any one series that is definitively “the best” one, but sometimes the fun is in the comparison.

Every time a new version of Hana Yori Dango rolls around, I find myself marveling at how this particular property always seems to come with an extra bit of magical fairy dust that makes it especially popular and inspires a heightened level of passion amongst the fandom. It’s not that every version has been brilliantly written or flawlessly executed or amazingly acted (sometimes the opposite), but it’s got this undeniable sparkle that has made each version an international sensation and has propelled multiple casts of unknowns into overnight stardom. I don’t necessarily understand it, but I feel it. I believe in it.


Meteor Garden, 2018

There are a lot of components that went into making each of the versions successful, but at the core it must be the story that resonates—there’s just something so appealing about watching a beautiful jerk humbled by his love of a girl, who takes none of his nonsense and puts him royally in his place. (And then falls in love with him.)

It’s got the trappings of a traditional Cinderella story, because he’s the famous chaebol heir and she’s the dirt-poor Candy who is only allowed into his rarefied circle due to special circumstances. But it’s Cinderella with a twist, because this girl (“the tough weed,” as her name generally translates) doesn’t want to exchange her rags for his riches; she forces him to find genuine ways to win her over, rather than buying her affections with no effort (as he would prefer).

But let’s break it down further…


Hana Yori Dango, 2005

The Setup

We have two high school scenarios and one university. I have a preference for the high school settings, partly because I’m a sucker for high school stories but also because some of the power imbalances, relationship dynamics, and plot twists generally feel more relevant to high schoolers than college students. The bullying felt real, cruel, and inescapable in Hana Yori Dango and Boys Over Flowers, whereas it was a little toothless in Meteor Garden. (Of course, that could be because Meteor Garden in general was the most defanged version of the story, but we’ll get to that point later.) On the other hand, once the characters started talking about careers and marriage, that felt more real and imminent in Meteor Garden’s world, where Si is a senior about to graduate university, as opposed to Gu Jun-pyo being groomed to take over the corporation when he’s only just about to graduate from high school.

I liked the Hana Yori Dango explanation for Tsukushi being at the elite school, which showed Tsukushi’s whole family scraping by with a meager living to afford the expense. It lands a little harder when Doumyouji callously ruins the special lunch her mother lovingly packs while the rest of the family eats plain rice and pretends it’s more delicious this way. In the Boys Over Flowers setup, Jan-di gets admitted to his school as a PR move to smooth over his family’s corporate image. She feels like an intruder in his world, so social friction is there from the start, which intensifies once they meet and start butting heads. It therefore felt like a missed opportunity in Meteor Garden, where they just happen to go to the same university and that’s that.


Boys Over Flowers

The Hero

There’s something specific about this kind of hero that really grips me—and by “hero” I mean the lead male character, not anything noble or righteous or great. Because if there’s anything Doumyoji/Gu Jun-pyo/Daoming Si is not, it’s noble. At his best, he’s barely even a noble idiot.

But it’s his jerkiness—that infuriating swagger and that arrogant smirk that you want to slap off his face—that makes for such a compelling reversal when he then falls for the girl. I don’t love him because he’s domineering and caveman-like in his courtship and that’s somehow romantic; I love him because when he’s awful, it’s the love story that forces him to become a better man, and I find that romantic. This whole setup stokes a really primal and bloodthirsty urge within me, and the worse he is to her, the more gleeful I become in anticipating his comeuppance. I have had to confront the fact that this makes me a vindictive viewer with a tendency toward schadenfreude, but there are some truths we just have to accept about ourselves.


Hana Yori Dango

It can’t be a coincidence that dramaland trends have shifted to favor this kind of Alpha (anti-)hero; they’ve turned away from the perfect shiny Prince Charmings of yore (the kind who swept in to save poor Cinderella, as in classic romances like Star in My Heart and All About Eve) and embraced the rude jerks with heart of gold buried waaaaaay down underneath their haughty, cold, intimidating exteriors, who will only melt their icy shells for the love of one (usually poor, usually plucky) woman. (See: Full House, My Name Is Kim Sam-soon, Secret Garden, Goong, Master’s Sun, Best Love, Cheese in the Trap, You’re Beautiful, Heirs, Pasta.)

Doumyouji may have made the most progress going from antagonist to love interest, but he was violent and wild in a way that made me uneasy, even though he softened eventually. When he ordered punks to “teach Tsukushi a lesson,” I genuinely feared that she might actually end up raped, which was a lot darker than I was expecting. Gu Jun-pyo is the less extreme version; he has the character’s overbearing tendencies but comes across as less of a loose cannon; he’s sometimes an ass, but I didn’t feel he was dangerous. He enjoyed picking on Jan-di in the way that schoolboys pick on girls they like for attention, but at least he didn’t actively seem to enjoy tormenting innocent folks like Doumyouji did.


Boys Over Flowers

Ultimately I prefer the Daoming Si characterization, because Meteor Garden made an effort to explain his backstory to show that his rebellion had a reason. And even when he’s being jerky to Shancai, we see that he often doesn’t mean to go far as he does, as when he immediately regrets throwing her lunch in her face but has too much pride to apologize. There’s a point where he explicitly tells Shancai he won’t push to do anything without her consent—he uses the word consent! Now isn’t that an evolved version of the character. I was shocked that he said it, and then felt uncomfortable for finding that so shocking, because shouldn’t we be expecting more from our heroes in this day and age? If I have a complaint, it’s that I wish the drama had actually kept more of his edge, because the series was just so nice all around that it lacked stakes.

Of course, that’s all about the character, and it’s hard to consider the character without also taking into account the acting component. I did love the lovable dunce traits Matsumoto Jun brought to his Doumyouji, and when juxtaposed with his early violent outbursts, it made me see him as a case of arrested development—someone who never learned how to deal with extreme emotions properly. I found his occasional dimness endearing, so I was actually disappointed when Lee Min-ho’s version was made to be this perfect genius, because I wanted some kind of visible flaw to humanize him.

