Originals are like the first-born children in drama land. Remakes are like cousins that live in another country.
Once the first-born achieves success, the distant cousins try to remake their legacy. The stakes are higher and the ambition to ensure the second version is spicier, hotter and more successful than the original is beyond imagination.
Japan, Korea and Taiwan are the mainstays of drama land. Japan is known for their iconic manga series and often is the first-born babies of the family. Taiwan was the pillars of drama land in the early 2000’s. Korea is arguably, the current king of the land, producing global hits on a regular basis.
From the Hana Yori Dango phenomenon to one of the most re-done dramas, Itazura na Kiss, OH!Press presents drama enthusiasts the battle of originals versus remakes.
Hana Yori Dango
1. Meteor Garden (TW)
2. Hana Yori Dango (JPN)
3. Boys Over Flowers (KOR)
Four rich bachelors with tragic hair, one tough cookie, a devilish mother and a love triangle; it is a story line that has been loved by millions of fans and has created global superstars. The Hana Yori Dango franchise has been extremely popular over the years. Big name stars like Jerry Yan, Lee Min Ho, Vic Zhou, Jun Matsumoto and Barbie Hsu had their careers skyrocketed to the top of mountain after filming their respective dramas. Each version had strengths and weaknesses while carrying the same story line. The original drama was Taiwan’s Meteor Garden, many people’s first watched idol drama. It wins the battle because of the sheer chemistry between the leads, Jerry Yan, Barbie Hsu and Vic Zhou as well as the astonishing soundtrack. Taiwan’s F4 may not be as good-looking as Korea’s or as badass as Japan’s but they formed a great bond in the drama. Plus, Vic’s portrayal of Hua Ze Lei was the best out of the three. The character’s quiet, depressed and obsessive behaviour was done well by all three actors but Vic stole the show and had even better chemistry with the female lead. The second version from Japan was a very stellar adaptation. It was fast paced, gifted with great acting and featured the best OTP chemistry. But I found the other characters were a bit lacking in their story lines, as it was really all about the love triangle. Also, it was the only drama where the main girl didn’t kiss her first crush! Korea’s Boys Over Flowers had the most beautiful cinematography, setting and supporting characters. BOF also had the best female lead in Gu Hye Sun as she acted the toughest and was the biggest tomboy out of them all. However, her chemistry with Lee Min Ho sucked. Also, Lee Min Ho’s curly hair looked the most atrocious. The drama tried to exceed their predecessors with a couple of plot line changes and yummier flower boys in Kim Hyun Joong but overall, it was like a poor man’s Meteor Garden.
Itazura na Kiss
1. It Started With A Kiss, They Kissed Again (TW)
2. Playful Kiss (KOR)
3. Itazura na Kiss, Love In Tokyo (JPN)
The Itazura na Kiss series has produced adaptation after adaptation across all three countries. Japan has the most versions and spin-offs while Korea’s male lead is the most visually attractive. But in my opinion, Taiwan’s remake, It Started With A Kiss and its sequel takes the cookies. Two-time Golden Bell Best Actress winner Ariel Lin’s executed the cute, clueless and lovesick character to perfection. She brought out the best of Xiang Qin’s annoying and clingy personality as she evolved the character into an admirable young woman in the sequel. Plus, her chemistry with Joe Cheng was the strongest out of the pairings. Playful Kiss falls into second place because Kim Hyun Joong’s looks couldn’t hide his stiff as stick acting. He was overshadowed by Jung So Min, who acted as well as she can in her role. They had some chemistry but it was lacking compared to the other versions. Playful Kiss was a classier version of ISWAK but it still gave viewers the necessary, heart pounding feels that came with the other versions. The original Japanese drama, Itazura na Kiss was released back in 1996 – a time where dramas were not as glamorous with extraordinary cinematography that we see today. It failed to live up to the heights that the manga had set, unlike the spin-off Love In Tokyo where the acting and plot were considerably better. The male lead in Love in Tokyo, Yuki Furukawa was so charismatic despite his almost anorexic figure. He was stingy with kisses and acted cold even after marriage but when he needed to show his care for his wife, he did it like he was a dark knight.But for a remake to be the best version in Japan, it leaves their series in last place.
In Time With You
1. In Time With You (TW)
2. The Time I Loved You (KOR)
Both of these dramas had top actresses and actors. Ariel Lin and Ha Ji Won are easily in the top echelon of actresses in their respective countries. Chen Bolin is a superstar and Lee Jin Wook is a very reliable leading man. The Taiwan original is definitely one of the finest dramas the country has produced and was very popular at the time. The concept of having a guy best friend secretly loving their ‘friend who is a girl’ since the dinosaur era and the girl who can’t get a ring on her finger is so relatable that Korea had to make a version of it. The remake was beautifully shot and had a more stylish wardrobe but it failed to upgrade on the original. Ha Ji Won did not suit the strong, workaholic yet emotionally vulnerable heroine as well as Ariel Lin did. She lacked the sass and the hurtful tears when she had a mental breakdown. Lee Jin Wook and Chen Bolin look alike and their acting is very comparable too. Despite Lee Jin Wook’s great portrayal of the best friend, I cannot get over Chen Bolin’s Lin Da Ren and his ‘I will not like you’ song. I hoped for the remake to go up against and at least make it a tie with the original but The Time I Loved You was unfortunately a letdown. It was dragging their tail to the last episode because of the lackluster plot, which made the drama a forgettable one for viewers and cast alike.
Honorable mentions: Fated To Love You, My Queen, You’re Beautiful.
Which drama reigns supreme in your eyes?