“When you love something there is passion and hardship” seems to be the theme for 2023’s adaptation of the third novel in the “Love Syndrome” series. “Love Syndrome 3” tells the complicated story of Itt (Frank Thanatsaran) and Day (Lee Long Shi). Their relationship is one of dominance and submission before a tragic accident that almost costs Day his life. I don’t mean the BDSM version of dominance/submission. But one where Day controls Itt’s actions through reward and punishment. The reward being a whole piece of cake, the punishment being physical/emotional abuse. If any of this is triggering to you, stop now.
Keeping the spirit of “Unforgotten Night” alive, this series mainly pertains to the mafia world but the first episode doesn’t touch on that; instead, opening with a beautiful vista of the two men lying in bed awakening together. The cinematography is absolutely perfect as the two grab your attention instantly. This is one of the things about the series that I am enjoying- high production value. It becomes clear early on that this is a live action Yaoi.
The character of Day wouldn’t be one that I think viewers would accept in a normal Boys’ Love series. Controlling, demanding, dismissive and overly sexual, Day is a walking, talking, violent Seme (Dominant aspect of a gay couple in a Yaoi). The pilot episode displays his level of patience in regard to Itt’s loud entitlement. Long Li is a master of expressions as he shoots angry glares at Frank’s Itt. I don’t know if Frank’s portrayal of Itt’s bratty behavior is meant to be that overdramatic. But Day’s self-control is well acted. Itt has no sense of awareness of what is appropriate and loudly says things that everyone around him seems used to. The acting by all the side characters is on par with the main characters which I like, as it gives a strong sense of fluidity to the scenes. If the actors playing the side characters were not on par with them, then the scenes wouldn’t feel right.
The way the characters indulge Itt’s bratty behavior at his parents’ automotive repair shop being a prime example. A happy employee is working on car and singing to himself. Itt walks over and starts yelling him, snatches the device he’s working with and sends him away rudely. The employee brushes it off and walks away. But Itt’s mother appears and her demeanor displays that she is used to Itt’s temper tantrums. Brought before Day (who seems to run the repair shop), an irate Itt rages about the treatment until Day silences him with one word. A lot of the first episode is spent this way, exhibiting the little displays of power between the two men. There were random moments of Day’s life that paired with the odd pacing and unestablished plots to turn these scenes into superfluous instances. Day is above all an untrusted control freak which I surmise has a good reason. He had crafted his relationship with a version of Stockholm syndrome. He doesn’t let Itt talk to people he isn’t acquainted with, for fear of a negative (very negative) reaction and reward his good behavior with a whole cake.
The thing about the first episode that made it worth watching is it gives a sense of them as characters. When their friend’s remarks on the way, Day treats Itt; Day explains his mental manipulation, so that Itt is solely dependent on him. Personally, I’ve only seen this in darker BL movies. So watching Day calmly and with pride, explain his method of conditioning Itt, was a very surprising and well done scene. You can call it bad karma as Day gets stuck out of the city, working on an important work deal. Itt falls sick and as usual demands a cake, that is his physical form of Day’s affection. His friends offer to get the cake as Day is away for business. But Itt doesn’t care, calling him repeatedly. Here, the acting by Frank falters as his delivery feels personally empty. Long Li’s satisfied expressions are in sync with his desire to rush back home, which inevitably leads to his car accident. If any of what was in the episode hadn’t happened, the climax wouldn’t make sense.
Picking up from where the first episode ends, Itt and his friends rush to the hospital where Day is, upon which Itt faints (he’s still sick). Awakening, Itt frantically tries to get to Day. Gear and Night (Day’s brother) try to get him to rest, but it isn’t until Nick (another friend) appears that Itt calms down (slightly). The acting through the entire intense scene felt so natural between the four in a tight space, as the three were concerned over Itt; I enjoyed watching and hope the characters have more plot. I don’t mean that as an entitlement statement just that the amount of screen time spent with Itt’s cake addiction could have been divided up to give Gear, Night, and Nick more plot so I felt more for them as they tried to care for their friend. It felt to me that the four have a history (which they do), but it would have been nice to see more of that before we are at this moment where I should feel empathy but do not.
