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American casting for 'Hana Yori Dango' (Boys Over Flowers) TV series receives harsh Japanese criticism

46 Comments
By Rachel Tackett

Starting this November, the first episode of a new romantic young adult series, "Boys Before Friends," will be released to American audiences. The series is based on Japan’s hit manga, "Hana Yori Dango" (aka Boys Over Flowers).

Already, the series has inspired the creation of anime, novels, and live action television dramas from Japan, Korea, and China. However, what should be a highly anticipated American adaptation of this much appreciated manga is encountering a lot of skepticism, especially from the eastern side of the globe. It makes sense that some changes have to be made to implement an American setting for this Japanese tale, but how much change can the story endure before the tone of the original is totally lost?

The original "Hana Yori Dango" and its pre-existing live action counterparts all take place in an affluent high school setting. The main character is an adorably innocent but strong-willed girl who enters the school on scholarship. In spite of her humble roots and poor financial status, she finds herself involved with a group of the four most influential (not to mention beautiful) boys on campus, resulting in a tale of teenage drama and convoluted romance.

With that in mind, one glance at the cast list of "Boys Before Flowers" could make one severely question the casting director. Everyone is far too old for their roles. Leading actress, Riley Rae Baker, certainly appears sweet and strong-willed but could never be mistaken for a teenager. Joseph Almani, cast as one of the series’ leading men, lacks any common attributes of a lanky adolescent, but instead has the broad shoulders and strong jaw of a fully developed young man. The cast is now multi-racial and looks nothing like the manga characters which they are meant to represent.

Japanese Internet users responded to the cast announcement with a great deal of skepticism and a large supply of laughter as well:

-- “Too many old dudes.” -- “Those eyebrows! Lol” -- “I’m a fan of Hana Yori Dango, but to see so many changes is no good. Couldn’t they have at least picked a younger cast?” -- “A Western spin on a beautiful series. Pfft. Although, I am a little interested in seeing how it turns out.”

Needless to say, there is not a lot of enthusiasm or support coming from the Japanese crowds. Luckily, their opinions are not the ones that matter in this Western endeavor, and American fans of the franchise appear to be a lot more understanding of the adjustments that must be made to tell the same story in an American setting.

The reason that the cast appears to be far beyond their teenage years is because the characters are all grown up. It doesn’t make sense for this story to take place in a U.S. high school. Virtually everyone in the States attends public schools or is homeschooled, and whatever private establishments that exist are not known for having scholarship programs. So instead, the American-made story is to take place at a notoriously expensive graduate college. In addition, the characters have all had their names changed and were cast as multi-racial to better reflect American demographics. Series producers explain that they are doing their best to stay true to the themes of the original but are, at the same time, seeking out equal appropriations for the story’s Asia-specific situations, making the series more palatable to Western consumers who are unfamiliar with the source material.

There are still many purists who appear almost hateful toward this new adaptation of "Hana Yori Dango," but just as many appear eager for the start of the series. For every fan who cannot stand the look of the new cast, there is another who supports the project and anticipates great things.

Filming for the 16-episode run of "Boys Before Friends" will begin on Oct 12 in Los Angeles. The show itself will start airing in late November. Around that same time, the creators plan on putting together a new Kickstarter project to raise the last $10,000 needed to properly complete the series. After the crippling failure of their previous Kickstarter attempt, it seems like a bit of a long-shot, but if the series can get enough people (both existing fans and new watchers alike) hooked on the first few episodes, then it should have no trouble raising the money it needs to prove that American re-makes of Eastern dramas can also be successful.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Shonen Jump’s 20 Best Sellers of All-Time -- It’s a Musical. About Tennis. -- 2013 Fall Anime Preview – Part 1

© RocketNews24

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46 Comments
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Can we PLEASE stop using the term beautiful boys? Boys are handsome, girls are beautiful....

7 ( +18 / -11 )

harsh criticism from Japan for the way westerners have treated their cultural offerings???... that's a bit rich given the way Japan has butchered foreign movies, music and the English language over the years...

22 ( +28 / -6 )

It's not at all up to Japan to decide, so who cares? One of the things that's interesting to see about cultural adaptations is just that -- ADAPTATION.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

Boys are handsome

I think that term is reserved for the non-emasculated members of the male sex.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Boys are handsome, girls are beautiful....