On the other hand, Lee Min-ho did become 90 percent of the reason for my obsession with Boys Over Flowers when it aired, showcasing him as this fresh face brimming with all this potential talent, which gave him a golden sheen that lasted for years afterward. It felt like we were all discovering a star together, and that was exciting. Dylan Wang has that same rookie appeal, and combined with the softening of the character’s edges, he gave his Si a sweeter side. More immature and childish, perhaps, but also endearing. (It’s ironic that Meteor Garden has the oldest characters and yet feels the most juvenile of all the versions.) And although I’ve heard a lot of complaints about his voice dubbing, I’ve consciously avoided looking up his real voice, because what you never know can’t disappoint you!


Tsukushi, Jan-di, Shancai

The Heroine

In a nutshell: Tsukushi > Shancai >>>>>> Jan-di

Each version is pretty good about imbuing our heroine with “tough weed” characteristics that make her gratifyingly immune to the power of the hero’s money and reputation, and thus immune to what he considers his charm, which is just so much fun to watch. I love that early scene when Doumyouji/Jun-pyo/Si arrogantly offers to “allow” her date him, and is so stunned when she’s not at all interested. As though it’s strange to be appalled, rather than impressed, to be kidnapped and given a makeover you neither need nor want. Dude had a lot to learn!

Both the Japanese and Chinese dramas seem to have found the right intersection of actor and character—Tsukushi has the edge for being badass and assertive throughout, whereas I felt Shancai was often lost and helpless in a way that got frustrating. Still, I’d take her any day over Jan-di, who should have been a great character but was marred by some really questionable acting choices by Gu Hye-sun, who often embarrassed me while watching the show because she was so over-the-top as to be hokey. Maybe it’s because she was older than the guys and was trying too hard to play young, or maybe Gu Hye-sun just makes strange acting choices (see Blood—as an example, not for fun!).


Meteor Garden

F4

Meteor Garden won me over by making me believe that its F4 were actually friends who liked each other, rather than merely rich kids who grew up and decided to be friends because nobody else was rich enough to be worthy of admitting into the inner circle. The F4 in Hana Yori Dango felt the most distant to me, whereas we at least got to see Boys Over Flowers’ foursome doing things together—you know, normal everyday friend things like yachting, horseback riding, racecar driving, rifle shooting, and the like.

That said, Meteor Garden kinda took the F4 deal a little too seriously, with everyone reacting to a falling-out by wondering if this meant “the end of F4” and needing to find someone to “fill the spot in F4.” I mean, it’s questionable that you’ve named your friendship to begin with; let’s not overstate your importance here!

Still, Hana Yori Dango gets a point for casting two F4 members who could act, rather than just our main guy. It seems that the second lead Rui/Ji-hoo/Lei character tends to be cast more for looks than for talent, so it was refreshing to have Oguri Shun (Hana Yori Dango) giving me a second lead to actually root for and relate to. Kim Hyun-joong (Boys Over Flowers) may have looked like the most perfectly ripped-from-the-manga version of the romantic best friend, but he was so wooden that I could never feel the sting of the second lead ship—it was OTP all the way. And while Darren Chen (Meteor Garden) made up for a lot by being squishily adorable, I found his Lei to be opaque and inconsistent, and never believed he felt anything for Shancai… or any emotions at all, actually. (So pretty. So blank!)


Hana Yori Dango

The F4 Side Quests

DID ANYONE CARE ABOUT THEM, EVER, AT ALL?

Okay, as side characters I liked them all, I appreciated that the other F4 members were nice to our heroine when our hero was being a jackass, I thought they were all very nice to look at and generally wished for their future happiness.

I just didn’t need to see that happen, in such detail, over so many episodes. Meizuo, Caina, Ximen, Xiaoyou, Qinghe, I’m looking at you. I seem to recall reacting better in the past (Kim Bum and Kim So-eun were a cute side couple), but Meteor Garden is fresh in my memory and there were too many episodes with too many characters I didn’t care about that I was antsy to power through.

Hana Yori Dango (20 episodes) > Boys Over Flowers (25 episodes) >>>>> Meteor Garden (49 episodes). It’s just math.


Meteor Garden

The Perm!

Oh, that hair. It’s so odd, but I do love it.

Gu Jun-pyo wins by a mile for me, because while that hair was unusual, at least it was on Lee Min-ho’s face, and he magically made it work (enough to make it a legitimate trend in Korea as soon as the drama aired. Granted, Korea follows some strange trends, so this may or may not carry any weight with you). According to Lee, the production apparently tried four or five different perms to get it right, and I’ll argue that that effort paid off. On the other hand, Matsumoto Jun’s perm was the one that seemed most slapped together, and not my favorite look.

Dylan Wang’s “pineapple head” was admittedly interesting, and I appreciate the effort to honor the spirit of the hair with a different take… but unlike the other two, who were explicitly said to have been born with curly hair that wouldn’t straighten (a carry-over from the original character), Si’s hair seemed to be a style he adopted, which makes it a choice. Minus twenty points.


Hana Yori Dango

The Feels

But at the end of the day, no matter what we decide about which show had the scariest mother (Boys Over Flowers) or the feistiest sister (Meteor Garden) or the most effective love triangle (Hana Yori Dango), what sticks with me about this drama franchise—and all dramas, really—is how it made me feel at the time, and what I feel when I think back to the experience.

Hana Yori Dango is the version that has always felt to me like the most cohesive and succinct version of the story, not lingering on filler plots and moving briskly. And despite the dated feel of the series now, at the time I recall being so impressed with the production quality—it was well shot, well acted, lovely to look at, well scored. The complete package, if a little distant emotionally.


Boys Over Flowers

Meteor Garden has the benefit of being the newest version, with tons of money poured into the production—it’s glossy, shiny fun. However, its main flaw for me is that it’s so light and the stakes so low that nothing sticks—anytime something dramatic happens, the conflict is undercut or defused right away, which makes it easy to watch but lessens the binge factor. For instance, one of the subplots involving a backstabbing friend gets downgraded to a misunderstanding in Meteor Garden; characters who were malicious and cruel in other versions turn into mild annoyances.

