We’ve written about BL (Boys Love) dramas last year, when the whole phenomenon was just awakening. Now the genie is out of the box, and Asia is at the forefront of this drama genre.
The genre of ‘BL’ was popularised in Japan in the form of manga and anime, and you can read more about its early days here, in an interview with the founder of the what was once the biggest BL forum in the world, Aarinfantasy. If you’re interested in watching some of the most popular BL dramas from across Asia, we’ve compiled a list here, which lists Thai, Taiwanese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese titles. If you’re wondering where to watch them (apart from Youtube), here are some free (and legal) VOD sites to watch them on.
For a list of upcoming BL dramas in 2021, check here.
The Explosion of BL: from Thailand to the Philippines and Beyond
While 2019 was a good year for BL dramas from Thailand, by the time the pandemic hit in 2020, consumption of BL has surged like crazy, no thanks in part to the fact that more people stayed home. Even the production of Thai BL dramas soared – 2019 saw about a dozen BL titles while 2020 doubled that amount.
Some of the most popular titles released in 2020 include:
- 2Gether, a university frenemy-turned-lovers tale featuring popular BL actor pair, Bright Vachirawit and Win Metawin
- I Told Sunset About You, a realistic coming-of-age story lauded for its cinematography and story
- Manner of Death, a mature crime story starring another popular BL pair: Max Nattapol and Tul Pakorn.
Other titles mainly featured university students, particularly those in Engineering, in series like En of Love, My Gear & Your Gown, and My Engineer. This is in addition to sequels of popular titles like TharnType 2, Love By Chance 2, and Still 2Gether.
Featuring good-looking young men at the crossroads of their love life, these stories attracted huge audiences from across Asia – most notably from the Philippines. So the Filipinos started to produce their very own BL dramas. Since May 2020, they produced even more BL dramas than Thailand! Their short duration (averaging 20 mins per episode) made them easy to follow.
Since all the 30+ Pinoy titles were filmed during Covid-19, many of the stories were about finding love during quarantine, including Gameboys, Boys’ Lockdown, Hello Stranger, and Quaranthings. Other popular titles include:
- Gaya Sa Pelikula, a slow-burn story about a student with an identity crisis and his gay housemate
- Oh, Mando!, about a guy who has to choose between the lover he wants and the one he has
- Happenstance, which is a story about time-crossed lovers.
K-drama and BL fans were also treated to a number of Korean BL releases in 2020, with even shorter (15-20 mins) formats. Interestingly, all of them feature Korean idol-turned-actors!
- Where Your Eyes Linger, about a rich high school student and his bodyguard, stars Han Gi Chan, an ex-pop trainee under Fantagio
- Mr Heart, about two school track team runners, star Cheon Seung Ho (of THE MAN BLK) and Lee Se Jin, an IME Korea trainee who appeared in Produce X 101
- Wish You tells the tale of a busker and a keyboardist, starring vocalist Kang In Soo of MYNAME and Lee Sang of IMFACT
- Color Rush is a fantasy about a colour-blind Mono and his Probe who brings colour into his life, and stars singer Heo Hyun Jun (previously Hwall of THE BOYZ).
While Taiwan released its biggest LGBTQ movie, Your Name Engraved Herein, only 2 light BL drama titles gained traction among fans in 2020: Because of You (a story of 3 brothers falling in love) and Craving You, about a chef and a singer.
Japan, meanwhile, released Cherry Magic, a very popular innocent series about a shy, virgin salaryman and his chivalrous colleague, and Life Senjou no Bokura which chronicles the love life of a couple from high school to adulthood. Japan also released very adult-themed BL movies – like the NSFW Sei no Gekiyaku (Dangerous Drugs of Love) that featured plenty of S&M and nudity, and The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese which is about a private detective who’s been in love with his ex-classmate (who’s straight) and relentlessly pursues him under the guise of working for his classmate’s girlfriend.
The big surprise of 2020 has been Vietnam – a number of BL titles were released last year. Perhaps due to limited funding, the episodes were often released monthly, unlike the usual weekly timetable. Most of them involve students: Stage of Love and Follow My Sunshine are set in high school, while Sea Him The Series is set in a seaside town about a visiting photography student and a poor man who lives there.
BL dramas on Netflix, Viu, and other free VOD sites
One of the most telling signs of the growing influence of BL is the fact that it’s easy to watch one. Most (if not all) titles are available on free-to-view platforms like Youtube (on official channels) as well as a number of VOD channels like Viu, WeTV, iQiyi, Viki, and LineTV, which is the biggest free-to-view platform best-known for the subgenre. During the first half of 2020, LineTV broadcasted 33 BL titles!
Even Netflix got into Asian BL, with titles like 2Gether (and Still 2Gether), Together With Me, and SOTUS from Thailand, as well as Gaya Sa Pelikula and Gameboys from the Philippines.
What’s next for BL? Check out the upcoming releases for 2021 here.