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Asian BL Dramas for Beginners
In Japan, gay relationship dramas have made it to wholesome network television with the BL series Ossan's Love and My Love Mix-Up, not to mention the middle-aged slice-of-life series What Did You Eat Yesterday. In Taiwan, where queer stories have been welcome on the small screen as far back as 2003's Crystal Boys, the HIStory and We Best Love BL series are among the most well-known Taiwanese idol dramas of the past few years. In South Korea, breakout BL hit Semantic Error has been one of the most talked-about K-Dramas of 2022. In mainland China, bromance sells, trends and launches young actors to stardom via BL-adjacent dangai adaptations like The Untamed, Word of Honor and Guardian. And in Thailand, BL dramas are an entire industry – and mood.
Below we highlight 30 of the best and most popular live-action Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Thai BL drama series. Time to pick your ships and learn your hashtags!
If there's any CP that makes the Chinese BL fandom heave a collective sigh, it'd be this one. Based on a novel by Chai Ji Dan, the 2016 web series follows Bai Luoyin (Timmy Xu) and Gu Hai (Johnny Huang), two stubborn high school boys who unknowingly become stepbrothers after their estranged parents remarry each other. Thanks to Gu Hai's extremely persistent measures, the two go from bickering classmates to lovers who can't quit each other. Bolstered by the raw yet stirring performances of the leads, Addicted was a breakout hit in China before running afoul of censors, dooming the second season to never see the light of day.
2. Bad Buddy
GMMTV and director Noppharnach Chaiwimol execute the Thailand campus romantic comedy to near perfection with the 2021 Bad Buddy series based on the novel Behind The Scenes by Afterday and -West-. Ohm Pawat Chittsawangdee from He's Coming to Me and The Gifted's Nanon Korapat Kirdpan are Pat and Pran, childhood rivals from feuding families who cross paths in college as classmates from feuding faculties. To stop their squads from fighting, they strike up a bickering friendship that surely becomes more. Anchored by a refreshingly positive main pairing, this modern-day Romeo and Juliet tale (minus the tragedy) is consistently funny and heart-fluttering throughout the evolution of Pat and Pran's push-and-pull relationship. Bonus: there's also a cute GL pairing with Milk Pansa and Love Pattranit.
3. Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!
BL gets a magical twist in TV Tokyo's 2020 fantasy romantic comedy based on Toyota Yuu's manga. Just like the title says, panicky office worker and certified cherry boy Adachi (Akaso Eiji) suddenly gains the ability to read minds when he hits age 30. Because of his telepathy skills, he unexpectedly discovers that his charming colleague Kurosawa (Gekidan EXILE member Machida Keita) is in love with him. Over 12 cherry-sweet episodes, Adachi must gain the confidence to face not only his feelings for Kurosawa but also his crippling insecurities – all while rolling out an amusing variety of panic reactions. Cherry Magic! heads to the silver screen with a feature film in spring 2022!
4. Cutie Pie
A blue-blooded rich kid by day and motorcycle-riding rocker by night, engineering student Kuea Keerati (NuNew Chawarin Perdpiriyawong) was set up for an arranged marriage with business mogul Lian Kilen Wang (Zee Pruk Panich) from a young age. Kuea believes their forthcoming marriage is one of storybook love, while his fiancé speaks only of duty, not love. Kuea deliberately assumes a prim and proper exterior for Lian – only to be told that he's like an Annabelle doll! After Kuea threatens to call off their engagement, it's Kuea's adorable, audacious and vulnerable true self that piques Lian's interest and shakes his heart. The 2022 Thai BL series Cutie Pie pops with bright colors, crisp cinematography, energetic pacing and earnest emotions. And, yes, it's cute as billed.
