Meteor Garden

Reviewed by: Yanie

December 30, 2004

Rating: three-point-five

'Meteor Garden', a Taiwanese drama series, is an adaptation of a Japan manga (comic), entitled 'Hana Yori Dango' (literally translated: dumplings before flowers). It is written by Kamio Yoko, published since 1992 until now, and so far there are 31 volumes and still running.

The drama broadcasted on CTS April 2001, starring all-new fresh looks actors, Barbie Hsu and the F4 (Jerry Yan, Vic Chou, Vaness Wu, Ken Zhu). Just some info, boyband F4 was formed because of this series.

For convenience sake, I will use the Japanese names for the characters, so below first to avoid confusions:

Barbie Hsu : Makino Tsukushi = Shan Cai
Jerry Yan : Doumyouji Tsukasa = Dao Ming Si
Vic Chou : Hanazawa Rui = Hua Zhe Lei
Vanness Wu : Mimasaka Akira = Mei Zuo
Ken Zhu : Nishikado Soujirou = Xi Men
Winnie Qian : Toudou Shizuka = Jing
Edward Au : Kazuya = Qing He
Rainie Yeuang : Yuuki = Xiao You
Yip On Ting : Mikako + Sakurako = Li Zhen
Belinda Yip : Asai = Bai He
???? : Ayuhara = Qian Hui

Tsukushi is a poor girl studying in Ying De University, an elite university with rich students in glamorous lifestyle. Tsukushi's parents insist and had worked very hard in order for Tsukushi to be able to study in that university, in the hope that Tsukushi will find a rich husband, thus their status will go up and be accepted in the elite community.

However, Tsukushi feels so uncomfortable studying in that university. She feels disgusted with the glamorous lifestyle of the students and their arrogant attitudes. She only has one close friend in that university, Makiko. A group of guys called the 'F4', holds the power in the university, as their parents are the owners of the university. F4 consists of four guys:

1. Doumyouji Tsukasa: the leader, a high-tempered, selfish and arrogant guy
2. Hanazawa Rui: the most quiet one, a kind-hearted and very cool guy
3. Mimasaka Akira: smiles often (especially to the ladies), and loves older women
4. Nishikado Soujirou: a playboy, 'nuff said^^

No one dares enough to go against the F4, if they do, they'll be red-tagged and forced to drop out from the university. Even the lecturers are afraid of them. Tsukushi has always hate their attitudes, but she tries to control herself from doing anything, so she won't get any trouble. All she want is to graduate immediately, so her mother will be happy.

However, one day, Makiko accidentally spilled ink on Doumyouji's face. She apologized over and over. But, Doumyouji (note: Doumyouji is actually his surname, but since Tsukushi used to call him with his surname, the readers got used to it too =P The other F4 calls him Tsukasa^^) is enraged and pushes Makiko aside roughly. Tsukushi just can't stand it anymore, so she does the thing she most want to avoid--that is getting into trouble with the F4. She yelled at Doumyouji and the rest of the F4.

The next morning, she got red-tagged, and starting then, lots of bad things happen to her. She got accused of cheating while taking tests, gets locked in a toilet, arms glued to the table then a firecracker blow right in front of her, etc. The next day, Tsukushi got really mad and stuck her own red-tag on Doumyouji's face, then she declares a war to the F4. Doumyouji secretly starts to admire Tsukushi's spirit.

All the while, Tsukushi have always seen Rui as the nicest one among all four, and she is attracted to him. One day, Tsukushi is chased by two men (Doumyouji's men) who wants to rape/scare her, and suddenly Rui comes to the rescue and tells them to let her go. Since this, Tsukushi grows a special feeling for Rui. However, Rui have someone else in his heart.

The next day, Tsukushi gather up her strength to hit Doumyouji on the face, she was really pissed with the last incident. Being smacked that way, Doumyouji is speechless, no one has ever dared enough to do that to him. Since then Doumyouji cannot stop thinking about her and grows feelings for her.

Meanwhile, Rui's first love, Shizuka is back from France. Shizuka has everything a woman could ever want. She's very beautiful, elegant, mature, and very kind-hearted. She's from a wealthy family, she's also a model. She is the F4's childhood friend. She is actually 3 years older than the F4.

However, later, Shizuka decided to throw away everything she has now, wealthiness, title, and even her long hair to become a lawyer in France. At first, Rui was just being quiet, but after Tsukushi supported him and pushed him to go after Shizuka in France, Rui changes his mind and even books a ticket for the next flight to France. Rui kisses Tsukushi's forehead and thanks her. After Rui left, Doumyouji asked Tsukushi out on a date. But, the sound of the plane machine beats Doumyouji's voice, she can't hear him. The next day, Akira and Soujirou are laughing at Doumyouji who's reading a book on dates. Later, Doumyouji only says 3 things to Tsukushi: the day (Sunday), the place and the time, which left Tsukushi's wondering. On Sunday, Tsukushi is shopping with her mother. According to Tsukushi, because Doumyouji was unclear about it, she doesn't have the obligation to go there. Despite the fact that she's reluctant to go to the place, she's very curious too, what does Doumyouji want?