So when Meteor Garden tests our OTP and pulls them apart, it doesn’t carry the emotional weight I want it to have, because I always knew they were going to resolve the issue within a few episodes. No time to get too angsty, and no reason to attach too emotionally.

Which is why, no matter how I parse the show into its disparate parts, I have to go with Boys Over Flowers as the one that has my heart, because it always felt like its main goal was to suck me into the emotions of the characters. It didn’t matter that the plot was often insane or absurd (kidnappings, blackmail, bullying, interloping fiancees, literal competitions to win affections) because I always felt like I understood what the characters were feeling, and being on that rollercoaster of emotions with them produced an addictive series of highs and lows.


Meteor Garden

It’s why I always come back to K-dramas, because it will always be a K-drama’s intent to make you feel something. Sometimes exasperation, sometimes anger, sometimes overwhelming giddiness—but always something that helps forge a connection to the content. Say what you will about K-dramas—they’re formulaic, they’re rushed, they’re recycled—I have to appreciate that they understand how to draw out moments to elicit feelings. It was fascinating to watch Meteor Garden handle a moment I was expecting to fall madly in love with, only to fall flat because it was edited too quickly, or because the tension wasn’t built up fully. When Si gets amnesia that makes him forget only Shancai, I wanted him to recover it in a big dramatic moment that would prove symbolically just how much he loved her—like in Boys Over Flowers, where Jan-di puts herself at risk because she has so much faith in Jun-pyo’s love, despite his amnesia. And then Si turned out to be faking the moment for a laugh, and I was so disappointed I nearly threw something. Don’t take away my emotional gratification so cheaply like that! Admittedly, sometimes a K-drama can overdo it in the opposite direction by being manipulative in the way it pulls our heartstrings, but my heart goes with it every time!

I’m still a bit amazed at the lasting power of Boys Over Flowers so many years later, particularly considering how messy and scattered it can sometimes feel and how many flaws it contained. But then I recall how giddy it made me feel at the time, and how much fun was had within the fandom, and how it struck a chord with so many people, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s the power of a great conflict, a great romantic comeuppance, and a great set of flower boys to make the whole experience just a bit more beautiful.


Boys Over Flowers

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The ultimate version is Meteor Garden's F4 with Hana Yori Dango's Tsukushi and noodles with pineapple for all. With Almost Paradise playing throughout.

Did I miss anything?

(Also, yayyyy! Love the writeup, @javabeans!)

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For me, Pineapple and Domyouji are my two favorite leads, their personality traits being the most endearing to me. Pineapple is an actual 5-year-old, so his idiocy made sense to me, because he simply wasn’t emotionally developed enough.

Domyouji.. was just an idiot. 😂 An eventually sweet, lovable idiot. +100 points for Humingyay.

I confess I never had any sort of partiality or emotional connection to Gu Jun Pyo, but he does get bonus points for the nostalgia I get while staring at the Croissant Hair.

Tsukushi is my favorite weed by far, with Inoue Mao being an absolute boss the entire time.

Shancai was pretty frustrating, but the sweet moments she had with Pineapple really were sweet and lovely, and it’s a joy to watch the behind-the-scenes with Dylan Wang and Shen Yue.

And *coughs* Twoppa, despite his Not Amazing acting, takes my heart for being the best weirdo snarky friend.

Rui does get points for the Apple story, though. The Apple story is iconic.

As for the all the side stories, well. I don’t have much of a preference, but I do know #dumpcaina. And wheee for the tea ship sailing after 17 years!

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Twoppa FTW! <3

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Twoppa forever, second to none.

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Dammit! The moment I read the words "Almost Paradise" in your comment, the refrain "Allllllmost Paraadiiiise" started playing on loop. Make it stop!!

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Trade you! Which would you like to replace it, For You, or Like A River? I Made A Stupid Mistake is also a popular choice.

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I don't think trading will help.... I tried listening to my other favorite OST songs, but the strained notes of that BOF song keep butting in.

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Try AKMU’s Dinosaur and sing along. Very effective.

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lol! or Say Something should be up there too

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Very true!

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Darnit, this never gets old and it's been almost 10 years since I watched the show. Every time anybody mentions "Almost Paradise," it starts playing in my head!!

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@javabeans I'm curious, did you watch the version of Meteor Garden with Jerry Yan ?

I think it's hard to say what version was the best. So some of my random thinking :
1. Daoming Si 2018 was the first time I didn't have a second lead syndrome. I think it's because he was the cutest one in the way he acted.
2. I became fan of Vic Zhou and Oguri Shun after watching their version.
3. The couple Kim Bum and Kim So Eun was my favourite part in Boys Over Flowers. I was happy to see that Ximen and Xiaoyou have a real conclusion. It was so frustrating in the other versions. I liked the version of Shota Matsuda too.
4. I liked Shancai 2018. The difference of height was so cute :p I would just have prefered that they made her less innocent, because some kiss scenes were pretty awkard.

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Nah Yue Yue just can't kiss... hahahaha

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Yes about Jerry Yan! For me growing up watching the Taiwanese version it will always be the best. I thought Javabeans would also include the Taiwanese version for comparison. Since that one is more preferred and loved throughout China.

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Yes!!!! Jerry Yan and the Taiwanese's Meteor Garden will forever stay in my heart as the ultimate teenager crush.
I read the manga in my senior highschool year, and then watch them become real for the first time through the Taiwanese version. I even name my email relating to the theme song Fantasy 4ever :))).
And I feel much less cringyyyy now if I re-watch this, compared to the Korean version tbh.

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The Meteor garden of Jerry Yan was the one I connected with the most.

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Yes! This one was my favorite, the most accurate to the source, and despite it being the first and oldest adaptation it was the most bingable for me. Japanese ver. was the first one I watched but it went to second place for me after watching the Taiwanese drama. Feels for days, I love that show.

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Although Jerry Yan and Barbie's version is really old, it's not the oldest live action of HYD ever.

