Review. Meteor Garden is a 2001 Taiwanese drama and the 1st TV adaptation of the Japanese comic series Hana Yori Dango written by Yoko Kamio. The storyline follows the love story between poor girl Shan Cai and rich boy Dao Ming Si who meet at an exclusive university. Rich boy Si is the leader of the clique F4 (Flower Four) and routinely bullies students who irritate him. The F4 members Si, Hua Ze Lei, Mei Zuo and Xi Men are rich heirs to Taiwanese businesses. Poor girl Shan Cai stands up for a friend and receives the dreaded red card (signal for the student body to bully a person). To everyone’s surprise she does not break down at the repeated bullying incidents and instead declares war on the F4 earning their respect and rich boy Si’s affection. Their ensuing relationship ebbs and flows.
What I liked
a) Shan Cai and Dao Ming Si clicked as a couple. Their kisses were refreshingly unchaste. The moments of happiness were charming. His joy at her first voluntary kiss was touching. Her pleasure at his Meteor light display at her apartment was wonderful. The narration of Shan Cai’s thoughts allowing the viewers to know she loved Si even though she did not say it outloud.
b) Hua Ze Lei was a true rival for Ming Si. Shan Cai chooses him over Si at one point. I liked how this series addressed that Hua Ze Lei was formerly autistic and how this directly contributed to his low-key character.
c) F4 loyalty and friendship and chemistry grew throughout the series. Mei Zuo and Xi Men seemed interchangeable.
What I did not like
a) Shan Cai’s refusal to admit her any part of her feelings bugged me. Si’s love was portrayed as overwhelming.
b) Violence against women was off-putting (Shan Cai was slapped in the face multiple times and beaten when bullied).
c) Shan Cai’s friend Chen Qing had a big mouth. The Japanese and Korean versions deleted this irritating character.
d) The actors had limited acting skills but grow into their roles.
e) Production values were low quality.
f) Shan Cai’s parents were irritating.