Flower 4 Incarnations


Hana Yori Dango is a Japanese manga series adapted into three live action dramas series over the first decade of the 21rst century. The historian in me of course suggests that I go back to the primary source and read the manga. However, I do not read manga and I am not starting just to write this post. There is not enough time in my life to read that series. I however do suggest that anyone interested in the basis for the dramas at least read some summary information. Thus, with my lack of reading the manga, this post will be confined to the live action dramas and will not be compared to the manga.

Hana Yori Dango is a play on words (Japanese).  It is a  Japanese saying meaning to prefer dumplings over flowers,  or to mean choosing the practical over something that is just beautiful.  The Japanese word for dumplings is close to the word man, thus creating a pun Boys Over Flowers.

My interpretation of this  is that it means that the lead female character sees beneath the rich and beautiful F4 to see them as people, and prefers the real boys to the ‘image’ and trappings of wealth.  If I am totally off base, well, hey it could happen lol.

The basic story:

The female lead is a working class girl attending an affluent high school on a scholarship. The F4 are a group of 4  male friends from rich and powerful families. The leader, the male lead (F1),  is a angry person, has parent issues, and is used to getting his way at all times out side of his parents, that is.  He has little tolerance for anyone outside of the F4.  F4 stands for Flower  and 4=the 4 male friends, and refers to attractive, fashionable, desirable, males. The lead female has a crush on F2.  The lead female character stands up to the arrogant bullying ways of F1, and he becomes fascinated by the only person that has ever challenged him.

This blog post is approximately five years in the making. I will explain later WHY it took me such a long time to do this.

First let me break down the format for this post. I will cover some basics of the three versions chronologically as they aired.  Meteor Rain (Taiwan) (2001), Hana Yori Dango (Japan) (2005), and Boys Over Flowers (S. Korea) (2009). I will then offer some further personal opinion.

Here is a chart with the major characters and secondary characters to help navigate the main characters in the three versions as they have vastly different names.  Each live action version has other characters that came and went that were individual to that particular series, but this chart is just the basics.  As you can see even some of the secondary characters do not exist across all three versions.  I will not discuss secondary characters.   I refer to the members of F4 as F1, 2, 3, or 4 to keep discussion simple for the reader that has not viewed the dramas.


Meteor Garden (2001)-Taiwanese Version Seasons 1 and 2

Meteor_Garden_Cast_03082009054702 - Copy(Left to Right F2, F3, Shan Cai, F4, and F1)

I watched both Seasons.

This version is more down to earth with more physical contact and intimacy. This drama has a small town/county rich kids kind of feel.  It is more intense and melodramatic throughout and less funny than even the Korean version.  There are some choppy editing issues.  It also appears this is supposed to be a college setting.  But, really, it just looks like a high school.  It’s a bit confusing but just roll with it. The second season deviates from the other 2 versions dramatically.

Female Lead-Shan Cai is a working class family girl with flaky parents and is just trying to get by. She has a scholarship to a upper-class school, something her Mom made happen through people she knew.   Shan Cai’s got a big heart but she’s just trying to survive, and frankly, can be just as inner focused as anyone else.  She has a part time job in a cake shop.  There is not a lot of character development. She’s a nice girl with a sense of justice, she’s going to school, that is about it.  She however actively chooses to accept the F4 into her life, after her initial round of fighting with Ming Si/F1.


Male Lead/F1-Dao Ming Si is an angry guy that just bullies his way through life, because he can. His friends go along for the ride. He is completely confused by the feelings Shan Cai invokes, and lashes out in anger in violence, to include a rather violent and unpleasant forced kissing scene, in which he himself is taken aback and confused by his own reaction, which was pretty interesting to watch.  This version of F1 has a certain vulnerability and almost innocence in trying to understand who he is, that is not seen in the other two versions. He is also very much the high school jock stereotype in many ways.

redcardgifF1-Dao Ming Si

F2-This version of F2 is interesting in that he really captures a very different way F2 reacts to the world, that I think all the versions try to convey.   The introverted side of F2 really comes across in this character.  He really stands apart from the world no matter how hard he tries.  The moments he connects, you can really feel they are fleeting moments for him.

ze lei

F3 and F4- The playas gotta play, living large, and spending the family money. F3 has daddy issues. F4 is from a gangsta family. F3 and F4 are kind of a unit, but these version are very much their own entities outside of their friendships.   All the other characters have their own little arcs, but F4 does not.


