Love doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings for the Japanese BL My Beautiful Man, a live-action adaptation of the BL novel Utsukushii Kare by Yu Nagira.
A story about a quiet boy named Hira Kazunari (Hagiwara Riku) with a stutter who falls instantly in love with popular but cold Kiyoi Sou (Yusei Yagi), My Beautiful Man delivers an awkward and relatable story that leaves a deep impression on the heart.
From the way Hira viewed the world through a camera lens to remain invisible to Kiyoi’s tsundere behavior to cover up his insecurities, I found myself enthralled and invested in these two opposites growing relationship.
I am well aware that there were times during My Beautiful Man where I should have felt put off by Kiyoi and his somewhat cruel actions, especially the way he often refers to Hira as “disgusting” or “gross.” Instead, I felt drawn to it. I didn’t feel drawn to it because I find toxicity captivating; I felt drawn to it because I felt like Kiyoi spent most of this drama speaking to himself through how he treated Hira. Whenever he muttered the word “gross,” it genuinely felt like he was referring to himself. People often push away things they fear, especially if they see themselves in that fear. Kiyoi was just as drawn to Hira as Hira was to him, but he feared it.
Everyone’s coming-out story is different, and even though this drama doesn’t technically delve into a coming-out scenario, Hira and Kiyoi touched that past part of me that came out years ago. Like Hira, I was awkward and had difficulty communicating with others, especially if it was asking for or attempting to go after something I wanted. I never felt like I deserved the people I most wanted to get close to. And like Kiyoi, I tended to push people away in a not-so-nice way.
The first time I fell for someone of the same sex, I vividly remember yelling in my head, “disgusting!” because my father had raised me to think that way. At that moment, I knew the person I was labeling as gross was myself. While the word never left my lips as it does with Kiyoi, I got the sense that Kiyoi lashed out for similar reasons, that he was referring to himself as much as Hira.
It’s important to remember that sometimes coming out isn’t just about scenes where people reveal their sexuality to family members or in huge public displays. Sometimes it’s simply about coming out to oneself. For me, that’s what My Beautiful Man is. It’s a journey about two very different young men coming out to themselves in two different ways. Along the way, they fight with themselves. While Hira battles that part of himself that feels undeserving and less than, Kiyoi fights that part of himself that finds it hard to trust others and be honest with himself. Hira deals with this by being meek and easily controlled, while Kiyoi is dominantly controlling. And yet, they need each other. In the process of pushing and pulling against their feelings, they also realize they’ve made each other stronger.
Because both of them are invisible except to each other. As viewers, we spend the first part of this drama seeing the same outward personas as the secondary characters inside the show. We wonder why Hira doesn’t stand up for himself and question Kiyoi’s intentions, but then the subtleties that make their connection so strong starts to be unveiled in a big, big way. However, it isn’t until we suddenly get inside Kiyoi’s head in Episode 5 that the actual big picture is revealed.
For me, Episode 5 validated a lot of what I’d already been feeling when it comes to Kiyoi. He was just as unsure of himself as Hira. He wanted someone to believe in, but after the things he’d been through at home, he found it hard to trust anyone. Being beautiful also made it hard for Kiyoi to do the same. He had become so used to people only wanting to get close to him because of his appearance, people who wanted to use him for his looks, that he found it hard to believe someone could love him just for him. He found those who used him only for his looks “disgusting” and “gross.” The same way telling Hira he was disgusting and gross also referred to how Kiyoi felt about himself is also how Kiyoi felt about others. Telling Hira he was disgusting and gross was also Kiyoi saying the same to the people who used him.
I found myself innately drawn to all the complexities of those two words and what they ultimately represented in this drama. Disgusting and gross were words that shielded Kiyoi. He used them to call himself disgusting and gross but also utilized them to call out those he hated because of the way they used him. Hira became the place where Kiyoi could let go of those words, which is honestly hurtful for Hira because he didn’t understand that. And yet, deep down, I also think Hira did understand it. He stayed with Kiyoi when everyone else abandoned him.
But while it’s a good thing to read between the lines, the lack of communication between Hira and Kiyoi is also apparent. In the end, when Kiyoi needed Hira to remain attached to him, he disappeared. Hira vanished from Kiyoi’s life after graduation because the part of Hira that felt like he didn’t deserve Kiyoi kept him from reaching out. By kissing Hira, Kiyoi reached out first but then immediately pushed him away. Neither Hira nor Kiyoi knows how to accept the things they want. Both of them, to an extent, think they are undeserving while also wondering what the other is thinking and feeling. Communication would have gone a long way towards bridging that gap.
But it’s often hard to express feelings and emotions in words when putting up a wall has been the only way to shield oneself for years.
Episode 6 was about bringing down that wall, that level of defense that both protected Hira and Kiyoi from the outside world but also kept them from getting truly close to each other. Kiyoi didn’t want to be Hira’s god. He didn’t want to be untouchable or unreachable. Honestly, in real life, we all just want to be an ordinary person treated like gods in a relationship. But not someone who is unapproachable. Kiyoi let down his walls for Hira, and Hira stepped through his defenses.
In a beautiful and passionate moment, our two leads come face-to-face, completely unguarded, and they simply accept that they like each other.
For only six episodes, this drama felt much fuller and deeper than many of the longer ones I’ve watched. Well rounded and vividly told, it ends on a high note no one is likely to forget soon.
It’s also important to note that, at the end, the word disgusting goes from being a word that pushes people away to a term of endearment. This change goes to show that fear, as scary as that word is, can be defeated and turned into something beautiful.
My Beautiful Man is an underrated drama that deserves tons more attention. It is an amazing emotional journey that I became wholly invested in. If you are looking for a BL drama layered with emotional complexity and filled with serious chemistry, I highly recommend it. My Beautiful Man is certainly one of my top favorite BLs of 2021. Check it out now on Gagaoolala or WeTV.
Rating- 4.5 out of 5