Saturday, June 13, 2009

Meteor Garden vs. Hana Yori Dango vs. Boys Before Flowers



I wonder how Kamio Yoko-sensei is feeling having her beloved manga immortalized thrice onscreen now. And the fourth adaptation well on its way already.

I was really thinking if I’m going to make a comparison entry regarding these three adaptations. I know myself too well to know that I am still holding a little bit of torch for Meteor Garden since it was the very first. However, I also know how I felt with regards to the Japanese adaptation and the fresh Korean version. I entitled this entry with versus but maybe that’s wrong because I feel like all I want to do is just a description. I really don’t know how this entry is going down, but let’s see.

I am going to include the two seasons of Meteor Garden and two seasons of Hana Yori Dango. After all, Boys Before Flowers managed to put the whole story into only one season.

I already made a comparison between Meteor Garden and Hana Yori Dango way way back. So, to save myself from the difficulty of remembering what I think about these two earlier adaptations, I am going to restate some of them here with additional info plus my take on the Korean version.

THE STORY

As of now, everyone knows already that it is based on the best selling manga by Kamio Yoko. MG and HYD both at start followed the original manga quite closely but after that MG started to diverge a bit. The second season focused a lot on the amnesia arc. HYD, on the other hand, since the first season was slated for only 9 episodes, combined different scenes in the story to one. BOF quickly started to define their own pace by way of Geum Jan Di’s entrance to Shinhwa High School.



MG: Well, quite long for a first season. However, it is good because you can really see how Dao Ming Si slowly falls in love with Shan Cai. There are a lot of jealousies along the way and a formidable force by the name of Dao Ming Feng but in the end, there is really no doubt in your mind as to how much they love each other. The first season has some dragging parts in the middle. They had so many obstacles. Shan Cai’s family problems were countless. They cannot seem to have just one week without having any problems. Season 2 was all for dramatic flair. Well, it has too much drama actually. The producers didn’t think that the first season would be that big hit so they made the second season drag way too long. That’s what made that drama bad. However, still nothing beats the reason why Dao Ming Si had the amnesia.



HYD: The first season was way too short. I think everyone was left craving for more. It didn’t have that much Makino-Domyouji scene. Just after a few episodes, you’ll see that he is already obsessed (Akira’s word) with Makino. There were only a few times when I saw them together. On the other hand, it’s good because there were no dull moments. The pacing was fast. They combined a lot of scenes, deleted a lot but the story still came out good. The ending wasn’t a big splash but it was because they are working on a season 2. After the disappointing sequel of MG, HYD’s season 2 was a refreshing break. It was better than the first season. There were a lot more tender moments. However, since this is a Jdorama and adopted from a manga at that, it has some over-the-top silliness mixed in it.


BOF: Longer time, longer episodes but you can’t blame them because like what I said they also squeezed the supposed to be ‘season 2’ of the story. They followed the basic plot of the manga while inserting their very own tricks to make it refreshing. They also made an effort and paid so much attention to details. I think the Korean version was the most lavish of all. (I’m not including Hana Yori Dango Final which is actually over-the-top luxuriousness). Some story arcs were given little attention like Jae Ha while Jae Kyung story arc was dragged way too long. The combination of comedy and romance is just right.

THE CHARACTERS
(The F4 Leader) Jerry Yan / Matsumoto Jun / Lee Min Ho


Jerry Yan: He is very well suited for the role of Dao Ming Si. He is tall, handsome and absolutely a hunk. He brings to life a hotheaded and over-jealous person who exudes an atmosphere of inexplicable and undeniable authority around him. You just cannot disobey him. You will find yourself scared of him and yet admire him as well.

Matsumoto Jun: Way before Hanadan, I already love Matsujun, him being on Gokusen and of course, Arashi. However, though I was excited to see him in the lead role for Hanadan, I was also skeptical as to whether he would be able to fit the role. On the physical level, Jun is short and skinny and though good looking, his good looks are not on the mainstream level. But I guess, Matsujun proved that he can carry the role of Domyouji very well. Minus the cartoonish and laughable stupidity, he can be closer to real life. He is spoiled, rude, stupid, childish and lonely. If you meet him at first, you will not be that scared of him. He actually looks like a normal kid but you will definitely feel that there is something in the air around him. Matsujun’s portrayal is yes, at times funny and ridiculous, but the amount of emotion he can project is just astounding. His eyes portray his inner struggles so damn well.