Hana Yori Dango (2005)-Japanese Version Season 1 and 2, and a movie

hana-yori-dango-final-large-01(Left to Right, F4, F1, Makino, F2, F3)  I think? F3 and F4 ran together for me

I watched Season 1

This drama is odd and almost seems like a parody drama. It feels very small, seems confined.  This drama has a sit com feel in the first few episodes. and it’s like some newly rich people are being right shits to the same neighbors they used to hang with it.

Female Lead-Very different actress than in MG, but not much different character development. A nice working class girl with a flaky family trying to get by,  a sense of justice, and works part time in a sweets shop.  I actually think this character is the most self involved of all 3 female lead versions.   She’s a nice girl all in all, she goes to school, that is about it.  Makino is very much a reactionary character, she just gets caught up with the F4.  I think she attended the school because she had a girl crush on F2’s first love an alumni of the school?

makinoPretty much Makino’s expression every time she dealt with the idiot F1.

Male Lead/F1-He’s dim witted, he’s downright nasty to everyone but the F4, and he hasn’t a clue about much of anything.


F2-He walks around with a Mona Lisa smile most of the time.  He’s just kind of there.

ruiNor sure if bored, or boring?

F3 and F4-Same as in MG  but with less haracter development. They are kind of just there. I think F3’s family has a tea company?  One of them gets his flirt on with hippie lady-that might have been more interesting than the lead romance if they fleshed out the characters.




Boys Over Flowers (2009) –Korean Version 25 Episodes


I watched the 25 episodes

This drama does something the others do not. It fleshes out the characters, even some of the tertiary characters. Like MG, it is it’s own story, it’s own characters, apart from the manga. We know WHY the F4 are assholes-to keep everyone at a distance, because people don’t want to know them for themselves, but because they are rich.  The lead female character actually has a personality even if a lot of viewers did not like her because she is rather weird, at least she was a singular character, and  actually had some ambition for a future.  It drags heavily in the E17-22 range, because most of it is a lot of friggin crying.  It’s got crazy issues, continuity, production, etc. It the only version in which the rich people actually come across as  REALLY REALLY rich.  This is the lifestyles of the rich and shameless version.

Female Lead-Also working class, flaky family.  Jan-di is cranky, she’s weird, and she’s just trying to get by also.  I think this version has more family interaction than the others.   She likes to swim and has a sense of justice.  Jan-di wants to make swim team level to earn a scholarship for university.  However that plot line falls by the wayside, which is a shame.   The character gets a scholarship to the school because she stops a teen suicide and the school owner’s (F1’s family aka his mother, awards her a scholarship to make the school look good).


Male Lead/F1-He’s an arrogant jerk with mommy and daddy issues and childhood trauma. He is socially awkward.  The F4 and his sister are basically the people he loves.  It is hysterically funny and heartbreaking too,  watching him try to figure out how to be a human being to someone outside his little realm of existence.


F2-He’s fourth dimensional, in his own spacey world.  This version does the spacey, needs his own alone time better than the other versions but at he same time really is always just there for for his friends.  He is musically inclined  and his family has ties to politics and the performing art world.


F3-He’s a potter, and his father is also and artist and a professor.  He is a major Casanova with daddy issues. He is also the brains of the F4, really.

F4-From a mafia family, a player also,  a scrapper, and the F4 are his life.  As in MG, F4 does not have his own story arc.

Favorites? Commentary?

mghotbubble tea

I like MG. A lot. It has a great deal of heart. I like the characters and I like the earthier feel to it. I like the chemistry between the leads. The 2nd season is tough and drags,  it’s the all Dao Ming Si show, but what it does different is F1 has tremendous character growth and change, because he gets to experience life from the other side, and understands the value of a life different than how he was raised.  I really loved that.  I like how a sibling relationship eventually develops between Shan Cai and the other F4 members.