Japanese 1995 Film of HYD, starring the prettiest Makino and best looking Rui, Tsukasa wasn't half bad, despite dressing up like Aladdin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwp5uOmssS8&t=170s

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Yesss, I actually remembered this /after/ I wrote this comment. I watched it years ago but can't get over that ending dance number lmao. The 2001 ver. is the oldest drama adaptation, then.

There is also the anime (which I like a lot lol.)

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Omg that was my first version ever!
Still has a soft spot for the original F4 actors and Barbie Hsu <3

I love how the Meteor Garden 2018 version kept the spikey hair for Daoming Si to bring nostalgia moments with Jerry Yan's Si spikey hair in the Taiwanese MG 2001 version (where longer locks back then were in style). I would give the 2018 version 5 pts back lol.

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2001 version was the best for me too! I tried watching the 2018 version but it didn’t live the hype. It was all over the place :(

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This is the only Meteor Garden I watched and finished, and made me a die hard fan of Vic Zhou. I remember feeling that the high point of my week is that one day when the show played!
Knowing there are other versions doesn't tempt me to watch tho, because as cracktastic as it was, there were also a lot of crazy that is not worth repeating.
What I also remember about this version is it really launched F4 globally and kinda started a Taiwanese drama wave in my country, followed by other Asian dramas that usurped telenovelas & western series in our TV. So much so that I even wrote a paper on this for my social study! And got a score of 80-something out of 100, haha.

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Haha..... I think I know where you're from. Telenovelas dominated our TV and tabloids before the MG craziness sparked a nation-wide F4 fever. I think the 2001 MG holds the record for the most re-broadcast drama.

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"It is what had started this whole trend. That was the one that gave me the most feels. Maybe memory-making-everything-better could be a part of the reason, & then me growing up more, but BOF never worked for me. "

Indeed! I guess what you said speaks for those reach their teens around 2000 - 2003 that were hooked to Meteor Garden - Taiwanese, like me. :D

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What.No.Original.F4?😲

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Never watched any of them... But was recently thinking of trying out the J version, because most people seem to say its the best of them all and it has the lost amount of episodes and some actors I need to see in something else...

I just need to get the brain power...

Jdramas seem to really go home when they get into high school bullying... They make you feel as if it was happening to you... I remember not being able to eat while watching solomon's perjury (jmovie)

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You SHOULD watch the Japanese version! It's my favorite one too...followed by Original Taiwanese version then BOF! I haven't watched 2018 one yet so can't comment on that one!
P.S. Maybe try "Kimi wa petto" too..it stars Matsujun (Domyouji) and Koyuki (Kenichi a.k.a Ryuzaki a.k.a L's wife) 😁😁

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Idk how true is it, but I'm still waiting for the taiwanese version of MG 2018, where I get to hear their real voices coz I hate dubbings.

Just sad that the original MG 2001 is not include in this article. /:

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Tencent actually aired the undubbed version while MangoTv aired the dubbed version.

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Wait, where? is it available online?

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see my reply to JRR.

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nice, thanks for the info. do u have the link for tencent?

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I downloaded their app but I believe this is their site. There's no English subs, only in Mandarin.

http://m.v.qq.com/index.html?ptag=v_qq_com%23v.index.adaptor%233&amp;

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thanks for the link, but they actually redirects to mangotv which has the dubbed version. sighs.

let me tell u a secret.. i'm chinese, LOL! so i'm perfectly fine with chinese subs, but i want their real voices.. *cries*

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@llljr , Tencent has it on their app for sure. I don't use the site since I'm on my phone or ipad usually. I checked it out the other day and it's not the dubbed version.

P.S. I'm Chinese, too. LOL

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ok i just dl the app & tried but the same thing happens. it directs to mangotv. sighs. i think this got smth to do with location.. where do u stay? sorry, i may have asked u before but i forgot..

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@llljr, I'm in the US. When I first downloaded the Tencent app, it made me download the MangoTv app as well. It was a blur. Next thing I know, I have the Tencent app.

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hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. i don't think it will work for me. sighs. do let me know if there's other sources for the undubbed version. thanks in advance! 🙏

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I saw on Twitter, some underground Chinese sites. LOL...but I don't know which ones. If I see more info, I'll be sure to let you know!

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wooo.. underground. i don't mind trying, as long as it's not torrent coz i don't have it, lol. thanks!

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Anytime I come across this drama, I’m a bit bemused. I’ve tried multiple times to watch the Korean version, but never have gotten past the first 1-2 episodes. The bullying bothers me the most and I can’t. So, at some point I will start Meteor Garden, but if the F4 boys are no better than wannabe hoodlums, I’m again out.

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Ally...don't. Please. Save yourself. I think I've told you the story of how BOF nearly broke me and made me almost swear off kdramas forever. It was also the 1st and last drama I saw with the friend who recommended it, and now never ever trust her taste lol

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Ah *phew* glad to read I'm not the only one thinking this way.

After reading JB's views on the story, I was wondering if I'm too uptight. I watched the Japanese version/the first few eps of it while in Uni, and the bullying bothered me so much I STILL remember some scenes.

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I get actually angry whenever I talk about BOF!

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Ok, I won’t, thanks for talking me off the ledge.

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The only reason I made it all the way through Meteor Garden is because of the group watch. The bullying is a bit tamer, but their is a very violent scene between the two leads that I still find upsetting, and you can see that the actor himself is troubled even as he is enacting the attack. However, this incarnation has the F4 boys have the most real friendships. They actually like each other, look out for one another, and it feels genuine. The series is too long though, and there is one romantic sidestory that is stupid, boring, and has no bearing on anything else. #dumpcaina So, if you do decide to watch, feel free to use the fast forward button liberally, but do pause to ogle the multitudes of amazing coats the F4 wear. Seriously, the coat porn is real.

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The coats got me into the show, the friendships got me through the show. Or maybe it was the friendships and the coats.

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and your Twoppa. You can't forget him Bams.

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Well, what do you think made me fall in love with Twoppa...

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Turtlenecks, Bams, turtlenecks!
Never have I seen a covered neck so appealing!

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@kimbapnoona Darn the dang 🐢. Or bless it. Either way.

