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Archive for June, 2009


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. BBF 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.

BBF: 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 BBF 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 Flowers has 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.



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Secret

secret

Also known as “The Secret That Cannot Be Told,” Secret is singer/songwriter Jay Chou’s directorial debut.

Jay Chou is Ye Xiang Lun, a newly transferred music student majoring in piano. On his first day, while he was being toured around by Qing Yi (Alice Tzeng), he hears a beautiful melody being played that leads him to the old piano room. In there, he meets Lu Xiao Yu (Kwai Lun Mei), another piano major. But when Xiang Lun asks her what is the song she was playing, she said that it was a secret that cannot be told. Soon, they became friends and Xiao Yu falls for Xiang Lun. Due to a miscommunication, Xiao Yu sees Xiang Lun kissed another girl and she disappeared.

Jay Chou is definitely one of the hottest singers in China today. Not only that, he is also a brilliant composer. But apparently, he didn’t want to stay like that. Wanting to broaden his horizons, he delved into directing. He had experiences in directing music videos but Secret is his first time directing a film. He also co-wrote it and stars in it. Pretty good for a first timer and I must say that at the very least, it wasn’t a typical love story.

On the other hand, Jay Chou doesn’t fair very well as an actor. He has charm but it doesn’t translate well on screen. He doesn’t know how to effectively convey different emotions on his face. Two scenes where he stands out though were the piano duel scene and the last scene where he still plays the piano even when the building was being demolished.

Jay Chou also wrote some of the music for this movie and they were good. I also liked it that he was a Chopin fan (like me!) and he made a lot of tribute to this composer. I enjoyed the piano duel very much. They played Chopin’s Waltz and Black Key Etude.

Jay Chou’s leading actress is Kwai Lun Mei who I didn’t actually find that pretty at first. I thought that Alice Tzeng was a better choice. However, I realized that Alice Tzeng is perfect as the third wheel because it supplied additional tension. Kwan Lun Mei, on the other hand, proved to be a good actress. She started really plain, though mysterious, and soon after become charming and affable. When her story was revealed, we see a deeper level to her character and she started to have an effect on the audience in a very good way.

Other characters that were also a stand out in this film include Xiang Lun’s father played by Anthony Wong and Zhan Yu Hao, who is called the Prince of the Piano, who had the piano duel with Xiang Lun.

The story being shrouded in mystery is the film’s strongest point. Audience is captivated by the vagueness of the female character and it’s what would drive the people to watch until the very end.

However, there are a lot of loopholes in the film which is sad to say, glaringly obvious. Secret is built on a set of rules, but near the end, when everything is revealed, Secret disregarded these so-called rules. Credibility that was from the very start treading on a shaky ground, crumbles.

But that part is also the most poignant part of the film, and the one part that built my resolve that I actually love this film despite all its flaws. It had me crying until the end. Kwan Lun Mei was very good in here and Jay Chou started to show something different. The parts that I like include Xiao You communicating with a whiteout, Xiang Lun’s father running after Xiang Lun when he realized that it was his son that Xiao Yu had fallen in love with, and Xiang Lun playing the piano though he was already bleeding and the building was being demolished.

By and large, the movie’s cinematography was pleasing and the music was commendable (of course, most of it is classical!). Kwai Lun Mei presented the audience with a convincing performance. And, even though Jay Chou needs to polish his acting, I have high regards for all his efforts for this movie. I am actually excited to see him do another film. There’s a rumor that Secret Part 2 is in the works. And like what I twitted before when I was watching the movie, since Jay Chou can play kickass classical music, I am already his fan!

So, despite all of its conspicuous slipups, Secret managed to deliver a moving love story.

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Crows Zero

crows zero

After watching the over dramatic Koizora, I decided to follow it up with this one. I didn’t know anything about it at first. All I know is that Oguri Shun won Best Actor for this film. MySoju described it as an action film. I have nothing against action films, in fact I like a lot of them, but they have to be well done in order for me to appreciate it. The poster didn’t help too. It was like a gangster movie.

