THE SHORT VERDICT:
You might like this if you’ve read the manga &/or seen the other versions and already know the story, plus you don’t mind a drama that’s trying to be both a manga and a regular kdrama at the same time and therefore seems to have a split personality.
Acting is mostly average and random plot points are plenty, but the writers do give quite a fair amount of couple moments as fanservice.
I loved the Japanese version, which helped me to make sense of this version, and I ended up enjoying this more than I thought I would.
This has a niche fanbase. Very, very niche. It just depends on whether you’re in, or you’re out.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Objectively speaking, To The Beautiful You is not a good drama. It’s not well-written nor well-acted, and I think it’s safe to say that those are 2 pretty important things to just about any drama.
It’s weird, though. I started this drama expecting to be disappointed, but I ended up enjoying it, in spite of myself.
A TANGENT ON JAPAN’S HANA KIMI:
First, a bit of background.
I know a lot of reviews examine To The Beautiful You on its own merit and don’t do much referencing to the other versions, if at all. I recognize that as an effort to be fair, and I respect that.
In my experience, though, it was the context of the Japanese version that helped me appreciate To The Beautiful You, so I kinda have to go there.
I haven’t read the original manga, but I loved – really, really loved! – Japan’s Hana Kimi (the 2007 version, not the remake) and re-watched it several times.
It was the first J-dorama I’d watched, and I was thoroughly fascinated by just how well they managed to translate the manga feel into a live drama.
There is a strong fantasy, fun, tongue-in-cheek feel to it that is distinctly manga-esque. Everything is larger-than-life, random and amusing. Practically right away, I found myself completely hooked.
One of my favorite touches is the self-deprecating tagline that floats across the screen before the opening credits:
A show that’s so self-aware that it warns you of its foolishness even before the opening credits? Seriously. How endearing is that?
And then comes the opening sequence, which quickly shows us just how awesomely, outlandishly bizarre this world is going to be.
Masses of fangirls surging forward with squeals and gifts to greet the pretty boys of Osaka High on their walk from the dorms to the school because it’s the only glimpse they get of the boys? Check.
Pumping, up-beat, happy music? Check. A reporter taking photos of the boys so that she can sell them to the squealing fangirls? Check.
That same reporter informing us & our female lead that this school is special coz they pick the boys based on their looks and not their grades? Check.
And then there’s the completely manga-esque, random appearance of gold pom-poms out of nowhere, to introduce us to the Hibari Four, from St. Blossoms, sister school to Osaka High.
This is the self-proclaimed fan-club to the boys, and in their introduction, they tell us, with high kicks and a flourish, that their mission is to bring happiness to every single one of the boys.
I proceeded to lap up the entire series, which was rife with random cute arcs that often had little or absolutely nothing to do with the main story.
In a regular drama, that would have been unthinkable writing, but in this world, where you feel like you’re walking around in manga-land, it works. All of it. And gloriously well, too.
WHAT ABOUT TO THE BEAUTIFUL YOU?
The thing about To The Beautiful You is, the writers were clearly trying to recreate the feel of the manga while at the same time trying to retain the emotional core of the quintessential kdrama romance.
I can see why they would want both currents running through the drama, because there’s a lot of appeal in each one. The execution was, unfortunately, rather choppy (to put it mildly).
Instead of doing each one well and moving seamlessly between the feels, the drama tried to get the 2 disparate concepts to meet at a half-way point and ended up being mediocre in both.
The show also moved clumsily between the 2 tones, and watching the switches between tones was akin to experiencing drama whiplash.
Efforts towards the manga vibe included fangirls sneaking into Genie High on the back of Tae Joon’s van:
Ha Na (Kim Ji Won) literally somersaulting her way into Genie High on a regular basis:
And random dorm competitions for cafeteria privileges:
Unfortunately, these didn’t pop in the same way that the J-version managed to do with their manga-world, and to make things worse, the PD seemed to think that getting everyone to overact was a way to achieve the manga effect.
Inserting frequent, random changes to the drama’s setting was also consistent with the manga, like this sudden trip to a beach-side pension:
Mixing in more “normal” drama elements felt strange in the midst of the manga elements.
Tae Joon’s daddy issues, his jumping issues, and his cold, stiff treatment of everyone else was treated with a distinctly more dramatic touch (vs a lighter, OTT manga touch like the rest of the show) and the difference when moving between the two tones felt unnatural and strange.
This was a big problem in the earlier episodes, but it faded significantly in the later episodes. Not because the writers got better at toggling the two, mind you.
