Drama

Currently Watching (A Remake) F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers

Warning: MEDIUM SPOILERS on characters (Ep 1), LIGHT SPOILERS on first impression & images (Ep 1-4), NO SPOILERS on the main plot.

from theme song “Who Am I”. Link in the OST section.

When GMMTV Thailand announced that they would make an adaptation of the famous Japanese Hana Yori Dango manga in late 2019 and dropped its concept trailer at the end of 2020, local and international audiences’ anticipation soared high. After one year of the making, it’s finally here!

Hana Yori Dango (花より男子), further referred to as HYD, is a Japanese best-selling shōjo (teen female target-demographic readership) manga series written and illustrated by Kamio Yoko from 1992 to 2004 with its epilogue in 2008. After the manga reached its popularity, it was adapted into various media. The licensed live adaptations are, in chronological: Japanese movie Hana Yori Dango (1995), Taiwanese dramas Meteor Garden (2001 and 2002), Japanese dramas and movie trilogy Hana Yori Dango (2005, 2007, and 2008), South Korean drama Boys Over Flowers (2009), Chinese drama Meteor Garden (2018), and finally this drama. There are also unlicensed live adaptations that I won’t list here. 

Some of you are either: a newbie in dramaland, has never read the manga neither watched any adaptation, has never watched any Thai drama, or, having disliked one, has sworn would never watch anymore HYD adaptation. After knowing that there are so many versions, like me, you must have some questions: Is this latest HYD live adaptation just another version? What’s unique about it? So, I personify the drama with the theme song lyrics you read in the GIF above: “If you could see inside my heart” = If you could see what is inside this drama (theme, directing/editing, acting, cinematography); “Look past a beautiful facade” = Look past the eye-candies (good-looking actors) and cute romance; “Who am I?” = What is this drama about?  

Let’s find out!


F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers

Native title: หัวใจรักสี่ดวงดาว (Hua Jai Ruk See Duang Dao)
Country: Thailand
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Youth, Drama
Episodes: 16
Airs: Dec 18, 2021 – Apr 9, 2022
Airs On: Saturday
Duration: 1 hr. 5 min. 
Watch here: Trailer | Drama 

F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers (further referred to as F4TBOF) tells the story of Gorya, who gets accepted into a prestigious and luxurious high school thru a scholarship. The high school is mostly attended by the wealthy, and ruled by an elite clique known as the F4 boys, who bully anyone that gets in their way. Gorya’s grand plan, staying safe and quiet to graduate unscathed, is thwarted when a bullying incident happens. She stands up against F4, leaving all the boys in awe. Especially Thyme, the group’s leader, who later falls for her.

So, who are Gorya and the F4?


For this article, I intentionally picked these character posters because they are unique with the actor’s mini-bios and social accounts for you to follow. Name meanings are taken from the Boys over Flowers wiki.

Tontawan Tantivejakul (Tu) as Gorya

Thitara Jundee, nicknamed Gorya (กอหญ้า) that means “clump of grass”, is a simple and hardworking girl who gets accepted into Kocher private high school through a sports scholarship. Gorya is the only daughter of Sanchai (Jeab) and Busaba (Kik), and the older sister of Glakhao (Fourth). Although they’re poor, her family is very proud and supportive of her. Upon her acceptance at Kocher, her parents save and work hard to finance her. To help them, Gorya works part-time at a flower shop, owned by Gawao (Pompam), with her best friend Kaning (Prim). The school full of high-society students is so artificial and disturbing through Gorya’s eyes. For that reason, she determines to spend her student life as peacefully and unremarkable as possible, until she befriends a new transfer student Hana (June).