Not in Japan. Just visit the Johnny's website to see what I'm talking about.

http://www.johnnys-net.jp/page?id=profile&artist=24

These boys aren't handsome - every single one of them is effeminate, and with a change of clothes, and some makeup could easily pass for girls.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

Those eyebrows! Lol

Yeah, in other words, the men didn't pluck their eyebrows like Japanese baseball players do!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Sorry but many J dudes here in Japan do pluck their eyebrows and it looks so GAY, but you know, who am I to judge J dudes who shave their legs, arms, chest, my guess even their butts, but forget to trim their huevos and heaven forbid, their HAIRY ARMPITS!! Boy, the lovely stench of fresh hairy armpits from J dudes on the subways in the middle of summer??? In Mexico, these stinky dudes would get kicked off the trains, etc..but here in Japan? So, we should just CELEBRATE our differences, not look down on them??

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Pretty boys. Most of them aren't even interested in pretty girls.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

1 complaint most likely being "the male cast are not effeminate enough to my tastes"
8 ( +8 / -0 )

Makes me laugh, I'm sure in an american prison j-boys would be a hot commodity lol XD

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I entirely agree with J fans. It does not make sense for casting aging actors and actress with poor acting for high school teen drama. The problem of US entertainment has no more promising young talents. Even they are running out of scripts and copying and localizing other nation successful dramas. Such as "three idiots movie from India", "my wife is a gangster" from South Korea, boys over flowers from Japan.

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

"Luckily, their opinions are not the ones that matter in this Western endeavor, " Enough said.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

harsh criticism from Japan for the way westerners have treated their cultural offerings???... that's a bit rich given the way Japan has butchered foreign movies, music and the English language over the years...

Yes, let's call a few measly opinions from fans of a certain manga the opinion of an entire country. Do you think the old lady that lives across the hall from you cares or even knows about Hana Yori Dango?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

-"A Western spin on a beautiful series. Pfft. Although, I am a little interested in seeing how it turns out."

You've got to laugh! How did that Japanese spin on Sex In The City work out? Or the Japanese version of Ghost or Sideways or SNL? If somebody wants to do a version of something you put out first, consider yourself flattered and then get over yourself.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This kindof boggles my mind. The American directors pay a fortune for the rights to the series... and then produce something that looks nothing like the original.

The only benefit in the "based on Hana Yori Dango" label would be in attracting people who knew and like the original series, but they've completely removed that benefit by changing it so much that the original crowd now won't like it and they're appealing to a completely different audience.

... looks like the U.S. director has more budget than sense.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

The main character is an adorably innocent but strong-willed girl who enters the school on scholarship. In spite of her humble roots and poor financial status, she finds herself involved with a group of the four most influential (not to mention beautiful) boys on campus, resulting in a tale of teenage drama and convoluted romance.

Didn't they do this story line in just about every episode of Beverly Hills 90210 and every other "tween" series that is on US TV?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

so happy I gave up TV 7 years ago now...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Taiwan made a TV drama on this too

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm an straight American Dude and i even think this will just be bad.... no one can match the hunkiness of Jun Matsumoto!! c'mon

0 ( +1 / -1 )

YiCHeng, did the Taiwanese version keep in set in a high school?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When will America stop copying Japanese ideas?

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

This is like fanboy criticism of Ben Affleck being cast as Batman: nothing to be concerned over.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It does not make sense for casting aging actors and actress with poor acting....

Right....they should as in Japan, where every "music" star thinks they can act and gets put in primetime shows which just showcase their lack of talent.

I'm not sure this US version will be any good, nor do I care, but it's a bit rich for Japanese to criticise foreign versions of their shows and movies.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Everyone is far too old for their roles.

Why can't they get all teens? Ya know, like they did for Glee.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

—“Too many old dudes.”

