Welcome to my reviews of BL (Boys’ Love) Series. You might be wondering what BL means since it can be misinterpreted or misunderstood. OK, let me explain to you what BL is and how I discovered it. The term is originally from Japan (Yaoi might be a more familiar term) which was created many, many years ago. They were a classification of stories between beautiful boys and young men who fell in love with each other. They were mainly established for female audiences, because men were more able to freely express creative liberties. More recently, however, this genre has morphed into other media formats besides print and the format and the making of them have become much more expressive and intense. Generally, these stories are between ‘givers’ and receivers’ but with masculine overtones. Other countries besides Japan, mainly Asian, have exploded in the development of series about young men with considerably more overt and covert LBGT overtones.
Let me explain what they are NOT. They are not pornographic (none whatsoever — in fact not even implied). Also, they are not graphic in any sense of the word. There is what I like to call — BUILDUP. Yes, there is hugging, kissing, and (very) intense eye contact but, as you watch, the rest is imaginative. In my mind, the buildup is the romance, leaving the eroticism to your own mind. You will find that you do not need to see it on screen; you just know it is there.
These series (and there are many, many of them) are unique at least for the American culture. We are simply not used to its message or format. Please think of them as mini-gay soap operas. Which they are! Not only are they intensely entertaining (like most soap operas are), but they are also intensely message driven. Look for it!
I discovered them quite by accident. I was in You Tube and wanted to watch something different in the gay genre. (Yes, I am GAY so that is not a stretch}. I came across something that said the ’10 best BL series of 2020. I had NO IDEA what BL was. I googled it. I sat down. Watched. And now it is an obsession. (Common, on! There are worst things in this world to obsess on!)
The first one that I watched, honestly, hooked me. Hooked me deeply and profoundly! I watched ‘2gether’ and its follow-up ‘Still Together’. My review of these series will follow. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered. It was something that made me feel good again about being human and took me back to when I was a beautiful young man (indeed I once was). We have ALL felt what they felt in some capacity, no matter what your sexual orientation is. These series are in every sense of the word ‘love’ stories that happens to be between males.
I do not want to give you the impression that all is blissful, and this is the Garden of Eden of serial anthologies. It is not. They are fun and entertaining with all of them having some message to them. As I get further into watching these, a few are indeed masterpieces and if they were on at least American networks undoubtedly some would have been given Emmy’s for their storytelling, acting, and production. Remember, these are foreign series where English is NOT the primary language. While there are some moving dialogues and intensely beautiful language expressed, the translations are, to be blunt, either way off base or just plain awful. So sometimes, you feel left out or even empty. Do not despair! You can get through it. Please watch for the story and get the gist of that. When you get to the intense scenes, you will know what the message is. Sometimes, (actually a lot of the time) the transitions and flow of the story lines are choppy or non-sequitur or even make no sense. But stick with it, please. Some series are better translated than others of course and because these are becoming popular and known here in the United States, translations are generally getting better. Obviously some productions are better in some countries than others but do not let that dissuade you from watching. Watch the entirety of it not its components.
Obviously, you will not like all of them, but I can guarantee that there is NOTHING like this on American tv (nor are we even close to having this on American tv, given our parochial and conservative attitudes). The story lines are formulaic and familiar, but the characters are not. Each brings something unique and intense to the small screen. Not all acting is even. Not because it is bad acting. It is, I think, mainly due to poor direction, poor screenplay, and cultural differences. How one acts in Thailand is not necessarily how one would act in Hollywood. Please, please do NOT misunderstand. I am not knocking other cultures. I am intrigued by them. Each culture has its own unique way of showing love, compassion, anger, hatred and all the other emotions that we humans share. America is NOT the center of the universe and does not have a monopoly on stories or storytelling. We mostly want to get to the ‘punchline’ so to speak rather than (to coin another euphemism), ‘to take time to stop and smell the roses’. I just want viewers to be aware of the differences and embrace them. Keep an open mind. Just stop and take in the STORY! I have YET to stop watching one of these because of bad acting or screenplay. I simply love each’s uniqueness and contribution to the art of filmmaking. They are not all masterpieces (but a few are), and some are way better than others. But they are fun and tell stories and above all are entertaining.