5. Dark Blue Kiss
An awesomely sleek and telenovela-ish opening title, complete with an intense strings-laced instrumental theme, leads into the romantic drama of Dark Blue Kiss. Pete (Tay Tawan Vihokratana) and Kao (New Thitipoom Techaapaikhun), the fan-favorite couple from Kiss: The Series and Kiss Me Again, continue their up and down but always heartfelt relationship in this full-fledged BL series directed by Noppharnach Chaiwimol. Watching the previous two series is not required to understand the story, but you may want to catch Kiss Me Again to see how it all started. The Thai drama follows the two engineering students as they face misunderstandings that arise due to Pete's short-tempered, possessive nature and Kao's inability to be forthcoming. Dark Blue Kiss highlights the warm, natural and supportive rapport that has made #PeteKao one of the most loved character ships of Thai BL, and #TayNew one of GMMTV's most popular pairings.
6. En of Love
Based on three novels written by Faddist, the 2020 omnibus series En of Love tells three interrelated stories – TOSSARA, Love Mechanics and This is Love Story – revolving around a group of engineering students. Of these, the most well-known is Love Mechanics about the messy, roller coaster relationship between Vee (Yin Anan Wong) who starts out with a girlfriend, and Mark (War Warwanarat Ratsameerat) who originally likes someone else. Despite En of Love: Love Mechanics being only four episodes long, Yin and War attracted such a strong fandom that a standalone full-length Love Mechanics series is slated for 2022 by popular demand.
7. Fish Upon the Sky
Self-conscious and cranky dental student Pi (Phuwin Tangsakyuen) views med student Mork (Pond Naravit Lertratkosum) as an annoying rival for the attention of his secret crush Muang Nan (Mix Sahaphap Wongratch). But it turns out Mork actually likes Pi and he's not afraid to make it known! Pi, however, struggles to face his true feelings and insecurities. Fish Upon the Sky frequently breaks the fourth wall and outright sails its own #MorkPi ship in the drama, while also calling out the excessive actions of delusional shippers and social media haters amid the wackiness. Based on a novel by JittiRain, this wholehearted and unsubtle 2021 Thailand BL series is the right vaccine for those looking for a light romantic comedy.
8. HIStory2: Crossing the Line
Choco TV's flagship HIStory series of Taiwanese BL dramas hit its stride in the second season with the coming-of-age romance Crossing the Line, which was nominated for Best Mini-Series at the 2018 Golden Bell Awards. An unassuming blend of sports, youth and romance, the story stars Fandy Fan and Zach Lu as high school students of different personalities who train, bond and grow together on the volleyball team. A pre-Someday or One Day Patrick Shih and Nick Yang also appear in Crossing the Line as stepbrothers navigating their changing relationship. The other story of the HIStory2 season, Right or Wrong, is about the relationship between a college student (Hunt Chang) and a professor (Steven Chiang), who is a single father.
9. HIStory3: Trapped
The most ambitious and complex entry of the HIStory series, Taiwanese BL drama Trapped follows the relationship between troubled gang boss Tang Yi (Chris Wu), who is trying to go straight, and dogged cop Meng Xiao Fei (Jake Hsu), who is trying to pin him down. Despite getting into constant altercations, Tang Yi and Xiao Fei grow increasingly close after facing dangers together. Going beyond the usual BL elements, Trapped situates its sizzling mobster-meets-police love story amid greater crime conflicts and misunderstandings related to a fatal unsolved case that occurred in the past.
10. HIStory3: Make Our Days Count
The second story of the HIStory3 season returns to the familiar territory of high school boys in love. Loud and impulsive Xiang Hao Ting (Wayne Song) is surrounded by a loving family and friends. Introverted model student Yu Xi Gu (Huang Chun Chih) is a lonely hardworking soul struggling to make ends meet. When Hao Ting's girlfriend shows interest in Xi Gu, Hao Ting storms into the latter's quiet life to raise trouble. However, Hao Ting ends up falling head over heels for Xi Gu. A secondary thread sees Hao Ting's friend (Wilson Liu) pursuing an older man. The boys of Make Our Days Count wear their hearts on their sleeves for bold and fervent depictions of young love. Be warned: you may want to pretend the last episode never happened.