It’s more like the writers decided to let go of most of the manga feel and concentrate a lot more on the kdrama romance feel. But that worked. At least the show started to have a more consistent tone.
It’s kinda like riding in a car. The driving may not be exceptionally good, but at least when the driver doesn’t keep making sudden turns, you don’t feel like you’re being jerked around.
There were also gaping logic holes that the writers didn’t think to fill up.
Case in point, the first 2 minutes of the drama introduces us to Tae Joon (Min Ho) and shows him setting a high jump record.
Random Caucasian girl walks up to our heroine Jae Hee (Sulli) and prompts her to watch him on TV, saying, “I hear that guy is Korean.” Really?? They seriously couldn’t come up with a better line than that?
Jae Hee watches, and a tear falls from her eye. Next thing we know, she’s cutting her hair. The same Caucasian friend tells her, “You don’t have to do this.”
This would have been a good place to exposit to us what’s going on, but no explanation is given to us, except, “I gotta do this.” Huh?
Still, despite rolling my eyes as high as they would go, I could understand what was going on.
I surmised that our heroine was going to seek out our hero, not because of some crush on him, but to help him jump again. I figured that the writers would have kept that much consistent with the original manga, and I was right.
However, that failure on the part of the writers to explain things to the audience resulted in a lot of people being very frustrated with the show, and understandably so.
Our heroine makes a major decision within the first 2 minutes of the drama which goes on to become the entire premise of the show, and the writers don’t bother to tell us exactly what she’s doing or why? I would be upset too.
Clearly, To The Beautiful You is flawed and obviously so, right off the bat.
Add to that the fact that most of the acting is pretty average at best, and I can see why so many people quickly dropped this like a hot potato.
I had to repeatedly fill in plot gaps based on what I knew from the J-version, and that helped me make sense of the story and their world.
But here’s the weird thing. When I decided to let my brain check out, and just shrug off all the inconsistencies and jerky writing, the show became quite enjoyable.
You know what’s even weirder? I said similar things about enjoying shows like Panda and Hedgehog and A Gentleman’s Dignity after letting my brain check out.
To The Beautiful You is, objectively speaking, a more flawed drama than both of those dramas, but I enjoyed this show more than I did the other two shows. I even felt a little hooked.
SO WHAT DID WORK?
I think one of the big things that I did enjoy in To The Beautiful You, is the abundant number of couple moments that the writers kept serving up.
Here, have a photo spasm of just some of them:
The writers give us regular romantic-tension-charged encounters between the leads, and that keeps the momentum of the show whirring along.
Sure, it isn’t quite explained how each starts to like the other, but once you just accept that that’s where we are with them, the moments can be really rather sweet.
Also, I think the draw is that the moments are mostly of the gasp-what-might-this-lead-to-will-he-let-on-that-he-knows-she’s-a-girl-and-that-he-likes-her? variety.
That’s probably the thing about the show that hooked me the most.
One big factor that makes this approach work, is Min Ho’s turn as Tae Joon.
To be honest, Min Ho is not a good actor by any stretch of the imagination. During the more emotional crying scenes, his inexperience as an actor is most glaring.
BUT. He is very likable, and that basically saves the day. At least, it saved the day for me. Plus, I always cut the idol actors some slack, especially if it’s their first attempt at acting.
Min Ho is good-looking in a fairly conventional sort of way, and sure, that is appealing in and of itself, but it is his dorky, sometimes almost cross-eyed charm that really makes me want to pinch him.
As the show progresses, he smiles more and more often, and he looks his dorkiest, cutest best when he’s smiling.
C’mon now, you just gotta love that dorky face, right??
It also doesn’t hurt (at all) that he’s very athletic. He looks the part of a high-jumper, and they show him training, working out and jumping very frequently in the show.
Plus! They throw in the obligatory shirtless scenes:
I have to unabashedly confess that it was his cuteness that really got me through the show.
If he hadn’t been this cute, the couple moments strategy probably wouldn’t have worked on me. So really, it was his high likability quotient that made it work for me.
To me, Sulli did a decent job as Jae Hee. She was committed to the role and her crying scenes were more natural than Min Ho’s.
What didn’t help her was the poor writing. Her character says and does dumb things which make her seem unbelievably naive and clueless.
One of the most unbelievable plot patterns is that Tae Joon repeatedly – really, repeatedly! – does and says things which indicate that he knows she’s a girl, but Jae Hee is so clueless that she never even suspects that her secret is not such a secret to Tae Joon.
This did not endear her to me, I’m afraid. I like my heroines a little smarter than that.
