C-Dramas: Is ‘Meteor Garden’ Better Than ‘Boys Over Flowers’?

Screenshot from ‘Meteor Garden’ (2018) of (left) Dylan Wang as Dao Ming Si and (right) Shen Yue as Dong Shancai. Copyright goes to Hunan Television and Netflix.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I just finished binging this series in four days. If that’s not a testament to how little I have to do right now during quarantine, I really don’t know what is. But I was thoroughly intrigued by this series after my recent rewatch of ‘Boys Over Flowers’ because of how many people were saying that this series was better. Now, I’m not saying that I disliked ‘Boys Over Flowers’. I don’t really think I particularly liked or disliked that series. It was a pretty cute watch but there were also a lot of storylines and character arcs that weren’t written that well in my opinion. ‘Meteor Garden’ is an adaptation of the same manga, so it’s difficult to look up ‘Boys Over Flowers’ and not see people comparing the two. What really made me want to watch it was the seemingly universal opinion that the main romance was better here; even from people who preferred ‘Boys Over Flowers’. So after watching all forty nine episodes of this, I want to actually compare the two and see which one I actually found to be better. My opinion on this in particular changed towards the end of watching this series, so I’m not exactly sure what the result will be yet. Let’s see, I guess! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! You have been warned.

The Main Plot/Romance:

I’ve talked in depth about my view of the main relationship in ‘Boys Over Flowers’. It wasn’t believable and, to me at least, it sometimes bordered on creepy. Especially towards the beginning. When I saw that people were saying that ‘Meteor Garden’ modernizes the story in some much needed ways, I was hoping that this would mean some of the creepiness would be taken out of it. Thankfully, I was correct! (With the main relationship at least, but I’ll get more into that later.) Dao Ming Si is thoroughly dislikable in the beginning, but his actions are (for the most part) redeemable. At least more than Jun Pyo anyways. He never kidnaps anyone and this show also takes the relentless bullying out. Sure Si insults people sometimes but he doesn’t throw many tantrums, send other people to beat up people he doesn’t like, bully people to the point that they decide to jump off of a building, or ask anyone to lick his shoes at any point. In fact, F4 aren’t bullies in this show. They’re just popular and a little bratty and I liked that much better. The red card is for people who challenge them to poker. The attempt to forcibly kiss the main character is still here unfortunately, but whenever this character does something wrong he automatically shows remorse for his actions. That’s more than I can say about Jun Pyo. It’s much clearer that the relationship between him and Shancai is end game here. The love triangle isn’t given as much time and definitely doesn’t continue until the end of the show. She barely ever goes back and forth between the idea of the two guys, she chooses pretty early on. Certain elements of the plot are actually changed around so that this couple actually only breaks up a couple of times throughout the series. They aren’t as on again off again. And this time they actually look like they enjoy each other’s presence when they’re together! Wow! Another thing I really liked about this couple was that the show lasted long enough for the audience to see how they actually operated as a couple. There was a moment in the show where Shancai’s friend was heartbroken, so Shancai called Si so that they could take her friend to karaoke to cheer her up. Watching them sit in the back of that karaoke booth practically falling asleep on each other while still trying to support her friend was adorable. It was the type of couple content that most romance based shows view as unneeded, but I like seeing that stuff just as much as I like seeing them fall in love. I also need to talk about how much better the kissing was in this show. Yes, the scene where Jun Pyo gets out of the car to kiss Jan Di on the side of the street is romantic. But I much prefer when it actually looks like the female character wants to kiss her love interest. ‘Meteor Garden’ definitely has the superior couple.

Side Characters:

I have to admit, ‘Boys Over Flowers’ did this better for the most part. Ji-Hoo definitely gets more character development compared to Lei. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Lei to the point where I’m not sure I could choose between him and Ji-Hoo. Though he didn’t get as much character development, he was given an amazing sense of humor and his relationship with the other members of F4 seemed so much stronger. Lei’s quiet sarcasm never failed to make me laugh and I always looked forward to the scenes with him in it. He was almost like a perfect mix between Ji-Hoo and Yi-Jung. But Ji-Hoo got all that development about the death of his parents and his relationship with his grandfather, all of which are not present here. Actually, most of the side characters in ‘Boys Over Flowers’ get much better development even though it’s a shorter show than ‘Meteor Garden’. The larger character arc with Yi Jung, for example, is hinted at before it starts, lasts over several episodes, and is explored in depth. We get to see his acts of kindness before his character arc even starts and when the show actually does jump on that storyline, it’s something that we’ve all been waiting for. ‘Meteor Garden’ introduces character arcs for the side characters quickly, tells as little of their story as possible, and then moves to something different. This happened in all storylines that weren’t the main one except for one sub-plot romance that felt very disconnected. I also want to say that this show spent less time developing F4 as a friend group as a whole. Sure Lei and Si are much closer in ‘Meteor Garden’, but you don’t get any scenes like the masked hide and seek game from ‘Boys Over Flowers’.

