“War of Y” Series Review (Ep.1 to 20)

There are four anthologies involved in this series. The four are tangentially connected but in the most loosely defined way. Each involves a ship in the world of Y from various dimensions, none of which are flattering, or display any sense of socially acceptable behaviors. To be sure, every profession has its unsavoriness, but this series tended to show that every aspect of the BL industry is fraught with ruthlessness and pain. Is it worth it? For many, it is their life-long dream, but it is paid at a very high cost.

For sure, the four stories show the ugly side of this industry, and I might add the uglier side of the individuals featured in these series. Some start innocently enough but are transformed either by their managers or the production companies to be, act, and feel a certain way. To a degree, the BL industry is presented in a schizophrenic fashion. As much as they want couples to be ‘shipped’, and at times will ruthlessly project them as a couple, they do not want them to be a couple in real life. As much as they have a noble theme centering around equality and the potential to marry the person of your choice, there is, ironically, a reluctance to show genuine connections between couples in non-contrived situations. In other words, everything is staged and orchestrated. To a degree, the industry itself seemingly is revolted that some ships are indeed legitimate couples.

Briefly, the four stories are:

1. New Ship. The story of Pan (Seng Saefant) and Nott (Billy Ounsaard). This is more of a story of the everyday workings within the Y industry and all its ugly trappings. We see the insecurities of the main stars, (especially Pan’s) to the point where it feels as if no one can be trusted. Everyone wants a piece of you or wants to take advantage of you, especially the people who surround you, with the outcome finally evolving into a sense that nothing you do (or everything you do) is right. This is the level where these guys are molded to not ‘think’ or do anything on their own but to rely on others.

2. War of Managers. A professional war between the managers of Gus (Gung Kultanaruangnonth) and Bew (Korn Ongsaranont). A truly ugly story of manipulation and exploitation. Here by the people who are stewards of your careers – teaching their clients, not to ideate but simply do, to promote their careers and subsequently their own pockets. I detest physical/emotional abuse for just about any reason, but the two managers go at it frequently here, which frankly sickened me. All to be shown that it was nothing more than a part of their acts.

3. Y-Idol. A ‘reality show’ to determine the ‘winner’ of a contrived contest, pitting six young men against each other for a title that they are convinced is prized. But the actuality is, to get there, what it demands from them all is to become characters they are not and to give up their unique individuality – the thing that makes them tick. In particular, it is a story of Peek (Milk Supravorawong) and Kla (Markpoom Thanachotsakulwong). We witness ‘how to play the game’ at any cost and watch how easy the ‘slippery slope’ becomes to losing your essence. This set of episodes shows profoundly the inner cost of becoming an ‘idol’, not only to oneself but to relationships and family connections.

4. Wife. This saga displays the outcome of winning this so-called prize. For me, this was by far the most interesting of the four stories as it shows the deprivation one can reach to promote one’s career and how losing being human is simply part of being a star. Most (Takizawa Toru) and Achi (First Saohin) are ‘shipped’ but cannot become real couple. Yet, the reality is so much different. In comes someone, Fern (Paper Namwong) to assure allegiance to these guys’ signed contracts and to report violations of their contracts. In an ironic twist, she becomes a victim of a deceitful plot and becomes the villain.

This is an exceptionally well-acted series. It is not easy to play a character and a ‘real’ person, literally at the same time. I would find that quite challenging as you have to know both roles with an increased sense of intimacy and who these individuals are. But there was a role here of greater complexities that perhaps got missed. It was the role of Fern played by Paper Namwong. This series did not do justice to this role as much as it deserves and made it confusing for the audience. It seemed obvious that she was transgender, but Achi was the only one astute enough to pick up on that and became enchanted with her. His reasons for doing so are in reality known only to him (as it never was made clear). As the character, it had been difficult for her to maintain neutrality when she saw Achi with Most. And it finally unraveled making her the ‘fall guy’. Whether by plan or design, I found her treatment and exposure as being trans and therefore becoming the scapegoat despicable and sad. There is a moral and ethical standard that should not be crossed, and this is one of those times when the writers of this series should have never had such a tagline and never should have used it, even if it is only a storyline. No one had a right to expose her privacy unless she does so. Yet again it points out dramatically what the costs are for trying to make it ‘big’ in this industry. And who you might have to ruin is simply ‘collateral damage’.