Vachirawit Chivaaree (Bright) as Thyme

Akira Paramaanantra, nicknamed Thyme (ธาม) which means “rank”, is the heir of the Parama group, the number one real estate company in Thailand. The group is led by his mother, an ambitious and successful businesswoman Roselyn (Cindy Bishop), whom he fears and is angry at. Thyme has a married older sister, Tia (Maria), whom he’s close to. To relieve the pressure, Thyme formed F4 with his childhood friends with him as the leader. F4 becomes the ruling power at school, even the teachers look away from their destructive behaviors. Thyme instigates most of the bullying activities by issuing the red cards, some even without the other’s knowledge. Thyme is hotheaded, impatient, stubborn, spoiled, and loves wearing bright and animal print clothes to show his status and wealth.

Jirawat Sutivanichsak (Dew) as Ren

Renrawin Aira, nicknamed Ren (เร็น) that means “to hide”. He is the sole heir of Thai’s top health care business his family-owned. Contrary to Thyme, Ren is quiet and mysterious. He doesn’t like to be in the spotlight and seldom hangs out with others. He rather secludes himself to sleep, daydream, or draw sketches. The reason he’s included in F4 is that he has been their long-time friend. In fact, when Ren was young, he was weak. The F4 boys and Mira (Fah) have shielded and accommodated him. Mira, the F4’s childhood friend, is Ren’s love interest. Having been weak when he was young makes Ren is more compassionate to others. He doesn’t openly oppose the other F4 members, but he quietly saves Gorya from being bullied, making her have a crush on Ren.

Metawin Opas-iamkajorn (Win) as Kavin

Taemiyaklin Kittiyangkul, nicknamed Kavin (กวิน) that means “good”. As the only son of the oldest noble family in Thailand, Kavin has the old money (the inherited wealth). There is a long list of prominent government officials in his family ancestry, and his family plays a major role in Thai’s export business. Highly self-confident and easy-going, he can give a speech like a politician. Kavin is also a playboy and a party animal, always surrounded by pretty girls. During an interview about the characters, the director says that Kavin “when he wants something, he has a complex process in his mind. He doesn’t just think and act. He manipulates his way to get what he wants.” Up till episode 4, I have not seen this side of him. But Kavin has a life and love story of his own to tell us.

Hirunkit Changkham (Nani) as M.J.

Metas Jarustiwa, nicknamed M.J. His family is the largest owners of entertainment venues and event spaces in Thailand. You can bump into him in any posh place, celebrities know him. M.J. has a cool bad boy look: tied-up hair, black leather jacket, bling-bling accessories, and rides a big bike. He is actually what I have pictured the fourth member of F4 should look like. He also gets men following him around. The interesting thing about M.J.’s character is that he actually is quite mature amongst his friends. He is the “voice of reason” and often tries to have a talk with Thyme about his childish behavior. M.J. is also the peacekeeper who maintains their friendship’s unity. Probably because of the mafia’s brotherhood. According to the manga, his family is involved in the criminal underworld.

Now, as I promised you, after you “Look past a beautiful facade”, by reading about the main characters and admiring the eye candies, we will “see inside my heart”, by finding out about the theme and the technicalities of F4TBOF. For the article’s purpose, besides watching the first four episodes, I also watched a special episode F4 Thailand Begins, in which the director O Patha Thongpan and the five main actors talked about the drama and the characters. The director said that F4TBOF is not just another love story, but also presents the agenda of social status and bullying, transformation and coming of age. I will not discuss the romance in this article. You can watch the drama to find out about it.

