I say following because that's exactly what it is. I am not watching full episodes. I have previously watched in full the Taiwanese and Japanese versions and was recently sooo turned off by the J-version Special Final Movie that reading recaps, critiques and opinions of other viewers is good enough for me. I can get the gist of the episodes via this method. Since the inception of this K-version, I have revisited my thoughts and feelings for these beloved characters. My comments below refer to these characters in general, not necessarily as portrayed in the K-drama series.
The character I have always rooted for is Hanazawa Rui (Yoon Ji Hoo). He has always been standing in the shadow of Doumyouji Tsukasa (Goo Jun Pyo) and he deserves his moment too. I especially enjoy watching Makino Tsukushi (Geum Jan Di) shake up his ambivalence in all of the incarnations of Hana Yori Dango. I kind of feel sorry for his perpetual loneliness despite having his F3 buddies but they can't really fill the void. Maybe this is why I secretly want him to get the girl because he's gentle and really deserves her.
Doumyouji is not unloved. I think he is your typical male protagonist in shoujo manga and apparently for Korean dramas as well. I think it's interesting that he prevailed as the more popular character which led to the mangaka changing the storyline to suit the audience's preference. Rui's character is somewhat too soft and lazy. I think men with strong personalities like Doumyouji fall within women's common fantasies. A man who wants to take care of his woman is much more attractive than a guy who sits around day dreaming all day don'tcha think?
As for Makino Tsukushi, she remains one of my all time favorite female characters in shoujo manga. Strong-willed and not a quitter, she is really inspiring. I do feel there is some dichotomy between Makino and Doumyouji. While our leading lady is strong and does not rely on men to achieve her goals, we would think she'd be paired with someone who has an opposite personality per the rules of shoujo manga/dramas. But instead we have a strong leading male who is protective, possessive and unwavering in his persistence of having her. The resulting dichotomy actually creates a strong-willed similarity between these two characters. Maybe that's the appeal. Many shoujo storylines follow the opposites attract formula and in our case, Doumyouji and Makino's social class are on opposite polar ends but their personalities share commonality.
Analyzing this is making my head hurt. Does anyone else sit around and wonder about these things? As for the remaining F2, Nishikado Soujiro (So Yi Jun) and Mimasaka Akira (Song Woo Bin), I have enjoyed Kamio Yoko's development of these two in her manga series. Both have their own story and a special spot in their hearts for Makino. The drama versions of course have not been able to elaborate on their stories since they're only supporting characters. However, Nishikado's story in the J-version does stick in my mind because we do get to see some history behind the reason for his playboy habits. It was fun to watch and quite moving. I cried when he cried! Plus the actor who portrayed him, Matsuda Shota, was super charismatic and cute! (Someone get the boy a hamburg steak, he needs more meat on his body.)
This title and its various franchise manifestations has proven its longevity. No matter how many times we've read/watched this story, people are discovering and rediscovering their love for it.