But since I was way too choked up because of the previous movie, I went ahead and watch this film and never regretted it, not even once. It was one heck of a film. It was such a badass film and I liked it too much.

Crows Zero tells the story of Takiya Genji (Oguri Shun) who’s a newcomer to Suzuran All-Boys High School. He is there to conquer the school due to a deal he made with his father. If he conquered Suzuran, then Genji will replaced his father as the head of their yakuza group. However, he has a lot of people to defeat first, especially Tamao Serizawa (Yamada Takayuki) who was considered to be “King of A Hundred Beasts.” Serizawa is also the closest to conquering the notorious high school.

I was skeptical at first but just a few minutes into the movie and I was hooked. I honestly didn’t know the director but everyone was praising him and saying that he was such a good filmmaker and after watching Crows Zero, I have no choice but to agree a hundred percent. Takashi Miike is brilliant!

The movie is such a masterpiece. The style, the shots, the fight scenes, the pacing are spot-on. The direction is perfect and totally enthralling. The story is good, and even more is the storytelling.

Oguri Shun delivered a top-notch performance. No wonder he won a Best Actor Award. He was fantastic as Genji and his presence onscreen was remarkable that he brought the character to life. I wasn’t so into Yamada Takayuki when I saw him here because I wondered how he can be the “King of a Hundred Beasts” when he was short like that. But no, Takayuki proved how terrific he can be as Serizawa.

There wasn’t even one character to hate. All of them are interesting and their performance gave extra color to the movie. The fight sequences are done skillfully, realistic with a bit of manga trademarks. There’s also more than a tad of great dark comedy that makes the film even more fantastic.

Overall, with a good story, a great cast, fantastic acting, genius direction, amazing fight sequences, riveting storytelling, Crows Zero is a gift wrapped in a beautiful box complete with a red ribbon.

I would wholeheartedly accept a gift like this everyday.


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Koizora

koizora

Koizora, also known as Sky of Love, is the film adaptation of a cell phone novel by a first time author named Mika. It is purportedly based from her own experiences and the cell phone novel had millions of followers. Sounds interesting, yes, however what a heck of life she must have had! Koizora deals with underage sex, teenage pregnancy, gang rape, miscarriage and cancer! Wow, what a life.

Aragaki Yui plays high school student Tahara Mika who one day loses her cell phone. It was found and returned by schoolmate and high school delinquent Sakurai “Hiro” Hiroki. Hiro deletes all her contacts and stalks her with phone calls. The two decided to finally meet and despite obvious differences started a relationship. They are hampered with a lot of difficulties including Hiro’s ex-girlfriend, Saki who hired a couple of guys and had Mika kidnapped and raped.

I think the leads are way mature for their roles but I think it worked anyway. Aragaki Yui is a perfect choice to play the naïve Mika as she was totally likable and captivating. She has a natural charm and charisma that were magnified onscreen. J-pop singer Miura Haruma is also right for the role of Hiro. The bleached hair suited him perfectly and he can carry on the bad boy image with such brass, that it was believable. However, acting wise, he was not good on dramatic parts. I was laughing when he was crying by the river and telling Mika that he didn’t want to die.

By the way, who else adore Keisuke Koide as Fukuhara Yu, the good boyfriend? I really wanted Mika to end up with him. But I guess, girls do fall for the bad guys.

The cinematography was beautiful. The careful shots of Kyushu were breathtaking. There were also great shots of the skies over Japan.

Now on to criticisms. For the fans, forgive me but I didn’t fell in love with this movie. I liked it yes, but I wasn’t over-my-head gaga over it like what happened in Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru. I think it bit off more than it can chew. I guess it could have been better then if there was enough time to develop the plot points.

Koizora was a romantic story but the hurdles that befall this young couple, especially to Mika were just pretty mind-boggling to be real. Suspension of belief is important indeed.

Also, it’s poignant and heartbreaking at parts but for some reason I didn’t even shed a tear for this movie. Even at the tragic part, which I actually thought was well-done, I didn’t even sob. Maybe because it was way too overdramatic that my tears won’t come out, ya’ think?

