18 August, 2012

To The Beautiful You: SM's Problematic But Seriously Enjoyable Hana Kimi Makeover

haven't read the manga (but there's a first for everything, right?), I just finished watching (about 10 minutes ago) the 2007 Japanese version 花ざかりの君たちへ/Hanazakari no Kimitachi/Hana Kimi/To You In Full Bloom with Horikita Maki, Oguri Shun, and Ikuto Tuma (I love you DramaWiki!!), and I topped it off with watching the first two episodes of the newest Korean version To the Beautiful You/아름다운 그대에게 starring Sulli (or Choi Seol-ri) from f(x), Minho of SHINee, and Lee Hyung-woo.

Originally, I had wanted to study up on To the Beautiful You (from now on referred to as TtBY) since it already has a couple of versions that have preceded it, and well, the manga and its adaptations seem to be a pretty big deal.  I was going to watch the first episode of Hana Kimi in order to get the feel of the 2007 Japanese version, since it seemed to be the most popular, and I wanted to have some kind of understanding when other viewers started bringing up comparisons.  
Before I knew it, I was totally sucked into the zany, insane, non-sensical, fast-paced, hilarious, cheesetastic, heart-tugging adorableness that is the 2007 version of Hana Kimi.  And Ikuto Tuma freaking rocked it in the role of second-male lead Nakatsu.  But enough on that.

I like comparisons, but in general, I like to keep mine in check, especially between different artistic mediums (books vs. film adaptations etc.- or in this case, J-drama vs. K-drama).  Yeah, I'm going to sit here and compare, because honestly, TtBY is asking for it.

First off, I really enjoyed the first two episodes of TtBY- it's absolutely horrible, but hey, with this director (of Boys Over Flowers) and obvious (and oft times obnoxious) backing from SM (EXO-K in a super awkwardly done cameo anyone??), I wasn't expecting anything else.  I like my dramas more in extremes:  I want them to be excellent, or they can also be awesomely horrible... I hate the middle ground of those poor dramas that have the potential to be awesome... but fail miserably because they're only kinda good.  This drama never had any chance of being excellent, so I've been totally prepared for it to be horrible.  

In some ways, TtBY is better than I expected, and in other aspects, totally what I expected (and it ain't good).

From what I've heard, the 2007 version of Hana Kimi doesn't follow the original manga all that well in comparison to the Taiwanese version, but what it does do is keep to the spirit of the manga (please correct me if I'm wrong on this), with all the exaggerated... everything.  

The reason that I'm comparing TtBY is simply because so far, it's pretty much followed exactly the same plot line as 2007's Hana Kimi... except that the spirit is completely different.
The foremost problem and difference between the dramas is that TtBY takes itself WAY too seriously.  I feel like the difference between the two is like Super Junior's Sexy, Free, and Single and their trot sub-unit's Rokkugo.  But the original storyline of the manga or the modified drama plot lines cannot support seriousness!!!  Because they completely balk in the face of reason!!

Basically, you have a girl (yes, who's kind of a stalker and named Go0 Jae-hee in this version) who decides to run away from home in the States, cuts her hair in an effort to look like a boy, and enrolls into an all-boys school in order to help out a star high jump athlete (here called Kang Tae-joon) gain his confidence in his sport again.... oh wait, in this version, it's not until AFTER Jae-hee enrolls that Tae-joon officially loses his confidence, and I'm sitting there thinking how batty this girl's brain is.  Yeah, the drama better give some kind of good reason for Goo Jae-hee becoming obsessed with Kang Tae-joon and why she came to the school in the first place (some theories say that she was in the hospital, and possibly a wheelchair, when she first saw him perform and that he inspired her-- at least, that's the theory I hope the writer goes with), because you can't be serious drama AND have gaping holes in your plot without some kind of good reasoning.

I think the biggest factor towards the seriousness of the drama is the atmosphere that has been created.  TtBY is set in a world that is very much realistic (or rather some kind unrealistic, super ritzy form of realism that seems so popular in trendy dramas these days...  because apparently every girl's got a cold-on-the-outside-warm-on-the-inside chaebol boy, and wears designer clothing, and carry the lastest handphones, even though they profess to be poor... *sighs*).  2007's Hana Kimi took place in high school meant for pretty boys, who are never seen studying, but going on treasure hunts and indulging in character-building competitions to gain trips to Hawaii and gaining free weekends.  One student sees ghosts and reads auras, another speaks to animals in one scene, while another creates lie detectors--- none of it makes sense!  But that's what's funny.  The teachers let the students do what they want, the male nurse is gay etc.  TtBY, on the other hand, takes itself and its characters very seriously.  No, Kang Tae-joon can't just be a good high jumper- he has to be considered an idol with CF contracts, his face plastered in an airport, and has to have a famous ballerina and model as his #1 fangirl.  The school has to look top-notch, and the dorms done in a ritzy, modern style.  Everything must reek of wealth and perfection.  And yeah, it doesn't leave any room for the funny and quirky.

