I have been reading mixed reviews related to this show and as such, my expectations were already sub-par. I was hugely skeptical of the convoluted premise, which doesn’t have much to offer.
HIStory is one of the most popular franchise, when it comes to Taiwanese BL. While the said genre is more open-minded and unabashedly daring in its depictions of same sex relationships (Taiwan is presently one of the very few Asian Countries which have allow same-sex marriage), this franchisee is more popular for its highly explicit content. The last season “HIStory3: Make Our Days Count” was met with public uproar when the show’s scriptwriters choose to kill one of the main character’s (who was supposedly quite popular). While Line TV are trying to make amends for their poor choices with a sequel to this highly popular show, there wasn’t much anticipation for “HIStory4: Close to You” The failure to rouse interest could be attributed to quite a few reasons.
● The heavily overused “Fujoshi (Fangirl) trope [reminds me of Thai BL “The Shipper”]
● depiction of stepbrothers being in an incestuous relationship [which is similar to the currently on-air Thai BL “Brothers” as well as “My Bromance The Series”].
When the first trailer was released, the audiences threw alot of shade on the ingenuity of this plot line and were hugely disappointed. Also, the current favorites on the block “We Best Love” have a better storyline as well as stellar star cast and it would be a herculean task for Close to You to beat them at this game. Despite the inevitable presumptions, HIStory4: Close to You premiered this week on the global streaming site “Viki”. Although the plot line is loosely scripted and leaves alot to be desired, the show drives a hard bargain purely based on its comic relief and hilarious characters. Without further ado, let’s review the introductory episodes and understand if this show is worth watching!
Xiao Li Chen
Charles Tu plays the main lead Xiao Li Chen. Managing the sales division of the most popular wedding planning companies in the country Muse Wedding’s, Xiao Li Chen is a no-nonsense man who knows how to get a job. But when it comes to love, Li Chen definitely needs lots of help.
Teng Mu Ren
Anson Chen portrays Li Chen’s love interest, Teng Mu Ren. He is the Manager of the Second Sales Department in Muse Wedding’s and is well known for his cold demeanor and handsome looks.
Ye Xing Si
An Jun Peng plays the role of Ye Xing Si. Xing Si is the Creative Director at Muse Wedding’s. He is extremely calm and collected and close friends with both Li Chen and Mu Ren.
Fu Yong Jie
Lin Chia Wei portrays the role of Fu Yong Jie, a medical student with an inexplicable obsession towards his elder stepbrother, Xing Si.
Liu Mei Fang
Cindy Chi reprises her role of BL Fangirl Liu Mei Fang from the prequel “HIStory3: Make Our Days Count”.
Muse Wedding’s is supposedly one of the most sought after wedding planning companies in the country. HIStory4: Close to You focuses on the close friendship of the Iron Triangle, Xioa Li Chen, Teng Muren and Ye Xing Si, who manage the top departments in their firm. Straightforward and bold, Li Chen can close a deal without even blinking an eye but when it comes to matters of heart, he is mostly unfortunate. Teng Mu Ren is the famous Ice Prince, cold, indifferent and dedicated to his job. Ye Xing Si is the bridge between his two close friends, who are frequently engaged in baseless arguments. Having harbored a childhood crush on their new recruit Liu Mei Fang, Li Chen decides that the only way to attract her attention is to enlist Teng Mu Ren’s help. Ye Xing Si on the other hand is being followed by an obsessive stalker, who seemingly knows everything related to his personal life. What will happen when Li Chen and Mu Ren are caught unaware in an unwanted situation of their own making? Who is the strange guy stalking Xing Si and what are his true intentions?
The Iron Triangle’s Close Friendship
This show really borrows alot of concepts and adages from popular BL dramas. Like the phrase “The Iron Triangle” which ardent Chinese BL fans would instantly recognize. The nickname belongs to the popular trio from the hugely successful series “The Lost Tomb”. Obviously both cluster of close friends are invariably different, since Wu Xie, Zhang Qiling and Fatty (The Lost Tomb Series) are well known for their tomb raiding skills and strong sense of friendship. Comparatively, our present trio in this show are regular office colleagues, who masquerade as roommates and are quite close to each other because they form the upper tier of their company. Despite their different backgrounds and personalities, somehow this interconnection works. Trust me, it’s mysterious because Xioa Li Chen and Teng Mu Ren are literally like opposite poles. One is mischievous and the other is an introvert. One loves to fool around with women while the other is overly cautious and disciplined.
