Kicking off my Boys Over Flowers re-watch-athon-2K15 is the Japanese version first aired on TBS from October to December way back in 2005!
I first watched this online, in extremely low quality, in 10 minute chunks uphill both ways in the snow! I fell immediately in love with the offbeat, quirky humour of the series – the characters are slightly exaggerated and comic-like 4D people, but there’s still drama and pathos to be had. The main cast has great chemistry (to this day delulu shippers insist that the wedding is JUST around the corner… In a deep corner of my heart I totally join them in hoping for this) and the series does a fab job of condensing the rather extensive source material down.
Series 1 covers 9 jam-packed episodes of plot, so get this re-watch party started I have provided a brief character primer below before we jump off the cliff that is this crack-filled delight.
Needless to say there are some light spoilerssssssss ahead!
Eitoku Gakuen (High School) – Tokyo
A high school for the children of the wealthy, elite and prestigious families of Japan. This high school is populated by indolent and shallow students who only care about acquiring the latest exclusive brands and one-upping their classmates with displays of wealth.
The student body is run by a clique of 4 boys in the senior year known as the ‘Flower Four’ or ‘F4’ (due to being handsome/pretty, like a flower, idk it’s a cultural thing). They delight in bullying and tormenting weaker students or anyone who annoys them. Their favourite method is to hang a ‘Red Tag’ in their locker, which serves as a signal that any and all methods of bullying should be applied to the student targeted. Most students issued a red tag have dropped out because the bullying was so extreme.
Our main heroine. Comes from a poor working-class background and lives with her Father Haruo, Mother Chieko and Younger brother Susumu in a small apartment. She decided to attend Eitouku Gakuen when she was inspired by a speech given by one of her idols Todo Shizuka who also attended the school. Makino is stubborn and independent and has a strong sense of justice. She has aspirations to become a lawyer, so her goal is to graduate quietly and successfully from school without attracting any undue attention, so she stifles her anger and disgust towards the ‘F4’. She often yells her frustrations out loud at one of the stairwells when no-one is around.
I really appreciate that this version of Makino has a fair bit of spunk to her, and that although she’s poor, she’s not the typical candy-girl stereotype. She’s the sort of ‘normal’ girl amongst the crazies and in no time you’ll adopt her fave phrase Arienaitsuno!
The only son and heir of one of the wealthiest conglomerate families in Japan and the leader of the ‘F4’. His older sister Tsubasa is married and has left the household and his mother Kaede is the chairman of the Domyouji empire and is rarely at home, it’s not overtly stated, but his father has already passed away. Domyouji is hot-headed, arrogant and often violent, but hides a more sensitive, lonely side. He channels his boredom into bullying and harassing other students. An odd quirk is that he often mixes up idioms and common Japanese expressions (due not properly learning Kanji).
So, Domyouji is a TOTAL dick – but he’s a bit of a loveable dick because he’s so stupid that you can’t help loving how idiotic and troll-logic oriented he is. Matsumoto really commits to this character and owns the performance because on paper, you should really hate this character with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.
Rui is also the son and heir to his family’s business. Due to the pressures of his early childhood, he is now very withdrawn and solitary. He is one of Domyouji’s oldest friends and although he participates in the ‘F4’ bullying, he seems detached and uncaring. He has been in a one-sided love with Shizuka for many years now, but she regards him as a younger brother. He has a love of music and plays the violin. He rarely interacts with anyone outside the ‘F4’ and is just floating through his school days.
I weep for Shun’s hair here – it’s so Boyband/Visual Kei tragic, but once you get past that he’s not so bad (he levels up his hotness in later dramas). Rui though… ugh. I mean I get the attraction to the wounded bird/quiet and stoic hero that can be saved with love, but he’s just so… bland.
Son and heir to a Teahouse and Tea Ceremony School, Soujiro is also from a prestigious and wealthy background. Brash and self-assured his self-confidence is his most attractive quality. He has a constant string of girls on the hook and is a complete playboy, never being tied down for any long period of time. He appreciates beauty in all things but believes that it is only fleeting. His older brother left the family, so he has taken up the dutiful role of the heir. He pursues a hedonistic lifestyle and has a cynical and bitter inner-streak.
I absolutely love Soujiro as he’s the total badboy character! He’s sadly slightly under-developed in the live-action adaptation, but is a complete scene stealer whenever he gets the chance.
Son and heir to ?? Rumoured to be somehow related to the Yakuza, Akira is a wealthy playboy who loves women – specifically older women. Akira has a hidden background and is a man of few words and acts as the mediator within the ‘F4’ whenever they have disagreements. He looks menacing, so few people ever dare to approach him. He also has a pretty good network and can find out information on anyone and everything when needed.
Poor Akira – always shafted with the line distribution. His job is to look broody and hot in the background and exude ‘mysterious and dangerous allure’ which he does perfectly.
Matsuoka Yuki (Nishihara Aki)
Makino’s childhood and primary school friend. She currently works a part-time job in the afternoons with her at the Dango shop where they both listen to the imaginative love stories of the Okamisan. Yuki is sweet and a little bit naive, she longs to fall in love and is a romantic at heart.
Todou Shizuka (Sada Mayumi)
The legendary graduate of Eitoku and heir to the Todou Family Empire, she is currently a top-class supermodel / actress. She is an older sister figure to the ‘F4’ and has known Hanazawa Rui since childhood – they are still very close. She harbors the secret desire to become a lawyer and abandon her restrictive ties to her family.
Sakurako Sanjo (Sato Megumi)
Makino’s only friend at Eitoku. She is from a wealthy family and is unfailingly polite. She is fascinated by Makino’s ‘poor person’ food and habits. She is rather withdrawn, and is scared of boys – the ‘F4’ in particular.
Domyouji Tsubasa (Matsushima Nanako)
Older sister to Tsukasa, she has already married and left the Domyouji household. She resents and hates her mother for forcing her to break up with her first love (who was poor) and marry strategically. She loves her younger brother and hopes that he can one day be happy. She is concerned about his current character traits, but as she lives in America she is unable to watch over him properly. She is another legendary graduate of Eitoku and is beloved by all – The ‘F4’ are probably more scared of her than enraptured…
Domyouji Kaede (Kaga Mariko)
Mother to Tsubasa and Tsukasa, she is the current Chairman of the Domyouji Empire which she rules with an iron fist. She is unyielding and strict regarding her expectations of her children and shows little to no affection for them as she sees them as tools to be used to further her ambitions. She comes across as cold, calculating and extremely ruthless.
Soooooo, things get a little bit complicated with this series – and if anything waaaaay more tangled in series 2. So here’s a handy chart that I have totally stolen the idea for and adapted showing who loves who, who hates who (this is basically the same as the love lines, as in all good dramas) and well… good luck deciphering my awesome diagram making skills! (Click to embiggen)