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It's sad how the bad habit of Chinese dramas extending tv shows for the sake of it has affected the quality of the 2018 Meteor Garden.

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Meteor Garden 2018 has barely any bullying

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Don't lol. It nearly turned me away from k-dramas for good.

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*Hi five* I have the same feeling, I never could get into the hype of BOF because of how almost animalistic the bullying was. I didn't see love at all. MG is supposedly cuter but 40+eps seems like a lot.

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I haven't even made it past ep 1 of the Korean version. It's just not for me.

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When I tell people I watch kdramas, they always ask me to recommend them one. When I pause for a second to think about what would match, the other person always always says "you're going to recc BOF right? I've heard about that one" and internally I'm just screaming so loud. BOF is not a good representation of kdrama in many aspects of its plot, and I will not recommend it to anybody as a first drama.

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Hana Yori Dango was one of the first jdrama I watched so it has a special place in my heart and as soon as I finished it I wanted more so I searched on mysoju (does anyone else remenber mysoju?) and found Boys Over Flower... and I hated the male lead (mostly because the hair haha) and didn't even finished the first episode (until today I don't realy like Lee Min-Ho, ops).

As BoF was my very first korean drama for more than 2 years choose not to watch another one, but I eventualy I stoped with this stupid prejudment and here I am, watching at least two kdramas per season.

I never tried watching BoF again but I am seryosly considering watching Meteor Garden, or maybe i should just rewatch HYD.

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Now that you mention it, I do remember mysoju. Oh dear lord, feels like that existed such a long time ago. :D

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I do remember mysoju, my first source of asian dramas :D

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(does anyone else remenber mysoju?)
this makes me feel old lol

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Oh Mysoju it brings back memories, every now and then I search for the website, I keep thinking I'll find it.

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me too!! I miss it so much

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OMG Mysoju !! Yes, I totally remember ! At the time I didn't even know what soju was, and I just thought the name of the site was kinda strange... Well, I know now ^^
I think I am in the same case as you: Hana Yori Dango was one of my first manga, then when I saw there was a drama, I tried it... And fell in love with Oguri Shun (and till this day he is one of my favorite actor !! I mean, he also is Sano in Hanakimi !!!).
I tried BOF afterwards when it aired (anxious to feel heartbroken because of Rui), but even though I went farther than you (to the 2nd or 3rd episode ?), I just couldn't like the main 3 characters (especially the heroine I think). But I was already watching KDramas at the time (my first drama ever was Full House !), so that didn't stop me :)

Maybe I will try Meteor Garden too, since it seems I will not have a second lead syndrome according to all the comments ^^

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I also had no idea what mysoju meant haha I love Oguri Shun!! <3 But in HanaKimi I fell in love with Ikuta Toma, that was my first second lead syndrome! My very first asian drama was Ichii Rittoru no Namida (and I cried every minute of it) and my first korean drama was You Are Beautiful

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I also looooved Nakatsu in Hanakimi (who wouldn't ? He was so funny !), but I had watched Hana Yori Dango just before and Oguri Shun was the only one I could see. Plus, I am usually a "first lead" kind of girl (my only second lead syndromes were Rui and Lee Jun Ki in My Girl).

I don't the drama you mentioned (your first drama ever), what's the story ?

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Ichi Rittoru No Namida or 1 Litre of Tears is a very beautiful and touching drama. It is actually based on a real life person - a 15-year-old girl, who was diagnosed with an incurable disease that affected movement. The girl kept a diary about her struggles and acceptance of everything. This diary was made as a basis for the drama and it keeps using the actual quotes from it and has pictures in the end of the real girl. Of course, it has additional storylines. However, I would recommend, it actually changed the way I view life and it was as sad as it was touching and beautiful. Be prepared to cry a lots eventually though :D

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Yes about Sano from Hana Kimi! You easily forget Oguri Shun also did the typical Shoujo manga roles. Ugh Hana Kimi was another classica Jdrama. Especially with Ikuta Toma and everyone else. It's nice to see all the actors from that drama still doing quite well in the industry.

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Yes, for me that version of Hanakimi is still the best one, and though Sano was the typical shoujo manga hero, I just loved him so much (especially because I read the manga at the time I think, and I had more insight about the character).
I saw other dramas with the 3 main casts after, and they did really good things, you're right :)

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I loved the original manga Domyouji, he had the best character development imo.

It's better that every successive Domyouji actor bring along different shoes, cause that one is impossible to fill. Sigh.

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Thanks for the reminder. I remember sending a topic for a term paper in College about MySoju and the DMCA and my professor was like, "I'm not sure what this is about but go ahead, I'm curious". And this was a decade ago!

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if reminiscing mysoju era equals old, then I'm a fossil..

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First of all, I am just thrilled to read Javabean's essays again. I love your writings @javabeans more than Tsukasa's love for apples.

So much to dwell over in your analysis.....but most importantly and no matter how much it pains me, I will have to respectfully disagree on your assessment of The Perm!.
Ah-si's pineapple spikes>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Tsukasa Season 2>Jun-Pyo>Tsukasa Season 1

I stand by this firmly as the quality and taste of Shancai's squid sauce.

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I must concur.

And now I have the munchies.

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*puts on apron to grill squid on sticks like a dutiful future son-in-law

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Son-in-law?

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Yup, like a dutiful future chaebol son-in-law who will come to one's fishing village to bus tables to help with your squid business, and ultimately reinvigorate his family's business empire with his future wife's 8-treasure sauce executed on some non-sensical business platform.

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@kimbapnoona Ohhhhhh, my son!

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Did you forget to put your squid hat on?

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Who could forget to put their squid hat on?

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Oops I think the squid hat is hiding in my GIF closet somewhere.......

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I actually have a squid hat. *bashful face*

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Don't forget the squid hat!

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Here I present my counterargument for the defendant Pineapple, with GIF evidence for the jury:
http://www.dramabeans.com/members/kimbapnoona/activity/607040/

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Your disagreement literally made me laugh out loud hahahah

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After having some more time to digest Javabean’s post, here are a few of my own rambling thoughts:

I was not fair in my assessment of the ending of Meteor Garden 2018. Now I realized after reading Javabean’s analysis that the show is really just trying to keep the spirit of the “HOT MESSNESS” of Hana Yori Dango alive. My bad!