Sub-Plot Romance(s):

If there’s one thing that ‘Boys Over Flowers’ did better, it’s the sub-plot romance. ‘Meteor Garden’ actually has two sub-plot romances involving the two members of F4 that aren’t as focused on. Except, with one of them, the side-plot romance becomes a story that isn’t about the member of F4 at all. His love interest even ends up with a different person. Considering that the characters in this storyline besides him are not directly connected to the main characters or the main plot, it starts feeling like you’re watching an entirely different show. Every time they give screen time to this plot, it feels like a waste. They could be giving that much needed time to characters that the audience actually care about. We have no idea who these people even are. I just wanted to get past them and return to the main plot whenever they were on screen. The sub-plot romance that is the equivalent of Yi Jung and Ga Eul was nothing short of disappointing. It felt like whenever they were on screen the show was trying to just get through this as fast as possible so they could get to a different part of the show. Neither character is very developed or likable. Xiaoyou changes various parts of her personality for Ximen’s benefit even though the show uses the main couple to teach that this is not something you should do. The show even makes some pretty awful statements about sex. (Don’t worry, the show ages up all the characters so that they’re in college instead of high school.) Xiaoyou believes that Ximen will want her to have sex with him, because he is a playboy, and decides that if you really want to be with someone you should be prepared to do whatever they want. I’m sorry, excuse me???? Earlier in this show Shancai tells Si that she wants their relationship to be equal which means she needs to make decisions for herself sometimes. Is this the same show? They teach some pretty good lessons for their young audience through the main couple and then for some reason go back on that the minute the sub-plot romance comes on screen. It’s like they were purposefully trying to make this couple unhealthy. I knew I was going to be biased because I like Yi Jung and Ga Eul so much, but this was extremely bad in comparison.

The Ending:

I you do decide to watch ‘Meteor Garden’, I would recommend skipping the last three or four episodes. The ending to this show was awful. I thought I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending of ‘Boys Over Flowers’, simply because I’m not a huge fan of amnesia plot lines and I didn’t really like Jun Pyo and Jan Di together. But in comparison, that ending looks fantastic. Towards the end of this series it really feels like they ran out of story and the show should just end, and then you realize that there are still a few episodes left. In these episodes they shoehorn in a storyline where Si’s Mom decides to try and separate them for a final time and they both decide that if they can’t be together they would rather starve. I am never a fan of plot lines like this, I think these kinds of plots are usually added dramatically without actually putting care into handling the situation. When his Mom finally relents, the characters are both so weak that they pass out and then a series of really weird events happen that have made audiences question whether or not the end of this series really happened. After some filler stuff, the main character winds up at a weird version of her wedding where there’s a really disturbing dance that Si’s sister does (My Netflix account thought the dance was just as bad as I did apparently because it crashed part way through), and then guests suddenly appear and they get married. This is followed by a “honeymoon” that can only be described as a long advertisement. These scenes are nothing but product placement. Some people think the ending for this show was a dream the main character had, others think that the characters died and this is the afterlife, others think that the show has done crazy enough things for this to be a real ending. I’m not quite sure what to think other than I wish these episodes weren’t in the series. It felt like they were only there to fill an episode count and I would have much rather ended the series with the two characters planning their wedding. That’s where I’m going to pretend the ending was anyways. At least Jun Pyo getting his memories back from Jan-Di falling in the water was kind of cute.

The Music:

I just had to add this in here. ‘Boys Over Flowers’ all the way. ‘Making a Lover’ is such a good song and I got so tired of hearing the same two songs over and over in ‘Meteor Garden’.

Though I gave more points here to ‘Boys Over Flowers’, I definitely wouldn’t say that it’s the better show. Especially because ‘Meteor Garden’ has a much better main romance and has a more cohesive plot. If you would have told me that the events of ‘Meteor Garden’ are in a completely different order before I watched this series, I would have been extremely skeptical. But somehow it makes the story make more sense. Seriously, this couple was so cute and I would definitely rewatch certain episodes of this show. But there were several things about this show that also weren’t as good. I guess choosing between these two shows is a matter of what you’re looking for. If you want nostalgia, something pretty cheesy, and some great supporting characters watch ‘Boys Over Flowers’. But if you’re watching for a good romance, go for ‘Meteor Garden’ all the way. Just…maybe skip those last few episodes. Either way you go, I actually found both shows to be cute and worthwhile despite some of my problems with them. There’s also plenty of travel in both if you’re looking for escapism right now, because I know I am!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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