Apologies to the readers for bringing my indecisiveness into this review.
To be very honest, even I don’t know how to process my own thoughts, when it comes to the series. My opinion is probably just as disorienting as the (Not So) Innocent video released on October 29th (if you know what I mean).
Innocent the Series is yet another release under GagaOOLala’s #QueerUpTheVolume project that came out on September 24, 2021, and was fully updated on October 15. The series is a remake of the 10-minute long video of the same name released on GagaOOLala in 2020 and is directed by Maxine Hsieh. Each episode is about 23 minutes long and is followed by (Not So) Innocent, a 5-minute long, interesting (well, that’s one word for it) performance by the main leads which highlights the dynamic between the two of them.
The story revolves around Wu Zheng (Te Chung Chang) and his life with Yu Shi (Bo Zhan Zheng, as his name is mentioned on GagaOOLala). We aren’t introduced to the story of how they met, among other things, until later on in the series. The beginning seems to be very disorienting, with no explanation of how or why Yu Shi’s ‘other’ personality, known as Noah, makes an appearance whenever he wants to. Although we may be slightly aware of the situation at hand, it’s not until the third episode that Yu Shi is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder—previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder before the criteria had been changed in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).
There seems to be only one woman character in the story, and she makes her exit pretty early. Shao Jie (Fifi Sun) was set up with Wu Zheng but she leaves him as soon as she sees him with Yu Shi. There’s also a side couple involved in the story—with Tang Jun Zhe (Lee Yu Shao), Wu Zheng’s business partner, and Yu Shang En (Lee Chin Ting), the psychiatrist. All three of them had known one another for a long time, and Wu Zheng consults with these two in times of need.
I’m in two minds about the depiction of a dissociative disorder in this series. On one hand, it seems like a sensitive portrayal. On the other, I’m not sure if one can leave any of the identities behind very easily. It’s difficult to even ‘merge’ the identities; it is more likely that you may be only able to manage them through medication and therapy.
The idea that Yu Shi is referred to as ‘Xiao Yu’ or ‘Little Yu’ is an indicator that Yu Shi is still stuck as a 5-year-old, with Noah as the ‘protector’ personality, and this is directly linked to the sexual abuse he faces as a child at the hands of an older man. This is enough to ring warning bells for us; along with Noah’s words about not wanting Wu Zheng to have sex with Yu Shi (which is seen as a sign of jealousy and the need to protect him), it brings in ideas of questionable consent (even without the whole ‘5-year-old’ angle). But that just might be me and the usual issues I have with dub-con in general.
What I really like about the series, however, includes questions that it poses about internalised homophobia—whether it’s the cishet couple looking disgusted at Wu Zheng and Xiao Yu holding hands, or the comments that Wu Zheng’s grandfather makes about ‘bringing a boy home’. I also like how the grandfather kind of thaws by the end of the second episode and welcomes Yu Shi/Noah into the family. Yu Shi is now referred to as ‘shinbu’ or ‘son-in-law’, and Wu Zheng’s grandfather talks about the rituals of marriage that they may have to complete, which is interesting in itself. Along with this, Wu Zheng brings in the idea of an ‘equal marriage’ between two men, thus giving us a glimpse of marriage as an institution in Taiwanese society.
Between Yu Shi’s innocence, Noah’s tsundere-like personality, along with his jealousy, the main leads look like a married couple. They have their fair share of bickering, cajoling, and reminiscing, which helps build the chemistry between them. I do find them very cute, but once again, I find myself indecisive about them. The side couple barely gets any screen time, so I’m not sure about what to do with them either.
Despite all of this, I like the series because of the amazing cinematography and the stellar acting. It’s a job well-done, and I wouldn’t mind watching it again. However, I wish it had been longer; with portrayals of dissociative disorders involved, I think it’s important to flesh out the plot a little bit to accommodate sensitive topics more carefully.