Truth: “I don’t necessarily understand it, but I feel it. I believe in it” …….and I would hate it, but then I love it, and then I want to pull my hair out because of it, but later I want to cuddle with it…..what happens the next minute will make me feel like taking a shower, but then I get too busy squeezing with tears. Someone said “hot mess”?

Dylan Wang is swagger incarnate which is clearly evident with all of his variety show appearances, interviews, and BTS videos (I know, cuz I watched them.) It is hard not to feel that Angela Chai has cast the perfect person for the role of Daoming Si because Dylan Wang irl has that “infuriating swagger.” As matter of fact Didi’s charisma so effortlessly and naturally transfers to the his onscreen persona that the greenness of his acting almost is moot in MG 2018.

Regarding “The F4 Side Quests,” I am delighted that Javabeans seems to have successfully amnesia out Caina’s love interest aka Pornstash Ahjussi because nobody should ever bring him back into consciousness again, except now I am. #sorryandverysorry

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*squee
*Pornstache (oops, there he is again)

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I would like to believe that JB saw all the #dumpcaina and fast forward through that pornstache mess of a storyline, and heeded our advice.

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Oh my omnipresent Drama Overlord! The possibility that Javalord might take our mortals' advice blows my mind!! 😱

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Pineapple head for the WIN!

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I hate Caina and her boring love line with that old man. I started fast forwarding all their scenes.

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I finished MG2018 in three weeks and like JB, found it fluffy and cute (Si! Lei!). However, Boys Over Flowers, despite its many (maaaaany) flaws, was the ultimate crack version.

I liked the amnesia version this time around though. It was in this Daoming Si's character and I actually cheered when he was faking it (probably because I didn't want them to introduce another minor character; Xiaoyou was enough and I kinda love her). Si's sister was awesome and all kinds of hilarious. I found Huaze Lei to be good and caring and felt his caring for Shancai and his bromance with Si to be so genuine. Plus he's so adorable. There were a lot of references to the original MG which was boring (because I intensely dislike that version and still refuse to watch it). The OST is way better than the k-drama's however sometimes I could almost hear the "Almost Paradise..." coming, but then got disappointed when it didn't. T_T

Thanks for writing again, JB! I missed reading your work.

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*correction: I hated the friend Xiaoyou but loved monkey girl (Xiao Zi?)

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The only drama I finished is Meteor Garden with Barbie Hsu and Jerry Yan and Korean Boys over Flower. That is about it. LOL 🙈

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I would recommend to watch the Japanese version Hana Yori Dango, in my opinion, it was the best version of them all. :D

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I tried to watch Japanese one. However, I got bored real fast. I watch the Korean version first and Barbie Hsu version afterward.

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That's my favorite version. :) Also the only version where I didn't get second lead syndrome.

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Still my most fav meteor garden is with barbie hsu and jerry yan. It's just my gateaway to asian drama. The addiction at that time was insane.

Because this is my first, when I watched the japanese and korean ver, it's no longer as addictive for me.

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barbie hsu had her own brand of spunk that was different from tsukushi, meanwhile gu hye sun was just soulless in her portrayal.

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My favourite version is and will always be Hana Yori Dango, I preferred Tsukushi above Jan-di and Tsukasa above Jun-pyo. I also loved Rui more than Ji-hoo because not only was Oguri Shun the better actor, the way Rui treated Tsukushi didn't bother me as much as the way Ji-hoo treated Jan-di which was to ignore her until she had moved on from him then decide he wanted her and throwing her into confusion. I hated Meteor Garden (the first one) the most. I will never be over the way Si slapped Shancai and then never apologized for it. I also hated Lei because I thought his acting was terrible and the whole show just felt kind of mish-mash. I haven't seen the new one yet, but I doubt I will.

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Oguri Shun......
*finger hearts*

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I watched this one too, or should I say I attempted to watch this one. It was so cringe-inducing that I don't think I got past 20 minutes.

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Taiwanese Meteor Garden is still the best for me. Jerry Yannn!!!

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Same, about the K version. BOF was my gateway kdrama, with years of frenzied viewing following. And as is often the case with first love, you never forget and it always holds a special place. Never again will I fall so hard. Thanks, JB, for the homage. There really was something special about this one, warts and all!

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It was so great to read this, it brought back some nostalgic memories for me. This franchise is so important for me, because Japanese Hana Yori Dango was the first Asian drama I saw ever (exactly 10 years ago) and it was such a gateway drug. :D It pulled me in the Japanese drama world, which escalated to Korean/Taiwanese dramas, music, culture and languages. This started it all :) I still remember so vividly the first scene in the first episode - is a close up of Tsukushi face/eyes.
I did like Boys Over Flowers, but I think Jan Di turned me off enough to not be a big fun. I have also seen the Meteor Garden with Jerry Yan, but for some reason it didn`t stick out to me that much.
For me, Hana Yori Dango, will always have a special place in my heart. :)

Thank you for writing this great article, I really loved it :)

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Yup, I'm totally with you on Hana Yori Dango - my first love in dramas....

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I watched C-dramas (mostly Taiwanese) before I ever watched K-Dramas. My first K-Drama was FULL HOUSE, which- as Javabeans points out- also has a jerky rich lead and an impoverished female lead. Another K-Drama that can get you hooked on K-Dramas.

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I was also quite hooked on Taiwanese dramas before I even started watching Korean dramas.
I am not sure of my first Korean drama, it's between Full House and My Girl, but I am almost sure it is Full House as well.
Though what solidified my love for K-dramas for forever was 1st Shop of Coffee Prince and You're Beautiful. ^_^

P.S.
The rich jerk and poor heroine is such widely used concept at Asian dramas. :D At least it used to be before, now it seems to be a little less common.

