Jerry Yan Fan Meet in Manila 2004

My first time to see Jerry Yan at NBC Tent for Bench endorsement. I ask my brother Azrael to cover the event. His first experience in vlogging! I'll write a blog post about this memorable-chaotic-unforgettable experience!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Meeting The Three Domyoujis


In a small room in a resort in Gwang-ju, South Korea, four years ago, five young men strode in wearing identical white suits. But one of them stood out, he with the wavy hair: Domyouji Tsukasa. Or rather, he was Matsumoto Jun of the Japanese idol group Arashi.

Matsumoto played Domyouji in the Japanese drama Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) and its sequel as well as in the movie version. That time in 2006, he was in between the two dramas and his hair was far from permed, but he still exuded that Domyouji aura: imposing, over-confident and stand-offish. It made me wonder if he was going to display the infamous Domyouji temper too.

That is how much Matsumoto owned the Domyouji role that many consider him as the best among the three actors who have played the character on TV.

Domyouji Tsukasa is perhaps one of the most iconic and unforgettable manga characters. The young man with a childlike personality that was often thought of as unreasonable, a thick mop of curly hair that made him look ridiculous, he was stupid... and rich. But he was also hilarious without meaning to and had his charming ways, especially when it comes to the woman he loves. This is what endeared him to the female fans of Hana Yori Dango, the Japanese manga that started its own wave in Asian pop culture.

Published from October 1992 to September 2003 in Japan, the manga was adapted into an animé before Taiwan’s star maker, Angie Cai Zhi Ping picked it up to produce an adaptation, Meteor Garden, in 2001. She cast an unknown model, Jerry Yan Cheng Xu as Dao Ming Si or Ah Si, Domyouji’s Taiwanese version.

The series was a surprise hit in Taiwan and took the rest of the region by storm, turning Yan and his co-stars who made up F4—the lead’s equally rich and good-looking friends—into major stars.

It was just a matter of time that Japan would make its own version and so in 2005, Matsumoto came out on TV screens wearing that now famous Domyouji perm. Unlike Yan, Matsumoto was not a virtual unknown when he took the role having been a member of Arashi for six years, but his role in the drama expanded his fan base, as well as that of the group's.

Obviously inspired by the success of the Taiwanese and Japanese dramas, South Korea was not about to be left behind and Boys Before Flowers premiered in 2009 with former model and little-known actor Lee Min-ho taking the lead role as Gu Jun-pyo. Needless to say, the “Domyouji effect” happened with Lee being propelled into A-list stardom overnight.

One of the things that fans would always nitpick was the hair of Domyouji, which was one of the pegs of the character. Many jokes about the character came from the curly hair after all.

Yan did not curl his hair and instead had it held up by bobby pins, but in the middle of the drama, the hair element was totally set aside and promptly forgotten. It must have been mafan (troublesome) to have it set every time considering that Meteor Garden was a low-budget production.

Lee’s hair, on the other hand, looked so overly done and unnatural that many fans criticised it as a bad version of an ajumma (auntie) perm. Many could not help compare it to Matsumoto’s hair,  which was permed for the first season but was styled the same way for the second one.

What’s the big fuss over the hair anyway?

When I met Yan earlier this year in Taipei, it has been nine years since Meteor Garden was shown but he still had that longish hair that was the rave in the region at the height of F4’s fame. Reports say he has been advised that it was best for him to wear his hair long to bring luck to his life. But seriously, the old hairstyle made him look dated.

Yan still considers Ah Si as the closest to his personality among the roles he has played, describing himself as childlike and playful like the famous character. I thought, maybe often misunderstood too, as Domyouji was. There have been reports of Yan being moody and difficult to work with and while spending an hour with him was not enough to give a full picture of who he is, I saw a soft-spoken, even shy man who would insist on his standards and had his own mind. For example, when I requested for a photo with him, his handlers quickly declined saying he was not made up yet. He listened to them quietly and after they have said their piece, asked if I had a camera and gamely posed, not caring whether his hair was sticking out in the wrong direction. I thought this Domyouji had a soft and gentle side to him. Not really unlike the character who had his weaknesses too.

Many, meanwhile, have pointed out to the physical resemblance between Yan and Lee that they could even play brothers. Both are tall too.

Lee’s height, in fact, came as a surprise when I saw him at a recent press conference in Bangkok. Gone was the ugly perm and in place was a boy-next-door hairstyle that made him look, well, generic.

He was good-looking all right, or rather, too pretty. But he did not exude the imposing presence of Matsumoto nor the magnetic aura of Yan. It did not matter, however, to the fans who came to see him as they screamed in delight when he appeared onstage. As Thai fan Nummon, 23, said, he’s the best Domyouji for her because he’s very funny. But observing Lee onstage, “bland” was the only word that came to mind.

A random poll among people I know--including 11-year-old Chloe from the Philippines--who watched all three adaptations of Hana Yori Dango picked Matsumoto as the “best Domyouji” because of his acting. Referring to the actors' acting in the different versions, she found Dao Ming Si "bad" while Gu Jun-pyo was very "egoistic".

Matsumoto, for many fans like Chloe, IS Domyouji. Even Arashi members agree so, except that he ain’t stupid.

But for many, Yan would always have a special place because he was the “first Domyouji” and for most, the one who opened the door to Asian pop culture.

I fell short in asking if Lee would be considered as the “third-rate Domyouji” though, ugly perm notwithstanding.

Oh and I forgot, there’s a fourth Domyouji, made in China.

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