This BL series is like taking a canoe ride down an unknown river- you never know what is around the bend. The first leg of the journey, I would say the first three episodes, were exciting, fun and different (for a Thai BL). Then the trip got boring and meandered because of too many tributaries to choose in which direction to paddle, and in the end, after hitting a couple of rocks that nearly capsized the boat, we finally ended on the dock, saying to ourselves, “Did I enjoy that journey?”
My answer is a resounding – Yes and No. I know that is a bit schizophrenic, but this series left me feeling titillated on several occasions and then quite bored at others. If this story was ‘reality’, it would have made no sense. Let me try to explain why.
It starts out with a vindictive calculating plot by Yai (ISBANKY). Yai is a very interesting character that is not your typical Thai BL persona. Yai (at least initially) explored his darker side to sex, had a plethora of interesting kinky sex toys and dabbled in S&M as well as dominatrix sex. That aspect of him, however, was rather unceremoniously dropped; which is quite unfortunate, as it was a part of him. That would have made for a very interesting twist to what turns out to be another mundane, ordinary, Thai BL. He has a contentious rival named Mangkorn, (Mos Sopradit) based on envy and a supposed romantic interest in the same female. Mangkorn is an equally handsome young man with a charming and enticing personality. Yai wants to get rid of Mangkorn, so he plots to drug him and video record him having wild passionate sex as a threat or leverage. (I thought this was a bit over-the-top but loved the way his mind works).
However, Yai’s inept and clownish bodyguards, Park (Fong Kongnawdee) and Phong (JJ Butwong) mixed up the wrong drug and gave it to Yai instead. What culminates is a twist where Mangkorn takes control and while the two still end up having a night of wild, lustful, carnal, and rather kinky sex, Mangkorn now has control of the video and subsequently Yai himself. Yai is not used to being controlled and manipulated but in every sense of the word, is strangely turned on by it and becomes submissive to Mangkorn’s whims, trying hard not to enjoy it.
Had this story proceeded from there, it would have made for an interesting plot twist. Instead, it ended up becoming a rather standard Thai BL story that perhaps made us all ‘feel good’ at the end, but changes the direction of a rather interesting and intemperate story into just another mundane formulaic series.
Which was sad, as both these characters are intensely interesting. Yai, a very handsome young man, born to a very rich family, is a spoiled, perhaps pampered individual, given to mood swings. A bit understandable as he is an essentially lonely person who feels that everyone that he has loved, leave him- alone and vulnerable. And therefore, he lashes out and becomes very pensive. Mangkorn, on the other hand, seems more ‘with it’, but it is a façade. He, admittedly at the end, calls himself a coward, which aptly describes him. He simply does not know how to be honest, straight-forward, and convey what he really means. This exasperates everyone, who gets close to him. He tries so hard to be everything to everyone that he is essentially untrue to himself and therefore comes across as being disingenuous.
One thing is consistent with Mangkorn. He has loved Yai for a long time but every time he tries to convey that, it falters and sometime crashes and burns, leaving Yai feeling lost and confused. And Yai’s own sense of not feeling worthy of love leaves for a rocky development for this relationship. But a relationship does develop. And we get to see that on two levels. Sometimes brilliantly too. We see it on an emotional level. We get to discern each of their struggles when trying to convey their love and attraction to each other. And this leads to the second level- lust. So, when the connection blossoms forth, it is passionate, intense, and so very sensuous and carnal. This is some of the best G-rated eroticism I have seen in a Thai BL in a long time. And they made it look credible.
Mos Sopradit and ISBANKY are riveting and absolutely sensual and erotic. This was as close to an adult-themed BL from Thailand as I have seen in a long time. It was never about whether they loved each other, but only about how to. And that was refreshing. They both made their characters believable, sexual, titillating, and yet emotionally vulnerable. And the sexual component of this series was done tastefully and, for the most part, quite sensually. There were a few times, however, more so with ISBANKY as Yai, that felt a bit stilted and uncomfortable. His kissing seemed constrained and not because of where his character was in his development. As a side note, it is striking that a leading country in BLs now feels the need to constrain themselves in kissing and bedroom scenes. The hesitancy to commitment to kissing in Thai BLs has been so prevalent that these series seem more pedantic than celebratory.
Almost tongue and cheek, but as a serious suggestion, these guys needed a ‘kissing coach’ to make the kisses real. One of the major issues I have with Thai BLs is their total lack of commitment to the portraying the deeper feeling of love. By that I mean the inability to make the audience feel as if they guys are truly in love and are attracted to each other and are not ‘acting’. And the first step to that is kissing. If the screen does not project sincerity in the kiss and appears to be nothing more than a meaningless gesture (or worse, shows a slight hesitancy in wanting to kiss), then the series becomes empty and void of validity. These guys, as the story so obviously showed, were passionate and intense about their sex and who they were with. While I understand standards that must be adhered to, you can still show a deeper and more intense connection to one another without making it pornographic. They are adults who can and should explore their mutually agreed sexual activities with greater passion and be able to show it or at least convey it. Why sanitize something that they both obviously enjoyed in the beginning and allow them to explore with each other what makes them feel fulfilled? This series was the closest that has come to that milestone that I have seen in a long time in Thailand. I just wanted more intensity as that really was the theme of this series.
What could have made this series better? A greater concentration on the development of this relationship. All the superficial fluff along with the banal and silly interludes with Yai’s sidekicks (as cute and adorable as they were) added nothing to the story but merely diverted attention away from the main theme. All the other ruse to try to convince us that one or the other was interested in someone else seemed lame. There was so much to work with here. For example, the stunningly beautiful scene between Yai and Mangkorn’s mother in the restaurant was sheer perfection and one of the nicest, sweet moments about how painful the loss of your mother is. There it was, and then nothing. Great acting, but no tie-ins and no real connections to anything. The beautiful exchange between Mangkorn and Yai as they lay in bed and Yai says ‘Your success is my happiness”. Just a game changer and one of the few times in this series that a line was so meaningful, philosophical, and life changing. More of that. More play on words as Yai says he wants to ‘suck it’ (meaning Mangkorn’s drink). This is innuendo and silly, but it is what young new couples do! They are giddy and in love. Give us a better sense of connection to each of them that makes them more relatable.
What I am trying to say is that I wanted a story exclusively around the stunning and beautiful connection these two young men have without a lot of fluff, superficiality, or trying to make things fit into a contrived formulaic box. Let them be men in love. Let them be in lust. Let them be like normal couples and feel free to smooch, kiss, be affectionate with one another, especially when no one else is around, just like straight couples. That is not a cultural thing- that is a human thing.
The story starts out great in the beginning, loses itself in the middle, and tries to redeem itself in the end with monastic thoughts. A story that meanders too much. I wanted more realism, less episodic passion, and more development of an intense sensual and erotic relationship based upon who they are. For your own edification, every once in a while, gay couples do have wild, uncensored, passionate, and very erotic sex with each other. It is merely part of the continuum of love. Acknowledge that.
The ending references back to the beginning of the story. In ancient times, according to Chinese legend, the four corners of the sky are protected by the four divine creatures. Two of those have been identified. Mangkorn as the Dragon, and Yai as the Tiger. Now that Turtle has been introduced at the end, we can only speculate how he will fit into the story and how will the Phoenix rise?
Indeed, I am intrigued.
Rating- 4 out of 5
Streaming on- YouTube and IQIYI
☆ Main leads Mos Sopradit and ISBANKY were featured in popular magazines like Posh Thailand, Think Magazine, Knight Magazine, Spotlight Magazine China,