Versions of the K-Drama ‘To The Beautiful You’: Differences Between the Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese Adaptations

Japanese Version, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e (2011)

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Hanazakari no kimitachi e (Ikemen Paradice) is a Japanese TV series from 2011. It is a revival of the same-name 2007 drama series, also based on the manga Hana Kimi, but it starred a completely new cast. The 2011 Hana-Kimi drama starred Maeda Atsuko as Ashiya Mizuki, Nakamura Aoi as Sano Izumi, and Miura Shohei as Nakatsu Shuichi.

Ashiya Mizuki (Maeda Atsuko) is a girl from high school who dresses up like a boy to attend the Sakurazaki Academy, an all-boys boarding school. All this to meet her favorite athlete, Sano Izumi (Nakamura Aoi), a high jumper who was injured and left the sport. Basically, it’s the same story as the previous drama, only the cast is different.

Korean Version, To The Beautiful You

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To The Beautiful You (Korean: Areumdawoon Geudaeege) is a South Korean television drama featuring the late Sulli, Choi Min-ho, and Lee Hyun-woo. Starting on August 15th, 2012, on SBS, this drama is taken from the Japanese shōjo manga series, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, written by Hisaya Nakajo. The Korean series is the fourth television adaptation of the manga after the Taiwanese version, Hanazakarino Kimitachihe; the Japanese version, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, and its 2011 remake, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e.

The Korean version tells the story of Goo Jae-hee (Sulli), a Korean girl who lives in the United States. One day, she saw a track and field competition on TV and became inspired by a high jump gold medal competitor, Kang Tae-joon (Choi Min-ho). She began to idolize the young athlete, but Tae-joon suffered an accident that could potentially end his career. Therefore, to see Tae-joon jump again, Jae-hee disguises herself as a boy and attends the same school as Tae-joon. However, there is a catch, Tae-joon attends an all-boys private high school, Genie High School, so Jae-hee cuts her hair short and dresses as a boy to enter the school.

Jae-hee meets Tae-joon at Genie High School, who is repulsed by her behavior and befriends Cha Eun-gyeol (Lee Hyun-woo) after a brief brawl in the bathroom with an aggressive muscle boy. Dormitory 2’s leader, Ha Seung-ri (Seo Jun-young), assigns Jae-hee to Tae-joon as a roommate. Tae-joon, disgusted with having a roommate, challenges Jae-hee to score a goal in a soccer game in order to be admitted as his roommate. In the game, Jae-hee is wounded and taken to the school infirmary, where Teacher Jang Min-woo (Ki Tae-young) is the first to learn the true identity of Jae-hee.

The Differences Among the Versions

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Hana-Kimi basically tells the same premise in each adaptation about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to attend an all-boys school so she can get closer to her favorite athlete, but there are also some differences in each version of the adaptations. Let’s check them out!

  1. In the original manga, the reason Mizuki attends the school to get closer to Sano is that she idolizes him. That might not sound convincing or realistic at all. But in the Japanese live-action, Sano actually saved her life when Mizuki was attacked by some thugs, and in the process, he hurt his leg which forced him to quit high jumping. That’s why Mizuki, who felt guilty, chose to attend the all-boys school, so she can convince him to do high jumping again. See? That tiny change already made the live-action seem so much better.
  2. The characters are also basically the same. But, in the Taiwanese version, Quan is not exactly like Sano Izumi and his other counterparts in the Japanese version. Sano Izumi is the silent type who just wallows in his self-pity and sometimes makes the viewers frustrated with his passiveness. Quan is not like that, he’s more outgoing, nicer, and overall more enjoyable to watch.
  3. The Japanese live-action is more focused on the side characters, like the dorm heads or the photographer. In the Japanese live-action, they appear in every episode and are almost like main characters. Whereas in the Taiwanese live-action, they come and go respectively, they appear for their own story and then never come again.
  4. For the Japanese live-action, they are more focused on side-stories in the beginning and then fall into the whole “high-jump” thing. There were so many side characters and they kept re-appearing, making the story less focused at the beginning. Meanwhile, for the Taiwanese live-action, they got the whole high jump thing over with all nice and fast, and then they focused more on the developing relationship as well as the side stories (in which the characters left and appeared respectively). Focusing on the relationship was more enjoyable to watch, you can witness how Quan slowly falls more and more in love with Rui Xi and then the little stories pop up, coming and going, yet flowing very nicely all together.
  5. The ending was quite different in both versions. The Taiwanese live-action left with Xiu Yi not telling his secret to Rui Xi, and he also didn’t tell her that he already knows about it. The ending was open for a sequel, but sadly the production team didn’t have an interest in making a sequel of the series. Meanwhile, the Japanese live-action ending seems more satisfying. They found out about each other’s secrets and they got closure.

And that was all the information we have gathered for you about the differences and the similarities of each version of the Hana Kimi live-action. Each version has its own charms, so which version is your favorite? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below!