I remembered way back in the early 2000s that one show caught my attention namely Meteor Garden which was based on Yoko Kamio's Manga series, "Hana Yori Dango". It was my very first Taiwanese series and the very first series to get me into Taiwanese drama. The series was produced by Angie Chai and the production company is Comic Ritz.
When I first saw the F4 boyband's posters I thought that they were a Japanese boy band but instead, they were a Taiwanese boy band. I learned that F4 was a Taiwanese boy band when I first saw their music video "Can't Lose You" because the song was in Mandarin and not in Japanese. When I first saw Meteor Garden on ABS-CBN - I first thought that they were my late paternal grandmother's shows because of the subtitles in traditional Chinese characters.
A Super Sentai team... no it's the main cast of Meteor Garden!
The F4 were given names equivalent in meaning to their Japanese counterparts. Doumyoji Tsukasa was named as Dao Ming Si, Hanazawa Rui was named as Hua Tze Lei, Nishikado Sojiruo was renamed as Xi Men, Mimasaka Akira was renamed as Mei Zuo and the protagonist Makino Tsukushi was renamed as Shan Tsai.
Meteor Garden would end up having two seasons. The first season was heavily based on the Anime and the Manga where Manga-only characters were given live versions while they didn't include Tsukushi's younger brother who wasn't really so significant for me. If you checked out the Anime version you may find out that not everyone in the Manga got animated. The second season of Meteor Garden was a more depressing version that had a more intense love story coming in - and Dao Ming Si deciding between his past love and his present love. The song "Can't Lose You" perfectly fit the theme of Meteor Garden II which dealt with Dao Ming Si and Shan Tsai's relationship coming to a strain because the former had fallen in love with another girl while he lost his memories. Both seasons were bordered around a complicated love polygon centered on Dao Ming Si and Shan Tsai as well as people who have them as their love interests get involved one way or another.
The cast members that caught my attention back then were Jerry Yan and Barbie Xu (now known as Barbie Xu Wang). Jerry's acting was really that good that it caught the attention of my older aunts and I hear he's popular also among the older women. I felt like Barbie as an actress really knew how to carry out her strong emotions. I really wished Jerry and Barbie had more projects due to their onscreen chemistry was just so good! Barbie would later be paired with Vic Chou (who she dated for a short while) in the series called Mars which was based on a Japanese Manga series written by Fuyumi Soryo.
When it came to carrying out the awkward romance of Doumyoji and Tsukushi, I felt like Jerry and Barbie exceeded the standards. Jerry is pretty much confident, stylish and charming when he acts out his role as the leading guy. Barbie on the other hand really knew to do every crying scene in such a way you would feel sorry for her character. When it came to putting both of them together to act out every scene needed - they had me convinced like when I think that Shan Tsai should just break up with Dao Ming Si because he was a forceful individual (and what I felt was "needed" was a scene where Shan Tsai breaks up in rage, Dao Ming Si picks her up and pins her on a wall to calm her down) but somehow, they managed to get together.
In Meteor Garden II as much as I didn't like the turn Shan Tsai became where she became a defenseless porcupine (she plucked her spines to love Dao Ming Si) I thought Barbie's acting was really tested. I really loved her crying scenes like where she tries to convince Dao Ming Si to remember who he was and their relationship. Jerry also had his part as an amnesiac and struggling Dao Ming Si done really well. I always felt like whether he was the mean guy or the nice guy - Jerry knew how to do his part pretty well.
Most of the casting was never a mistake especially when they cast Zhen Xiu Zhen (甄秀珍) as the main antagonist Doumyoji Kaede who was renamed as Dao Ming Feng. Her acting performance made her character so hateful. In terms of acting, I think she overshadows every version of Kaede because she really knows how to act out her part. The character comes to life in such a magnificent way. My only complaint for the first season was that the character didn't really have that much screen time compared to the Anime version. Fortunately the second season had Dao Ming Feng have more screen time as needed and the actress proved herself yet again.
In-between Meteor Garden I and II, a mini-series called Meteor Rain was created. I didn't find the first one all so interesting with Mei Zuo and a Japanese pickpocket. I wasn't all to pleased with Hua Tze Lei's backstory was never fully explored. Meanwhile, the mini-series did present two important stories namely Ximen's backstory to how he became a playboy and how he learned from his errors. The other story was Dao Ming Si's past which covered one major plot way back in the first season - that he nearly killed someone out of rage. My favorite story was that of Dao Ming Si which sort of explained why he was such a meanie for a good portion of the series.
Meteor Garden II was also a continuation of Meteor Garden I except it added a load of characters that were not in the Manga nor the Anime. You had Mimi who became Qing He's love interest (he was based on Kazuya Aoike) and Mei Zuo's love interest Xiao Qiao (acted by Pace Wu who I felt didn't put too much of a good performance compared to Barbie Xu Wang), A-Mei (acted by Li Khang Yi) who would later fall in love with Hua Tze Lei and Princess Yesha who was Dao Ming Si's secondary love interest (acted by Singaporean actress Michelle Saram). While I didn't like the second season as much as the first but it took a very original direction from the Manga and the Anime.
When I'm asked why I don't like the second season as much as the first, I always complain about some of the dragging fillers like Qing He's love interest. However the plots like Ximen's family situation or Mei Zuo having a love interest were really well-written for me. On the other hand, I felt like the series dragged around too much with nonsense scenes from Shan Tsai's parents which I felt like should have been cut off like her father getting drunk or them crying over Dao Ming Si's possibility of marrying Yesha. While the second season for me is still good but it would never have the same impact as the first season even if I did like the fact Dao Ming Si matured and became a better person for Shan Tsai.
Then there were rumors of Meteor Garden III coming out. Fortunately, the whole thing remained a rumor and never came to be. My reason why I preferred Meteor Garden II to end as it is was because the story was already complete for me, leaving the audiences to decide on what happens next. At the same time, it was already time for the Meteor Garden cast to seek other career opportunities. On the other hand, I will never forget how Meteor Garden got me into the world of Taiwanese and Hong Kong entertainment.
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