Boys Over Flowers is a contemporary shoujo classing for fans of both manga and anime. It’s such a fan favorite, in fact, that there have been five live-action series based on it! The most recent, from 2009, hails from South Korea and features all the same characters you’ve come to know and love from the original series and all its iterations.
But just how close does the K-drama come to the original? Surprisingly close… with a dash of surprisingly different.
On the surface, the story is almost identical. We have Jan-Di (formerly Tsukushi), a strong-willed lower-class girl going to an upper-class school. We have the F4, the school’s richest and handsomest boys, holding a terrifying amount of sway over the student body. And we see what happens when Jan-Di dares to go toe-to-toe with Jun-Pyo (Tsukasa), the highest ranking and ostensibly cruelest member of the F4.
Fans of the original will be a little surprised at just how Jan-Di gets into the prestigious Shinhwa High, though. In the original iteration, our heroine is already in the high-end school, pushed there by her parents in an attempt to get her to marry herself (and them) out of poverty. But when we meet Jan-Di in the drama, she’s happily working away making deliveries for her dad’s dry-cleaning company. It just so happens that her most recent customer attends Shinhwa. Not only that… he’s currently on the highest ledge of the school, preparing to jump because of F4’s declaration of war against him.
Before the first episode has even gotten fully underway, Jan-Di has become something of a local hero, giving the rich kids a piece of her mind and talking a stranger down from suicide. “Wonder Girl” is a source of pride for the lower-class community… and a major headache for the school as they deal with press inquiries concerning their methods. To put out the fire, the school offers Jan-Di a swimming scholarship — which her parents accept despite her very noisy disapproval.
From there, and with an extremely tense undercurrent as everyone knows who Jan-Di is and what she thinks of them, the story continues in a very familiar vein. Jan-Di defends a fellow student against the F4, she gets a declaration of war against her, and she reacts in a manner the school’s four faves aren’t at all used to.
If you’re a fan of soft-spoken violinist Rui and his love triangle with Tsukushi and the model Shizuka, you’ll see it played out again here, too. Ji-Hoo (Rui) still chats with Jan-Di in private, still has the same background, and once again carries a torch for model and Shinhwa alum Seo-Hyun (Shizuka). And Seo-Hyun treats Jan-Di to some memorable Cinderella moments, of course!
Fans of the relationship between F4 member Sojiro and Tsukushi’s friend Yuki will have more to look forward to. Now called Yi-Jung and Ga-Eul, the pair get more screen time and more focus on how their interaction changes the ways of the former Casanova.
Most of all, though, there’s a brand new sort of chemistry between the two leads. Ku Hye-Sun as Jan-Di and Lee Min-Ho as Jun-Pyo are both unafraid to go completely over-the-top when it comes to comedy, drama, fights, or a combination of all three within one scene. They’re an equal match, and while Jun-Pyo’s pranks and advances go beyond the acceptable (and occasionally the logical — how he rounded up enough ducks to fill the school’s pool is the subject of a whole other article!), Jan-Di has it in her to give back as good as she gets.
So, if you’re a devoted Boys Over Flowers fan, is the new drama worth watching? Absolutely. It follows the same route with lots of the same beats, albeit changed up to suit the locale. But the new cast, with a storyline tweaked to move different elements in and out of the spotlight, allows new perspectives on familiar beloved characters. It’s no wonder it was a hit in Korea and continues finding fans worldwide, to the point of their filming locations becoming tourist attractions.
As an added bonus, there are many extended montages of rich boys getting dressed in fancy clothes, all set to an awesome K-pop soundtrack. Those in and of themselves are worth a marathon.
Ready to dive in? Korea’s Boys Over Flowers will give you more than 25 hours of romance, pranks, travel, and super fancy clothes to gawk over.