I noticed that the Taiwanese dramas of the comedy/romance genre I like best are either based on Japanese mangas or usually adaptations of the original Japanese dramas (which are also based on a Japanese manga) shown ten or so years ago. Are there differences, aside from the language, of the two versions? Which one is better?
Generally, one noticeable difference is the length. The Japanese versions will usually have about ten or so episodes while the Taiwanese ones will have around 15-20 episodes. The t-drama versions would usually have several subplots and will try to stick as much as possible to the original storyline; the j-versions’ plot are usually centered on the main plot and would slightly have a “modified” storyline compared to the j-manga on which it was based. Second difference is that the t-dramas would usually have an OST with a main title song and several pop songs which lyrics are related to the song. These songs would usually be played in scenes where the actors are in a contemplating or reflective mode, scenes where the actors would usually be looking out the window or lying awake in bed while scenes are flashbacked. Thus a viewer would have to listen carefully to the lyrics of the songs to get an enhanced understanding of the scene. The j-dramas OST are usually composed of one main title song and a so-called “insert”song . The rest are background music and thus have no lyrics. I noticed j-dramas have less or even zero reflection scenes of the t-drama mode but there are also flashbacks. A third difference is the ending–for t-dramas, the endings are happy, boy and girl live happily ever after type of endings; in the j-dramas, one doesn’t directly see a straightforward ending where the girl and boy live happily ever after, although this is implied. This leaves the viewer to expect a “drama special-SP” of two episodes to follow. In the SPs, the “happily ever after” ending usually happens.
Now, let’s see the four cases of the comedy/romance genre taiwanese and japanese dramas that I have watched and give my personal (subjective?) rating.
Hana KImi–I like the J-version better because I found the lead actress, Ella Chen, in the t-version not appealing. Maki Horikita as Mizuki Ashiya was better (in fact, she won the Best Actress award in the 54th Television Awards in Japan). Further, the j-version starred Oguri Shun (aka Hanazawa Rui of Hana yori dango fame) as Izumi Sano. Oguri is one of my favorite actors, which explains the bias.
The t-drama “It Started with a Kiss”(ISWAK) vs j-drama “Itazura na Kisu”. I like the t-drama version better. It was funnier, acting was good although sometimes exaggerated, the actors had better chemisty esp Ariel Lin and Joe Chen, OST was excellent, the longer length allowed for development of the story, the ending really made me feel good. The j-version, although made ten years earlier was also okay because acting was likewise good. (BTW, the lead actor is far more handsome than Joe Chen. ) Plot was short and really focused on the two lead charaters; absolutely no subplot. The lead actress’ acting was not as ” naturally cute” as Ariel Lin; she was really “trying hard” so her acting was exaggerated to the point of irritating. The title song cute for its time.
“Sweet Relationship” (t-drama) vs. “Oishi Kankei” (j-drama). Again, ST is a remake of OK which was shown in Japan ten years ago. I like the t-drama version better because the lead actress, Patricia Hsu, was so convincing whenever she describes the food she eats. Although I like Nakayama Miho (the lead actress in the -j version), it was Patricia that pulled it off better. The J-version is more realistic though, but the t-version funnier. Again, the length of the t-drama allowed for more development of the storyline, although the subplots were sometimes boring and tended to draw the focus away from the main plot. I was a bit disappointed in the acting of Vic Zhou, one of my favorite t-actors. His acting didn’t exude “authority” that his role asked for, in contrast to the Japanese actor who played the same role in the j-version. (BTW, this actor looks better than Vic). Vic looked emaciated here and his facial expression was almost the same throughout (although he really looked great when he smiled). Although both Vic and Patty looked good together, their chemistry was lacking (maybe due to Vic’s “tired” acting). But the ending of ST is better, as the j-version ended with the chef going to Paris with his girlfriend and leaving Nakayama Miho in Tokyo, with the promise that he will come back to Toko after two years to taste Miho’s cooking. (I have a feeling there is an “SP” to provide the closure to the story, but have searched the internet endlessly for one but in vain). Again, the t-version OST is good and I like Vic Zhu’s sweet relationship main song and Alan Kuo’s “Don’t say goodbye”.
Meteor Garden (t-drama) vs. Hana Yori Dango (j-version). Definitely, HYD lords it over MG. Why? I will save the comments for another day.