Despite the writing working against her, though, Sulli managed to make her character pretty likable, and I think that’s a very decent accomplishment.
Lee Hyun Woo’s turn as Eun Gyul was, for me, one of the better things about To The Beautiful You.
I’d loved his performance in The Equator Man, which was deep-reaching, subtle and convincing. I was impressed and I wanted to see more from him.
Right away, though, in episode 1, I was a little taken aback by his completely different acting style in To The Beautiful You. His acting was exaggerated and over-the-top and I have to say, I didn’t like it.
Thankfully, this exaggeratedness got dialed down by quite a lot as the show progressed, and he became a big emotional center of the show.
Yes, he did still bring the cute, like here with his imitation of a caterpillar:
And here with one of his many wild fantasies involving Jae Hee:
As the story developed, though, his struggle with his sexuality and his crush on Jae Hee was tinged with pathos, and that just helped to ground everything from becoming too comedic.
I particularly felt for him when he realizes that Jae Hee is a girl. His feelings of confusion and betrayal are in direct conflict with his desire to protect her, and that tension made for some great emotional moments.
These were the moments that Lee Hyun Woo’s talent as an actor got to shine through, and his delivery was poignant, faceted and sincere.
I was so glad that I stuck with the show, because it meant that I got to see Lee Hyun Woo shine. I do wish that he’d had more opportunities to show his talent as an actor, but given the circumstances, I can’t really complain.
One of the underlying themes which comes out stronger in the second half of the show, is that of working towards your dreams and never giving up.
It is heartening to watch as the characters keep on at it in the face of discouragement, setbacks and exhaustion, and prevail to see their dreams getting more and more within reach with each step that they take.
A nice universal reminder for us all, I thought.
In some ways, I felt that this theme stood out more than the romantic development of our OTP, and that actually was rather nice.
[SPOILERS THROUGH THE END OF THE REVIEW]
MY THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING
I kind of knew that in the end Jae Hee would leave Genie High and go back to America. That’s what happened in the J-version, and if I’m not mistaken, that’s what happened in the manga too.
I think knowing that in advance helped.
In the J-version, everything was treated with a light-hearted manga touch, so even the separation was resolved in a light-hearted manner.
Because this version was more emotionally driven than the J-version, I actually wasn’t too sure if the show could pull off a separation of the OTP in a satisfying manner. But they did.
In the J-version, all we get is a scene of Mizuki back in America, receiving an arrow-letter informing her that her friends are coming to America for a school trip. It’s cute, but rather too open-ended if applied to this version, I thought.
So I was actually really quite pleased that the show gave us something a little more substantial in terms of reuniting the OTP.
A one-on-one visit complete with adorkable smiles and hugs? Yes please!
That felt emotionally satisfying enough for our OTP, and I forgave all the cheesy fake-America that the show served up at the end.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
A show that is weirdly quite bad and yet quite good at the same time. You just have to know when to just shrug and move on, so that you can make space to enjoy the goodies.
Will probably also appeal to tweens and tweens at heart.
FINAL GRADE: B
Tbh I don’t really like the ending… I mean why Jae hee had to book a flight on the day of Tae Joon’s competition (with an unreasonable answer that if she doesn’t go that day she might not be able to leave)? In the drama the reason Jae Hee went to Korea is to see Tae Joon jumps again but at the end, she wants to leave on the day of the competition which she doesn’t really think about Tae Joon’s feelings (how about if Tae Joon fails or how disappointed he is after knowing that she is gone). The one year later is a bit odd tho, they supposed to make it 3months later or something, it’s too long. Jae hee also asked Eun Gyeol about Tae Joon which meansJae Hee and Tae Joon didn’t even contact each other for one year after she left Korea??? if Tae Joon really likes her, they supposed to contact each other you know. Also, why she has to leave Korea, why she didn’t just go to Seol Han-na school? at the end, they didn’t give us any clue about Hyun Jae ( Tae Joon’s rival) whether he went to the Olympics or what happened to him, like the other supporting character.
I know I’m not supposed to give my critics here but I just want to express my feelings towards the ending hehe. I think they should have a better plot but overall the drama is really good. happy to see your review about TTBY!!
Hehe.. your rant made me giggle a little bit – I can tell Show really ticked you off with its finale! This was definitely not strongly written, so I never expected very much from it in terms of narrative consistency and cohesion. Plus, I’d been prepared by the J-version, to have an open ending, so the ending didn’t bother me when I got to it.
