“To An Ky/The Time Adventure of To An” Series Review (Ep.1 to 6 + Specials)

This series is simply dazzling and a pure work of effulgence. It is breathtakingly beautiful and a stunning assemblage of artistry. It comes close to being a visual masterpiece with its juxtaposition of ancient and modern settings.

This story is aesthetically told, visualized, and captured. While the story is not necessarily new, its implementation and execution are. It is almost a flawless transition between the two worlds. The tale begins during the Imperial times in Vietnam. It is a story about An Ky, (Adam Lam) and his life-long friend Dong Bang (Troung Minh Thao, who is stunning and handsome). There is the usual palace intrigue and jockeying for power, with particular attention to who is getting the hand of the Princess. An Ky is trying to woo the Princess when he learns about her possible engagement with Dong Bang. And since An Ky is more powerful and influential, he easily wins her over. However, he pays a price for this cunning tricks. In this realm, there are certain individuals who practice black magic and can transport individuals into the future. An Ky is transported into the future (present day) and in a twist of fate meets up with Dong Bang who is now called Henry. Henry has no recollection of his former life, but An Ky retains bits and pieces and also retains his martial arts skills. He ingratiates himself into the theater group that Henry is a part of. Here is where he also finds that the same assemblage of characters from his past in the theater group.

From the beginning of their friendship when they were children to the present times, there has been an unspoken and unrequited attraction between An Ky and Dong Bang. They made pledges then that they would forever be inseparable and would never keep secrets from each other. But there is really one ‘secret’ that goes unexpressed throughout their lives and that is their love for each other. Dong Bang is more unrequited in his feelings, while An Ky’s feelings are a bit closer to the surface. Others have recognized their connection, even if they have been unable to acknowledge it. When An Ky is transported to the future and is trying to cope with this world’s complexities, Henry helps and mentors him selflessly. As their relationship blossoms, Henry is now more open about who he is and how he feels about An Ky. However, he is still unable to act on those feelings directly. Regardless, there is now a much stronger bonding and yearning between the two of them. Unfortunately, An Ky is transported back to Imperial times just at the height of their intense attachment. Through some brilliant conversational dialogue with other characters, An Ky slowly begins to realize the depth of his feelings for Dong Bang (Henry). When he finally comes to the realization that it is Dong Bang (Henry) that he is meant to be with, it is too late. He is transported to the past, while Dong Bang (Henry) is in the future. The major theme of this series is really — unfinished love. An Ky says to himself at the end as he gains perspective,

“You must love to know who to treasure, and you must love to know how it hurts”.

Who he loved – vanished. And it deeply and profoundly hurts. An Ky might be destined to live heartbroken and despondent for the rest of his life.

I have significantly simplified this story in accordance with my understanding of it. The translation into English is a bit confusing and quite literal. At times, you must put the pieces together and reassemble the language in your head so that the story makes sense. But honestly, none of that really matters. This series is poignant, filled with incredible talent, silly at times, funny as well, and is a love story covering epochs. The depiction of the imperial times is pure genius, and its artistry is superb. The costumes, settings, the ambience are breathtaking and beautifully done with an explosion of colorful costumes. When it moves into the current time, it still retains its charm, and I could sense that the characters weren’t ‘new’ but really extensions of their Imperial selves. This series had such great choreography and makes the transitions from Imperial times to modern times seems almost flawless.

Adam Lam plays An Ky with gusto, charm, wit, passion, and commitment. He is an amazing dancer, and an excellent singer. He also displayed martial arts moves that seem spot on to me. Likewise, he is funny, charming, and has the boy next door look that could charm anyone. There is such an inner beauty to him that makes him so attractive. (I was totally smitten). He portrays his character with such an intense commitment that at times I felt innately connected to his character. I was there with him and could literally feel what he was feeling. He is an amazing actor with flawless acting talents and is natural. No matter who he was trying to woo, you could feel his connection with them. While his relationship to Dong Bong was limited by class and status in the Imperial times, his emotions were heartfelt and distinctive when paired opposite Henry. Their chemistry was palpable and intense. I simply could not get enough of this series and An Ky’s character. Adam Lam made this character come to life and while he is not without flaws, you felt for him, and you knew that underneath he really did love Dong Bang.

There are some, however, irrelevant moments in this series that could have been eliminated. The over-the-top scenes with whom I assume might be the producer of the theater group was just a bit too much. The story was sometimes hard to follow because of the translations. I am sure this series has way more meaning and impact with the audience in its native tongue, but sometimes it just did not translate into English very well. So, a lot of the time, I simply ended up watching it and adding my own dialogue with a few words from the translation.

I really did not want this series to end. After the six episodes, there are 11 more short snippets and musical videos from Adam. Some deal with the makings of this series. I found myself simple adrift and was mesmerized by them. The musical videos are so beautiful, especially “The Hurt Drink” by Adam Lam, which is actually a manga. (He really is an excellent singer). I simply got lost in this fantasy of the Imperial world with all its trappings.

There is just something about Vietnamese BL series that simply captures my soul, especially this one. They tell stories; not with superficiality but with a sense of realism and with a continued sense of humanity that makes it relatable no matter the difference in our cultures or customs. Although this series barely qualifies as a BL series, it is a potent tale of an unrequited love between two men. Yet it is so riveting that it becomes pure joy to watch. Please seek this out, as it is a true gem, even with all the translation issues. You can make the story your own!

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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