Also, the side characters haven't been faring too well either on the why-so-serious-meter, though Kwanghee is proving to be the only one with a somewhat quirky character.  Seriously, when he started caking on the chapstick I was like Oh... so you're THAT kid.  Lol.  I'm totally a fan of his rude, petty character.

I'm also afraid that there is going to be a complete ignoring of any of the characters being gay.  I'm really sad about this since Answer Me 1997 is being received so well with an idol (yay Hoya!) playing a homosexual character.  But methinks that SM is too gutless to do that....

On a technical note, and then I'll move on to positive things that I kind of love about this drama.  The continuity of this dramas SUCKS.  I don't know who's stringing all the scenes together, but they need to take some lessons quickly or get fired.  Most of the time, if something doesn't quite work in a drama, I'll just note it and move on, but with this drama I've been noting mistakes and then correcting them in my head.  One doesn't need too many video editing skills to know that this drama has really clunky movement.  

On the other hand, the camera is quite pretty.  I don't love the bright colors, but that's just personal preference.  The cinematography has been fine, and the musical queues have been okay.  At least we don't seem to have another ALLLLLLMOOOOSTT PARADISE!!! on our hands, because that song totally ruined every single moment it played during Boys Over Flowers and permanently destroyed any want in my listening to Mike Reno's and Ann Wilson's 80s love song Almost Paradise from Footloose.  Seriously, it destroyed my love for a childhood favorite.

Now to acting, which weirdly enough, has been the mostly pleasing thing about the drama.  I've really enjoyed Sulli's Jae-hee.  She's cringeworthy obsessed sometimes (but that's just the character), but she's cute and the haircut is horrid-- which helps her into looking like a boy.  
Minho has been fine, but the character doesn't ask for all that much, so.... I did enjoy his drunken minute though.  I think that he'll do fine, and he's done more than he's needed to, so I'm happy.
I've always like Lee Hyun-woo, and though I don't think he's the best actor, he's definitely the most talented of the bunch, which is great considering that he's playing the Nakatsu character.  So far I'm probably the most disappointed in him, because 1) I expected a lot from LHW and 2) the character asks for a lot, especially with comic timing.  LHW is adorable, but I'm not finding him terribly hilarious-- which is also a fault in the writing.

Of the side characters, I'm liking Kwanghee the most, mostly because he's the only one with character, while everyone else has stuck themselves into serious/angst mode.  People, I need vibrant, crazy characters here!!

And Kim Ji-won.  I know that K-dramas love their love rectangles, but I don't think we really need her.  We had what's-her-name from 2007's Hana Kimi, but she was funny and didn't get in the way of the main couple... but this is a K-drama, and we all know what 99.9% of second-lead females do in trendies, yes?

I do like the drama though.  Again, I feel like I'm getting more than what I expected to get.  There's A LOT of problems, and I really wish the writer would stop following 2007's Hana Kimi (plot wise), because everything has been sorta copied, but in an ineffective way that doesn't match charm of the Japanese original.  I also would like it if the pacing picked up a bit, but that probably won't happen.  Just give me a nice, smoothly moving episode- okay?  Pinky promise?

I'd have to say that my favorite scene in the first episode was the bathroom fight.  Jae-hee struggling in the men's bathroom for the time was in 2007's Hana Kimi, but TtBY took it a step farther with the fight... which was hilarious.  It gave me a reason to root for Jae-hee being awesome (Seriously?  A plunger to the face?!) and it was an all around humorous scene that wasn't awkwardly copied from the 2007 Japanese version.  

My favorite moment in the second episode had to be when the three dorm leaders get together (sadly, their conflict is not properly presented, and is not terribly funny) to discuss the upcoming athletics competition, and when they shake hands on it, it turns into a thumb war!!  So awesomely petty and hilarious.

Oh.  And the kiss wasn't half bad either ;)
Although I'll certainly have complaints about this drama (even myriads of them!), I'm pretty certain that I'll still enjoy it.  

BABY!!!  (Can someone please yell that in this drama?  Pleeeeaaaasse?)

 ◀ For Whom the Bell Tolls: Gaksital Episodes 18, 19 & 20
                                                                              Why So Marvelous? Gaksital Episodes 21 & 21 ▶


  1. LOL!! I agree!! The Japanese version is insane and it works, and the Korean version just tries too hard to be serious, which ruins everything! :)

    1. Yep, it just didn't work, though it had its moments!! Mostly, I think the main failing of the drama was a refusal to give the main female a good reason (or bad--it doesn't even have to make all that much sense!) to do everything that she did... Oi. We need to root for our heroines.