Don’t worry about sharing your thoughts and opinions here, btw.. We learn by sharing with one another, and it’s always great to chat dramas with other fans too 🙂
I hate the ending. WHY COULDN’T SHE JUST ATTEND A GIRLS SCHOOL IN KOREA?!?!??!!
Tee hee. You made me giggle with your comment, Jackie! XD I don’t know if it helps, but I think the ending is faithful to the source material.. And, the ending that Show does give us, is an open-ended but positive one? 🙂
…oh..okay…i just finished ep-7…as I’ve read from wikipedia, Kim Woo Bin portrayed the role of Johnny Kim, the photographer who helped Go Jae Hee….it’s yet to be seen…;)
I’ll have to rewatch all of Kim Woo Bin’s bits.. I remember he was rather charming in this extended cameo <3
…yes i watched it through simulcast viewing dubbed in our language..and i really enjoyed it much…it is more comical than Korean version…like Lee Hyun Woo’s character, Shuichi Nakatsu is very funny here..and the lead actor Izumi Sano is adorable….i haven’t seen Kim Woo Bin in the episodes..currently i’m on ep-5…
Yes, the J-version is much lighter, and it tickles my funny bone ^^ I’m glad you had the chance to check it out!! Kim Woo Bin.. I think you’re getting there soon, evez! If memory serves, it’s around E8 or E9 that he appears. Woobie~~ <3 <3 <3
…i have seen some episodes of the jap-version of this one…”Hanakimi” when a friend lend me a copy of this Korean version i asked what does this drama offer knowing it’s a replica of the jap-version?…same plot…same story-line only with Korean stars portraying it….nevertheless this drama serves as a breaker to me…after watching melo…so far i’m enjoying it…among the male castings it’s Lee Hyon Woo’s character shines…he’s really good…i’ve seen this guy from “QSD” before….and i agree with the aforementioned comment from Angel…”To The Beautiful You” though not a great drama has enticed viewing public here and it was big hit here especially among teenyboppers… i guess because the lead stars are from well-known k-pop group and the enjoyable OSTs contributed as well.
Oh, you’ve checked out the Japanese Hana Kimi? How do you like it, evez? I LOVE the J-version of this. SO MUCH FUN. The Korean version is less comic and campy, and I think that does drag the pace somewhat. I do agree that Lee Hyun Woo is the better actor among the group we’ve got. He’s got very decent acting chops. I was really impressed with his delivery in The Equator Man. But, bearing in mind that Minho and Sulli are idols first and actors second, I guess it’s understandable that they’re not great at the acting (yet?).
Btw!! Kim Woo Bin has an extended cameo in TTBY!! And you KNOW how I feel about Kim Woo Bin! ;D
If I could understand Korean more, I’d probably enjoy the Korean SNL stuff better, with the comedic nuances, I believe I’ve seen her in some SNL clips. I actually like her slightly nasal singing voice 😀 She is just awesome and gets so into her characters, it’s adorable. I often re-watch this SuJu SNL clip, it’s funny… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8MmhkNhJEY (although Ryeowook’s acting is terrible.)
Yes, I have to agree that the more Korean one knows, the more nuances one picks up, generally speaking. Which is one reason that I rewatch an old drama, on occasion. With my now greater understanding of the actual dialogue, it sometimes feels like I’m watching a whole new show 🙂
LOL at the SNL clip. And yes, RW’s acting is outstandingly awful! >.<
I have seen FBND and read your review and I agree 🙂 Didn’t reply, the review is already so complex.. plus I am already getting your replies on so many of your reviews, I feel bad for eating your time up 🙂 (it’s lovely though, I appreciate your responses very, very much.) Summary, there are some nice moments in FBND, I think the reading minds is cute, the aegyo is OK for me, the level of care (not giving up) in Enrique Geum’s personality is well done enough by Yoon Shi Yoon, but it’s kind of a forced mess in some ways… I definitely had trouble with some of the flow… I really like Kim Seul Gi though, she is so cute! I grabbed onto her character right away 😀 Have you seen her vid with Jay Park, hehehe… it’s 19+ but cute…
Yes, gotta love Kim Seul Gi. I just checked out her vid with Jay Park.. I love that she always looks like she’s genuinely having a blast. I definitely would like to see more of her in the dramascape!