I really dislike Hana Yori Dango Season 1, from the cheesy Harry Potter music, to the horrible acting, to actors that I do not get the appeal of, to the little dimension or character development.

kill it with fire

It took me almost FIVE YEARS to get through the nine episodes, that is how much I dislike this drama. I forced myself it finish the first season this summer, to only find out, it really just told me nothing about where the story was going.  I would have liked to bury HYD F1 someplace shallow because he was about as appealing as swamp water. F2 creeped me the hell out, with his weird little smiles.   Unfortunately, I have a limited amount I can compare HYD to against the other versions because there was absolutely no way I could watch a 2nd season of this annoying drama. I have nothing nice to say about this drama other that I liked the hippie shop owner and I thought the lead female actress was okay.

hoonystomphyd2(Shukmeister shout out for my Hoon gif woot)

I like BOF.  It is makjang, and it surprises me that it drew me in.  I liked the quirky crazy characters. It had some big  BIG problems in production, and it dropped the ball with the female lead, as she soon went from a justice girl with agency to a damsel in distress.  Sometimes it’s just down right wtf and silly.  I mean really, Jan-di executes an awesome spinning heel kick, can play the piano and sing, and yet not one bit of background character development on that?  I like the besties friendship that develops between Jan-di and Ji-hoo (F2).  This drama did what the others did not for me; I laughed. I cried. I yelled at the TV.  Dragon Lady Kang scared the crap out of me.   I found both Jan-di and Gu Jun Pyo (F1) hysterically funny.  It tells us more about these people we are supposed to care about. We understand why these characters are the way they are.   We understand that while Jun Pyo (F1) was a snotty jerk, a great deal of the school bullying and attitude comes as much or more from the other students than the F4, which I found interesting to watch unfold.  I also like that Jan-di does not orbit around the F4.  They orbit around HER.  They get sucked into her family issues and adopt her bestie too.


Female Lead:  Shan Cai, you cannot help but love her and she’s so beautiful.  Makino, she was likable, but I never really felt her, why we should care, why she had anything to do with the F4.   Jan-di, I love grumpy heroines, and she was just damn entertaining. Also, Jan-di, she’s got agency in the end,  despite all the damsel in distress.



Male Lead/F1:  Dao Ming Si was more sympathetic that Gu Jun Pyo, and had a brighter personality.  GJP came across more intelligent than any of the versions, and his pettiness was part of his funny charm.  I liked watching both these characters.



F2-Lei Zi  was interesting to try to figure out, he was just so introspective.  Ji-hoo, he was just simply a great friend. I liked how his eyes said more than words could ever say sometimes.  I found both of these versions charming.

F3 and F4-I think I liked the MG actors better than I actually liked the characters. They were charming and fun characters, but just not all that developed.  For BOF, loved the characters, F3 was really fleshed out and had a great secondary romance arc. F4-was really a loyal and good friend and I hated that he did not have his own story arc. I loved their little Pinky and the Brain routines also.

The ‘signature’ Jewelry:

hyd versions jewlry

MG-  The necklace-not for me, kind of dimestore tacky.    The ring is a huge win.


HYD- Unique looking.

BOF- Pretty but a bit juvenile Claire’s type pedestrian for me.

And here is the crux-I would never recommend these dramas.  I’d rather watch paint dry than watch Hana Yori Dango.  BOF and MG, well,   because they are an investment. You have to invest in the characters and the dramas because they are a long, emotional ride. Meteor Garden is like a long hot summer, with flaring tempers and you are begging for an ice cube. BOF is like a rollercoaster ride, complete with the hurly moments. It invokes strong emotions, and people either love it or hate it.  I have a special love for both of these dramas, in different ways.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caitlyn Burton
    Aug 03, 2014 @ 02:34:29

    Random fact: The necklace in the Japanese version is the one most like the manga version. The manga was one of the first manga I ever read, which is why Hana Yori Dango was the first Asian drama I watched. But geez it’s long. The manga, I mean. It’s really long. And it doesn’t end properly. I think I liked Hana Yori Dango because it does do some scenes from the manga exactly as they should have been done, so that makes me smile. I got annoyed in BOF when they didn’t do a scene properly, which is totally unfair because a remake isn’t supposed to be exact and I don’t expect it to be, except there was one scene that I felt had to be done the same as the manga, and they didn’t, and I yelled at the TV screen, lol

    I agree that i wouldn’t recommend BOF or Meteor Garden but they’re shows that you don’t mind having watched. Like, we don’t regret spending our time on them, but we wouldn’t suggest anyone else spend their time on them. Both lead men are lovely, definitely better looking then Matsujun in HYD, and Gu Jun Pyo has stuck in my mind more than Dao Ming Si, although that might just be because I saw Meteor Garden forever ago and barely remember it. I do remember really liking the second lead in MG though, he was different to the character in HYD.