I think if these people actually looked at the background story to a lot of shows, one would find that actors cast as younger persons are quite old in plenty of series. A classic example, in the Cosby Show from the 80's the mother )Phylicia Rashad) who was born in 1948 is only 10 years older than the oldest daughter on the show (played by Sabrina Le Beauf) who was born in 1958. But just looking at their roles in the show, one would have thought that there was a much greater age difference between the two. As they say, "age isn't anything but a number" and if the right persons are cast into the roles, then it should not be a problem. What will tell if the series will take off is if the actors can actually act and the story lines are plausible. But sad to say if it is just going to be another whiny teen show, it will probably not last long on US TV.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The reason that the cast appears to be far beyond their teenage years is because the characters are all grown up. It does not make sense for this story to take place in a U.S. high school. Virtually everyone in the States attends public schools or is homeschooled, and whatever private establishments that exist are not known for having scholarship programs.

This is an absolutely ridiculous statement. There are a great many exclusive private high schools in the United States that offer scholarships.

I would have preferred the Japanese version, instead of the same old stuff with same old point of view and attitudes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

To appeal to american audiences they'd rather go for the adult look. Remember 90120 when everyone was like thirty? There are also a raft of labor laws that make it problematic to cast children in entertainment with the same flexibility of an adult. Finally, if it's based on one of those anime/mangas that deals in underage nookie, there are no doubt regulations or at least industry standards that seek to avoid the glamorization of teen sex.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'm curious on how it will turn out!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was thinking the same things, Ivy and budgie. There are expensive high schools, but the American producers probably can get away with more sexual content / situations if the characters are over 18 and that's the REAL reason behind the switch in setting to a college.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just to clear something - the show is set up not in a high school, but in certain grad school, hence the older age. Although I highly doubt any grad school student would put boys or friends or anything else before their research. The staff is multiracial, which is good thing, unless they decide to play on every known racial/ ethnic stereotype

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“Too many old dudes.”

Wow... who translated these comments? Surfers?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I watched the rather serious anime in the 90ties, and saw bits of the Japanese "live action" comedy. But really, all this is is a story about a rich kid who stalks and bullies (leading to an almost rape) a poor dependent student to make her fall in love with him. It works out for him and it's portrayed as romantic and idealistic... mmmh.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why did it need to be adapted at all?

Americans seem to be incapable of appreciating a story unless it's set in America or involves Americans.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If it's on MTV or ABC Family, don't worry. Nobody will be watching.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hana Yori Dango is such a hit in Asia. Japan did live action tv adaptation, so did Taiwan but the title changed to "Meteor Garden"(the very first adaptation) featuring F4 boyband. F4 became big realtime because of the show. Then the Koreans did their version.Also a very big hit. The series from Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea was very successful. I just hope the American version does the same.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This sounds stupid no matter how you slice it, J-original version, Taiwan or Korean or sill yankee remake haha no thx!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There are also a raft of labor laws that make it problematic to cast children in entertainment with the same flexibility of an adult. Finally, if it's based on one of those anime/mangas that deals in underage nookie, there are no doubt regulations or at least industry standards that seek to avoid the glamorization of teen sex.

Yup, that's what I was logging in to say. Youth labor laws are much stricter in the U.S., so it's difficult to cast a full-time series with real teenagers. And,

...all this is is a story about a rich kid who stalks and bullies (leading to an almost rape) a poor depnendent student to make her fall in love with him. It works out for him and it's portrayed as romantic and idealistic... mmmh.

Yeeah, that's not going to happen on U.S. TV, especially if real youth were cast. Plus, The FCC (the media regulatory agency) has recently levied massive fines against networks portraying teens in sexual situations. They're in violation of "indecency laws". Most networks are not going to touch "high school romances" that star actual high schoolers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Firstly the series is a third rate older Anime that is frankly boring and full of dull stereotypes and so is not that big of a deal either in Japan or in the US for those who follow and study Japanese Anime. The series shows as one poster has already said, a sad example of a girl beyond her normal world being taken advantage of and exploited in a rather sick way and the overall tone of the series is twisted and not really very good at all. As for the USA adaptation, it is typical and not very unusual at all. There is zero understanding of Japanese culture esp around the High School world and its parameters and I am not at all suprrised that the setting was totally corrupted and the casting sounds terrible i am so tired of the forcing of Ethnic blending, we are totally done with being forced to like and accept each and every ethnic group on the planet in the USA and the socalist Liberalist agenda so embraced by the liberal elite in Hollywood is going going gone very soon indeed. Obviously the producers of this sad show have not gotten the message in many ways or never will. So there is really no story here.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Are you serious? I watched and loved Hana Yori Dango Original Version. I hate the Korean Version and now an American Version of this is going to happen?

