Behind every great drama is a couple that can weather the test of time. Beyond the cinematography, music, writing, and editing, a drama’s real power is how a chosen actor presents the story that’s supposed to be told.
And if it’s a romance, there’s the added pressure of choosing actors who can bring two wildly-in-love or desperately pining characters to life. Though shipping actors is popular among many viewers of BL romances, it’s the characters these actors play and how well they perform these characters that make it hard to let them go. So, without further ado, we here at the BL Xpress are offering you a look into each of our favorite fictional main couples and why we believe they left such a deep impression. Couples who were brought to life so well by the actors that played them that they became an integral part of viewers’ lives.
Wei Wuxian/Lan Zhan [The Untamed] – China
A perfect example of love that grew from the blurred line between good and evil, Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan redefined loyalty for those who fell under The Untamed’s spell. A story about the rise and fall of Wei Wuxian and the undying loyalty of the man who loved him, actors Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo perfectly acted out a tale of sacrifice, grief, and triumph, a tale that breaks the heart and then rebuilds it. But beware, even after the final episode ends, this drama and this couple won’t let you go.
Gao Shi De/Zhou Shu Yi [No. 1 for You/Fighting Mr. 2nd] – Taiwan
While both of the We Best Love dramas are beautifully written stories, it is the chemistry between the two leads that pulls it all together. An emotional tale of unrequited love and feelings of inferiority, these two men take viewers on a roller coaster ride of growing emotions, confusion, and the misunderstandings that arise from it all. With powerful performances by Sam Lin and Yu, these characters left me so invested, I’d love to see a follow-up series beyond Fighting Mr. 2nd.
Noh Shin Woo/Woo Tae Kyung/Shin Da On [Light On Me] – South Korea
A surprising hit that took over Twitter feeds week after week, Light on Me delivered young gay characters in various stages of accepting their sexuality. Although the romantic endgame for this drama is Noh Shin Woo and Woo Taekyung, the writers brilliantly gave us the third lead in Shin Da On. All three of them left a deep impression. While Noh Shin Woo and Woo Tae Kyung marveled us all with their honest and selfless feelings for each other, Shin Da On proved that sometimes the person we need to fall in love with the most is ourselves.
Oh Aew/Teh [I Told Sunset About You/I Promised You the Moon] – Thailand
Complicated doesn’t even come close to describing ITSAY and IPYTM. The journey these characters took is so complex that it sparked a debate among the viewers. This series delves deep into both characters’ sexuality, dreams, and families. It touches on the regrets and temptations that can arise from putting personal aspirations before a relationship. No matter which character you found yourself rooting for (because, yes, it was that complicated), Teh and Oh Aew will forever live in the minds and hearts of those who watched this story. They are the type of characters that not only remain with you after the drama ends but who make you question your own outlook on life.
Hibino Nagisa/Igawa Shun [His: I Didn’t Think I Would Fall I Love] – Japan
I’ve always been drawn to coming-of-age stories, tales that delve into the beauty of growing up and falling in love. Even when the falling part isn’t always easy. Nagisa and Shun are perfect examples of a coming-of-age love story. Although short and seemingly simple, the characters in this drama and the realizations they come to manage to work their way under the viewer’s skin, which is why it wasn’t surprising when I discovered it was the precursor to a movie. And their adult versions in the film are just as memorable.
Uenoyama Ritsuka/Sato Mafuyu
[Given] – Japan
It takes a powerful couple, strong writing, and a significant presence for a pair not only to own a television screen but a manga and anime as well. And that’s precisely what Ritsuka and Mafuyu are. They’re powerful. Given offers it’s viewers and readers a story about grief, depression, and inspiration by using music. From the manga pages to the eventual live-action, Ritsuka and Mafuyu prove that they are characters fully capable of surviving the test of time and different adaptations. And we’re all given a chance to heal with them in the process.
