Unlike it’s Korean counterpart, the Taiwanese adaptation of the manga Hana Yori Dango continues into a second season; Meteor Garden II (2002). Like the first season, the second season is on the longer side, with 31 episodes. (Obvious spoilers for Meteor Garden I).
What’s it about?
After the events of Meteor Garden I, Shanchai (Barbie Hsu) and Daoming Si (Jerry Yan) are finally able to pursue a relationship with each other, all with the blessing of the other F4 members, and the tolerance of Si’s mother. After Si graduates, he and Shanchai travel to Barcelona on holiday. One day Shanchai wakes up to find a cute note from Si, telling her to meet him at a church, but he never shows up, leaving Shanchai worried that something has happened to him. As it turns out, Si was involved in a car accident, and has woken up with amnesia. The first trusting face he meets is Ye Sha (Michelle Saram), the driver of the other car involved in the accident. Scared and confused, Ye Sha’s kindness persuades him to stick with her as the two attempt to regain Si’s memory, creating a life together. But what about Shanchai and two’s incomplete love story?
The second season of Meteor Gardens feature a lot more character growth. We see Shanchai and Si (and, to a lesser extent, Ye Sha) maturing into adults. We also see more character development for the other F4 members. Although they don’t take centre stage often, I really like that Huaze Lei (Vic Chou), Mei Zou (Vanness Wu), and Xi Men (Ken Zhu) get the chance to have the screen time to show just how they’ve changed from the bullies introduced in the first episode. There are also a lot more side characters in this season, and in the short space they have (usually 1-2 episodes) they really shine.
Although Meteor Garden II is only a year younger than the first season, the production of the series has noticeably improved with better sound and more modern editing. The young actors have all also greatly improved in their acting, with the worst offenders more dynamic and less wooden… much better than the first season!
Finally, for such a typical plot-line of amnesia-and-falling-for-somebody-else, I really like it was handled in this series. Ye Sha, Shanchai, and Si were all fuelled by irrational emotions as well as rational thought, reasoning out what they could and couldn’t do in each situation. I feel that the series did a good job at justifying the emotions and actions of the three, and treating the plot device with decency, rather than just another drama trope. The ending between the couples was also really nicely handled and tied up all the loose ends and intense emotions.
Since Shanchai is my favourite character in this series, I was a little disappointed to see her pushed into the background for a good deal of the drama as the plot focuses on Si and Ye Sha. It’s an understandable result of the plot of the second season, but I feel there could have been more of a focus to how Shanchai was coping with not knowing what happened to Si [SPOILERS/] and later, how she felt with him not recognising or remembering her [\SPOILERS].
Secondly, although the production of this season has greatly compared to the first, Meteor Garden II still feels very dated, and lacks a lot of the editing tidiness that we enjoy with more modern series.
Anything else I should consider?
One thing to note is that there are three special episodes, referred to as Meteor Rain (to be confused with Meteor Shower, the Chinese adaptation of the same source material), that were aired between the first and second seasons of Meteor Garden. Each episode focuses on one character, the first being Mei Zou, the second Xi Men, and the third on Si. If you’re committed to the series, they’re well worth the watch.
Finally a quick comparison to the Korean Boys Over Flowers; a fully-fledged second season (and not an attempt to squeeze it into the last few episodes of an adaptation) makes Meteor Garden vastly superior in story and character development.
Story: 8/10. With a more mature take on an old drama plot, the unfolding of events in this season is as well put together as the first.
Characters: 8/10. There is a lot of character growth in this series, dragging the characters of Meteor Garden firmly into adulthood.
Meteor Garden II meets up with (slightly) improved production and acting. Although there is slightly less Shanchai, there is greater character growth and a well-thought out and emotive plot. If you loved the first season, I would encourage you to follow it up with the second. Functioning as a second season, I give this series an 8/10.