One other point, perhaps thought to be minor, needs special attention. During the production of the series in the fourth story, the director is replaced with one who is dead set against telling the love story with more intimate scenes. While forced to do so, he cavalierly dismisses these performances as nothing. I must admit that I found that whole scene so eye-opening. I have often felt that BLs, especially Thai ones, are moving exactly in that direction of less and less intimate scenes with two guys, perhaps thinking like this director that they are frivolous or against moral standards, or concentration should only be on forwarding the love story. Love scenes, showing lust and more intimate connections, are vital and essential to any love story and BLs should not be an exception. Whether we want to accept it or not, sex is a vital and paramount focus in any loving relationship between two people. If the minimum cannot be displayed, then there is no justice to the story. It simply becomes a caricature of a story. It is a part of our human nature to blur the lines between love, lust, and sex.

I am going to come right out and say it. I hated this series. Not because of bad acting or even the premise. The acting is exemplary with the kissing scenes some of the finest I have seen in a Thai production in a long time, ironically. They were hot and sensuous and hopefully, those of us pruriently gawking at these scenes can now understand the difference between acting sexual and being sexual, even by actors who might be in love with each other in ‘real life’.

The workings of the Y world need to be told, not by assumption or mystery, but in a more enlightened way. “Call It What You Want 1 and 2” did a much better job of portraying and exposing the ugliness of this industry in a more impactful way to the individuals living this life.

This series had no purpose other than to shock us into seeing the uglier side of this industry. If this series’ purpose was to show how vulnerable, impressionable, manipulative, and naïve young men can be and how easy it is to exploit them, then it succeeded. If its purpose was to show that the fiduciary relationship that managers should and must have to protect their clients is woefully lacking if not nonexistent, then it also succeeded. If its purpose was to show that these guys are only as useful as much as the public show interest in them and how high it is, then they also succeeded. If their purpose was to show that any immoral, unethical, hurtful, mean, or con act can be used to maintain or even increase your competitiveness and by doing so, go unpunished with little to no consequences, then it surely succeeded. The whole series is ugly to watch and somehow, I felt ‘dirty’ watching it. It felt like I was being voyeuristic and ogling something I should not be watching. I felt nothing but sadness for the characters and what they had, perhaps, must go through, to be plutocratic. And I felt contemptuous of all those guiding and leading this newfound phenomenon into a money-making amalgamation, and who know exactly what they are doing is wrong on so many levels yet pretend all this is, is just business. You have abandoned your audience and more importantly, you have forsaken the individuals who are giving their lives for our entertainment. Is this the whole of the BL world?

From a production value, this series had one of the worst editing jobs I have ever seen. These stories did not flow well and their connection to one another is just too tangential. The juxtapositions of these stories were not evident, solid, or told a complete story or any context to a complete story. The constant pinging of messages that overloaded the translation screen was exasperating, unnecessary, a complete annoyance, and added nothing but frustration in trying to understand what was going on. At times, the translations into English made no sense or seemed not valid to what the action in the story was. And finally, knowing full well, I will not be popular, please do something about the atrocious singing and dancing. To be honest, I skipped through most of those scenes because they are so painful to listen to and watch and are too cringeworthy. While some were on key and are at best mediocre singers, they need more practice to fake being singers, or more easily, simply dub in the singing. There is nothing worse than listening to people sing off-key, out of sync with the rest, or downright flat and pretending this is good singing. Sorry, it is not. And please give them more intense instructions on dancing.

My overall impression of this series is that it is a mess with a lousy aim (or certainly unclear mission) but brilliantly acted. These guys can act! It is too bad it was wasted on an incoherent storyline and nebulous theme. But all of what they did was negated by the physical abuse displayed, the immoral, unethical, and emotionally abusive behaviors by managers, and studios, and occasionally by the actors themselves into thinking the ends justify the means. This series bestows an ‘ugliness’ on the whole BL industry.

Rating- 2 out of 5

Streaming on- Gagaoolala/ AISPLAY

Edited by- Dee

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