Ye Xing Si is the connecting link between these two, whose daily job is to make sure that Teng MuRen doesn’t lose his calm and ends up killing Xiao Li Chen (yeah it’s that bad, out of control and over-the-top). I spend a hell lot of time laughing at Xiao Li Chen’s hilarious ministrations, simply because the character is so rambunctious and larger than life, you can’t help but enjoy his antics. There is never a dull moment when Li Chen is around and he infuses infectious energy into their dull lives with his ridiculous ideas. It was hugely entertaining to watch their group dynamics and I adore their friendship. Because although Xiao Li Chen might act like a total nutcase at times, MuRen and Xing Si still value him alot and are attentive to his problems. They do their level best to help him and I find that endearing about these three. A close-knit group indeed!
Xiao Li Chen and Teng MuRen’s Apparent Closeness
There is nothing heteronormative about this couple. I’m already coupling them together because that’s how they behave. Xiao Li Chen and Teng Mu Ren may not realise it themselves, but they are totally in sync and also manage to finish each other’s sentences. Meng Fan assumes that they are a closeted couple and her Fujoshi mind obviously ships them together. It doesn’t help that Xiao Li Chen’s literal definition of a manly guy is in direct contrast to Mu Ren’s delicate looks. As such, he fervently loves to play “The Knight in Shining Armor wanting to save the Damsel in Distress”. The said Damsel is Mu Ren, whose supposedly cold hands might suddenly need warming and Li Chen would happily comply. The fact that Xiao Li Chen is too attentive and always take cares of Mu Ren makes their relationship even more enviable. I don’t think Meng Fan is entirely at fault here, because they put up a united front and totally resemble a caring gay couple, who are overtly familiar with each other.
Another confusing aspect of this friendship is Xiao Li Chen’s obvious addiction to manhandling Mu Ren. The way he veers the conversation from “Trying to win his Girl’s Heart” to “Comparing Dick Sizes” is comic gold. I couldn’t stop laughing at their absurd situation and kept wondering how they ended up there. Why is Xiao Li Chen’s mind like a ticking time bomb? You cannot fathom his idiotic thoughts and most of the time, he sprouts nonsense. I was left aghast when he suddenly starts pulling on Mu Ren’s pants, so they could literally compare sizes. There are times like these, when I truly wonder about the depth of their real relationship. Xiao Li Chen uncharacteristically never takes such liberalites with Xing Si. He only does it with Mu Ren. Since Ye Xing Si openly accepts his sexual orientation in the introduction scenes itself, we are left in the dark about these two. So watching their dynamics is far too entertaining.
Also, the cold-hearted Mu Ren acts differently in Xiao Li Chen’s company and that certainly raises red flags on their apparent friendship. There are times when he gazes adoringly at Xiao Li Chen and his appreciative eyes left me confused. As such, I have my own doubts about this couple. It is entirely possible that Mu Ren might be harboring secret feelings for Li Chen and has been effectively hiding them to save their friendship. The upcoming episodes will shed more light on their dynamics, because if Mu Ren does have feelings for Li Chen, then faking his true emotions will be an increasingly difficult task.
The Creepy Stalker Situation
Fu Yong Jie on the other hand is depicted as a stalker. We don’t have a proper introduction to this character as yet and as such he is reduced to being antagonistic, who spends the majority of his time stalking Ye Xing Si online and offline. His obsessive tendencies are rampant and the fact he has easy access to Ye Xing Si’s personal space would leave you stunned. He struts around the place like he owns it, so it is pretty obvious that he has some personal connection with Xing Si.
It was disturbing to watch Yong Jie ogle at Ye Xing Si while he undresses and it is certainly seems like he has no respect for Xing Si’s privacy. A strange guy sneaking into your bedroom while you are unwell and asleep should be terrifying enough, but Fu Yong Jie tries to overstep his boundaries. While I was almost convinced that he might kiss the sleeping hapless guy and traumatize him further, his conscience pricks and Yong Jie backs off. I have a host of questions related to this character’s dubious behavior and I want to dig deeper into his psych. However, I’m reserving my opinions until the next episodes, where we might get a better understanding of his increasingly fluctuating emotions.
If you are actually looking for a drama with a promising storyline, then HIStory4: Close to You might disappoint you. The show heavily leans on borrowing overused tropes, that are haphazardly stitched together to give a convoluted version of Boy’s Love romance. Comparing it to the previous installments might seem unseemly, because clearly there is room for development and the pilot episodes were subjective to character introduction. The only consolation is the handsome pairing between Charles Tu and Anson Chen who breathe life into their characters and make them believably realistic. I’m hoping that we get a better understanding of Ye Xing Si and Fu Yong Jie’s uncharacteristic relationship. Honestly Ye Xing Si spends alot of time brokering peace between his troublesome friends and his storyline leaves alot to be desired. Looking forward to watching the next week’s episodes where the plot might get interesting or the storyline might be derailed permanently!
Rating- 3 out of 5