A few words to describe BOF? Fantastical, wacky, fun, emotional. I was so happy to find the second Kdrama I watched was even better than the first–proving my new love of Kdrama was no fluke. Everything was amped up 10x from Playful Kiss. Spunky heroine? Yep. Killer Love Triangle? Hells yeah. Crazy over the top plots? Oh yeah. Plus it had my first introduction with a full on baddie/mother.
Boys Over Flowers is billed as a Cinderella Story. Riiigght. It’s a Cinderella story if Prince Charming started out as a sadistic jerk and Cinderella cured him with a solid round-house kick to the head. And unlike in Cinderella where the fabulous prince swoops up the downtrodden girl and sets her up in the beautifully decorated castle with the black gold card, whenever this hero tries, he gets firmly put into his place.
Yes, Goo JunPyo is ridiculously wealthy. He has all of Korea, even big chunks of the world, available to him at the click of his finger tips. But throughout the story, this money, power, and expectations of both, are more of a deterrent. Whisk a girl away for a luxurious weekend away to a tropical island, yes, that’s going to dazzle anyone–but it doesn’t mean she is going to choose you. This ultimate in spunky heroines, not only bucks the hero at many turns, but she is also one of the only people who sees beneath the gold fur encrusted shell to the incredibly devoted, sweet, damaged man beneath.
For most cases, JunPyo grows and becomes a better person the more time he spends on JanDi’s level, in her world. JunPyo has a whole, been there done that vibe to him, but Jandi shows him that there is so much of the world he still doesn’t know and that most of the best things are the simple pleasures. Who can forget the scene when he stays the night with JanDi’s family? Or how much he loved her lunchbox, or when she took him for the ‘$30’ coffee, or when she made him the valentine chocolates, or… I could keep going if you want.
If we had to define this in terms of Disney Princesses (and my 5 year old buddy Ryan would insist on this) it would be more in the lines of Beauty and the Beast–but with kick-assier friends. Unlike Cinderella there is nothing wishy-washy about the heroine JanDi. Though poor, she has a strong sense of right and wrong. Whether they ask for it or not (or even if they want it or not) if she see’s someone suffering or an injustice, she can’t help but jump in.
Of course, that being said, I haven’t come across a heroine who finds herself in as much peril as JanDi does. I was thinking of having a top 5 rescue scene post, but upon re-watching BOF for this review, I lost count of the times Jandi was attacked or almost died. Let’s try:
– Attacked by students at school after she’s ruffied at the night club
– Saved from drowning 3 times
– kidnapped (after being locked in a classroom with a smoke bomb)
– held at knifepoint
– lost on the ski mountain at night during a ‘blizzard’
– threatened by street thugs
– attempted rape
And these were just instances where her life was in danger. This doesn’t count any of the times one of the F4 stood up for her against the changed JunPyo during the second season. If this were a regular person (or me) I’d be curled up in a ball under my bed. Despite all this, JanDi remains cheerful, pragmatic, and determined. Which would drive JunPyo crazy. It’s hard to protect someone who had an unnatural ability to sniff out trouble.
I loved all the scenes where JunPyo or one of the F4 would save JanDi. I loved the dynamic between JanDi so poor, uncouth, so unwilling to give in and the F4 who are so different than her. I truly feel that by knowing this girl, all of these guy’s lives are changed for the better. Well maybe not BenWoo. He, the one plotline neglected guy of the F4, doesn’t have enough going on to have been changed one way or the other. (For the moment I’m choosing to ignore the writers attempts to shoehorn in a fleeting glimpse of plot)
I’ve given a lot of time here to JanDi, when many would argue that the best part of the show is the boys of the F4. The F4 are the non-benevolent rulers of Shinwa High and a large part of Korea itself (seriously, everyone has heard of the F4). Sons of the top of the top families in Korea, they live a privileged life. When the story opens, you see a terrified boy opening his locker to find a red card hanging. You learn this is the F4’s directive to haze someone–or in this guys case–continually beat the crap out of him until he flees to the roof to attempt suicide while the student body cheer him on.
You never know what this guy did, you don’t get any context (not that anything would warrant this sort of attack) but you see just what a sadistic shark tank this school, where Korea’s 1% send their kids, is. This is also our first introduction to the heroine JanDi. There to deliver dry cleaning, she is the only one who dives in and saves him after he jumps.
The F4 or the upper of the upper rulers of this school–no one does anything against them–talks back to the, stands up to them, or gives them back what they are dishing out . Of course that’s until JanDi is offered a scholarship in order to give the school some much needed PR after the incident gets out.
Anyway, I think I went off on a tangent again. In the last review, I only really talked about the hero and heroine. But in this case, you can’t talk about the story without talking about the F4. Childhood friends, these guys can only count on each other. They relish in the place in society. However, throughout the story (with varying degrees of success) you learn that for each of them, their wealth and privilege comes with a price.