    • randomsoju
      Aug 03, 2014 @ 14:59:46

      I figured that HYD J-Drama was the closest to the manga, and the necklace is definitely the most unique of the jewelry incarnations, so it is good that they stuck to that. It’s completely natural for fans of a written work to like the most faithful live action version. The first HP is my favorite, the A&E version of Pride & Prej is my favorite. And I hate it when live action leaves out something you as the viewer relates to the most, what you as the viewer feel is one of the most important aspects of the work.

      I think I should have probably mentioned in the post that I generally do not like Japanese dramas and that is likely a contributing factor to my dislike of HYD live action. I can’t even really think of any J dramas I really like, just a few that were okay. There was one sweet little teen thing I watched, something to do with a cherry blossom, that was okay. Last Cinderella was okay, I managed to watch all of it. The one where the girl meets the quirky fashion kids was okay. I try one now and then and end up going uh, no.

      My reluctance to recommend MG or BOF stems from the time and emotional investment. I would not say not to invest, I’d say watch couple of episodes and decide. A viewer has to buy into the weirdness of Jan-di and think it is funny or it’s a no go—-Just like with FTLY and Geon-you either have to be a Jang Hyuk fan or find Geon funny, or be a be a big fan of something or someone else in the drama, to deal with that show. If someone wants to marathon, not sure MG and BOF really are ones to do it with, too much, too intense, too long. Another reluctance is that MG is dated at this point, for new younger viewers, it might just seems so old, also the editing is so sketch sometimes. BOF, I hesitate to recommend because it’s “cool” to hate on BOF, and also LMH, with some contingents right now and I would feel bad if newbies squeed over it and got gutted on a comment thread lol. And really, the errors and silly sloppiness in BOF are absolutely cringe worthy. I think the attacks on the cast are in bad form, but criticisms on the the production are valid. I watched the ending from the bus scene forward yesterday for a reference when writing this, and was grinning my darn face off, wow I love this cast, even as I noticed that LMH was probably wearing lifts in the end scene so he’d be taller than the other guys lol. His pants were way long and his leg length was way out of proportion lol, just like Kim Bum in the scenes where So Yi-jung helps Ga eul get revenge on her asshole oppa SMH good grief, so silly, and those are the small things.

      BTW on the crit or hating on topic, have you noticed lately that there are more and more comments poking sticks at Coffee Prince, of all dramas? I find that extremely weird. Is it a younger generations of viewers? IDK.


      • Caitlyn Burton
        Aug 03, 2014 @ 23:23:06

        People have been hating on Coffee Prince? I had no idea! Although, I haven’t really been on many forums or Comments sections that would provide a space to criticise it. I don’t know how anyone can find issue with CP though, unless yeah, they’ve seen very few other dramas and don’t realise how good it actually is?

        I like j-dramas, but nowadays I don’t watch them much. I sometimes get a craving for a j-drama though, like if i’ve overdosed on k-dramas or if I just want a break from the Korean brand of melodrama. I like them because they’re not as filtered and over the top as k-dramas can get. Like, they can be sad and intense or whatever, but they feel a bit more real. That’s how I ended up watching Boku No Ita Jikan this year. I just suddenly felt like watching a depressing j-drama, which turned out not as depressing as I’d expected, lol. I usually tend to go for the remakes of manga, like Ouran High School Host Club and Hana Kimi. Or dramas that a lot of people recommend, like Koizora. I don’t even watch dramas that are set up to make you cry so how I ended up watching both the drama and movie versions of Koizora, I have no idea.


        • randomsoju
          Aug 04, 2014 @ 00:16:42

          I’ve seen comments on Twitter, DB, and various blogs over over the past 6 months I guess. I can’t really remember any specific comments other than they don’t like it and/or don’t understand why so many people like it. I have to chalk it up to personal taste I guess? I mean look at me and my dislike of HYD, when so many people love it and think it’s the best thing ever.

          I cannot really say what I do not like about J dramas, other than there is a mood to them or something that I cannot relate to or does not appeal to me.

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