I actually evolved like that a little bit – when I started I watched only romantic comedy and avoided even regular dramas, you can see it in my list of Taiwanese dramas that it’s mostly cutesy couples. I think I like dramas quite a bit now, but if they’re too dark I get depressed during the period I’m watching. Since my emotions swing with the programming, it’s not a good idea for me to go too dark, that’s why I asked for your sageuk recommendation 🙂 I posted that same thing about the Autumn’s Concerto OST just now. I have a habit of typing too enthusiastically without evaluating. I listened to more of the OST with a critical ear yesterday and I agree with you. But it is true that after you see it, that should change. It’s simple but it draws you in. The lyrics are also very pertinent to the show 🙂 Sometimes they pull songs and put them in, but for this it felt like they were truly written for the drama (at least a lot of them were, maybe not all).
I can enjoy epic movies with blood and guts but not too much… I like the show Vampire Diaries for the relationship and romance, the blood there is all about the romance so I do OK. I don’t like chainsaw massacre type stuff 😉 My liking romance doesn’t necessarily refer to the OTP or outward love, although sweet kisses are satisfying (even if they’re just the lip press lame things it’s better than nothing), it’s more about the notion of desire and passion and some level of fantasy and the tension between characters is key – that emotional draw. I prefer happy endings though… otherwise I feel like the drama hasn’t improved my mood and I get this feeling of annoyance instead of satisfaction 🙂 it kind of limits my tolerance in dramas, unfortunately. 🙂 And it’s probably also why weird endings annoy a lot of drama fans, right? 😉
In the past, I did used to be all about the happy ending, and if a show didn’t deliver a happy ending, I would be genuinely upset with the writers.
Now, though, with more viewing experience under my belt, and a more critical lens on, I think I’ve become much more tolerant of endings that aren’t necessarily happy. As long as the story is cohesive and it makes sense, I can buy it. Over the years, I think the story’s cohesiveness has become more important to me, and if I get a happy ending that compromises the robustness of the story and its themes, it does bug me. If you’ve read my review on FBND, you’d know what I mean.
Guess the writers have a really hard job pleasing all of us, eh? 😉
You should 😀 If you’re not sure, try the OST first and you’ll be sucked into watching it. Here’s the playlist in youtube. It’s a smaller investment than watching – I bet if you try this OST you’ll like, GUARANTEED. The whole soundtrack conveys emotion well and the instrumentals are absolutely beautifully done. I listened to this non-stop for months and after a break, I can still listen to it end to end over on repeat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbLSFKzzjaA&list=PLCDCCCA8B5DC569EC
If you have to choose between this and ISWAK/TKA, choose this one. There’s a beautiful maturity to it and a lot of passion.
And I’ll definitely head for Arang first. Not sure how I feel about a crossover, maybe later.
My dad always watched these old-style dramas (Thai ones or dubbed ones). I didn’t like the blood and guts 😉 I love the romance. Suicide is fine, war is fine, just not the overly graphic style 🙂 Evil people make me want to smack them, maybe that’s why I aim for those that focus on relationships more than the good/evil. 🙂
I think the thing about OSTs is, they only take on added beauty and meaning after watching the shows they’re from. I listened to several of the tracks from the playlist, and while they’re pleasant, they definitely don’t speak to me, & I think that’s largely coz I haven’t watched the show. That’s likely to change when I get around to checking out the show ^^
You know, it’s interesting that you mention loving romance and not liking blood and guts. I used to be the same way! Lately, though, I’ve actually enjoyed some shows that had quite a lot of blood and guts (Vampire Prosecutor comes to mind!) and I think my taste in shows is evolving.. I still enjoy a good romance, but I’m much more open to checking out other genres now, as long as the show has a reputation for a good story 🙂
omg 140 is amazing! I’ll definitely ping you before looking for older dramas. For saegeuk, I’m considering either Arang (more rom-com) or Queen In-Hyun’s Man next, but not sure if I’ll do saegeuk first or modern (i.e. City Hunter).. probably the latter.
I know what you mean about the overacting… if you want honest and subtle that’s essentially free of comedic overacting, there is only ONE I can recommend. Autumn’s Concerto. And I mean I really recommend this one. It’s a drama, it’s not a romantic comedy, and it’s engaging and believable and honest. If it’s the overacting that takes you away from Taiwanese dramas, this one won’t be in that category at ALL. I’ve watched it more than twice through without fast-forwarding anything… with at least a year gap in-between, and I don’t think there is a single other drama I can say that about, plus I’m really into romantic comedy as well as drama and I have to give this my highest rating. (somewhere near Moon Embracing the Sun) There’s not a lot of comic relief with this one, just some happy moments. I think I need to see it again, it’s been a couple of years… Refresh my Mandarin anyway 😉
If you can tolerate *some* overacting, I still have to recommend ISWAK and TKA. There is so much good acting at those precious moments that the overacted cutesy parts could be overlooked… or fast-forwarded if necessary… it’s part drama and part romantic comedy, so… I guess some overacting is expected. It’s the attention of the director and the actor chemistry that make it work and give it that slow character development, moment by moment. Given the time investment though, I can imagine that you will never watch it given your interest level 😉 even though I’m trying to encourage you to watch it.