That being said, I still do think the movie was worth my time. Aragaki Yui and (okay, fine) Miura Haruma too were good reasons enough to check it out. Plus, the visual beauty of the cinematography.


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10 Promises to My Dog

poster

There I was finding myself visiting MySoju again and scrolling down the list of Japanese movies when I came across this title. I am a pet lover and I love movies about dogs especially, so when I read the title, I was immediately curious.

10 Promises to My Dog (Inu to watashi no 10 no yakusoku) is the story of Akari, a fourteen year old girl who finds a small Golden Retriever in their backyard one afternoon. She named this puppy Socks. Her mother told Akari that before she can keep the dog, she must agree to keep 10 promises to Socks. The story is told in a span of 10 years and we see Akari grew up, encounter problems, make career decisions, fall in love and be independent. All along, Socks is with her providing unconditional love and support.

There are countless of dog movies and basically all of them used more or less the same formula. Dogs are known to be man’s best friend and they give unconditional love and support. They are loyal and trustworthy. You can always count on them to protect you and your property. They will always be there for you.

The last doggie movie that I’ve seen was Marley and Me and like what usually happens, there was a dramatic overdrive at the end. I don’t know how 10 Promises to My Dog will deliver but as always, I succumbed to watching it.

The Japanese have their own way of crafting a beautiful and touching love story about man and his best friend. The 10 promises are as follows:

1. Listen patiently to me.

2. Trust me. I am always on your side.

3. Play with me a lot.

4. Don’t forget that I have feelings, too.

5. Let’s never fight. Someday I’ll win!

6. If I don’t obey you, I have a good reason.

7. You have school and friends, but I have only you.

8. Stay my best friend even when I’m old.

9. I’ll only live about 10 years, so let’s make every moment together count.

10. Never forget our life together. When my time comes, please be by my side.

Not exactly the best promises one would pledge to her beloved pet but the promises are full of trust, understanding and love.

However, the movie is not all about the dog and the girl. There are social issues highlighted in this film that are very good subplots. There’s overcoming death in the family, family against career, and personal aspiration against parents’ wishes. And we see Socks somehow find itself in the middle of the issues.

Not much to carp about the acting too. Mayuko Fukuda as the young Akari was perfect and Rena Tanaka as the older Akari was good as well. The father played by Etushi Toyokawa was likable as the father and even Ryo Kase as Hoshi was okay too.

However, hats off to the dog. She definitely stole the show. I thought Marley was already a good actor (he was played by several Labrador Retrievers) but Socks was totally lovable. She’s definitely the cutest. I want a dog like him!

Doggie movies are always my weakness but I never seem to get tired of them.

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tada

“She used to lie very often. I want to be fooled by her lies just a little longer.”

Casts:

Tamaki Hiroshi as Makoto

Aoi Miyazaki as Shizuru

First off, Tada, Kimi wo Aishiteru literally translates to Just, Loving You however its international title  is Heavenly Forest.

This drama has been in my wish list for a long time and I already started watching this before via the Internet but for some reason, I didn’t continue. We didn’t have Internet connection then and I was still renting somewhere and the connection was just bad. It was only last month that I finally remembered this movie and decided to continue watching it.

It stars my favorite Tamaki Hiroshi (of Nodame Cantabile) as Makoto, a shy and awkward university student who met a strange girl named Shizuru played by the beautiful Aoi Miyazaki. The two became friends and because Makoto likes photography, Shizuru also took up the hobby so she can always be with him. He took landscape pictures while she took pictures of people. Shizuru fell in love with Makoto however he likes another girl named Miyuki.  Shizuru decided that she would like Miyuki too because Makoto likes her and she wanted to support his love. One day, Shizuru told Makoto that she wants to take a photo of them kissing for a competition. Makoto obliges and they went to the forest to take the picture. They had their first kiss. After that, she disappeared from his life.

I totally loved this movie. I mentally cursed myself for forgetting about it for quite sometime.

