Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in May 2017. As result, I expect there will be many BL/GL Taiwanese dramas going mainstream. BL webdrama gets a bad rap for having super cheesy, pretentious, terrible acting and/or plot that is awkward if not painful to watch. However, HISt♂ry series’ Obsessed (著魔) came highly recommended. Granted, it contains many of the pitfalls of small production and their storyline is nothing to write home about, their main characters, however, more than make up for the drama’s shortcomings with their sizzling chemistry. I can watch them all day long doing whatever-it-is-they-do-together.
The chemistry mostly comes from Shao Yichen trying to deny his attraction to Jiang Jinteng. Not because he is playing hard to get. Rather, he is a man on a mission to not fall in love with his ex again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
According to the folklore, Sima Yi is a villain. According to the history book, he is a brilliant politician during The Three Kingdoms period, hence a villain. Wikipedia listed two instances that showcased the deficiencies in his character. First instance, he refused to see his big wife and called her an ugly, old hag in front of his younger wife. The big wife was so upset over it, she went on a hunger strike, with their sons joining her. He later apologized and begged for her forgiveness. When asked why he changed his tune, he explained that he would gladly let the old hag die but he couldn’t let his precious sons die with her. (Scathing, much?) The second instance was during the final battle between him and Zhuge Liang, a brilliant strategist who is not a villain. When he heard the rumor that Zhuge had died and the Shu-Han army was retreating, he feared that it was a trap and did not pursue them. He was mocked for missing out his best chance to crush his enemy once and for all, “a dead Zhuge scared away a living Sima.”
The first season of The Advisors Alliance (军师联盟) didn’t whitewash his character. Instead, it gave context to his actions. Sima Yi in the drama is a real person, who, at times, is cowardly, selfish, calculating, ambitious, decisive, protective, smart, humble, caring, and supportive. He does what it is needed to protect his family and his country. Altruism is a rare human trait and that’s why we call altruistic people heroes. Sima Yi clearly is not one of them. He is just a regular fellow who has been judged a wee bit too harshly by the history book.
I like this drama even better than Nirvana in Fire. It integrates humor with seriousness. It is quick paced yet heartfelt. I cried when Yang Xiu died. He is a true believer of Cao Cao’s vision and I can feel across the TV screen his intense regret for not being able to witness that vision come true.
I love the rivalry between Sima Yi and Yang Xiu because competition spurs improvement. When Cao Cao asks Sima Yi whether he feels vindicated by Yang Xiu’s execution, an enemy who has tried numerous time to get him killed, Sima responds: “I have no enemies, only teachers. Some show me the way. Some teach me a lesson.”
I thought A Boy Named Flora A would keep the dark comedy going. But they sneaked the hearts in there and caused me to cry a river of tears. I didn’t understand why Huajia was so upset when Awei suggested that he throw away a broken bike. It became clear with him sitting on the doorsteps, looking at it. It’s not the bike itself that got him upset. It’s the idea of losing grandma and all the memories they shared. The scenes with small Huajia riding with big grandma, then small grandma riding with big Huajia really got to me.
Huajia’s sister and her boyfriend also had me in tears. She had the most awesome boyfriend: Kindhearted, considerate, supportive, understanding, responsible, emotionally stable. Nothing like the men in her family. Since the day she ran away with him, they had always been each other’s rock. The hardest part was not him dying but to stay strong when he was no longer with her.
My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (我女朋友的男朋友) is a hilarious scifi comedy about a human getting schooled by his robot roommates on humility and respect.
When Azhai purchased his love android, he thought he would be living the high life with the prettiest girl by his side.
Because of customization error, he got a perfect boyfriend Adam instead. To his infinite horror. (Adam’s perfect enunciation takes a little getting use to in the beginning. But now, I worship the way he speaks.)
More tragic still is the replacement android, Eve, incorrectly registered Adam as her boyfriend and wouldn’t let Azhai send him away. Since then Azhai has been living in a romance hellhole where he tries to woo Eve, but Eve only wants to be with Adam, and Adam only has the eyes for him.
Adam and Eve are not just different in gender. Eve is a first generation companion android with pre-programed personality matrix. She does not change and cannot empathize with her owner. Adam, on the hand, is the newest model with water-proof skin and upgradable feeling matrix. He can adapt and modify his personality according to his experience with his owner (which will come mighty handy later on when Azhai is feeling super vulnerable because of evil Eve.)
Q Series’ A Boy Named Flora A (花甲男孩轉大人) is a dark comedy about a multi-generation family trying to get a handle on the dying (or, non-dying?) of their beloved matriarch and descending into “Lord of the Flies” instead. It is so inappropriate to laugh at some of the things they do. And if I were to watch this drama in public, I would’ve laugh-coughed in fear of offending the public sensibility. Good thing I watched it in the privacy of my own home where I could laugh all I wanted.
Like when the adults were discussing how lavish grandma’s funeral had to be in order to demonstrate their “prominent and upstanding” status in the village, grandson Huajia (aka. Flora A) discovered their “dead” grandma wasn’t quite dead yet. The funeral director knowing that his sale had tragically fell through, given that no one died, he nonetheless tried to salvage the business by inviting the family to come to him when they die in the future. (That is a comforting thought: I can pre-plan my funeral and get an early bird discount.)
Or, when 2nd uncle’s family overslept and missed the life support removal ceremony, they had to crawl to the front door while wailing for the “dead” grandma, only to have 2nd uncle rush out to stop their filial piety act because grandma ain’t dead yet.
Equally embarrassing was when local politicians, in their overzealous patronage, not only gift the family funeral flowers before grandma’s “time”, they came in person to pay their respect, complete with incense and all. Only to be told, again, grandma ain’t dead yet. Being a bunch of slick politicians they were, they immediately turned to the other side of the room and prayed to Buddha for grandma’s long life.
Their death rituals/superstitions baffle me sometimes. So I always welcomed moments when regular old comedy appeared. Like two buddies reading manga on the bed, then one of them farts into the other person’s face.
Fighter of the Destiny (择天记) has two of the best gray people. They are not the firmly-on-the-dark-side, bad guys. They are, however, good people who make bad choices.
I think the best drama villain is the one who does terrible things for the right reason. Sheng Hou massacred an entire academic branch, executed most of her husband’s family, ritually slaughtered thousands of prisoners, not to mention she sacrificed her only child in order to preserve the stability of the kingdom. In her mind, a ruler has to get her hands dirty to do what’s best for her people. The blood on her hands is a testimony to her resolve. This woman has never lied to herself. So it is especially satisfying to see her redemption after she has (almost) descended into madness.
Her exact opposite is Qiu Shan Jun. He is a good person who is always trying to do good. The one time that he act selfish and petty, he got suckered into the bad guy camp. Because he couldn’t reconcile what he wanted to be and what he actually was doing, so he lied to others, and worse of all, he lied to himself. His lies quickly snowballed into an avalanche that buried his conscience.
As a standalone drama, TV version of Ani ni Aisaresugite Komattemasu is lacking in many ways than one. But as a prequel to a movie, it does a great job. I want to see more Setoka x Haruka in action. Or, Haruka x Takane. I’m not picky.
While I don’t have affinity for Chiaki, he does do a wonderful job of riling up Haruka whenever he can. For instance, instead of telling Haruka that he saw Takane and Setoka kissed on the rooftop, he reenacted the kissing scene: Him as Setoka and his date as Takane.