Heartbreak, happiness, and hope. These emotions are all stepping stones in life, from the heartaches that shape the adults we become to the hopes and dreams that motivate us to move forward. And while these emotions never die, never are they more vividly felt than in our youth, a time when everything seems possible and heartache feels like the end of the world.
From my current drama watch list, it’s evident I’m on a mission to relive every angsty moment of my past, the good and the bad, through emotionally well-written dramas. And the new Taiwanese BL About Youth is an excellent place to start. Adapted from the novel Secretly by Huang Si Mi, it has everything I’d expect a coming-of-age drama to have, with a backdrop of seriously great music.
Although the episodes are short, the story flows well, making each moment feel longer and fuller than they actually are.
Opening with rain and a heartfelt narration about bad days and changing lives, About Youth follows Xu Qi Zhang (Jyun), Ye Guang (Li Zhen Hao), Ray (Xu Shuo Ting), and Ah Jian (Andy Huang) as they struggle through grief, unrequited love, parental expectation, broken hearts, and lots of confused feelings.
The story is typical of youth dramas, as it follows young adults from different walks of life who are pitted against each other while also being attracted to each other. But these stories are commonplace because coming of age is often a repeat of emotions. True talent is in a writer, actor, and director’s ability to make these dramas feel new, to take us deep into the characters’ lives and emotions on screen. Depending on the viewer’s age, these dramas offer either a nostalgic journey into our youth or a relatable look at what someone may be presently going through.
Along with these coming of age feels, About Youth also provides a lot of representation, from Xu Qi Zhang and Ye Guang’s obvious same-sex attraction to Ray’s dual identity.
But what really drew me into this story is the overall character duality. All of them have two very distinct versions of themselves, the version their peers know and the people they are outside of school. Xu Qi Zhang goes from being virtually unknown and seemingly unconfident to shining once he’s on stage. Ye Guang goes from being popular and confident to being insecure and lonely. Ray goes from being Ye Guang’s popular sidekick to cross-dressing.
Duality is one of the most complex parts of growing up. As a whole, most people are much more comfortable being someone else in public than they are themselves. It’s easier to live a lie than to live the truth.
But there’s a lot more satisfaction in truth. Coming of age is about making peace with who we are while holding onto what we allow the public to see.
All of these characters will struggle to bridge their separate identities, and I’m invested in their journey to do that.
If you want an emotionally compelling coming-of-age romance, check out the currently airing About Youth on Gagaoolala, Viki, and Bilibili.
Rating- 3.5 out of 5