If you were to ask me what my top 10 BL series of all time were, I would have to include most of the Taiwanese production released so far.
While their yearly releases are no match for Thailand, South Korea, and even Japan in terms of quantity, they certainly win when it comes to overall quality. Taiwanese BL scripts have three things in common: superb scenery and shots, focus on two couples rather than one without any loss for the story, and different settings. Those things make all the difference when it comes to story-telling on screen, but for me what really stands out is that each BL shows us different men with different professions, backgrounds, and needs. This is so refreshing when Thailand, for example, always goes for the same themes over and over like a broken record – though they have been slowly expanding and diversifying over time as well, with many great productions released in 2022.
As much as the BL production has been exponentially growing over the years, if someone asked me where to start, I would definitely tell them to start with Taiwanese BL. So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 must-see Taiwanese BL dramas:
1) HIStory 3: Trapped
Manga yaoi is full of stories about Mafia boys getting it on. I always wondered what that would be like on screen, and not just because I find it hot. Mafia stories are always full of twists and turns, darkness, raw feelings, and redemption – or not. Gay characters in a Mafia setting make it all the more complicated, twisted, and, consequently, interesting. I didn’t think I would live to see the day that a Mafia story would become a BL series, though.
I stumbled upon HIStory 3: Trapped the exact same way I stumbled upon the whole HIStory anthology: completely by chance. I wasn’t even looking for BL on Viki at the time, but then I noticed Viki had a BL genre section all of a sudden. So imagine my surprise – and delight – when I clicked on it and discovered not only that the platform was now offering BL, but also different sorts of BL, and a Mafia one nonetheless!
Curious about the story? I don’t blame you. I was too. The plot starts with Shao Fei, a police officer, totally obsessed with the idea of sending Mafia boss Tang Yi to prison. The hot-headed Shao Fei constantly clashes with cool-headed and sexy Tang Yi hoping that one day he will be able to uncover the mystery behind the death of his police mentor, whose death was witnessed by Tang Yi. As the story unfolds, we learn more about the characters, their personal stories, and fall in love with them as they fall in love with each other.
The treat of the story is the side couple: Zhao Zi, another (cute) police officer, and the devious Jack, a jack-of-all-trades of the underworld. The pair could not be more different. Zhao Zi is naïve and energetic while Jack is cunning and carefree. Zhao Zi has a strong sense of family and loyalty, things that Jack does not seem to care about until he meets Zhao Zi. Just as with Shao Fei and Tang Yi, their relationship progresses slowly and beautifully.
As for the ending, while it may not have been what everyone wanted, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was realistic, and it left me craving for a sequel which was much talked about but unfortunately never came to be.
Still, this is one of the best BL love stories out there.
You can watch it on Viki.
2) HIStory 2: Right or Wrong
This is one of the most underrated BL dramas in my opinion, but I guess it’s because Right or Wrong is not everyone’s cup of tea. It was even labeled by some as problematic. I, for one, dislike such labels if they come with a whole morality speech behind them. Stories are stories. Fiction does not have to be the bastion of enlightening and politically correct agendas. Don’t get me wrong. They can be. Sometimes they should. But the sole purpose of fiction is to tell us a story – whether problematic, politically engaging, socially challenging, romantically dramatic, silly, etc. A story is written for many purposes. Granted, some creations may have dubious plots, but censorship must always be the last resort in dealing with literature and art.
That being said, I loved Right or Wrong. I get why some people complained about it. The plot is about the growing relationship between a Professor and a university student. I understand some may have issues with that. Yet, the story is so well-portrayed and sensibly told that it is hard to find anything wrong with it. And in the end, it is not about the professor/student dynamics at all. It’s about two different men coping with who they are and learning from one another.
Xiao Fei is a young college student who hides behind a world of insecurities. One day, he helps a little girl named You You to return home and is appalled when he sees that the apartment where she lives is a complete mess. Yi Jie, the girl’s father, raises You You all by himself, and even though he is a good father, he doesn’t know the first thing about basic housework duties. He only cares about his job. Xiao Fei, then, is hired to be You You’s nanny and keep the apartment tidy. What Xiao Fei does not expect is that Yi Jie is also his professor at the university. Although Yi Jie and Xiao Fei have a rocky start, as time goes by they realise they have a lot to learn from each other.
What I like the most about Right or Wrong is the way Yi Jie teaches Xiao Fei to accept himself and come to terms with being gay while Xiao Fei makes Yi Jie realise the importance of family. Both men have bruises, but being together makes them better human beings. Also, I love stories where a child plays cupid, and You You is such an adorable little girl. I highly recommend this series.
You can watch it on Viki.