When I get too dark watching drama I’ll switch to a rom-com for awhile 🙂 Will let you know how City Hunter goes. I’ve actually seen FBND also, haven’t replied to that one yet, but I agree with your review anyway 🙂
Well. I’ve been watching kdramas for 6 years now, so that 140 is spread out – does that mitigate a little? ;D But yes, I could probably give you a couple of suggestions if you’re looking to check out older dramas.
In terms of sageuk, if you’re looking for rom-com, I’d recommend Sungkyunkwan Scandal. That’s fusion sageuk, and manages to balance the mix nicely. It’s light and fun, and has a bit of Coffee Prince flavor to it. I highly recommend it. Arang is fabulous, but it’s not a rom-com. It’s a fantasy piece, with an OTP and a romance, & it’s well-paced, well-constructed and well-acted, but it is definitely not a rom-com. Queen Inhyun’s Man is a time-traveling fusion piece, with about 50% set in Joseon times, and 50% in the present day. Fantastic, romantic show that you MUST keep on your watch list! <3 And yes, keep City Hunter on that list too! ^^
I've heard excellent things about Autumn's Concerto, actually. I just might give that one a go sometime.
ah, now I definitely have to put that up and coming movie on my to-see list!! I know what you mean about tolerance levels 😉 Is there a particular reason with Taiwan dramas? I must say I liked them when I didn’t have anything else, but after switching to Kdramas it’s quite hard to go back.. maybe because I always follow based on whatever idols or actors I’m interested in at the moment. i.e. I usually wouldn’t go and deliberately watch anything that doesn’t have someone I know in it unless I’m purposely expanding just to find something new. It’s also hard to go backwards when there’s so much new stuff coming out! I really haven’t watched any Japanese dramas – maybe if I ever get both Mandarin and Korean down, hehhe… there’s no bandwidth left as it is! I can’t even count the hours I have spent watching dramas in the last 5 years… ok, well, I could add them up based on # of episodes for each 🙂
Hmm.. With TW dramas, there’s a particular style to it that’s largely campy, and the acting style is usually quite exaggerated, which I can’t get used to. Acting is way up high on my list, so this one is a biggie for me. I like a more nuanced, subtle delivery than what is usually served up in TW dramas. I also wish the production values were better as well, coz I find some of the production flaws rather distracting. Lastly, it might have a little bit to do with the actual Taiwanese accent. I’m not used to it, and find it rather distracting as well. But overall, I think the acting’s the biggest factor, for me.
Another possible (minor) factor is that I watch so much kdrama, that I find it strange to watch a drama where Korean isn’t spoken, LOL! Besides Korean dramas, I do watch the occasional Japanese drama, and even though I studied Japanese for a while (a long time ago), it does feel strange to listen to Japanese dialogue instead of Korean. 😛
And no, I don’t even want to count the number of hours I’ve spent watching dramas! I’ve watched over 140 kdramas, and some of those are really long ones too. I shudder to imagine the number of hours I’ve put into it! XD
I have this on my fave OST board 😉 J-Min’s song is my favorite, too! Have you seen the Taiwanese version? I saw that one first, and then this one, and I have to say the simplicity and pureness of the acting combined with better writing as it progressed made it worth watching. I agree very much with your review – though having not seen the Japanese version, my expectations were based on reviews of those who had seen the Taiwanese one and this one and given this the OK.
When I started this, I was completely unaware of SHINee or f(x). I had no idea who the actors were at all. I just felt they were genuine and very straightforward – the natural awkwardness and planned moments came out as sweet and unintentional by the characters, i.e. the save-from-street-splashing. Even though the storyline was choppy, the character development was very reasonable. It was apparent to me that Hyun Woo in particular had acting props 😉 I really enjoyed his performance – and the haircut helped 😉
I would say that the Taiwanese version had better story flow, better back-story for more characters and setup for the summer vacation/trips as well as decent chemistry (plenty of shippers) plus lots of light, comic moments, although some of the overacting and the ending were a bit *groan* too much. The Korean version lacked in dramatic scenes and flow; the Taiwanese version had better back-story. The Taiwanese dorm was realistically small and cute, the Korean dorm room was ridiculously grand. The cuteness was a huge plus, as it allowed for better accidental run-in type scenes. I would recommend both, the Korean one for innocent sweetness, the Taiwanese one for better flow. The Korean one feels more youthful but more rushed, the Taiwanese one more focused on the struggles they face and a bit slower at some points.