    THEMES    

Social Issue: School Bullying

In my opinion, the school bullying portrayed in F4TBOF seems harsher than in other versions I watched, because it contains not only physical bullying but also cyberbullying. To maintain their public image, F4 in this drama doesn’t order the bullying, but only becomes high-tech facilitators, with their red cards as catalysts. I will not explain further the process as it’s a spoiler, it’s shown in the first episode. The drama also shows the fundamental issue of bullying behavior among Kocher students. Once being served the red card, the victim eventually is led to the abandoned and dilapidated Kocher Stadium that looks more like a gladiator arena. The first appearance of the F4 boys in the drama is not only accompanied by cheers of jumping students like seeing their celebrities, but they look more like scary judges of the savage game. Thyme wears an animal printed fur coat to symbolize his power as the leader of the bullies. After telling the victim about why he gets a red card, Thyme then bids “good luck” as a sign for their lackeys to do their violent deeds, and F4 boys leave. His ‘good luck’ reminds me of the thumbs down sign delivered by Emperor of Rome, Commodus, in the award-winning movie Gladiator (2000) on the right picture. It signals that a defeated gladiator should be condemned to death. Only in this case, as Kavin says, “make sure he gets out alive” to prevent their cruelty be exposed and charged as a crime if the victim doesn’t survive.

Social Issue: Class Differences

Being poor and powerless sucks, as viewers will find out in this drama. Gorya, although received a scholarship to attend Kocher, still needs to spend out-of-pocket expenses for some school expenses. Her parents do their might to support her financially, even taking out savings. The family sacrifice for Gorya’s study. She herself goes to work part-time at a flower shop. She doesn’t want to hang out with other kids at school who flaunt wealth, since she doesn’t have any material possession to show off.

On the other hand, being rich sucks too, as shown in F4TBOF. There are plenty of proofs shown by the rich characters in this drama. I will only show two things that are not spoilers, as seen in the images. In the top image, M.J. and Kavin explain how rich people’s lives differ from people who are not rich. Everything is already planned for rich kids: what school, which career, whom to marry. Kavin gives an example with the desserts they’re eating (cost 4000 baht ≈  USD120) is an exchange for “something we can never have”, which is revealed by Mira as freedom. 

In a nutshell, no matter what social class you are in, it’s full of issues you will have to deal with. Whether you’re rich or poor, there will always be obstacles. The difference that seems to matter is how you overcome it. 

Personal Issue: Growing Up

Since this is a youth drama with a high school setting, unquestionably the other important theme is coming-of-age or growing up. There are plenty of life lessons for the youths in F4TBOF. But it doesn’t mean if you’re not a high schooler right now that you don’t need to watch this drama. Or you don’t need to grow up. Many people have long passed their physical growing-up years, but they are still immature psychologically. As Tia reminds her little brother, his teenage years are nearing the end (Thyme is a high school senior, so are his friends). It’s time for him to grow up. She further advises him to face any problem as an adult. The F4 boys run away from problems in different ways. Thyme goes into a tantrum. Ren goes hiding. Kavin and M.J. go partying and womanizing. Gorya too, at first, avoids problems by staying quiet and indifferent. 

Personal Issue: Support System

To mature properly, we need an excellent support system. People who we can have real healthy relationships with, who help us to grow up. In this drama, I really love Gorya’s family. Every scene with them is heart-warming. Shancai, her father, is wise and gives a lot of advice. Busaba, her mother, is always ready to listen if Gorya needs to talk. Glakhao, her brother, claims that he’s not smart neither talented. But instead of being jealous of his sister, he is so proud of her. She also has a best friend, Kaning, who would do nothing behind her back and has faith in her. 

On the contrary, I haven’t seen any parental support for F4. There are glimpses of Thyme’s mom Roselyn, but she is always busy and doesn’t have a good relationship with her son. There is no appearance of Ren, Kavin, or M.J.’s parents. We find out that Thyme’s sister is supportive of him. But Tia is married and has moved out from home, only comes back to help Thyme’s mom with business. Mira, their childhood friend, has graduated from university and has her own dream to pursue. The boys are lucky to have each other since they were little. 


    TECHNICALITIES     

According to Director Thongpan, there is high pressure and anticipation in him to do the remake because of HYD popularity. He has watched some versions previously and read the 37-volume manga for the remake. The F4TBOF filming took a year, delayed by the COVID pandemic, the longest project he worked on. He promised that the drama is unique with Thai flavor and different in details and dialogues. I think he is a dedicated and detailed oriented director since he was not only sitting in the director’s seat but was not afraid to go down and dirty in the muddy water to direct the actors, as seen in the picture. The director worked hard with Tu, Dew, and Nani, as they are newbies. Among all the main actors, I’m very impressed with Tu’s acting. She is a newcomer, yet took a challenging major role where she had to convey a variety range of emotions.