Lee Min Ho: If Jerry is more violent, and Jun is somewhat ridiculous at times, Lee Min Ho’s portrayal seemed a little more balanced, more matured and complicated. He is cold, harsh and cruel. He also has a wide variety of emotions to play up. He is believable when conflicted and when angry. He is real.
(The Weed) Barbie Xu / Inoue Mao / Goo Hye Sun


Barbie Xu: With regards to her acting, this older member of the duo ASOS – though neophyte at the time, really did well. You laughed with her and even cry with her. You will fall in love with Shan Cai. However, I think she’s just too pretty to be a commoner.

Inoue Mao: Her acting skills may be raw but the way she took on the role of Makino Tsukushi was so believable. It was so convincing. Besides, her expressions are unpredictable but adorable. Comic timing is good too. In HYD, she looks really plain like an honest-to-goodness commoner, just exactly what the role requires. She’s not that tall, not that skinny, not that pretty but just like Makino Tsukushi, she packs a punch, figuratively and well – literally. She never went over-the-top cuteness that made her irritating. And you will understand why in the heaven’s name the great Domyouji Tsukasa fell in love with her.

Goo Hye Sun: Her haircut that has bothered a lot of people wasn’t actually such big deal to me, though I didn’t like it. But when I started to research about her and saw pictures of her, I realized that she is a very pretty girl and her bob didn’t do her justice. How come two F4 are fighting for her affections? Okay, so we know from the manga that they didn’t like the female lead because of her looks but because of her personality, but what personality exactly? There isn’t much with Goo Hye Sun’s portrayal. She was interesting at first but then it went down the drain when she started to get together with Jun Pyo. She always looked like she wanted to give up and is tired of having a relationship with him. Like I said in my review before, she was just weak. Plus, the inconsistencies of her character are just infuriating. Okay, so I blame the poor writing too. However, I like how, in this version, Jan Di was given something she cares about: swimming. At least, her life revolves around something else than f4.
(The Violinist) Vic Zhou / Oguri Shun / Kim Hyun Joong


Vic Zhou: My only comment is that his acting is very raw. I had hard time deciphering the emotions he wanted to convey. Sometimes I see it in his eyes but cannot feel it in his voice, sometimes it is the other way around. (Note: It is not the dubbed version of the local channel. I have a copy of the original VCD, courtesy of Odyssey.) But of course, one cannot really deny how handsome Zaizai is. When I first saw him in the commercial of MG, just like Shan Cai, I fell in love with him. He was so cute there playing his violin. However, as the story goes on, just like Shan Cai again, I fell in love with Dao Ming Si, up to the end this time. Zaizai looks so cool and he can really carry that I-don’t-care aura very well.

Oguri Shun: At first, I honestly cannot believe that he will be playing the role of Hanazawa Rui. His role in Gokusen didn’t give me any idea that he could actually do it. Not even reaching half of the series, I changed my mind. I was amazed as to how Shun can really pull it off. He may not be as handsome as Vic but he has also that prince charming appeal and mysterious aura around him and acting-wise, he was definitely much better than Vic. I feel more emotions and intensity. Maybe, it was because he was much more experienced than Zaizai who actually debuted in MG.

Kim Hyun Joong: Too much of a pretty boy to go unnoticed. I already like Hyun Joong before he starred in this drama. I like his group, SS501. However, it’s just too bad that he wasn’t that great in acting. Hopefully, he’ll get better the next time. His pairing with Jan Di had little or no connection at all. Even as being friends, there’s awkwardness.  The love triangle in BOF dragged on until the end, heck, even in the After Story. If Hyun Joong was a better actor, the love triangle would have been so good. He was better acting happy (watch his Dynamic Kin CF) than sad. I think he always looks sad, for that drama at least. I never saw anybody who’s lonely as him whenever he eats. I think it would have been better if he was given more scenes like the one he had in the Macau episode when he and Jan Di went out and had fun together, but because of the role he’s playing, there’s really little hope for that.