Full disclosure here, I am an older while guy and I am sure some of you are thinking that watching incredibly good-looking young guys is warped. Maybe so, but honestly, to deny beauty in any of its form seems more unnatural to me. Beauty exists in all different forms and it appreciate its impact on you is a thing of beauty in and of itself. Just watch for yourself and see. These series have taken me back to my younger days and helped me to bring back so many lost memories of former loves, most of which went unrequited. I grew up in a time and place where you could not even acknowledge what you were feeling, even if you could put it into words. To some degree, I am reliving and re-experiencing my past through new eyes and a new perspective. They are beautifully visualizing what my own fantasies were when I was younger. Not my real reality but in my deepest thoughts they were. I feel somehow better knowing that I was and indeed not alone. These series can make you laugh, yes cry at times, feel pain, and most of all, give you a sense of universal longing and belonging.
This is a gift to the gay community of the United States (and other countries) that most are unaware of. It can also be a great learning tool for others unfamiliar with the gay community or lifestyle to see that what we are experiencing is also relatable to them. Kudos to Thailand, Philippines, China, Japan, and other Asian countries for doing something so beautiful and intense with a message of hope, acceptance, and equality. This is storytelling at its best!
I am using a rating system that may be somewhat unique. I am grading by letter grades A, B, C, D, F but with a caveat. I am placing gradations between letters like A+++, A++, A+, A, A-, A- -, A- - -, etc. I am doing this as some of these series I would consider excellent but some even more so. So, I wanted to show that while excellent, some even exceeded those expectations. On rare occasions, I have even given a series more than 3A+++s because it has deeply and profoundly affected me. Or some may have been pretty good but fell short in specific areas that made them just a bit less so. You get the point. Honestly, I cannot even think how I could give any of these series an F, however, as they have the guts, courage, and fortitude to do these. That is worth something!
For the most part, these series are easy to watch. Most are broken into episodes of various lengths and times. Some episodes are only a few minutes in length while others can be over an hour long. You can sneak a few in between doing other things (and you will). I am NOT rating each episode but the whole series and shall do so once I have completed each series. I do not like to comment on each episode as some are powerful and others might be more mundane. So, I want to review the series as a whole. I may on occasion tell you that you might want to begin watching one as it is that good. Rarely, I might watch a BL movie and give you a review of that as well. Some countries have not formatted BL topics into series yet but like to do them as movies.
Finally, these are my views, and you are totally free to disagree and challenge. All I ask in return is to WATCH and make them succeed. I want this genre to be seen and appreciated and given its platform for creativity for a wider audience. Just enjoy! I would appreciate any feedback you want to give. Honestly.
This feature is for the actor or actress who went beyond what the role was and outperformed others or made a memorable or lasting impression on me. It may not always be a major character as the expectation is those roles will be distinctive. On occasion, one may go beyond the expectation and earn this covet. More often than not, it is for the performer whose role might be that of a ‘throw-away’ character, but the individual elevates the role to a higher level by making it ‘his or hers’.
S.T.O.L.E. stands for:
S - superlative — sterling performance, sensational, a breakout, impressive
T - talented — something new was brought to the role, exceptional, unique, prodigious
O - outstanding — distinguished, magnificent, luminous, predominant
L - lasting — memorable, transcends the role, unforgettable, enduring
E - extraordinary— remarkable, surprising, atypical, unexpected
Some actors/actresses have a knack of affecting the audience in most unusual ways. They seem to have the ‘it’ factor and literally carry the series or their individual role to lasting remembrance. More often than not, we remember these characters as they touched us in some fashion, more so than we expected. So, for me, a few may bring a new perspective to the role that is unexpected and subsequently enhances or even elevates the series and makes it unique and therefore stands out more. That person should be recognized, no matter how big or how small the role is. Of course, I do not expect complete agreement with my choice for this distinction. These are highly personal and are only my reflections. The role does not necessarily have to be a positive one in a series or movie; just one that makes me think and reflect. Perhaps there might be a series or movie that does not have one and that is copesetic too. Or, maybe, just maybe, there could be more than one person. Create your own S.T.O.L.E!