At start, it may seem like a romantic comedy and basic formulas of previous movies would come to mind. We see Aoi Miyazaki, looking extremely strange, wearing big eyeglasses, talking funny, and walking weird. We know in an instant that she would transform into someone beautiful. When the glasses were taken off, there was no doubt who’s beautiful.

But it’s not just a romantic comedy, it is also has drama, complete with a tearjerker and beautiful ending.

Everything was absolutely likable. The pacing was just right, the cinematography was beautiful, and the characters were a perfect mix. I was even amazed to find out that Miyuki – the girl Makoto likes – who I thought would be going to be a simple character and shallow character actually has layers.

A beautiful movie also got to have a beautiful soundtrack. The song is Renai Shashin and it is performed by Otsuka Ai.

Kudos to Aoi Miyazaki for a great performance. She would totally win everyone’s hearts in this drama. She’s endearing, she’s cute, she’s just absolutely lovable! And her picture at the end, beautiful!

And I found a new respect for Tamaki Hiroshi’s acting. I already love him way before because of his work in my favorite drama but I was wondering if that was just my fangirling side thinking. But in this drama, Tamaki showed a different side of himself. He was great as the confident Chiaki in Nodame Cantabile but he was also compelling in this movie as the shy and awkward Makoto. He’s good in acting awkward! But when the time fast forwards to his present year (out of college already) we see that those awkwardness is already gone and he actually grew up as a mature young man. Well done!

Maybe you’re wandering what’s the quote above is all about. If I reveal it, it would be too much of a spoiler and I don’t want to spoil it because the ending was special and it would be nice if you experience it yourself.

The kiss was uber beautiful and romantic by the way.

Totally recommended!

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Boys Before Flowers

BBF

Also Known As: Kgotboda Namja, Boys Over Flowers

Casts:

Goo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di
Lee Min Ho as Goo Jun Pyo
Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo
Kim Bum as So Yi Jeong
Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin

Extended Cast:

Kim So Eun as Chu Ga Eul (Jan Di’s best friend)
Kim Hyun Joo as Goo Joon Hee (Jun Pyo’s elder sister)
Lee Hye Young as Kang Hee Soo (Jun Pyo’s mother)
Han Chae Young as Min Seo Hyun (Ji Hoo’s first love)
Lee Min Jung as Ha Jae Kyung (Jun Pyo’s fiancee)
Lee Jung Gil as Yoon Seok Young (Ji Hoo’s grandfather)
Jung Ho Bin as Jung Sang Rok (Madam Kang’s Secretary)

Plot:

Jan Di is an average girl whose family owns a dry cleaning store located near the luxurious and well known Shin Hwa College. Jan Di meets the four richest and most spoiled boys known as the F4. After saving a boy from jumping off the roof of Shinhwa High School, she is admitted into the school on a swimming scholarship. Jan Di tries to avoid confrontation with the F4 at all cost because she knows what happens to those that stand against them. However, when Jan Di’s friend, Oh Min Ji, accidentally gets ice cream on the leader of the F4’s shoes, she’s forced to declare war on the leader of the F4, Goo Joon Pyo.

credits: dramawiki

IMO:

I really wonder what else can I say after posting this, this, this, and this. Actually, the latter already seems like an overall review though I said that it was only a rambling after finishing the drama. This review was long overdue. I was watching the drama the same time it was airing in Korea however since it was only twice a week, I wasn’t absorbing it very much. Plus the fact that I was busy with thesis and everything. I told myself that I will get hold of a copy of the DVD so I can watch it continuously and have it embedded in my system for a while. So here it is. Pardon me if some of the stuff in here were already mentioned in previous posts.

One problem that this drama has dealt with from the very start was the fact that it was a well-known story. The manga still remains to be the best-selling manga in Japan and it has spawned an anime and two live-action adaptations that were hugely successful all over Asia. With such a familiar plot, audience already knows what’s going to happen and the story arcs involved.

Because of that I was skeptical about it when I first heard of it. However, since it is already inevitable and it is of course another Hana Yori Dango, I made a resolve to try my hardest and watch it as if it is a whole new drama. So, my comments here will be specifically for the Korean version only. I will try my best not to make any comparisons. I will save that for another post.