For the story and the three main leads, I didn’t put my preferences on them, just what I think about their portrayals. But I think it can be deduced anyway.

However, it’s not how it’s going down for the extended casts. I will make it short and declare my preferences right away.
(The Playboy) Ken Zhu / Matsuda Shota / Kim Bum: I like Matsuda Shota’s portrayal the best. Although Kim Bum is uber cute, I am not allowing my fangirling to affect my preference to their character portrayals. Ken Zhu was fine but he really didn’t shine that much even in his own special in Meteor Rain. Matsuda Shota’s portrayal for the scene on the rooftop was very very good. I was moved and I couldn’t forget how I cried with him. It was much sweeter than Kim Bum’s. Aside from the fact that Matsuda didn’t go as far as to being a pathetic emo wreck (like what happened to Kim Bum) a couple of episodes before the rooftop scene.

(The Mediator)Vanness Wu / Abe Tsuyoshi / Kim Joon: Akira’s role in the manga is like I stated, the mediator. Not only that, he was a constant reminder of the friendship among the F4. Vanness Wu’s character was written this way better than the two.


(The Best Friend) Rainie Yang / Nishihara Aki / Kim So Eun: For the role of the female lead’s best friend. Kim So Eun plays this part very well. She’s simple and caring and pretty too. Rainie Yang was also good but there were just times that her cuteness is irritating. Nishihara Aki as Yuki was fine though forgettable.


(The Older Sister) Mary Hsu / Matsushima Nanako / Kim Hyun Joo: I think it’s a tie between Mary Hsu and Kim Hyun Joo. Mary Hsu has more spunk but because Kim Hyun Joo has more screen time, we get to see a deeper level to her character. Nanako is very close as second. Acting-wise, all of them are good.


(The Fiancée) Christine Ke / Kato Natsuki / Lee Min Jung: The fiancée character is a character that can easily come across as irritating. The three actresses were good that it didn’t go to the point that you’ll hate them but for me, I think the Japanese won this one. Her portrayal of the character is just simply hard to hate. It was endearing instead.


(Rui’s First Love) Winnie Qian / Sada Mayumi / Han Chae Young: I prefer Winnie Chen and then Han Chae Young. Both are very gorgeous and very classy and elegant. It’s just that Han Chae Young’s moments with Kim Hyun Joo are a bit awkward.


(The Mother) Zhen Xiu Zhen / Kaga Mariko / Lee Hye Young: Still, no one can beat Zhen Xiu Zhen. She’s such a formidable actress. So regal, so elegant, so beautiful yet so scary. Lee Hye Young’s take on the character is also good.

MISCELLANEOUS STUFF

The Location (setting and stuff): Since I’m not counting the Hana Yori Dango Final, Boys Before Flowers won this one. They got beautiful scenery and out-of-country location shoots. They also paid great attention to details that made everything luxurious.

The Music (soundtrack): Hana Yori Dango won this one for me. Qing Fei De Yi and Ni Yao De Ai from Meteor Garden are very good opening and closing themes. Ni Yao De Ai was also used as an insert song and that made it a classic. The songs in the second season were better still and they used a lot of English songs. Of course, Broken Vow stood out. However, nothing can top the songs that were used in HYD. In the first season, they had Arashi’s Wish for the opening and the wonderful Planetarium of Otsuka Ai for the insert song. For the second season, it got even better. Arashi’s Love so Sweet was so endearing and of course, Utada Hikaru’s Flavor of Life which was actually written for the show. And if you look at the lyrics closely, Flavor of Life is the story of almost every character in the story. It is Hana Yori Dango in a nutshell. One line of the song was even actually said by Shigeru in the drama. Plus, HYD has a couple of wonderful instrumentals that enhanced the emotions of the drama especially since they were played at the right times. Boys Before Flowershas good songs when you listen to them individually. In drama, it was like they were just tossed around by a drunken person. The songs didn’t fit the scenes.

OVERALL:

I cannot say one version is definitely better than the other because it’s so obvious that each had their own strengths and also their own share of weaknesses. I still feel it is better to actually watch them all. If you feel some elements are lacking in one version, don’t worry, the other version will definitely make up for it.



*pics from Google

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