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My first drama ever was Full House too ! The concept was so new I didn't know (and still don't) what sucked me in but I was addicted to it.
After, I stayed with Taiwanese drama (Devil beside you, with Mike He... My first actor crush ^^), but at the time I didn't really see the differences between dramas, so I just picked what felt like a reading a manga.
I think my getaway to Kdrama were Delightful Girl and My Girl... And then I started to watch only KDrama ^^'

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Thank you, JavaBeans! I will always love Boys over Flowers; it was our gateway into the fabulous world of k dramas. The family watched in spite of themselves,...my husband and son were just as glued to the tv as the girls, and all can sing "Al-most PARA-dise!!

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I used to be terribly addicted to Boys Before Flowers before, but I hated how they dragged out the conflicts. The couple spent so much time apart from each other. In my opinion, I prefer how quickly Meteor Garden resolved their conflicts. It's true, Jandi was too overacting for my taste.

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I was just losing sleep over watching Hana Yori Dango last night and wondering why this story can make me stay up even when it is the third version I've seen (maybe my favorite, though BOF was my kdrama gateway drug). It was so great to see javabean's write up over the very question I was wondering about. Kudos to a story that is at turns ridiculous, obnoxious, offensive, and crazy, but still evokes such strong feelings. And it is also fun to see everyone's opinions. We all have a different collection of favorite this character and that character. (For the record, mine is HanaDan overall, Gu Jun-pyo with Tsukushi, Kim Bum and Kim So-eun (anything but Caina), F4 of MG 2018, pineapple hair and Like A River all the way :)

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And oh yes, thank you MG 2018 for my (I suspect) eternal confusion over Daoming Zhuang's sexy dance to Like A River to summon his brother at his own wedding.
LAIKA RIVA all the way indeed!

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I saw the post title and just sighed at all the memories the F4 always brings to me. Regardless of whether the drama is good or not, somehow any remake will always grow up with a generation. There's just something magical about the series that can connect to any girl.

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Seeing "javabeans" on a byline made my day. :)

I laughed at "Tsukushi > Shancai >>>>>> Jan-di", though I probably would've put waaaay more >s before Jan-di's name (even though I haven't watched Meteor Garden). Before watching GHS in BOF, I used to think it was hyperbole when upset drama-fans would say "I was so frustrated, I almost threw my laptop out the window". Not hyperbole. (I do like GHS as a person and I liked her okay in Angel Eyes, but her portrayal of Jan-di drove me bonkers.)

I can't believe this latest installment of Meteor Garden is 49 eps! (OMG, why???) That pineapple haircut is kind of enticing me though...

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It's so subtle. First you think you are watching for the pineapple hair...
But than you... can't.... stop....!

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Haha! Should I give in to the pull of the pineapple, or resist? (I've read mixed reviews.)

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In all honesty, risa, it's terrible. Or at least I thought it was terrible (I skipped entire episodes, even), but the fashion is on another level of awesome. I think if you have nothing to watch/do and want to be mad at fictional people, give it a try (but don't take it seriously!)

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It's terrible, frustrating, and downright confusing.. but still utterly cracktastic and fun. Plus.. bromance.

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But the magical fairy dust fills in all the cracks of terribleness and blinds us with all the glittery glee of watching beautiful people do stupid things while falling in love and wearing magnificent coats.

Just watch. Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. (except for the caina stuff, use your ff button)

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Ahem. Don't listen to them. Give in. It's glorious. *chaotic neutral maniac laughter*

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Listen to Sico.

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Are you an actual chaotic neutral, Sic? I'm a True Neutral!

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@natzillagorilla I am Chaotic Neutral or Chatoic Good. It depends on the day... 😂

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Another great one, @javabeans :)

I may be one of the few kdrama lovers that has not seen BoF,but I've loved HaNaDan as a drama franchise. And the Japanese just has my heart.or maybe it's because of Oguri Shun 😉

But the Taiwanese MG is just so iconic for me and it has cause a major major hysteria in the Philippines when it aired on a local channel. The world of teenagers seemed to stop when it MG's airing.

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Oguri Shun.......
*more finger hearts*

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To this day, I still have never finished Boys Over Flowers lol.
However, I loved Hana Yori Dango, the first version I watched, and have watched it a couple of times. I still quote "Humming-yay" in my head every time I see a Hemingway novel and laugh.
I'm enjoying Meteor Garden 2018 but I felt like it blew through some of my favorite moments at alarming speed. I do appreciate the toning down of some of the scarier moments of the story but it does also make it seem like there are less stakes. Also that ridiculous sense of luxury is missing from this version. Like F4 eats in the cafeteria with...everyone...else??? I keep seeing it and yet I somehow can't imagine it lmao. Shancai also seems to extremely well adjusted at school.
But! Buuut, the Taiwanese drama is my favorite. I love it to bits. It's the male lead at simultaneously his most dangerous and lovable and our female lead at her tomboyish best while still capturing her manga counterpart's melancholy and fish out of water-ness. It's also the tackiest (lmao 2001) and it's everything. I really hope you give this one a try some day @javabeans!

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Nice write up and it brought all the goodness back. HYD was the second Jdrama I ever watched (after Gokusen) so I was ready for more Matsumoto Jun and Oguri Shun goodness together. I also think Oguri made a better second lead than other versions, because aside from being a great actor, he was brought onto HYD, because Matsumoto was already his friend and wanted him on this show too. After the J-version, I think the original Meteor Garden with Jerry Yan, Barbie and Vic Zhou was awesome and closest to the original manga story line. In fact, that version was so awesome, when I tried to watch this new Meteor Garden, I stopped when the weird expositional female character came along in the first episode and explained that F4 solves their fights with.....bridge. Eh? That is not the feisty and violent F4 that I know and love. I agree, the Korean version was good except for the Jan-Di character, who was so over the top I found myself disliking her. Aaaah, but this makes me want to go back and watch the old Taiwanese version and the Jdrama version again. Thank you!!

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Lmao those life or death bridge games are hilarious.

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Off-topic: your avatar is so cute!

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cheers!

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but the taiwan season 2 was huh??? i really didn't like it. i like korea's take on the amnesia arc best. even the manga didn't carry it well.