Before I start, I am going to make something clear. I am not used to calling this Boys Over Flowers. It’s English title is really Boys BEFORE Flowers but somehow, ABS-CBN used OVER Flowers instead. That is fine since the manga is really translated as Boys OVER Flowers. But since I am not used to it, I will refer to it as Boys Before Flowers and BBF. Okay?

Now, my take on the plot. The Korean version somehow offered something fresh to its viewers. At first, I was actually nervous if they are going to adapt it literally but since there were already two adaptations before them, I know they will try their best to put something new on the otherwise overused and jam-packed table.

They started it quickly with Geum Jan Di’s entranced to Shinhwa University and then slowly incorporated their own spin on things. It’s nice because when BBF adapt the manga literally they actually fall behind but when they veer away from it and add their own tricks, they shine. And somehow, my resolve to watch it as an original drama wasn’t that much needed anymore because it then felt like it was indeed a whole new drama. They even managed to squeezed a two-season worth of story into only one.

But of course, the drama is far from perfect. Although I love it when they put their own plot twists, I hate it when the twists and moments are weird and totally irrelevant. Case in point: In episode 15, Ji Hoo played and sung on the street after they lost both of their wallets? I mean, if the director (or the writer) really wanted Ji Hoo to perform, since he is a good singer and all, they can provide a more believable story than that. So, although I enjoyed his performance (singing Lee Jook’s Panic then afterwards, Because I’m Stupid), I didn’t appreciate the weird plot jump very much.

The Jae Kyung story arc was dragged way way too long. I was so ready to let go of her two or three episodes down.

The amnesia part, one of the crucial moments in the manga was handled well. I was wondering if they are going to insert that arc after all, but when they did, I was glad that it was believable, poignant but romantic as well.

The locations used were beautiful. Using small and relatively unknown actors has helped the production saved up money for lavish locations. We have New Caledonia, Macau and Jeju Island.  It was perfect because it was believable that these grand places are a part of the lavish, luxurious world of these ultra-rich people.

Characters:

The casting was almost perfect. After so many qualms regarding the casting for this drama with a lot of people posting who they want for the parts, I think the one responsible for the casting won almost everyone hearts with this cast. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that since they are up there on the looks department, they are also up there with regards to acting and portrayal of character.

Goo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di: The very first thing that I noticed about her in the pilot episode was that she reminded me so much of Nodame. But thankfully, that faded quickly. I am so not ready to watch anything with an Ueno Juri-look alike. GHS acted the part okay, quite passable. There were times when she was being too cute and somehow that lessen my belief in her acting. I think she was better in dramatic parts because she can convey emotions better that way. I just don’t like how her character sometimes losses its continuity. Case in point: Watch episode 11 again and you get a whole Jan Di crap. This was the episode where I really hate her because her character just didn’t make sense. They introduced to us a Jan Di who’s sassy and wouldn’t take anybody’s crap. That Jan Di who gave Jun Pyo a well-deserving flying twist kick (or whatever you want to call it). In ep 11, she didn’t only lose this ability but also her common sense. So, yes, I hated that. Also, during the whole Jae Kyung arc she was just portrayed very weak. She didn’t even try to fight for her and Jun Pyo’s love. She just sat there with calm expressions, absorbing everything and again, being weak.

Lee Min Ho as Goo Jun Pyo: At first, I really didn’t like him. I thought his hairstyle was weird, and funny and ugly. He really didn’t grab me during the first episode however as soon as the next episode came, he had already won me over quickly. It’s just like how Kamio Yoko-sensei (the creator of the original manga) was captivated by Domyouji’s character. It really wasn’t supposed to be Domyouji in the lead, it was supposed to be Rui but then Domyouji just refused to shut up. It was just like Lee Min Ho’s portrayal. I guess everyone’s nervous and worried about him the most because basically the series is also depending a lot on him. Domyouji’s character is a hard character to portray. One may think that no, it’s just all violence and acting tough but it wasn’t really like that. He is a complex character and thankfully, Lee Min Ho acted Goo Jun Pyo pretty well. Case in point: Hopefully, I am right on this one. I am really trying hard to remember. I think it is in episode 14, the Macau episode, where he confronted Madam Kang with the situation regarding Jan Di. He was really really good there. His attack on the character has a certain charm. He is harsh, cold and cruel but with a big capacity to love.

Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoo: Jeez, don’t I have a lot to say regarding him and his character. Watching him in this drama is just like watching him evolve slowly and painfully. First, seeing him in the posters, you can deduce it right away. He is the most beautiful among the F4. Well, he was really supposed to be. However, with his blond hair, I didn’t recognize him right away as the leader of the idol group SS501.  I was actually looking forward to him because he is portraying Rui. However, during the pilot episode, I was left disappointed with his character and portrayal. Kim Hyun Joong, though good looking and a good singer, apparently is not that much of an actor. As I was watching him, it didn’t felt like he was portraying Hanazawa Rui, rather, it was like he was acting Shun Oguri. I really don’t need someone who’ll make me remember Shun, I need someone who’ll make me see Hanazawa Rui. For the next episodes, his acting improved, thankfully. Somehow, it was made clear that he was better in parts where he doesn’t need to speak at all. He could just stay quiet and remain forever mysterious. I think Ji Hoo had more screen time with Jan Di than Jun Pyo with Jan Di. They make a lovely pair if you just look at them but since Ji Hoo wasn’t acted out convincingly by Hyun Joong, even if I wanted to jump ship to that pair, I really can’t. However, during the last few episodes, Hyun Joong almost lost all that stiffness in his acting. He and Jan Di looked like they were getting comfortable with each other. I am also beginning to like him. Actually, I already like seeing him onscreen, even though his acting is not that outstanding, because every time I see him I see Bae Young Jun in him and the opening song of Winter Sonata just keeps playing inside my head. Anyway, aside from that, I also want to comment regarding his decision to become a doctor. That twist felt rushed. I know, it has something to do with succeeding his grandfather’s clinic and perhaps with Jan Di as well, but I really want to know what happened to his budding musical career? Another thing, I hate it that Ji Hoo continued to harbor feelings for Jan Di after everything. It was just… sad. Especially, after I saw the After Story. Sad, sad, sad.

Kim Bum as So Yi Jeong: From the very start, a lot people already like him and is rooting for him. Me, I only started rooting for him when his side story with Ga Eul started but even then it wasn’t continuous. I don’t know, he is indeed gorgeous and all but I just don’t feel his smile. It’s like it’s all he ever does and it made me feel creepy. Haha. His character started interesting however he became such an emotional wreck at the middle. It was pathetic. It was painful to watch. It took all my courage not to fast forward those parts.

Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin: He doesn’t have any side story and we don’t get to see his character evolve very much. I think he acted consistently though I confess to cringing every time he speaks English. Oh, I almost forgot, there is this episode where he goes all emo while talking to Yi Jeong about his Mafia background. There’s also that yaoi moment there, or rather, at least I hoped. Haha. Anyway, Akira’s role in the manga is he was supposed to be the one who’ll remind us about the friendship among the four. It wasn’t so much obvious. Yes, he was helping his friends and all but I would like it to be more pronounced.

Kim So Eun as Chu Ga Eul: First off, she’s very very pretty and her pairing with Kim Bum is just perfect. Ga Eul, I thought, was going to be a stable, consistent character. I admired her the very first time she talked to Yi Jeong who was belittling Jan Di a bit and she got mad. However, somewhere in the middle, she lost her spark when she started following Yi Jeong around and always dropping by his house. Aside from that, I admire Kim So Eun’s work for this drama especially since she’s also doing another drama at the same time.

Kim Hyun Joo as Goo Jun Hee: Hyun Joo has always been a reliable actress aside from being pretty. When I learned she was going to play Jun Pyo’s elder sister, I know she can pull it off.

