“Never judge a book by its movie”- J.W. Eagan
Whenever a book/anime/manga is adapted into a drama/movie, comparisons are inevitable. The social media is lit with heated discussions on whether the adaptation will be on par with the original content. While there are several precedents in the BL industry that match this metaphorical statement, very few adaptations have outlived the anticipation. In today’s feature, we will be talking about BL dramas/movies that have lived upto the hype created by the media outlets!
Krishna Naidu’s Favorites
The Lost Tomb Series
~Adapted from “The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles” (盗墓笔记) by Kennedy Xu
The Lost Tomb Series is probably one of the most popular adaptations in the Chinese BL industry. Starting from the drama adaptation in 2015, the franchise extends over several shows and movies. Each of them chronicle the Iron Triangle’s (Wu Xie, Zhang Qiling and Fatty Wang) journey as they embark on variant mysterious journeys related to discovering the secret of “Immortality”. Each installment is based on a different storyline and avid fans of the novel have been zealously following the adaptations as well. While ardous expeditions remain the prime focus, the main highlight remains the incomparable chemistry between the main couple- PingXie (Wu Xie and Zhang Qiling). Their popularity is unprecedented and they are one of the most celebrated couples in the BL industry. Each drama/movie has a different pairing and their romantic entanglements are unforgettable. PingXie’s close friendship with Fatty Wang is another intriguing facet that increases the entertainment value of this series. If you are a fan of “The Tomb Raider Series”, then you should try this one as well!
~Adapted from the novel “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation” by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu
Undoubtedly one of the most adept adaptations in recent times, The Untamed follows one man’s journey through the abyss. Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo’s portrayal of their textbook characters was picture perfect. Although the adaptation was heavily censored, Lan Wanji’s unhindered love for Wei Wuxian shone through. It is difficult to cover the nuances of 126 chapters in 50 episodes, but the production team has tried their level best to recreate the turbulent cultivation world. The costumes and settings are almost resplendent in the novel version and it is easy to connect the dots. Sometimes, belief is all you need to reach the end of the tunnel; The Untamed firmly establishes this thought.
Word of Honor
~Adapted from the novel “Faraway Wanderers” (天涯客) by Priest
There are very few adaptations that pay homage to the novel; and then there are some that improve the original content and make it ten times better. Word of Honor is the one such example of exemplary storytelling and brilliant execution. While Zhou Zi Shu and Wen Ke Xing’s romance isn’t exactly lackluster in the novel; scriptwriter Xiao Chu’s ardent attempts to create a relatable yet intriguing love story will leave you spellbound. Zhang Zhe Han and Simon Gong truly embody their character’s strengths and weaknesses with ingenuity. Although the production value was low, the show surpassed ratings simply because of their faithful interpretation of the novel. Word of Honor is daringly honest in its depiction of Zhou Zi Shu and Wen Ke Xing’s relationship and the overall experience is immensely satisfying!
Heaven Official’s Blessing
~Adapted from the novel “Heaven Official’s Blessing” by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu
One of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s most popular books, Heaven Official’s Blessing, has already been recreated into a Donghua and it’s live-action adaptation “Eternal Faith” is currently in post production stage. This novel is one of her most inspiring works as Mo Xiang Tong Xiu weaves a romance that spans across almost 800 years. A longing so great that it drove a common child to resurrect his entire being, so he could support and protect his “Beloved God”. Bereft of any religious sentiments, Heaven Official’s Blessing focuses on the banished God Xia Lian’s journey as he ascends Heaven for the third time. His ascension is succeeded by life-changing events that are tied a major catastrophe in his past. Alongside, Xia Lian reconnects with old friends and foes, while falling in love with the Supreme Demon Lord, Hua Cheng. The prequel of the Donghua is majorly based on the first book, which involves character introductions and Xia Lian deals with a serial killer “Ghost Bride”. Funanimation Studio remained true to the original script as Xia Lian and Hua Cheng’s blossoming romance is vividly depicted in the anime. Definitely a worthwhile experience!
The Miracle of Teddy Bear
~Adapted from the novel “Khun Mee Patihan” (คุณหมีปาฏิหาริย์) by Prap (ปราปต์).
One of the most powerful depictions of selfless love, The Miracle of Teddy Bear, won hearts because of the beautiful chemistry between the main leads In Sarin Ronnakiat and Job Thuchapon. Although Tofu and Nut didn’t end up together, their love story will forever be etched in the minds of the audiences; so much so that the ending of this show left avid fans devastated. Tofu is a giant white teddy bear and has been Nut’s object of comfort for ten years. The storyline follows his journey as he miraculously transforms into a human and tries to reconnect with his owner. Alongside, he tries to figure out the reason for his sudden transformation, cements the bond between Nut and his ailing mother while forming lifelong ties with new friends. The simplistic approach of storytelling was the main highlight of this show, as Inn Sarin and Job embodied the subtle nuances of their characters. This is one story that I will never forget in this lifetime!
