Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Boys Over Flowers (Kkotboda Namja)

Shojo. Just the mere mention of the genre is enough to send male viewers into a series of cringes. There's no action in shojo. There's no violence or gore. It's all about... feelings! It's a series aimed for... teenage girls! Ugh. Just thinking about it should be enough to send the average male viewer into fits.

Just looking at the title... there's no way to make it look like a badass action movie. There's just no getting around it. This is not an action movie. This is a romantic series. And I was going to watch it. Why? Well, I had vowed to watch more Korean dramas, but it seems the movies and dramas really are at odds for the most part. Sure, there are dramas that are action-filled, but they are a lot harder to come across. I know because I looked. However, there are tons of Korean dramas that provide an excess of feels. Boys Over Flowers is probably the most well known of them and consequently gets almost nothing but good reviews. 

So I decided that I would indeed watch this. If nothing else, I could at least say I gave it the ole college try before dropping it from my Netflix queue like a rock. I was prepared. I had my vomit bag handy, a six pack of beer on standby, and a box of sand paper ready to expunge any traces of non-existent tears from my face. I could do this. 25 episodes. 25 hours. If I could just make it through this 2009 Korean drama I knew that I could tackle anything. I was ready.

Or maybe I wasn't. I had prepared myself mentally for the feels, but I hadn't prepared myself to be royally pissed off about bullying.

I'll elaborate. The original story has Gu Jun-pyo (although under a Japanese name) as a bully at the start, but I have no idea if he was as big of a bully as he was at the start of this drama. It wasn't just him, either. So many of the students were just pieces of shit. It would not have surprised me if one of the kids that were being bullied decided to go shopping for some firearms. Shinhwa High School sounds a lot like hell. 

I'm sure that this piece of fiction contains elements of both Korean and Japanese cultures, but if that kind of insane bullying is one of them then holy shit. That wasn't just bullying. That was some fucked up shit. The first five episodes were the worst, but there were definitely elements of bullying throughout the series and it was disturbing. As ya'll know I can watch movies with tons of gory eviscerations of brainless bimbos and jocks, but just one scene of bullying is agony for me. 

I was really glad when the bullying toned down as the series progressed, but as Gu Jun-pyo backed off you'll begin to intensely hate his mother instead. 

Geum Jan-di (Ku hye-sun) is the daughter of a laundromat worker. She isn't exactly the kind of person you would imagine that goes to Shinhwa High School, the school where only the privileged and ultra rich can go. Yet after she saves a bullied kid from jumping off the roof of a school building the attention she attracts make the powers in charge honor her by making her a student. Her parents are beside themselves with excitement. They want her to marry someone rich and famous and Shinhwa High School has a lot of those types. 

Things will not be easy for her, though. Her spunky and low class nature quickly brings the wrath of the F4, the four students who are "in charge of the school." Crossing them means getting an F4 card in your locker and if that happens then everyone will be out to get you. Your life as you know will be over. You might as well draw a target over your head. 

The members of the F4 are as follows:

So Yi-jung (Kim Bum) - The only member of the F4 to earn money with his own hands, Yi-jung is an artist that creates pottery. His works are in museums and one of the museums just happens to be owned by his family. In his part time he is an aspiring playboy. 

Song Woo-bin (Kim Joon) - His family is involved in a very successful construction business, but it's also involved in the mafia. He is the fighter of the bunch, but he is also as much of a playboy as Yi-jung. Doesn't get a lot a screen time, though. 

Yoon Ji-hoo (Kim Hyun-joong) - He is the prodigy of the bunch. His musical talent makes women swoon, but his quiet nature makes him come off as mysterious. He is the grandson of the former president of South Korea.

Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho) - He is the leader of the F4 and the one who will inherit the Shinhwa Group, one of the most powerful business groups in all of South Korea. He is relentless when it comes to getting what he wants and he knows nothing of struggling for it. 

Geum Jan-di has unwittingly crossed these gentlemen. Specifically Gu Jun-pyo. Her life is now hell. 

Yet it would seem that two of the gentlemen responsible for making her life hell are awed by her endurance and unflappable attitude. Her "fighting" mentality and her low class upbringing have provided her with the perfect tools to combat the bullying. This has an effect of Gu Jun-pyo and Yoon Ji-hoo. 

Things quickly get out of hand... even for Gu Jun-pyo. Gu Jun-pyo's monster gets taken too far by other students and both he and Yoon Ji-hoo step in to promise Geum Jan-di protection from further bullying. 

However, their actions (and subsequent inactions) form the basis of the high school love triangle that will comprise the rest of this series. Stockholm Syndrome, at its finest.

Yet Gu Jun-pyo's mother, a venomous bitch of a creature, takes up the reins and vows to keep her son from getting involved with a mere commoner and she uses her connections to cause hell for Geum Jan-di and her family. 

If Geum Jan-di wants any kind of happy ending she is going to have a long way to go. 

There are a ton of cliches and silly plot developments thrown into the mix. Basically every single romantic hallmark moment gets a turn even down to the "getting into an accident and forgetting everyone but your true love" bit. 

It's also my firm belief that just about every single romantic piece ever made is too long because most human beings are idiots when it comes to romance in real life, but it seems even worse in fiction. Gu Jun-pyo seems dumber than a box of rocks at pivotal moments. 

As the series pressed on I kind of just wanted shit to come to a conclusion. I'm actually surprised someone didn't end up killing themselves considering how ridiculously complicated and frustrating things were becoming. At times I would have preferred that so I could move on to other things. 

I stuck with it, though. I did like the characters and the actors and actresses involved seemed to be very good considering their young ages. Lee Min-ho definitely showed signs that he could become something more than a teen actor for girls to fawn over. Of course, this wouldn't be fully realized until City Hunter

Lee Hye-young is perfect as Gu Jun-pyo's mother. I hated her fucking guts the entire time, but there were moments where even she came across as a normal human being. They normally didn't last long, but they were there and they added a lot of depth to her character. I hated her, but caught myself feeling sorry for her, too. 

Although her sole desire to prevent Gu Jun-pyo from getting involved with anyone she didn't approve of did get old. 

All in all, I'd say this was definitely a competent series. There are plenty of exotic locations, expensive cars, and cool suits to make James Bond jealous. There's also some good to great acting. As far as romances go this one is definitely top-notch. The story could have been shorter, but that is par for the course with this kind of stuff. Romances always drag on. That's why they are romances and not action movies. 

Women, of a certain type, will undoubtedly swoon over the F4 and male viewers will quietly root for Geum Jan-di to achieve her goals. So there is something for everyone.

This isn't anything like many of the Korean movies, though.

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