BL Dramas – Which Country Does BL Best?

BL, or Boys Love, is nothing new to the scene. It’s been around for quite a while, largely in print or anime format. It’s also been extremely diverse from the get-go with many different genres and settings offering us male/male relationships from super sweet romance romances to intensely sexual content. I still remember stumbling across the anime Ai no Kusabi (1992) – which was burned onto a CDR and stuffed in as some free bonus content from my order of Wolf’s Rain (2003) I’d received off eBay.

Ya’ll. I was not prepared for Ai no Kusabi.

I’d stumbled across the Finder manga in 2002 and thought I’d found the peak pervy storyline of the sexy mafia boss and his feisty reporter twink… but no. Ai no Kusabi created an entire world around sex pets, like the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty trilogy and Exit to Eden books by Anne Rice, this was a society built upon BDSM and sexual servitude.

So, like many others, I discovered BL through Japanese manga and anime. Some of them creeped me out with their childlike boy characters (No Money, Boku no Pico), while others made the age-gap work for them (Junjou Romantica). And of course, there were plenty of manga and anime series with heavily implied gay storylines and artwork, giving us “manservice” if you will, where they would show you they were gay but wouldn’t tell you they were gay. One of my all time favorite series X/1999 is one such storyline. I mean… that entire story is just queer escapism. The manga, the anime, even the weird movie… it’s good stuff. Super gay. And yet… not.

The 21st Century has already seen many cultural shifts and changes, one of the most positive of those has been the push for global acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. We have seen gay marriage, gay rights, and gay issues become major movements around the world. My ardent wish is that by the mid-century, LGBTQ+ people will have equal rights and protections under the law everywhere.

In the past few years I have watched an explosion of BL live action dramas coming out of Asia, the popularity of this genre increasing almost exponentially whereas now it seems a global phenomenon. This is largely due to the fact that gay content has always been enjoyed outside the gay community. Love is universal, after all, and whether it’s two boys, two girls, a boy and a girl, or a pairing of other gender or sexual identities, it all reads the same – people falling in love.

Since 2020, BL is increasingly common in the live action drama market. So… which country does it best?

I’m not sure there is a real answer to that, as everything boils down to preference. Whether you prefer Thai, Taiwanese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese dramas will, undoubtedly, heavily influence your rankings. I certainly have my preferences, as I am sure you have yours (if you have watched more than one BL, that is). My preferences tend to be related to the storylines and dynamics more than the country, though. So in the genre of BL, I tend to stray from my preference for Korean Dramas, though there are a few from Korea that I enjoyed.

Anyways, without further adieu – here are my favorite BL drama series that I’ve seen from various countries….

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Review – Color Rush

In the world of this drama, some people are born color blind. It is inexplicable color blindness, having nothing to do with traditional color blindness that involves genetics and cells in the eye’s retina. These unique people are called Monos. They see only in shades of gray.

Monos can be triggered into seeing color, however, if they find a person known as a Probe. Also incredibly rare, these individuals can activate (for lack of a better word) the eyes of Monos. The Monos then experience a color rush – as their eyes change to see color. It’s an overwhelming experience, causing fainting and blackouts. The Monos only experience color in the presence of their paired Probe.

Needless to say, this change in world view is very disorienting and compelling to the Monos. The experience causes obsessive tendencies and can even result in violence. The Monos desire to be always in the presence of the Probe leads many to stalking, kidnapping, and assault. There have even been cases of Monos eating their Probe partners.

So when our cute young Mono unexpectedly discovers his cute young Probe, all he wants to do is run away before the madness takes him. And all his Probe wants to do is flirt and invade his personal space, red flags of warning be damned. He strings along his color-rushed Mono, dolling out small doses of overwhelming color in carefully crafted (and surprisingly thoughtful) experiences. He drapes himself around this fainting, confused cutie and drags him into closets to see rainbows. Even when it’s obvious the experience is having an unsettling effect on the Mono, our slinkly Probe keeps pushing him along. Cause if you can see the world in color… why would you ever go back? Isn’t it worth the gamble of madness? Isn’t it worth turning your life upside down for? Isn’t it… the perfect metaphor for discovering you’re gay?

To say the premise of this series about all the colors of the rainbow is dark is the understatement of the year. It’s deliciously dark. My only complaint about this show is that it didn’t lean in harder to its obvious tonal values. It wanted to be both dark while also cuter than a basket of kittens… which is impossible to pull off under this plot line. I mean, we are told the color rush experience triggers cannibalism in the first episode. You can’t toss out information like that and not have it color, so to speak, the budding relationship.

Honestly, the entire show was just middle of the road for me – the actors, the locations, the cinematography, the side story (which was non existent but could have been awesome), and the romance. Not bad but not good either. Just a solid “eh.” BUT – the plotline elevated this show into a higher status by being so intriguing that every episode felt exciting. The “what if…?” and the “oh god, is he…?” and the “OH MY GOD, IS THAT-?” that you’ll be asking yourself throughout the run time were massively engaging. Ultimately a bit of a let down, too, but enough to propel you forward at an enjoyable speed through this shows short run time.

I’ve got more to say – but it skirts into spoilers, so let’s just drop a quick rating before we get into more. Though it really only deserved a 6 or 7, I’m gonna drop it in the top tier cause I doubt I’ll ever stop thinking about the BL story that tempted me with flesh eating insanity.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – You’ll See Colors and Cannibals Everywhere.

Spoiler time…

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