Cutie Pie The Series
~Adapted from the novel “Cutie Pie The Series” by Bam Bam
The current popular sitcom on the weekend band; the main reason for the growing popularity of this show can be attributed to the natural chemistry between main leads, Zee Pruk and NuNew Chawarin. Whilst the show is peppered with highly sensual scenes between both actors, the storytelling and execution is praiseworthy as well. Director Aoftion Kittipat has left no stone unturned in recreating this storyline that focuses on the base concept of “Arranged Marriage” with an added LGBTQ twist. While same-sex marriages are still debatable in Thailand, the show is a lucid interpretation of the future where the LGBTQ community will have the same marital rights as heterosexuals. Not exactly a light-hearted romcom, Cutie Pie is invariably intriguing!
Secret Crush On You
~Adapted from the novel “Stalker the Series” by Darin
Director Cheewin Thanamin’s popular drama “Secret Crush On You” symbolizes the main lead Toh’s (Seng Wichai) secret crush as he longingly follows his third-year senior, Nuea (Billy Patchanon). While the show was expected to focus on Toh’s stalkerish tendencies, it is safe to say that both main leads share the same craziness that differentiates this hilarious romcom from most other comedies. While Seng and Billy’s easy camaraderie and chemistry is much appreciated, the second lead couple, Heng Asavarid and Surprise Pittikorn (Sky-Khaojao) are equally popular. Although SCOY is a breezy romance, the show also projects various societal problems (last week’s episodes focused on body shaming and cyberbullying). It is my current favorite, simply because you find yourself invested in Toh’s journey, however crazy he might sound!
It wouldn’t be too out of line to call The Untamed the drama that thrust Danmei into the BL spotlight. Even with the restrictions of Chinese broadcasting, that compelled them to superficially create a bromance (they’re married everyone!!), Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo’s embodiments of the roles elevated the characters’ relationship such that they have become an iconic onscreen couple without technically being one. You can’t think of Wei Wuxian and Lan Wang Ji without a call back to the series which in my opinion is the mark of a very well-done adaptation. They took an already rich source matter and created a richer tapestry of a world interwoven within itself.
Word of Honor
Word of Honor is a rare adaptation where I can confidently say the adaptation is possibly better than the source material. While the novel itself did not expand on their world much beyond the journey of the main characters, the show fleshed them out, gave them relatable backstories and motivations, and turned them into “real” people within a fantastical world. Zhang Zhe Han and Gong Jun more than did justice to Zhou Zi Shu and Wen Ke Xing respectively, taking the old married couple trope and putting their all into the banter and domesticity.
Heartstopper was a show that I was waiting for, for a long time. Not only Nick and Charlie, but Tao and Elle, Tara and Darcy already had my heart, so this adaptation had to live up to the standards that the webtoon had created. It did! Just like the webtoon, or perhaps more, all the relationships of the show (both romantic and platonic) were given space to develop organically, and more than anything, were created with sensitivity and heart (please excuse all the heart puns, it was unintentional). It is a show that I know I will go back to again and again. It embraces you like a warm hug that you don’t want to let go of.
It is a very cute adaptation of a very cute manga. It was an earnest portrayal from both Michieda Shunsuke and Meguro Ren, and left me feeling fuzzy for days on end. Since I had read the manga much before the show came out, I did not have much recollection other than the basic plot. I don’t know if that is the reason, but to me, it stood on its own legs as an extremely binge-able series that I wouldn’t mind rewatching on my bad and good days.
For very different reasons than the shows outlined above, the show had a challenging premise to adapt. It is hard to adapt any series I’m sure, but it would be especially harder to adapt a comedy that needs more than the main leads to carry it. I can’t name all the couples or the characters in this small space, but I accord them credits for enacting possibly every trope in BL, making us laugh at the over-the-top portrayals which were nevertheless endearing. Of course, Inukai Atsuhiro’s portrayal of Mob is the highlight of the series, and he encapsulates the manga’s protagonist with a mix of dramatic flair and unending charm.
Love by Chance
The story of Ae Pete may have been one of the reasons that BL exploded worldwide- on the web and has been shown on multiple steaming services. But the book “Accidentally in Love” by Mame, was the start of a multimillion dollar franchise. It all began with the simple story of “Boy meets Boy” that keeps going across different books; which feature different couples but mention the other cast members. I love the show, don’t get me wrong, but after reading the translated books its just not the same. The show doesn’t really resolve any of the conflicts while the two novels that make up the entirety of their storyline shows what happens to Trump, shows how Pete’s dad works to break them up, and how Pete is truly ok with being gay. That being said the show does a good job of hitting the key points and is a beautiful version all the same.
Manner of Death
When it comes to BL books in general, the concept of not being a school romance or something more than “Boy meets Boy” is a rarity. So when you come across a gripping murder mystery like “Manner of Death”, you savor it like expensive aged wine. Starring the Original Daddies of the BL fandom, Max & Tul take up the roles of the book’s main characters. Then if you’re me, you speed read that book so you have all the needed knowledge for when the said show drops. “Love By Chance” spoiled me on book to tv adaptations and I was shocked. confused and intrigued by the much simpler plot of the television show. Gone was the meek, people pleaser, in the closet- Bunn and here we have a overly confident grump who is kissing men at clubs and never holds back his tongue; which I love until I discovered they took out his whole “Coming Out” journey all together, or making Tann much nicer. Once you’ve read the book and you’re used to the cocky bastard, it’s hard to see Max’s much nicer portrayal of the man. Both versions have the finer moments and can make you feel happy to enjoy it and get to the twist reveal.
We will be back with an exciting new feature next weekend. So till then, keep watching this space as we bring you updates from the BL world!