11. I Told Sunset About You
Childhood best friends Teh (Billkin Putthipong Assaratanakul) and Oh-aew (PP Krit Amnuaydechkorn) stopped talking after a fallout, but they meet again as high school seniors at a Chinese tutorial class. The two make amends as they work toward their dream of pursuing acting in university. Amid the stress of exam preparation, Teh and Oh-aew realize their deepening feelings for each other go beyond friend zone. Beautifully shot in Phuket, this must-watch 2020 Thai queer BL drama about coming of age and coming out defies the cliches and limitations commonly associated with the genre. The sensitive script and raw, realistic performances vividly paint the emotional and hormonal world of hot-blooded yet hesitant teens striving to decide their hearts and their futures. Sequel I Promised You the Moon continues with the leads in university, but resorts to more typical devices to create narrative conflict.
12. Life: Love on the Line
Based on Tokokura Miya's manga Life: Senjou no Bokura, this short and sweet Japanese BL drama succinctly and movingly captures the different see-saw stages of a years-long relationship in four episodes. We follow the lives of Akira (Shirasu Jin) and Yuuki (Raiku) over two decades, from meet-cute as high school boys at age 17, to affirming their relationship as college students at age 19, to yielding to real-world pressures at age 28, and then coming to terms with the consequences of giving up love. Life: Love on the Line starts out as a cute BL youth romance, and gradually evolves into a universal story about the process of growing up, growing old and growing into oneself – and all that we love, lose and learn along the way.
13. Lovely Writer
For a dose of meta, this 2021 Thai BL drama revolves around a novelist who gets into a relationship with the star of the BL drama based on his novel Bad Engineer. Our lovely writer Gene (Up Poompat Iam-samang) is taken aback by Nubsib's (Kao Noppakao Dechaphatthanakun) flirting during his casting audition. The heart-racing moments just keep coming after Nubsib moves in with Gene during filming and makes his intentions clear. The flustered writer, however, needs time to sort out his situation, while reacting to all advances with an amusing mix of blushing panic and grumpy sarcasm. Adapted from a novel by Wankling, Lovely Writer zips along sweetly, while the hardworking BGM peppers the mood with sound effects and changing notes that enhance the comedic moments. By asking audiences to support the drama couple instead of the drama-within-a-drama couple, Lovely Writer notably warns of the toxic side of fan shipping culture.
14. Manner of Death
Max Nattapol Diloknawarit and Tul Pakorn Thanasrivanitchai from Bad Romance and Together With Me pair up again in Manner of Death, based on the novel by Sanmon. Co-directed by blockbuster filmmaker Chukiat Sakveerakul and Natthaphong Aroonnet, this 2020 suspense and romance drama offers a more mature and cinematic take on BL. Bun (Tul) returns to his hometown to take up a medical examiner post. His friend dies in a suspicious manner pointing to foul play. However, a masked assailant and the police keep pressuring him to conclude the autopsy report as suicide. Bun initially suspects middle school tutor Tan (Max) of being connected to the case. The two become intimate after moving in together, but Tan has many secrets that continue to raise red flags. Leading with its dark small-town crime mystery, Manner of Death – along with other genre blenders like KinnPorsche The Series, Not Me and Dear Doctor, I'm Coming for Soul – demonstrates how Thailand BL dramas are expanding creatively to incorporate different narrative elements.
15. My Beautiful Man
After the success of Cherry Magic, another EXILE TRIBE member, Yagi Yusei from FANTASTICS, enters the world of BL as moody high schooler Kiyoi, the object of Hira's (Hagiwara Riku) stuttering adoration. Hira spends his school days doing everything he can for the cool, popular and beautiful Kiyoi, who has a secret dream that only Hira knows. Hira places Kiyoi on such a high and unreachable pedestal that he can't even fathom his feelings being reciprocated. Based on a novel by Nagira Yuu, the Japanese BL drama My Beautiful Man begins as a story of a hopeless high school crush on that guy, and then expands to provide new perspective on the inner emotions and insecurities of both Hira and Kiyoi.
