The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tree of Heaven / 천국의 나무 / Chun-kook-eh Na-moo

Hana (Park Shin hye) is Korean but lives with her parents in Japan, owning and operating a hot springs resort.

She is a young girl when her father dies, and for years she is filled with loneliness while she remains an upbeat and pleasant girl, always smiling and finding the good in everything around her.

When she is 18, her mother remarries a Korean man with a 20 year old son name Yun suh (Lee Wan).

They return to Japan and the hotsprings resort, where Hana's mother's dead husband's sister and her catty daughter, Maya, work to exist.

They are responsible for Hana and Yun suh during the newlywed's honeymoon trip, and because of gambling debts incurred by the aunt and Maya's strong desire to attend college, they treat Hana like sheizen while plotting to sell the resort for the money.

Yun suh is 'autistic' because his mother died on his 10th birthday, and he refuses to open up to his new sister or anyone else, preferring to walk barefoot in the snow and daydream about a promise his late mother made about returning to him when the snow falls.

He's gorgeous and she is pretty - and her genuine need for comfort, love, and the warmth of human kindness brought me to tears almost every time she made tireless attempts to bring her new brother around and force him out of his shell.

Early on at school, the boys taunt Yun suh and call him names while he lays in the snow staring up at the sky.

He's wearing a dual-cross necklace that the boys snatch from his neck, and that sends the silent man-child into a red rage.

All the while the boys are tossing that keepsake over his head and he's trying what he can to get it back, Hana is on her knees and in tears, screaming at them to stop; that its a gift from his dead mother and they have no right to do something so cruel.

I should have said earlier that this is a box-of-tissues drama.

This incident is what helps Yun suh to let down his guard and begin to warm up to Hana.

The reason he walks about in the snow barefoot is because he has totally misconstrued a saying: "Cold 'feet', warm heart" when its actually "Cold 'hands', warm heart"

Poetic license I suppose, since it'd be kind of hard to ask an actor to walk on his hands for 10 episodes, wouldn't it?

Anyway, Yun suh starts to have feelings for Hana, and while Hana is initially fond of having anyone like a big brother in her lonely life, she is afraid of the repercussions that come with falling in love with her 'in the eyes of the law' brother.

At the same time Yun suh begins to emerge from his 10-year shell, senpai Fujiwara Ryu (Uchida Asahi) returns to the constant cheers of the crowd of high school students who think and treat Ryu like a god.

Of course, Senpai is not only handsome and tall but wealthy as well, so what's not to love about the guy?

Hana actually always had a crush on him, and he always had a crush on her, so his real reason for returning to the high school is to move in for the kill.

His parents own and operate a chain of hotels that he is destined to inherit as an only child, and he wants to make Hana his bride as soon as she has her 'coming of age' ceremony (age 20 is it?).

While having to put up with the constant misery of her aunt and cousin's jealous spite, Hana is also left to spurn the doggedly hot advances of her suddenly awakened and now horny stepbrother.

Hana wants the love of a big brother as much as she wants to be able to admit to feeling for Yun suh the way he openly and unashamedly feels about her; but there is always that public humiliation thing looming overhead that keeps her from reacting to her own desires.

In a stunning climax on graduation day, Yun suh begs Hana to acknowledge her feelings, and in a torrent of tear she refuses, and then Senpai Ryu comes to the rescue, decking Yun suh in front of the entire student body.

Yun suh walks away, vowing never to return or bother Hana again.

Fast-forward two years later, when Hana is about to become 'a woman' in the eyes of the law, and she's working as a maid at Ryu's hotel in Tokyo - and her cousin Maya is now head madam at a high-class hooker joint.

Yea, they sold the hot-springs resort out from under Hana and Yun suh almost immediately after the aunt found out that her sister-in-law and new husband died in a car accident on their way home from their honeymoon.
Hana and Yun suh don't know about this, though.

There is a mysterious guest in a penthouse suite who insists that it be Hana who caters to him, takes care of his room, and delivers his meals.

I knew who it was right away, but it takes Hana a long time to figure it out.

He also cut off all his glorious hair, which was a big disappointment - and instead of reminding me of Kim Bum, he suddenly gave off a Jet Li vibe that I wasn't expecting AT ALL.

His left ear also stuck out, bugging the crap out of me for the duration - but whatever.

A lot of the comments at were favorable, and some of the girls listed Tree of Heaven as one of their top-five dramas of all time.

It was a really interesting story, and I loved both the male and female leads this time - actually even preferring the girl to the boy on occasion, she was that likable and pretty without any of the overly done melodrama, childish behavior, or whining associated with ALL of her fellow actresses - but I can't say this was or ever will be one of MY top-five picks.

Maybe because I hate predictable endings - which, by the way, no one liked, including moi.

I have pictures to show you, so let's just get to that now, shall we?

Takasugi Ko as his bodyguard / chauffeur Iwa

pretty shoes Yun suh bought Hana for her graduation

Older Yun suh with eviler cousin Maya

Hana is eventually reunited with Yun suh, and things seem promising for awhile, but then reality sets in for dear, tormented Yun suh and he ends up having to beg Senpai Ryu to take confused Hana off his hands by marrying her.

Senpai knows how she really feels, but he's totally in love, so I guess he's willing to overlook a lot of things, including her true feelings for another man

Yun suh looks on

sorry so blurry - but, Yun suh had an eerie habit of being there every time Hana stood at a window to reflect on her past - weird in a cool sort a way

pretty window of her room at the old hot-springs hotel

pretty view inside the penthouse suite - cute thing is, Hana doesn't like that Yun suh always wears black, being naive about his 'career', and he's not happy about her choice of suit, but because he loves her ...

this is NOT a spoiler by any means - you know I would never do that to y'all, so don't be shocked by this ...

She really and truly loves him, for crying out loud - how could she NOT run after him when she finds out he's sneaking a peek at the wedding ceremony to make sure Senpai keeps his word???

poor, devastated groom on what was supposed to be his big day

Intermittently, there was music that I found appealing, and here is a sample:

Yes, somebody dies - but not the way you think - it's a Korean drama, for heaven's sake!

I hated the ending like most everyone else - and if I had my way, I'd write a new ending to make this one a better drama - perhaps even a 'top 5', eh?

If you haven't seen this one yet, I highly recommend Tree of Heaven.

I'd also be curious to know if you might list this one in the top-5 or even top-10 list of all-time greats, too!


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