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BL Series: Love Wins on the Small Screen

Article by: Lea Ysabel Evangelista

Graphics by: Hannah Regine D. Nieva

One of the trends that defined 2020 was the Boys’ Love genre, commonly known as BL, that took the social media world by storm. Its impact captivated an audience that has grown steadily since. Originating in Japan as features on 1970’s small-scale manga, the genre served amateur creators as a platform for puff pieces, but later developed into what people now know as a turning point for LGBTQ+ representation.

While still not widely depicted on the big screen, BL is increasingly showcased in a lot of television series which viewers can enjoy through their devices. As stories within the genre continue to pour in, many may find themselves lost and wondering where to start. So, here are some highly suggested titles that depict the spice, emotions, and how #LoveWins on the small screen.

Given (2019)

Based on the manga of the same name, the story begins when timid high schooler, Mafuyu, pleads the guitar prodigy, Uenoyama, to teach him to play the instrument. Their encounter led to Mafuyu being recruited as the vocalist of Uenoyama's rock band, which consists of two other members – Haruki, the bassist, and Akihiko, the drummer. A series of events uncover melodies of love and grief among the four as the plot progresses.

Almost every episode in the anime is named after a popular rock song, such as “Wonderwall” by Oasis and “Somebody Else” by The 1975. The lone exception is one episode’s title, which took after an original track in the show. A side plot covering Akihiko and Haruki’s story was also turned into a film in 2020.

Given can be streamed through Crunchyroll.

The Untamed (2019)

Already retold in various mediums such as manhua (Chinese comics), audiobooks, and donghua (Chinese animation), the live-action series of the Chinese novel, The Untamed, is its latest adaptation. In the center of all incarnations are star-crossed lovers Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, whose bond defy time and space in an alternate historical fantasy world. However, the live-action adaptation had to be toned down before airing.

Still, despite the censorship, the show still displays the chemistry between the main characters well as they are separated and reunited from each other, while at the same time reconciling with their scars from the past.

2Gether: The Series (2020)

Many would recognize Sarawat and Tine’s story as it trended all over the world through social media. In the show, the two college students pair up in a fake relationship that, through tribulations, eventually blossoms into something genuine.

Production for the series had to be cut short due to the pandemic, with the planned 16-episode show ending abruptly three episodes earlier. The high demand for a follow up season resulted in an additional 5-episode run released just a few months after the first season.

SOTUS: The Series (2016)

SOTUS: The Series is a perfect introduction for first time BL watchers as the plot is not what many would expect nor is it out of the ordinary. At its core are Kongpob and Arthit, who are at different points in their college lives – one who just began and the other on his last legs, respectively. The series shows how same-sex relationships are not any different from heterosexual ones.

The series also tackles Thailand’s Seniority, Order, Tradition, Unity, and Spirit (S.O.T.U.S.) system, which mainly promotes camaraderie among freshmen and love for their alma mater through hazing methods that are part of their student culture.

The show was later followed by a sequel, SOTUS S: The Series and a spin-off episode in Our Skyy.

Gaya Sa Pelikula (2020)

Written by Juan Miguel Severo, the story provides a more Filipino flavor to the BL genre. The web drama revolves around an architecture student stuck in a financial dilemma, and a free-spirited upperclassman that needs a place to stay. Fate leads them closer to one another as they reside in the same apartment while they resolve their personal issues. Karl and Vlad see the best and worst of each other, address them, and eventually realize their romantic feelings.

With a lot of participation from Severo, the producers sought to cast two queer actors to play the lead roles to stay faithful to the LGBTQ+ core of the story. The plot also contained familiar themes of reconciliation with responsibilities and identity – critical issues for young adults.

The show aired on YouTube through the Globe Studios channel and is now available on Netflix.

Gameboys (2020)

Gameboys is another locally produced series in the category that caught the Filipino audience’s attention. Set during the pandemic and told only through computer screens, the story follows the relationship between gaming streamer Cairo, and his avid fan Gavreel as they develop their bond amidst the lockdown.

The production of the show was conducted online as the actors did their set up and make up for its entirety. Director Ivan Payawal also had to give his instructions via video calls during the recording of the scenes. Since its release on Netflix last December, some scenes had been reshot and polished.

As society continues to progress, so does the content it consumes. Aside from television series of the Boys Love genre becoming a large part of entertainment in 2020, it also paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community to be more well-represented in mainstream media. This proves that an amateur genre can slowly evolve into an empowering movement.

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