At last, she decided to go and check. It's raining, so she has to take her mother's umbrella, then on the place she see Doumyouji in the middle of the rain, all wet without any umbrella, sitting.....

Up to here, I would have to let you watch the series yourself, because it's just full of surprises and thrilling plotlines^^ I would definitely spoil everything away, if I continue and those who haven't watched it or read it =P

When I watched episode 1, I had absolutely no idea who will Tsukushi end up with! At first, I thought I support Rui because of his kind heart and he's just different than the other F4 members, but then after he said, "If I had known you'll be following me wherever I go, I wouldn't have saved you yesterday". I just got the feeling he's not better than the others, either. And I realized he saved Tsukushi because he JUST felt like doing it.

How 'bout Doumyouji? Just for your information, if I'm Tsukushi I'd be thinking the same thing and feel the same, that is TO HATE HIM!! =P High-tempered, selfish, arrogant, I can't believe there's a main character with so many negative points (and leave a very small space for his positive points)! It's just a little hard to believe, that Tsukushi will end up with this guy. But, as I proceed reading the manga, and get to know more about Doumyouji, I can't think of anyone else in the story that can become my most favorite character!^^ I really didn't expect at all that the real Doumyouji does idiotic/childish things, BAD Japanese vocabulary (in the manga, ironically...he speaks fluent German and Italian =P) and just ridiculous! I mean, indirectly (again, in the manga), he's the clown of the story!!^_^ Kamio Yoko is really an expert in creating solid characters!

So, how was Meteor Garden?

Overall, as a manga adaptation, I have to say it is only average. If it wasn't because of the amazingly faithful storyline (even to the details) to the manga, I wouldn't get through finish watching it^^ I didn't really expect this faithfulness, since I had experienced watching most of Taiwan's wuxia novel adaptations usually to deviate a lot from the novel. So, I was surprised when I know Meteor Garden is like, 90% faithful to the manga.

So, why is it only average, you ask me?

The main factor is the low acting skill of the actors. It's just too bad, most of them acted so stiff. Well, I can understand that they're all new actors, and it feels great to see fresh new looks, it's just that I sometimes can't stand their acting. Well, at least, (and I'm just glad) they didn't over-reacted or exaggerated their expressions^^

Barbie Hsu can only act 70% of the perfect Tsukushi. She lacks on expressions. Her acting is just not up to standard. However, I think she's pretty acceptable as Tsukushi and I have to say, she's the best actress in this drama.
As for the so-called F4, well...I expected a lot more than those guys!!^^ In terms of handsomeness, I don't think they're handsome enough to be the 'F4'(aack! are the F4 fans strangling me?!). Moreover, their acting skill are below average.

Jerry Yan as Doumyouji?? 80% or so, thanks to the faithful script^^ The script made Jerry act out the character not far from the way he is in the manga. I laugh at scenes whenever he did those idiotic things, his expression is pretty funny. And, I'm glad the producer casted the most handsome one to be my most favorite character of the story =P However, it's just too bad he's not really a good actor, lacking of a lot of expressions, especially, angry, sad and embarrassed expressions. Oh, the way, I hate his standing hair! It looks so awful, I was just really glad whenever his hair got wet^^ In the manga, Doumyouji has this curled hair, and whenever it gets wet, the curls will straighten up, when it's dry, it'll curl up again. I guess, Jerry's hair can't curl, so they made that awful standing-hairstyle

Rui is just sooooo-typical Japanese guys character in Japan stories. Cool, quiet and mysterious. And, Vic Chou seems to struggle in doing those serious expressions. I thought Rui would be the easiest part to act, because all the actor has to do is to stay expressionless, but I guess Vic Chou can't do that part well.

I don't have much to complain on Vaness Wu's Akira, he doesn't have much role anyway. He's a playboy that smiles often and he has done that part quite well, but just as the other F4, his acting is below average.

Pretty much the same for Ken Zhu's Soujirou, playboy that smiles often, and usually teases Doumyouji together with Akira. He and Akira are just like, the best pals, and I'm having a hard time to find differences in their characters, because they're soo similar^^ These two even have a nickname, which is 'The Dynamic Duo' ^_^ Ever since Soujirou's love obstacles with Yuuki (Tsukushi's very bestfriend) arise, I'd reeeallly like to see this pair get together!! Apparently, up to vol. 31, there is no development on Soujirou and Yuuki's relationship =( Anyway, I was a little disappointed with his appearance, because Soujirou is supposed to have short hair, wear an earring and do not wear any glasses...