Lee Hye Young as Kang Hee Soo: If you guys have seen I’m Sorry, I Love You, you know how good an actress she is. In this drama, she proved what a seasoned actress she is. She’s cold and calculated. She’s harsh and mean and a little obsessed with her son. Hating her is ever easy. However, during the last episode, when she showed a weakness, when she shed a tear and her cold mask was cracked a bit, somehow we saw a trace of humanity in her after all. A vulnerability that we never knew she had. A complex character acted exceptionally by Lee Hye Young.

Lee Min Jung as Ha Jae Kyung: Her character was very hard to dislike at first. She’s bubbly and totally a breath of fresh air. However, when she became a bit manipulative and insensitive near the end of her arc, I was itching for her to go away. Case in point: How insensitive can she be to actually ask Jan Di to be her maid-of-honor? With regards to her interactions with Lee Min Ho’s character, there’s indeed a connection and a definite chemistry. In fact, it’s like they’re trying to compartmentalize and compress their chemistry for the sake of their respective characters. It’s actually scary because they look so good together. If you just stumbled upon the series starting at the Macau episode and doesn’t have an idea about the whole thing, you might think that they are the PAIR. I felt that vast chemistry during the grocery scene. It’s overwhelming! And it somehow threatens the position of the original couple. So, it sucked that her arc was dragged way too long because I really wanted to root back for the original couple.

The Soundtrack:

Boys Before Flowers is so far the only drama I know that has 3 different soundtrack. The last one is a special edition that features a gorgeous Kim Hyun Joong on the cover while playing a guitar. They have good songs. A lot of them upbeat, since what can you expect when you got idol groups singing for the soundtrack. I especially like A’ST1’s Yearning of the Heart, I think it is such a beautiful song with an easy melody. Soothing. I love all the songs contributed by SS501: Making a Lover and Because I’m Stupid. Kim Hyun Joong also contributed a song, his version of Thing Called Happiness, included in the special edition. My early favorite is Shinee’s Stand By Me and Ashily’s Lucky. Other songs include T-Max’s Paradise, which is the carrier single of the album and Say Yes. Howl and J who collaborated for the unforgettable Perhaps Love in Princess Hours were also in this soundtrack. Howl sang Love You while J teamed up with T-Max for Wish You’re My Love. There’s also Love is Fire by Kara which is really good too, with a jpop sound in it, Tree Bicycle’s One More Time, Lee Sang Gon’s With Tears, Seo Jin Young’s A Little, Jisun’s What Should I Do, and Brand New Day’s Like Love. The song that’s played during sad and dramatic parts is Kim Yoo Kyung’s Starlight Tears.

However, for some reason, the one responsible for placing these songs together in their proper scenes is not very good at it. These songs that are good when you hear them on their own become bad just because they were carelessly placed in scenes where they obviously didn’t fit. Music is very important; it adds emotion and helps create a mood. But sometimes, the music ruins the mood. Case in point: Hmm, was it episode 12 when Jan Di was kidnapped by Jae Ha? He was then rescued by Jun Pyo and after a lot of beatings and Jan Di receiving a hit for Jun Pyo, in comes the F3 to help. At such a crucial moment like that one, the background music when the F3 entered was freakin’ Almost Paradise!  Hell!!!

Conclusion:

Wow, that was quite long. I can’t believe I had so much to say after having entries about this drama before.

Boys Before Flowers being so hyped up from the very start, thankfully, delivered. Yes, it had flaws – a lot of it even. The pacing was inconsistent, the music was placed on the wrong parts, and the acting was sometimes good, sometimes awfully bad, most of the time passable. The script also lacked consistency with the logic of some scenes pushing me to my limit. However, like I said (and I am going to repeat what I already said here), sometimes it all boils down to whether or not I had fun watching it. Whether it moved me, excited me, or touched my heart. And Boys Before Flowers did.

I had fun following it. I was so entertained. Even when it is being insane, it made me felt so alive. I love to see my favorite manga characters breathe into life all over again, so to other countries trying or wanting to adapt this manga(Mainland China is already on the works), all I can say is, bring it on!

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