The show focuses on Itt comprehending that no matter how much he demands things, they don’t just come. I don’t know if it’s intended to be this way, but Itt’s literal only concern is Day. He doesn’t ask how anyone else is doing, doesn’t respect what he’s being told. He just wants to see Day. At the expense of Night’s tears, he callously says things about Day’s condition and his current physical state. While Night crumbles into tears before stating he should be alright in just a few days. Itt is uncaring about his tears and just stares, comprehending what he’s saying. Frank playing Itt this way definitely fit his character in the show. Itt, above all else, is a brat who seems immature with a sense of entitlement. The show has a good pacing as it often uses exterior shots of the hospital to depict time transitions. The doctor explains that Day’s awakening won’t be instantaneous to which Itt whines about why it won’t happen sooner.
That whining continues until Itt jokingly threatens to go see Ball. At this Day does awaken. This is one of those moments in the show where you have to suspend your disbelief. Itt is so overjoyed to see his lover alive that he smothers him with kisses while shouting his name, which causes Day to react violently. It tries to apologize for making Day the way while continuing to try to hug Day. This is what I mean by no situational awareness: Day just woke up from a coma, he’s disoriented, and confused and has someone shouting into his face. Again, while Frank is moaning/shouting at Day, Long Li as Day is perfect. The cold demeanor replaced with one of panic and agitation. Day gets in a few more slaps before Itt’s parents show up. The 30 seconds Day takes trying to remember if they are his parents was perfectly acted and shot. The camera work is perfect. We see the parents panic at Day, who is trying to make sense of where he finds himself. Like in the book, Night is his top priority and when he appears, complicates things get complicated further.
Unfortunately, Day has forgotten 3 years of his life. Something Itt relays to his friends. Here is where my real issue with the series begins. So if you haven’t read the book, the plot here becomes a bit muddled. Itt with Gear (Night’s now boyfriend) had planned to assault Night. Something Gear doesn’t want Day to remember as Day is a very violent man. The friends discuss it while Night awkwardly watches as they are discussing him. I don’t understand why they bothered to explain it if it’s something they are going to gloss over. All the while, Itt only cares about himself and focuses on the fact Day has forgotten him. It would be best if Day stayed with Night because he has no memory of Itt. But Itt insists on taking Day home with him, alone. The part that stuck out for me was that Night and Itt’s dad actually allow him to do so. They clearly knew what Day is like and still make concessions, because Itt is determined to get what he wants. There is a scene that almost felt out of place; Day’s friend Nuun comes to meet Itt. In the novel, Nunn sexually molests Itt as Day is determined to find Night and Gear. This is their odd version of interrogation. Nuun presents Itt with cake and it triggers a black and white flashback of Day waking up Itt forcefully. He then angrily calls him a dog and presents with a cake. Day is a very toxic and abusive person, one that Itt argues with, but he does eat the cake and his demeanor changes instantly. Something Day takes notice of and uses today. For the rest of the episode, Day is rude and controlling as he was before the accident. Even manipulating Itt into giving him a hand job while bathing him in the hospital. The episode ends with Itt going to sleep on the couch in the hospital room while Day makes sure to call him a stranger. But awakens to snatch the hand of a man moving to caress his face while his mafia boss Kamol watches them.
My Personal Opinion
Is it a good series? If you enjoy Yaoi, you’ll enjoy it. It is a very dark romance but with alot of the darker aspects happening off screen. Also, if you’re looking for a cute, loving series, you won’t find it here, which is why I keep coming back to it. I enjoy the push and pull of Day and Itt as well as the high production value. I do wish it was better written. There are scenes that I felt would have made more sense with the back story they don’t include, instead of having a character tell a cliff notes version.
Ironically, the pacing for the show never felt wrong. Watching these two as they are and seeing enough back story for them made the toxic acts of Day make sense. I do hope if they are going to keep having characters from the books pop up over and again; we get a stronger sense of who they are and why they are there.
Rating- 4 out of 5
Streaming on- WeTV