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! Augh! 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 aged up! It doesn’t make sense for this story to take place in a US 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 October 12, 2013 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.

Images and references: Boys Before Friends, My Drama List

▼ Have a look at the main cast of BBF, starting with Riley Rae Baker as Zoey (Japanese name: Tsukushi Makino). Any thoughts on the actors?


▼ Joseph Almani to play Liam Montgomery (Tsukasa Domyoji)


Trenton Culkin to play Oliver Young (Rui Hanazawa)

HanaYori04(picture originally taken from Facebook)

▼ Napoleon Tavale to play Chase Carlton (Sojiro Nishikado)


▼ Jason S. Morden to play Noah McCallster (Akira Mimasaka)


[ Read in Japanese ]