Do you watch Taiwan dramas? I’d be interested to see your opinion on the Taiwan version of this. I’ve watched parts of it more than once. It’s definitely worth watching 🙂 I almost marked it as a favorite but somehow it got left off… I’ll have to re-watch and re-judge. It’s been years since I watched it (even for the second time) but I can remember it pretty well.
I went into this not knowing Minho or Sulli either – I only knew Hyun Woo from his adorable turn in The Return of Iljimae, and his very impressive intense performance in the earlier eps of The Equator Man. After last seeing him full of young swag in The Equator Man, I was woefully taken aback at how much he was overacting in the earlier eps of TTBY. And I didn’t like the terrible mop hair too. I was SO glad that he got to show more acting chops in the later eps. And also, SO glad that he was given a much nicer haircut! XD Also, I’m SO looking forward to checking out his new movie with Kim Soo Hyun, Secretly Greatly (aka Covertly Grandly). TWO talented cuties in a single movie? (Well. 3, if you count Park Ki Woong) And they’re SPIES? I’m SO. IN. <3
I actually haven't seen the Taiwanese version, save for a few minutes of episode 1. I have to confess to having a very low threshold when it comes to Taiwanese dramas in general. I think I can count on one hand, the number of TW dramas I've watched! 😛
I have heard good things about the TW version though, and it WAS the first live adaptation of the manga, so it's got cred for being the first. With so many dramas on my watch list, and with my preference leaning strongly towards kdrama over j-dorama, which I in turn prefer over TW drama, I doubt I'll ever get around to checking out the TW version. 😛
I do love the Japanese version a lot, though. If you love the Hana Kimi story in general, the J-version (the first one, from 2007, not the remake) is definitely worth checking out. I've watched that more than once, and have fond memories of laughing out loud at the tongue-in-cheek campy delivery. ^^
On the contrary, my sole reason for watching this drama was because of Minho. i knew him from Shinee before and when i heard that he was going to act in a drama i was just curious and excited to see him act. i didn’t have any high expectations from him coz lets face it, he’s not much of an actor but surely i was not left disappointed!
Aw, fangirl love is a HUGE driving force in drama-watching, I hafta agree! ^^ And while I agree that Minho’s acting skills are still very.. underdeveloped, he was super cute in this show, and very, very likable. I just adored his adorkable smiles. HE was what made this show work for me, honestly! ^.~
Haha, i totally agree with your last statement!!! The songs were also a big plus for the drama. Although i wasnt fully satisfied with the drama, i watched the japanese version and honestly, i haven’t ever laughed as heartily as i did watching Hana Kimi!! But i did find that though the main plot was explained very clearly in Hana Kimi, TTBY worked more towards achieving the aim of the story….unlike Hana Kimi, which showed very less of the high jump scenes as compared to TTBY. It actually made me appreciate TTBY more.
Aw yes, I LOVE the J-version!! It’s just live-manga done right. Everything is just so pitch-perfect and tongue-in-cheek that you can imagine all the characters as manga characters. I’ve watched the J-version twice (or was that 3 times?) and loved it each time.
TTBY did spend more time on the high jump scenes, which I suppose does add something to the story. It was patchy for me though. It didn’t spend any effort at all, explaining things like why she cut off her hair and went to an all-boys school, except for “I gotta do this” which, honestly, was appalling story-telling. Still, Minho was super adorkable and cute in this, and it was a pretty fun watch in the end ^^
I don’t understand why TTBY has a low rating in korea. I mean here in Philippines, its a BOMB! It is the best korean drama i’ve watched so far. I love the plot of the story.. the characters.. the OSTs.. EVERYTHING! I cried niagra falls and laughed and fangirled as if there’s no tomorrow. I got really attached to the characters and i just couldn’t get enough of them. But i am really unsatisfied with the ending. TO THE BEAUTIFUL YOU SEASON 2 PLEASE 😀
I’ve learned that the ratings game in Korea has very little to do with the show’s actual fanbase. Playful Kiss had dismal ratings in Korea, but enjoys a very strong international fanbase, and many drama lovers I know name Playful Kiss as one of their top comfort food dramas. The ratings have a lot to do with what show the drama is competing against in the same hour, and also, what the domestic audience is hungry for at that given moment. So don’t take the ratings too much to heart, even though they DO dictate whether a show gets shortened etc 🙂
Aw, I think the ending of TTBY gives us way more concrete cute than the ending of the Japanese version, so I guess my context there makes me appreciate the ending of TTBY more.. Don’t be too sad ^^
I haven’t watched the J-version but i’ve watched the TW-version. I think it was made even earlier than the J-version. TTBY was no where near TW-version in every way. But i agree, it was an enjoyable watch. Cute and definitely easy on the eyes, but forgettable and definitely not re watching material.
