Ever since “Love By Chance” ended, Thai BL has been slowly depicting the male leads more and more realistically.
The anime stilted silences, lines that felt like they were copied from manga and middle-aged women’s fantasies coupled with the toxic acts of selfish boys whose appearance makes them look like grown-up men, are all things of the past which fade into the 2022’s roster of BLs. It could be about shows depicting two young adults singing a duet where one of them breaks down crying because his love interest was cheating on him. Or shows where the new gays experience loving someone of the same gender for the first time, like in “21 Days Theory”. All the cliches we highlight in tweets on our timelines fell away and in their place we are getting shows with substance. In “Ai Long Nhai” an innovative story unfolds based on the “Love at First Sight” trope and turns it on its head.
The taller, handsome semei Ai (Meen Nichakoon) is the soft boy who seems the most sensitive character in the show. Surrounded by silly and rude boys, he’s like the pearl along rock pebbles. The way the lightning in scenes highlight his appearance, the way the camera makes sure we are given fantastic angles of his bashful appearance; it’s clear we are being directed to observe him closely, as we watch the hour long episodes. It would be fine if each speaker in scenes was giving the same masterful camera angles and attention. In the first episode, Nhai’s (Ping Krittanun) entourage of random boys who are his friends get dodgy camera work. The camera is rarely centered on the speakers. Sometimes it felt like the lighting was less and the feel of watching their interactions was a bit offputting.
Trading the overdramatized introduction, the pilot episode begins with Ai enjoying a one-night stand until his father calls. The fact that he stops to answer it, apathetic to his temporary lover’s surprise and has a full conversation with Sippakorn (Porsch Apiwat) as he slips away during the middle of intercourse, is perplexing. After Meen’s last performance as a stern, cold adult in A Chance to Love, seeing this immature horny teenager having a playful argument with his parent via phone while being half naked was a fun and surprising. Having a yaoi like feeling, the lover is soon forgotten as he makes haste to his father’s decree. He’s being thrown out of college for reasons that seem vague. Sippakorn’s punishment is to force him to move back to Thailand from Canada.
The way the larger-than-life situation is portrayed as just another day in the life can be a good or bad thing as it sets the tone for this show. The two bicker like teenagers instead of father & son; their chemistry makes it simply candy fluff fun. We do get the impression that all of Ai’s wild ways come directly from Sippakorn and the father is fully aware of this. To the point that the actual punishment is meted out by Sippakorn’s husband Jaonan (Arm Sappanyoo). In a typical moment that resonates their close relationship, the pair admires an attractive college student arriving on his motorcycle. Any attention Ai had for Sippakorn’s lecture is soon forgotten as he heads towards the man.
This sort of half drama, half comedy with light-heartedness might turn off some viewers admittedly. But honestly, I found the whole series openly refreshing. It introduces all the characters well and sets the tone in a very tongue in cheek manner. Ai realizes that though it’s acceptable to be gay in Thailand, not everyone assumes he is, which becomes a bit of a hurdle for him. I can’t think of another show that approaches the theme of “A hot guy not catching the eye of the man he flirts with instantly” being a thing. He makes every possible move on the oblivious straight guy named Nhai, who caught Ai’s attention earlier. Ai makes little headway with him as he surreptitiously makes attempts to get into Nhai’s good graces by forever rescuing his plastic duck keychain.
This comes from the fact that Nhai likes a girl who also is oblivious to his intentions, because Nhai’s method of flirting is non-existent. The viewer is treated to this merry-go-round of disconnected romance as the side characters poke fun and provide comedic relief through the awkwardness. I never figured out of the moments of awkward silence when Ai ostensibly flirts with Nhai in front of their friends unintentionally. Or no pun intended, is it that he’s more Canadian than Thai at this point that this is how he acts? Either way, I didn’t feel a comparison to other shows who share almost identical scenes with each other. Nowadays, there seems to be a BL checklist for them. As if someone said if this show doesn’t have engineers and SOTUS events as some point it’s not a real show.
This one instead transpires in a unique way as Ai shyly tries to get to know more about Nhai and Nhai bashfully avoids answering or looks to his friends for their opinions before he speaks. Because it’s new, it adds a certain charm of naivete to his character. It’s clear Nhai doesn’t get much attention and thus doesn’t know what to do with it, as Ai comments on many things he notices. I liked that the surrounding boys don’t poke too much fun at Nhai, whose behaviour is more like their junior. As the story moves past the introduction episode, the mystery surrounding why Ai transferred starts; the second episode is quickly overshadowed by Nhai missing his shot with the girl.
Unlike the first episode, which felt like an entirely new show, this one falls into old tropes one after the other. First being Nhai acting like a stereotypical over dramatic brat. Complete with crocodile tears and five sets of eyes of boys trying the best not to shake their heads and embarrassment. Personally it drew more attention to the fact these are supposed to be college students, but they act more immature than some high schoolers of BL series in the past. Ai invites them all to drink at his condo (Star in my Mind did it first) and within minutes, they are all drunk.
The saving grace for this episode was the way Ai confesses his feelings to a drunk and passed out Nhai. I was afraid I was going to have to wait till the sixth episode for the said “confession”, but there it is. And since most of the first episode was spent on these two in almost every scene together, I didn’t feel it was too soon. Meen does the super romantic and sensitive soft spoken confession very well and I found myself swooning. Then my heart stopped when Nhai confessed back, and it was so sweet between the pair and the acting from both men was so spot on. Of course, five minutes later I wanted to chunk my phone.
Despite Ai making sure Nhai was comfortable having sex, Nhai backs out after the deed is done and gets upset and storms off. As a gay man I know how overwhelming it can be to have sex with your crush for the first time but the way Nhai went about ghosting Ai who was still super sweet and not at all angry at the way he was being treated UPSET ME lol. This series is a surprisingly good time, don’t take it seriously. Don’t notice Ai making heart eyes at his second dad or that being the reason he wanted Nhai in the first place. And you’ll have a good time. It’s fluff so don’t look for heavy scenes of drama or the best lines but it’s very fun, very light!
Rating- 4 out of 5
Streaming on- IQIYI or here
One thought on ““Ai Long Nhai” First Impressions (Ep. 1 & 2)”
Yet another to add to my list. Thank you for the heads up. I sort of become numb to the early episodes lately. It seems you need to wait for episode five before anything happens. Those long waits between each episode don’t help.