Oh, yes...I like Winnie Qian who played Shizuka, she's just perfect for the character!! (despite her acting not being any better than the others^^)

So, it's not about miscasts really, it's just, the producer only casted on their appearance but not their acting skills, in my opinion...too bad... But, hey...I guess the actors did improve their acting along the series, not much of an improvement...but, not bad!!^^

As for the adaptation script, I REALLY love it! It was 90% stick to the manga. And I really don't mind the changes they made. The changes they did make were, apparently, to make it look more real (since some scenes are just too...well, comic). The script is just perfect. But, sometimes, some (supposedly) funny dialogues goes unfunny...I wonder why.....

One of my favorite changed scene in the drama is where Rui saved Tsukushi who was attacked with garbage, and where Doumyouji pull her arm and Rui immediately also pull her other arm. Thus, Tsukushi is put in the middle of a tug of war. In the manga, Rui should've carried Tsukushi first, then Doumyouji pull her legs, while Rui don't want to let go of her arms, so Doumyouji pulling her legs while Rui holding her arms.

Can you imagine how Barbie Hsu will handle that scene? That's why, I was very satisfied with this changed scene, I think the scene was done very well.

As for the themesongs, I'm not really fond of the opening theme, 'Qin Fei De Yi by Harlem Yu', but I'm crazy over the ENDING themesong!! 'Ni Yao De Ai by Dai Pei Ni' I just love this slow romantic song!! The background musics are okay, few of them are memorable, but some also annoying.

Now, for the differences between the manga and the drama(I'll only mention some of them):

1. In the manga, Tsukushi and F4 were high school students. In the drama, they were university students. Actually, I think being high school students makes F4 look cooler, because they don't wear uniforms, while the other students do, it just shows their power more^^

2. In the manga, Tsukushi has a younger brother named Susumu. In the drama, she's an only child. Although Susumu don't really have any important role, I'm still a little disappointed with this, coz that makes the Makino house less merry. =P

3. In the manga, there are 3 annoying girls who likes to tease Tsukushi: Asai, Ayuhara, and Yamano. There are only 2 in the drama.

4. Apparently, the producer merged Makiko and Sakurako's characters to 'Li Zhen'. Makiko is Tsukushi's only friend in school and she's a sweet girl. Tsukushi meets Sakurako in Shizuka's birthday party, Tsukushi saved Sakurako from a pervert old man. Turns out, Sakurako likes Doumyouji and envies Tsukushi, she slanders Tsukushi with her naked pictures.

5. In the manga, Tsukushi and Kazuya went to Atami (a vacation place, mostly for old people) for their summer holiday, coz Kazuya's parents have a house for holidays there. As a matter of fact, Tsukushi's parents tag along, too (since they insist to =P)! Then, Doumyouji and company came, with his luxurious cruise ship, on the beach. In the drama, Tsukushi's parents do not tag along, and there's only a cruise ship, no vacation place.

6. In the manga, Tsukushi only stand in the corner alone on the cruise party. In the drama, Tsukushi dance with Akira, Soujirou and Rui.

7. In the manga, Doumyouji waited for Tsukushi as it was snowing, so when Tsukushi arrives, he's kinda covered with snow. In the drama, Doumyouji waited for Tsukushi in the rain.

8. In the manga, Doumyouji and Tsukushi are trapped in an elevator. In the drama, Doumyouji and Tsukushi are trapped in an emergency staircase.

The reason why this series ended abruptly is because in Japan itself, the manga is still running. The ending of Meteor Garden probably happened somewhere in the middle of volume 29. The very last one out in Japan was volume 31 and still running on Margaret Comics Magazine up until now since 1992 (Wow!! Such a long story, don't you think?!?).

A little spoiler, the last development on the story, is...Doumyouji gets stabbed in the middle of chaos. When he's up in the hospital, turns out, he can remember all of his friends and family, except his own girlfriend...Tsukushi!!!O_O Heheh...a little ridiculous, don't you think?? Then, a new rival for Tsukushi also appears, her name is Nakajima Umi, a very socialize person, who loves to smile a lot. She is so nice to people, kids and old people that they just love her. However, I grew to hate her, cos she always stops Doumyouji from trying remember too hard...argh! Poor Tsukushi... =(

Anyway, I'm not really enthused with METEOR GARDEN 2, the sequel. Obviously, coz the manga itself has not finished, I assume they will create their own story and ending, and I doubt the plotline will be as solid as Kamio Yoko's. But, we'll see....

METEOR GARDEN as an adaptation AND a self stand-up drama series is very enjoyable to watch, despite the lack of acting skills, because the solid plotline and characterizations over-shadow them, but as for this, of course...the credits goes to (besides the scriptwriter, for being so faithful to the manga^^) Kamio Yoko herself, the manga-ka.

I give it 5 stars for the script, 2 stars for the acting, and 3.5 stars OVERALL!^^ I really recommend you to watch this series for your entertainment!

Screenshots (Sina Entertainment Copyrighted).

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