Besides directing, I observed the drama has good continuity editing. Continuity editing means the process of editing together different but related shots to give viewers the experience of a consistent story in both time and space (source: Wikipedia). There are a lot of scenes with flashbacks or behind-the-scene scenes that support each other. Here is an example of non-spoiler continuity editing I meant. In the left picture, Thyme recalls something that happened in his past. There is a smooth transition from a scene with little Thyme (played by child actor Kuma), using the same body language, to a scene with adult Thyme. Besides putting two different scenes together, the continuity editing also inserted product placement (PPL) items, subtly and sometimes hilariously.

The story flow itself is fast-paced, a lot goes on in one episode. There are also plenty of dialogues and monologues that are not in the original manga or other versions, as Director Thongpan promised that F4TBOF will be unique. I picked a funny non-spoiler example. Below is a scene where some characters watching an interview on F4. They are asked about their future plan after high school graduation. Kavin, with his diplomatic style, gives an answer that also pays a tribute to the acting profession. This scene happens before a pivotal scene every viewer, who already watched any previous version, is waiting to see. This trivial interview comes up as a surprise!


     ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK     

HYD live adaptations are not complete without OST that is sung by the actors themselves. F4TBOF are also full of them. There are 7 songs for this drama (a lot for a typical Thai drama), and 3 have been released so far. You have seen the first GIF with the main theme “Who Am I” sung by Bright, Win, Dew, and Nani. The song is about the real life of the riches that outsiders don’t see. They also sang an upbeat song “Shooting Star“, dedicated to Gorya, that becomes my favorite. Nani may not be exposed much to having his own M.J. story in the drama, but he definitely shines in the two songs above with his rap, plus his scene-stealer M.J. look. And last but not least, Dew sang a slow song “In the Wind“, played during Ren’s iconic sprinkler shower scene with an artistic cinematography. This song is about quiet/unrequited love.


Now, after reading about my first impression and watching all the beautiful people above, my question asked in the article summary still lingers for you to think about: can this latest Hana Yori Dango manga live adaptation surpass the other versions in popularity and quality? 

In my opinion, there are two crucial elements that can take F4TBOF to a higher level of quality and popularity, surpassing the other versions, even the manga itself:

Addressing the bullying issue properly

When asked the reason GMMTV acquired the rights of creating the Thai television adaptation of HYD, GMMTV’s managing director Sataporn Panichraksapong stated the series contains social issues that are currently relevant to the Thai society (source: Wikipedia). The manga itself doesn’t go deep in solving the issue, therefore, in essence, F4TBOF doesn’t have to solve it either. However, we all know the school bullying problem is not solved by dating rich students like the F4 boys. Because the source of bullying comes from the students. As explained by Kavin that pressure on people with high social status is comparable to the pressure of being on the top of the mountain with thin air. You can watch more of his explanation in the drama. In my opinion, F4TBOF will surpass the other versions if it does not merely tell an urban Cinderella story but also address the contemporary issue properly; while giving some low-key solutions for the bullying problem at Kocher High School, that can be a reflection of actual school bullying situations.

Believable Character Development of Thyme

The production team has created a female lead who is strong mentally and mature for her age. However, mean male leads are no longer popular nowadays in romantic dramaland, as viewers prefer nice male leads. A lot of people hate HYD live adaptations because of the arrogant first male leads and their toxic relationship with their female leads. You have read in the Introduction that the manga was created in the late nineties and early 2000s. Mean male lead characters were super popular way back then, especially in Japan’s fiction world. They are the tsunderes. Tsundere (ツンデレ) is “a Japanese term for a character development process that depicts a character with a personality who is initially cold, stern, stoic, harsh, temperamental, hotheaded (and sometimes even hostile) before gradually showing a warmer, friendlier side over time” (source: Wikipedia). F4TBOF production team realized this issue when creating the Male Lead. In the interview, Director Thongpan stated that there are four different Thyme: Mean Thyme, Childish Thyme, Better Thyme, and Smitten/Loving Thyme. He sat down with Bright to break down the weight percentage of the different characterization.

