Every time your favorite book/manga/anime gets adapted, it’s like breathing a fresh life into those characters that you have grown to love.
Obviously, a debate ensues whenever a book is adapted- will the drama/movie be true to the original content? Either ways, adaptations are a lucid way to create more awareness about the original content in the international arena. Join us as our authors talk about their favorite BL adaptations!
Almost all of these are Japanese and Korean because I’m more familiar with manga and manhwa than I am with Thai novels and Chinese danmei. Plus, many of my fellow writers have covered a few already, so I have my work cut out for me (yes, I’m referring to the ‘special mentions’ section here).
Seven Days: Monday to Thursday and Friday to Sunday (2015)
When I watched Seven Days, I was a baby fan, so it helped me get over watching Boys Love the movie (and its sequel) and the trauma it gave me—I’m not comfortable with non-con. The manga had made its way into my life a few months before that, and it took up the spot of my favourite BL manga for the longest time until I found Given later that year. This one’s a favourite purely because of nostalgia, of course, and I’m sure Tachibana-sensei’s works will always have a place in my heart.
Life – Love on the Line (2020)
I usually alternate something NC with something fluffy. So I set out to find something of the sort after watching Pornographer (2018) and Mood Indigo (2019), both live-action adaptations I’d seen in September 2020. To my surprise, I found that Life Senjou no Bokura had a live-action adaptation as well, one that looked like the manga had come to life. The boys’ journey from playing a game on the sidewalk to their adult lives was captured so well by this series, and what was even more fascinating was the crossover with HIStory 3: Make Our Days Count.
Semantic Error (2022)
I’m a sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope, and Semantic Error’s manhwa reeled me in immediately because of this, as well as its beautiful art and colour gradient. So you can imagine my surprise at how well this manhwa was adapted. Everything was perfect—from the casting to the setting. Plus, I have a thing for idol romances, and it was Jaechan from DONGKIZ (now DKZ) and Seoham (formerly from KNK)—a pair with god-tier chemistry. I’m especially enamoured by the use of brighter tones. It was also a pretty interesting choice for Yuna to bring up a past partner of the same gender, something that isn’t there in the manhwa—at least, in the part that has been made available for anglophone readers as of now.
Cherry Blossoms After Winter (2022)
A series that is just as cute as the original, Cherry Blossoms After Winter is another one that looks like the manhwa has come to life (as is the case for all my choices here). The main highlight for me was how the height difference between the couple was maintained (another trope I love). The casting made sense to me, with Ok Jinuk playing a perfect Haebom and Kanghui accompanying him as the stoic Taesung. The series is fluffy and light-hearted, so it makes a great change of pace in case you need one.
Given (2019) for having stemmed from Haikyuu fanfics (also, Kizu Natsuki-sensei’s works are just brilliant in general); Cherry Maho (2020) and Kieta Hatsukoi (2021) for being some of the cutest Japanese live-action BLs I’ve seen during the pandemic; Zettai BL (2021-‘22) for being absolutely ridiculous and making me laugh no matter how many times I watch it; The Untamed (2019) and Word of Honor (2021) for helping me delve deeper me to the world of wuxia and xianxia (I still have a long way to go), 1000 Stars (2021) and Not Me (2021-’22) for centering meaningful discussions around being queer, classism and other social issues around them—not saying other series don’t do the same. Still, these two have a special place in my heart.
There are so many adaptations I want to include in this because most of my favourite BLs are adapted from novels or manga, so to narrow it down I’m going to pick the ones that I read the original version of before watching the series.
To no one’s surprise, first on my list is this great adaptation of MXTX’s Mo Dao Zu Shi, with a surprisingly pitch perfect cast who really threw themselves into their characters, to the point that with some of them I don’t think I can ever revisit the novel without picturing the actors. Yes, it’s made some changes (beyond the toning down of romance to ‘soulmates’ or brothers as is common in dangai) to the way the story goes and with some of the characters, and I am still salty about how they erased some of the grey elements of the main character Wei Wuxian (although this too can be attributed to censorship laws), but it’s still one of the best book to series adaptations out there.
Life: Senjou No Bokura
Have you ever read a manga that made you cry like a baby? That was the ending of Tokokura Miya’s Life: Senjou no Bokura for me, so I went in with high expectations of the series adaptation of the manga, and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, the short run time meant that some parts of the story had to be left out, and it isn’t the slow movement through the lives and love of the protagonists as it could have been, but it’s still a good adaptation that packs an emotional punch when it needs to.
I never thought that this cute BL manga could get an adaptation that matches it in cuteness, and that’s on me for underestimating it. KieKoi is one of those manga that you read when you want something to warm your heart, and the series is exactly the same too. A lot of the credit for this has to go to the actors, especially Michieda Shunsuke as an Aoki who is every bit as colourful in the series as he is in the manga, bringing some of Aoki’s most animated expressions to life. It’s a soft, wholesome, and hilarious story of first love and it’s amazing how well the series brings it to life.
Somewhere there is an alternate universe where I have included the (already filmed) adaptations of two of my favourite danmei novels – ErHa and Sha Po Lang – in this list, but alas, this is not that universe so I’ll just go back to staring into the middle distance until they come out of limbo.
We will be back next week with the third edition of this feature. So till then, keep watching this space as we bring you more updates from the Asian BL World!