3) HIStory 2: Crossing the Line
While HIStory 3 only had one story, HIStory 2 gave us two eight-episode drama gems. Crossing the Line is the second one after Right or Wrong and is set in high school. This enemies-to-lovers drama starts with Yu Hao, a school rebel, being asked to join the volleyball team by model student Zi Xuan. Yu Hao fights against it at first, but he slowly comes to realise that there is a lot more to volleyball than he expected. One of them is Zi Xuan himself.
It is truly adorable to watch Yu Hao becoming more and more fascinated by Zi Xuan in each episode. This infatuation makes Yu Hao become a better sports player and a better person. Zi Xuan and Yu Hao have a bumpy ride, but eventually, they manage to come to terms with their feelings and each other.
The side couple is a pair of stepbrothers also on the volleyball team trying desperately to ignore the feelings they have for each other. The second couple is not as well developed as the main one, so if this type of story is not your thing, you can ignore it completely. The highlight is definitely Yu Hao and Xi Zuan, and the actors have amazing chemistry.
Just like HIStory: Trapped, there were high expectations for a sequel. The boys definitely deserved one. But alas, we had none.
You can watch it on Viki.
4) HIStory 4: Close to You
This one is controversial for a lot of reasons. For starters, it brings the stepbrother love to the limelight – something a lot of people feel very uncomfortable with. It doesn’t help that the younger brother is obsessed with the older one and will do anything to be with him. I don’t shy away from controversial stories. Everything goes as long as it is well-written and well-developed. After all, we are talking about fiction here. If you are someone who gets easily triggered, skip this one. If you are intrigued, I promise there are good reasons why Close to You is on my Top 5.
Just like other Taiwanese BL dramas, Close to You focuses on two different couples: Hsing Ssu and Yung Chieh, and Mu Ren and Li Cheng.
Hsing Ssu and Yung Chieh have been brought up together as stepbrothers. Hsing Ssu is sweet and successful, but he is afraid of disappointing his father if he ever finds out Hsing Ssu is gay. Young Chieh is his complete opposite. He is antisocial and moody, and he cares about no one but Hsing Ssu. Young Chieh is also very clever and knows Hsing Ssu like no one else, so he develops a plan where they can be together and have their parents’ blessing in the process. Their love story is disturbing, to say the least. I disagree with pretty much everything Young Chieh did to get Hsing Ssu to accept him. It seems to come straight out of the pages of a yaoi manga from the 90s where everything goes in terms of plot. As I said before, it’s not for everyone. But I like how Hsing Ssu’s fear was dealt with as the story progressed, and I also like the heart-to-heart talk he has with his father as he learns to accept Hsing Ssu for who he truly is.
The second couple Mu Ren and Li Cheng are a delight to watch. First of all, their chemistry is sizzling. Secondly, their enemy-to-lovers dynamics are hilarious. At least it feels like an enemy-to-lovers story, though Mu Ren and Li Cheng are actually friends and even share a house with Hsing Ssu. Because they work for the same company, they are constantly bickering and making bets between their departments. Li Chen and Mu Ren are also straight, but because of a number of comical situations, Li Chen falls deeply in love with Mu Ren. There is also the fact that they only realise their feelings because of Mei Fang, a BL fan. Their love story has its ups and downs until they finally decide to be together. I truly love the way Li Cheng develops throughout the story. He starts out as the usual straight jerk but grows as a person as he becomes friends with Mei Fang and then falls for Mu Ren.
There is also a gay wedding at the end! One of the things I love so much about Taiwan is that gay marriage is legalised.
You can watch it on Viki.
5) No.1 for You
I do love an enemies-to-lovers plot. No.1 for You is definitely one of those from start to finish. The main characters, Zhou Shu Yi and Gao Shi De, have been competing for first place in pretty much everything since they were children. Shu Yi, however, always gets beaten by his rival. They are still at odds at university. What Shu Yi doesn’t know is that Shi De has had a crush on him since they first met. It’s just that Shi De is really bad at showing it. His passionate glances seem like looks of contempt to Shu Yi. Shi De also comes out as a jerk every time they meet.
In order to get closer to Shu Yi, Shi De uses a video he recorded of Shu Yi crying his heart out after finding out his crush was actually in love with his best friend to blackmail him. Not the way to go, Shi De! But it works. The boys got closer, even if not for the right reasons. Shu Yi begins to see a side of Shi De he had never seen before, and he slowly falls in love with him.
No.1 for You is not exactly ground-breaking, but the actors had great chemistry. Their attraction feels real, and Shi De’s yearning for Shu Yi when Shu Yi is not paying attention is undisguisable. The series also has two of the most beautiful kissing scenes in a BL drama. That alone is worth watching it.
No.1 for You has a sequel called Fighting Mr. 2nd. To be honest, though, I thought the whole thing was messy and made no sense to me at all. The boys’ chemistry, however, it’s still as strong as ever in the sequel as well.
You can watch it on WeTV.