Kurosawa Yuichi/Adachi Kiyoshi
[Cherry Magic] – Japan
Delivering one of the most non-toxic and healthiest relationships I’ve ever seen in a drama, Kurosawa and Adachi arrived on the live-action scene just as covid-19 swept the world. Their warm affection, growing love, and over-the-top reactions to Adachi’s mind-reading left people feeling good. Although already destined to be a hit, Kurosawa and Adachi provided viewers with a healthy romance during a not-to-healthy pandemic, catapulting them into audiences’ hearts.
Kang Seo Joon/Han Ji Woo [To My Star] – South Korea
Viewed by many as the first mainstream international Korean BL offering an in-depth kiss, the two main characters in this drama gave us much more than just intimacy and implied sex. They gave us a glimpse into the domestic depth of a same-sex relationship. There is something authentic about Kang Seo Joon and Han Ji Woo, as if this fictional couple actually exists outside of the television screen that introduced them. From the pimple popping to the shared cooking scenes, they felt real and beautiful.
Meng Shao Fei/Tang Yi
[History3: Trapped] – Taiwan
A little over the top at times and deeply emotional at others, Trapped created a fun and moving BL romance centered around a mobster and the cop he falls for. Shao Fei and Tangyi had the world rooting for them and their relationship, laughing at their humorous moments and hurting when sad. The fact that the entire fandom is still waiting for Tangyi to be released from jail says a lot about these two characters’ impressions.
Mark/Vee [En of Love: Love Mechanics] – Thailand
Although the entire En of Love series suffers from the short format these stories are squeezed into, the Love Mechanics episodes are a prime example of why sometimes it’s the characters that make a show work when everything else falls short. Portrayed magnificently by actors War and Yin, Mark and Vee made an entire audience fall deeply in love with them in only three episodes. So much so, that viewers could not let them go, the hype and hope for a complete Love Mechanics series still alive. Now, that’s the power of acting.
Surprisingly, this is the fastest list I ever made.
Phupha and Tian, A Tale of a Thousand Stars
Maybe someday I will stop being predictable and including my 1000 Stars bias in everything I write, but today is not that day.
I did not expect to like Phupha and Tian as much as I did, because Phupha started off as such a typical (for lack of better word) seme, tending to do as he pleased and getting away with it. But as the series progressed I realised that both Phupha and Tian are flawed, headstrong characters and the way they came to know and appreciate each other is one of the high points of the show. They This combined with a very satisfactory ending that really drives in the fact that the healthiest relationships allow people to grow within them puts them on my list of favourite and definitely least toxic couples in my BL list.
Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu, Word of Honor
Who doesn’t love a pair of murder-husbands? While the romance of Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu begins on a weird stalker-y note, it quickly becomes clear that both these men with dark pasts and grey morality are truly soulmates in every sense of the word. I love the way Zhou Zishu, a man living just to die becomes a man who wants to live happily with Wen Kexing, and the trust that someone like Wen Kexing develops for the beautiful not-so-stranger he meets out in the martial world. I enjoyed watching the two fight their common enemies together as much as I enjoyed the little domestic life they led.
Kurosawa Yuichi and Adachi Kiyoshi, Cherry Magic
The purest and fluffiest couple on this list. The pairing of the unassuming, completely lacking in self confidence Adachi, an introvert who has never been in a relationship despite being so adorable with his flailing naivete, with the sparkling prince-like charm of Kurosawa works so well. Again, this couple avoids toxic tropes – Kurosawa who has been in love with Adachi never forces his feelings on him, he is respectful and kind and just the best kind of person.
Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, The Untamed
Another power-couple for the list. While The Untamed had its flaws as an adaptation, I cannot find fault with WangXian. Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji start off as the embodiment of that old meme of a person who wrote a note saying “Get out of my school” to the girl they liked, but that’s what the charm of the couple is. What’s not to like about the perfect, stoic young man and the one person who can make him lose his cool in every way possible. And as the story develops, I love the way their dynamic changes from that into one of mutual trust and respect, peppered with plenty of meaningful gazes and overall soulmate behaviour.
We will be back next week with the second edition of this feature. So till then, keep watching this space as we bring you more updates from the Asian BL World!