Oh, I haven’t watched the TW-version, though I love the J-version. You’re right, the TW-version came out first, then the J-version. I’ve only watched a handful of TW dramas, since I enjoy my kdramas the most, but I know what a huge hit the TW-version was. I tried out the first couple of minutes of the TW-version’s first ep, but couldn’t get into it. Maybe it was a mood thing. Or maybe I just missed my kdrama & wanted to hear Korean instead of Mandarin, lol. From what I’ve heard though, I’d agree that TTBY didn’t quite reach the same levels of success that the TW & J versions enjoyed. At least it was cute though 😉
Haha, i actually understand mandarin, so it’s more convenient for me to watch tw-dramas than j or k-dramas, easier on my ear. *shrug* But i guess we have different tastes, i enjoyed the tw version right from the start, maybe because i was younger back then and therefore enjoyed it more. But yup, at least the k version was cute.
Btw, totally unrelated to anything, the tw-versions male lead was very good looking and he is as fit as Min Ho if not even fitter. Which means shirtless scenes…. I am totally not pervy…. 😉
That’s true.. I understand Mandarin too, so I get what you mean about it being more convenient to watch a TW drama – you’re not as dependent on subs ^^ I guess I just have a soft spot for kdramas 🙂
Really, good-looking AND shirtless male lead?! Now that sounds rather inviting – in a totally non-pervy way, of course *cough* I should give it another go sometime ;D
Hahaha ur reviews are amazing!! Keep blogging and sharing pictures of hot guys LOL
Super grateful for the shirtless Minho pic hahahaha <3
HAHA!! Thanks!! I will definitely do both 😉
Also! Glad to supply a good drool-worthy shirtless pic to someone with an appreciative eye 😉 LOL
I found this drama highly and extremely hard to watch. I mean I don’t know why anything takes place in it, but I had to watch because of Lee Hyun Woo. Ack, that boy. He breaks my heart every time he’s on screen.
I haven’t watched the Japanese adaptation but I might have to read the manga first to get a back story on why anyone does anything here ^^
Aw yeah, I love Lee Hyun Woo too!! He’s one of the big reasons I checked out this show! Too bad they got him to overact so much of the time, especially in the earlier episodes! >.< But he was great in the later episodes when they toned it down, so that was good 🙂
I have to agree that if I'd gone in with zero knowledge of the manga / J-version, I probably would've been a LOT more frustrated with the show! I thought the J-version was insane yet very good. If you have some time, I do recommend checking it out, it's so much fun! 😀
So I started this drama without seeing the Japanese version. Thankfully, my friend has and could fill in the plot holes like you were able to especially for our heroines motive. I have not returned regularily to this drama, but I find it fun to watch when as you said I turn off my brain. I think once I let go of my whole “Why did you do this!?” for the heroine and I definitely got more into the show. I’m watching this one slowly just occasionally an episode here or there, but I agree with what you said. I think if you can just go with the show for the first few episodes its really enjoyable. Also, the beautiful cinematography (and boys at the school) helps because its just so darn pretty to watch.
Ah yes, the boys are so pretty!! And so athletic.. I was always in awe whenever Min Ho had to do all kinds of sporty stuff for the camera. Pull-ups, push-ups, jumps, etc. And I imagined how often he’d have to do re-takes, since one take is never enough for the camera, and I’d be so impressed at his endurance! Such a mass of lean muscle, that boy 😉
If you have time, I do recommend checking out Japan’s 2007 version. It’s so much fun! And it’d be fun to compare versions too, when you’ve seen more than one 🙂
I think I’ll do that! I like the concept of the show, and I really like well-done Manga adaptions. There’s something about that Manga style that brings a special oomph to a drama for me. (Also, they normally have more involved subplots, which is always fun!)
Yes! I find that no one does manga adaptations quite like the Japanese! They somehow make it work, while other versions just.. don’t. I checked out the first episode of Taiwan’s Hana Kimi and couldn’t make it through the whole episode. It just didn’t work for me. On the other hand, I was hooked on the J-version within minutes! 😀