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I agree the old 2000s version of part 2 was horrible (the cgi helicopters in episode 1 were so cringe). The kdrama version was a bit silly though as well, especially when she just chucked herself in the water, hoping that he would remember. That is why I liked the jdrama version, because they always commented on how the lead was always instinctual keyed in to the lead girl, so even though he didn't remember her, he still instinctual rushed out to save her without knowing why and it all came back later. Of course, I am also just biased to Matsumoto Jun and Inoue Mao, because their onscreen chemistry led to viewers thinking there was something more off-screen. :)

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Since Meteor Garden seems to be the tamer version, I'll give it a chance. I really could not get into Boys Over Flowers because of how they treated the main character. And the funny thing is I read the manga for it YEARS ago and was fine with it. But I don't know if I got soft as I got older or live action just hits different, but the meanness really gets to me.

I really just like light and fluffy. When the soap opera levels are too high in shows, I just can't deal. Unless it's like super tight writing and pacing. I loved Money Flower and that had all type of chaebols and birth secrets.

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Tamer you wish. Theres a sexual assualt in ep 4 that were never addressed in the drama later how thats not the way to go if youre mad. If this happen in real lif, theres no way a girl in right mind would fall in love with her sexual assualter. But of course this Meteor Garden has to romanticise it. *rolls eyes*

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It wasnt romanticized. It should have been addressed, but Im pretty sure this was the reason why SC didnt believe that DMS liked her for a long time.

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"... this particular property always seems to come with an extra bit of magical fairy dust that makes it especially popular and inspires a heightened level of passion amongst the fandom."

This story started it all for me. I feel so strongly about "my" version that I can't watch any of the others. I've tried. And don't even think of putting it down--I'll come at you like a mama bear. That said, I allow others the same privilege for "their" version. That's what magical fairy dust does.

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This new version of Meteor garden sucks from the plot to acting. I dont know why people even bother wasting time watching 49 episodes. Most likely people who watched this have low quality taste considering it got very poor reviews in China. I hate all franchise but Japanese version at least is good and funny. Even Korean one has better acting and execution and has the best OST. This new Shancai iso bad at acting that even the cute momente look cringy to me. Dylan Wang is the only one who I saw potential to go far. He has some foundation. The rest of cast are so hopeless.

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Taiwanese version is still my favorite MG. ^^

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Thank you for writing this entertaining and informative treatise on the puzzingly addictive incarnations of Boys Over Flowers.

First: Pineapple hair >>>>>>>> Perm. I will hear no arguments telling me differently. One, because the pineappled hair not only highlighted the amazing bone structure of Dylan Wang, but it also served as a signal for Si's emotional state (particularly in the last third of the series). Our prickly hero and his spikey hair both softened as he and his love for Shancai matured. But oh, how our group of MG rabbit watchers missed those prickles.

Second: I agree with you, Jan-di is the worst. However, Shancai takes soooo long to actually admit to her feelings, and even then is a bit wishy-washy on expressing them that our group watch audience was almost as frustrated as Si. So, as our rabbit group is currently watching season 2 of Hana, I’m liking Tsukushi, mostly because she’s tough and seems to be decisive.

Third: Maybe I’m just not a Lee Min-ho kind of girl, but I never find him compelling in any role, and in this one . . . a big fat nope. Boys over Flowers was one of my first kdramas, and it confused me. The look, the story, the abusiveness, the doormat girl, and that hair. Dylan Wang is a literal puppy with amazing expressions and looks, and though his acting was greener than bright summer grass in the beginning, he still made you feel the anger, confusion, and earnest love for Shancai, and his friends. Matsumoto Jun is giving me the same type experience. I just kind of like this soppy jerk. Lee Min-ho never made me like him. (sorry to the LMH fanbase)

Fourth: How could you not bring up the batshit crazy ending of Meteor Garden? Like what was that? If I hadn’t been watching with my virtual friends I’m not sure I would have understood any of it—oh wait, we didn’t understand it at all.

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Last: I never ever would have made it through the excessive 49 episodes of Meteor Garden without the rabbit watch. Not only because the amazing on the spot translations by @kimbapnoona meant we didn’t need to wait for English subs, but the group moaned and fast forwarded through the Caina/pornstache mess of a storyline. And having comrads to gush over the coat porn always makes any drama watch better.

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Listen, I live for Meizuo's style but not his taste in women lol. Everything was zipping by and now Caina has slowed the drama's pace to a crawl. I keep pausing and saying I'll come back later. It takes me like 5 days to go back to an episode lol.

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Fast forward is your best friend here. The Caina stuff is nonsense that is meaningless to the overall story. Don't waste your time and just #dumpcaina.

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I have a fastforward allergy. I must stick it through. I can do it! Although I'm wondering why this much older man is running after this 20 something year old girl along Meizuo. It's just such a ridiculous plot line.

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I was like you once canxi... no fast forwarding... then I gave in because you wouln't believe how frustrating it is to get like ten minutes of your OTP out of TWO HRS OF IDIOCY AND SIDE QUESTS ahem.

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@sicarius For the first time, I will have to rely on alcohol I see.

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And let us be real, Glasses and notGlasses (or Meizuo if you want to use names) are meant for each other. They even coordinate their clothing colors, until the bore shows up that is.

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Hahaha, they've always been the underrated bromance of the story.

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For me the bestest and funnest memory of Meteor Garden 2018 will always be the group watching experience with fellow Gardeners! The snark carried us through thick and thin!
#WhatHappensInGroupWatchWill4everStayInGroupWatch

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totally wish we could've saved all the transcripts for those watches hahaa

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They would have been good for your book: The Seductive Charms of F4: A Critical Analysis

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Yes if by saved you really meant kidnapped all the transcripts and transported them onto an uninhibited island so they would never been found again (or so they thought)

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Just how many books am I writing on this series again? hahahaha
They would've been good for many things. Bribery, blackmail, book writing, or just some general fun and light evening reading...

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......bridge playing, 1st time selfie taking, forehead kissing, face drawing, fake violin playing......

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