The drama starts with Thyme being a real a$$hole (translation: a jerk with money), as shown in the top left GIF. He is rude both to people he knows and strangers, men and women alike. He doesn’t even acknowledge people outside his social status, poor students like Gorya, and dehumanize them. On the top right GIF we see his childish/immature side; as someone who hasn’t grown up psychosocially because of a lack of a proper supporting system and discipline. The bottom left image shows that he acknowledges he was a jerk since little. Is he still a jerk now? At least he acknowledges his own problem, and it’s a good start. He gradually changes, although still has an arrogant and narcissistic attitude up to episode 4. With only a few episodes released, we should not expect an overnight change, as it will be unbelievable. But we don’t want a no or lack of character development either, as it will be unbearable. It’s still too early to tell that he has changed for good. It’s more like Thyme is in the twilight-zone situation so far, experiencing things he never thought existed yet they’re real. With five screenwriters developing a crucial character like Thyme, I hope they did his transformation seamlessly.

As for the last image in the bottom right, the Smitten/Loving Thyme is taken from the concept trailer released in December 2020. It hasn’t happened yet. It’s a teaser.

So, if Thyme character is not developed properly and plausibly, romantic drama viewers know what may happen, eventually. And that is…

Second Lead Syndrome

Ah, Second Lead Syndrome or SLS. I won’t talk about it. In your dramaland journey, the more you watch romantic dramas, the more likely you get it. It’s a bug. Below is a hilarious definition of Second Lead Syndrome from Urban Dictionary… so stay safe and healthy!

“Wanting so desperately for the lead actress of a drama to end up with the better guy, but you always know that she is going to end up with the lead bad guy in the end. Usually goes with the feelings of either wanting to curl up and cry over your ramen, knock someone’s teeth in or both.”


To close this article, here are some tips for those who haven’t watched it yet:

  • For those who are a newbie in Asian dramaland, never watched any HYD adaptation or Thai drama: Just plunge yourself in! Because the first experience in dramaland is always memorable. Just don’t read the drama comments. It’s full of in-depth character, episode-by-episode, or version compare/contrast analysis from the HYD veterans ;D. You’ll be confused with so many character names.
  • For those who have watched an HYD adaptation, absolutely hated it, and swore would never watch any other, but somehow is lured by my article: Hey why not, try the first episode! It’s quite fast-paced, you found out a lot in the first episode to decide whether or not to continue.
  • For those who want to watch it, but worry about bad character development, or heart palpitation once a week: Relax! Go hibernate and wake up when winter is over, in spring on 9th April (yeees… this is when the drama finishes airing, LOL!), then read the reviews to decide whether or not to watch it, and go binging!

I only have four words to describe this drama: Cute. Hilarious. Touching. Insightful.

A glimpse of their first ‘date’

What kind of date is “exhausting” and “not at all what’s expected”?

Thank you for reading and happy watching!


Acknowledgement and credits: Thank you to the editors who edited this article. I do not own any of the images; credits go to their respective owners. The images are from Internet searches (“Gladiator”), drama posters, stills, trailers, OSTs, and screenshots. GIFs are self-made from drama scenes and OSTs.


Edited by: YW (1st editor)

hana yori dango
boys over flowers
thai drama
school bullying
f4 thailand
tontawan tantivejakul
metawin opas-iamkajorn
hirunkit changkham
vachirawit chivaaree
jirawat sutivanichsak
cyber bullying
youth drama

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