I do have a little bit of a problem with the F4. You are supposed to think the F4 is super cool. They come from the best backgrounds, have the most money and power, dress amazingly, and can swish you away on an amazing adventure at a moment’s notice. These are all true–and I do get to love the F4. Every time they show up, the story is about to get good. However, I can’t let go of the cruelty they display at the school. JunPyo is the driving force behind the hazing of students–however, none of the other members stop him. As a matter of fact, when he sets his sights against JanDi for daring to talk back to him and humiliating him after he demands she and her friend lick ice-cream off his shoe, they just laugh about how obsessed he is. A girl is almost sexually assaulted, harassed by students, her virtue (a big thing there) questioned with a smear campaign– and they can only be amused at the situation. You can’t even excuse JiHoo, the one who’s the most different from the others. He helps JanDi out of a few tight spots, but he does nothing to curb the actions of the rest of the group.
Don’t get me wrong. I love JiHoo. As he is played by Kim Hyun Joong, he was the reason I chose this show after Playful Kiss. As a matter of fact, during my first viewing of this, I had a hard time realizing JiHoo was never going to get the girl. I was wearing PK blinders which made me believe with every fiber that JiHoo was a better match for JanDi than JunPyo. Towards the end, and during the second watching, you understand why JunPyo was the better match, but to this day, my heart breaks a little bit for JiHoo.
It also has a great cast of supporting characters. Not Jandi’s parents, who could easily be the worst parents in the world. They are over the top, want her to marry for money, not to make her happy but to raise their own station in life. They don’t care which rich guy–although they are partial to JunPyo–anyone in the F4 will do. They are horribly irrisponsible. Her father gambles and is reckless with what little money they have. JanDi at one point works 3 jobs plus going to school to support them, and they can’t get themselves to work–so she goes and does their job as well.
However, JunPyo’s sister is great and as a slight secondary character was given a more well thought out and handled backstory than one of the F4. The undercover model, while in the end you hate him for doing what he did to JanDi, was increibly interesting. I also liked JunPyo’s fiancee. Yep, he gets a fiancee who is not JanDi (second half, what can I say). She is a great character, and you totally feel for her. I also love JanDi’s friend Ga Eul and sighed at her sweet determination and eventual relationship with YiJoon.
BOF has a lot of great stories. Like PK, it does have a tendency to float from one situation to another. Overarching story lines are limited a bit at the beginning, but come more into play on in the second season. I separate them by first and second season as this is what they are sold as here in the states. And there is–a clear delineation between the first half and the second half.
The first half, focuses on JunPyo’s attempts to win JanDi. He is initially attracted to her because she is the only person who has ever stood up to him. Or that’s what first gets his attention. Once he decides she is going to be his girlfriend, he has to fight everyone –including JanDi to make this happen. It is his one goal. Hijinks ensue from there. Once he has her love, he is called away after his father collapses, and texts “I’ll return no matter what. Don’t move and wait for me. I love you.” Before you heart melts wit how romantic he is. He follows this up with basically abandoning and or being an asshat to her for a lot of episodes. The entire second half of the season is everyone trying to keep them apart (including JunPyo) and JanDi trying to hold onto their love. Crazy s**t goes on from there. Seriously. First half, crazy stuff happens, but it’s fun, and you’re totally along for the ride. Second half? The crazy things happen and you’re like really? The dead fathers not really dead? JanDi works as a maid for JunPyo? Amnesia? Breaking up for 4 years? It’s like the writers just try coming up with the most outlandish things, chuck them at the story, and see what takes hold.
One of the biggest ouch moments would have to be though what they did to the character BenWoo. One of the F4. I really liked his character but he was not one of the ones in the forefront. He was there for muscle and comic relief. In an attempt to give him a story line or angst, the writers give him a single scene. It comes out of nowhere and is never referenced again. It’s almost embarrassing to watch. He is too cool of a character to have that sort of fake angst.
Of course ask me if I’d watch this again? Definitely. Even the crazy over the top things are so worth it to get through to the meat of it, the relationship between these 5 people. And especially the romance and love that is built between JunPyo and Jandi. One of my most re-watched scenes in all of Kdramas is in the last episode when JanDi tells JunPyo (who doesn’t remember her) all the things she knows about him that he doesn’t even know and then falls into the pool in essence to make him remember her or die trying. When she says to him “You call out my name.” it sends shivers down my back. It allows me to excuse a lot.
I feel like I’m missing so much here. However, my fingers are so cold, they don’t really want to work anymore. I’ll try to revisit this another time and will definitely make sure it’s one of the first podcasts Aimee and I do. But if you take anything away from this it’s watch Boys Over Flowers–everyone else is!