For one, I am not gonna watch this, two I am interested in how it turns how so maybe Ill take a glimpse, and three, the characters are two old.

American Version is going to be the worst version out of the two. I smell FAIL, FAIL, FAIL

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The only benefit in the "based on Hana Yori Dango" label would be in attracting people who knew and like the original series, but they've completely removed that benefit by changing it so much that the original crowd now won't like it and they're appealing to a completely different audience.

Totally agree. For the record, it was such a hit in Asia that live actions of the manga (because all doramas were based on a manga, not an anime, a beautiful manga btw) were made by Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. So, if there are millions of fans (I don't care of which version) complaining about this americanized version don't judge them. And I also smell fail coming. And for the one who said that Japan cast every music star to act, that may be true but the music star that acted in Hana Yori Dango did it very well and that was why it was so succesful. But anyways, let's all judge Hana Yori Dango's fans... I mean Japan because they express their opinion and because it was the only country that made a remake and because all the ones that comment here watched all the dramas. This society...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I looked up info on this project (I've never even seen the anime), and it turns out to be a small, basically amateur production.

...the creators plan on putting together a new Kickstarter project to raise the last $10,000 needed to properly complete the series. After the crippling failure of their previous Kickstarter attempt, it seems like a bit of a long-shot...

The Kickstarter page now lists "$150,000" as the goal, due by the 21st. This project ain't happening.

Maybe they can get a YouTube series; that'd be more realistic and accessible to the Asian fans.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have already watched some episodes of Taiwan, Korea, Japan and PRC versions of Hana Yori Dango. For Taiwan version, it was called as Meteor Garden. Although it is a Japanese Mega, Japan was a late comer . Japanese actress is acceptable. However actors are not good looking as Taiwan and Korea. PRC version was the worst although the actress is cute. PRC actors are not good looking like Korean and Taiwan version. Japanese leading actor is the worst looking however acting is reasonable.

I have watched PRC drama only 1 episode. For Japanese version, I watched 4 episodes. For Taiwan version, I have watched 8 episodes. Only Korea version, I watched almost all of the episodes. Korea actors are better looking and youthful. However that actress is not good looking like Japan and PRC versions. Actings are not very natural and a bit forceful.

There is no doubt that US version will take the crown from PRC as the worst drama. I prefer to watch high rating "Young and Restless" drama instead of Old and Boring "Boys before Friends".

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Interesting, I just finished reading the article about Japan remaking classic westerns. Just saying...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Why did it need to be adapted at all?

Americans seem to be incapable of appreciating a story unless it's set in America or involves Americans.

I know you just didn't say that. I can write a litany of things that Japan has copied and changed, from movies, food, you name it. Even more so. How about: Unforgiven The Clint Eastwood western. Won an academy award years ago and now Ken Watanabe did a remake of it. Why? Why he can't appreciate the story and now has to remake it and involve Japanese in it and change everything, story? Ever country does this, NOT only America. Nothing new, won't be the last time. If you were a movie connoisseur you would know that. By the way, heard that some country in Latin America is going to do a remake of Breaking Bad, now I wonder how that one would turn out.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's totally normal to want to present television shows and movies in a manner in which your target audience can best relate to and appreciate them and there's nothing wrong with that. As has been said, it goes on all over. If I'm not mistaken the original British series The Office inspired versions in France, the U.S., Canada (a French-Candian version there), Germany, Chile, Israel and Sweden, each with the subtleties and inside jokes that would be appreciated and understood by their target audience. The French one bombed but the German one was hugely popular and won numerous awards. I don't know about the other versions.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/television/2006/09/foreign_office.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hana Yori Dango is one of my favorite dramas. I love both the Japanese & Korean version. My only concern about the American version, is that the story of pure love will be lost. With an older cast, it makes room for uneccesary kissing and sex to be introduce if not by the Main Couple, definitely by the the other 2 party boys. Lui's part is still too innocent or at least should be. I don't know. I think it's a bad idea. I just hope they don't butcher the story.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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