16. My Love Mix-Up
Johnny's idols enter the BL conversation with this effervescent 2021 Japanese teen romance based on the manga Vanishing My First Love. First love begins messily as a misunderstanding over a name on an eraser. Aoki (Naniwa Danshi member Michieda Shunsuke) thinks his crush likes Ida (Snow Man member Meguro Ren). Meanwhile, Ida thinks Aoki likes him! To protect his crush's secret, Aoki just rolls with the mix-up, but as they spend more time together, both Aoki and Ida begin to seriously consider their feelings for each other. Set in a bright, bubbly and chaste high school world of supportive friends and awkwardly genuine emotions, My Love Mix-Up is just about the cutest and purest thing ever.
17. Ossan's Love
It takes a "geezer's love" to bring boys love to the mainstream! This 2018 Japanese workplace romcom series turned into a surprise hit with the hilarious story of clumsy but affable 30-something realtor Haruta (Tanaka Kei) who suddenly finds himself in a love triangle with his googly-eyed middle-aged boss (Yoshida Kotaro) and his handsome new colleague Maki (Hayashi Kento). Ossan's Love is wacky and over-the-top with the comedy, while being sensitive and sincere with the feelings of everyone involved. Haruta and Maki's love story was completed with the silver-screen sequel Ossan's Love: Love or Dead in 2019, while the follow-up season Ossan's Love: In the Sky tells a brand new story set in the aviation industry.
18. Ossan's Love Hong Kong
Following the success of Ossan's Love, ViuTV remade the popular workplace romantic comedy into the first BL series to broadcast on a mainstream TV channel in Hong Kong. Sharing a similar plot with the original work, Ossan's Love Hong Kong centers around Tin (MIRROR's Edan Lui) getting caught in a love triangle with colleague and flatmate Muk (MIRROR's Anson Lo) and their boss KK (Kenny Wong). With the ensemble cast and lighthearted flow, Ossan's Love HK became a big hit in Hong Kong, opening up more possibilities and opportunities for the gay romance genre.
In case it's not already clear from the title, Pornographer is probably the most overtly sexual drama on this list. Also known by the more discreet English title of The Novelist, the Japanese BL series is based on Marukido Maki's manga about college student Kijima (Takezai Terunosuke) who becomes a transcriber for erotica novelist Kuzumi (Izuka Kenta). Though taken aback at first, Kijima soon finds himself aroused by the novels and intrigued by Kuzumi. Cue graphic dialogue of the novel content plus heated fantasies and intimate encounters. Directed by blockbuster filmmaker Koichiro Miki, Pornographer became a sizable hit on Fuji TV's online VOD platform in 2018, so much so it was followed by the prequel Mood Indigo, a prologue episode and a feature film.
20. Semantic Error
The 2022 breakout hit Semantic Error has become by far the most well-received Korean BL drama locally and internationally. Even one of the country's major broadcast channels MBC has decided to feature the show. Former KNK member Park Seo Ham and DKZ's Park Jae Chan shot to fame after starring in the WATCHA series based on the same-titled webtoon. The enemies-to-lovers trope never fails, especially when it's set on campus – the two polar opposites, who are university "sunbae" and "hoobae," go from harassing one another, to partnering up for schoolwork, to developing romantically. Apart from being a high-quality web drama, Semantic Error is well-loved for delivering proper kiss scenes that set the bar high for the Korean BL dramas that follow.
GMMTV vaulted Thailand BL dramas to mainstream and international popularity in 2016 with this quintessential campus romance about two engineering students – it's always engineering – based on the novel SOTUS by BitterSweet. This was probably the gateway into Thai BL dramas for many fans. SOTUS refers to a college hazing initiation system in Thailand. Freshmen are expected to respect and follow orders given by upperclassmen, but Kongpob (Singto Prachaya Ruangroj) questions the unreasonable orders of senior and head hazer Arthit (Krist Perawat Sangpotirat) on the very first day. Sparks fly in more ways than one when these two bump heads! Arthit and Kongpob's story carries over to the workplace in the sequel SOTUS S set two years later.
22. A Tale of Thousand Stars
The vast majority of Thai BL dramas stay in the safe territory of campus love, but A Tale of Thousand Stars rolls out a positively K-Drama-worthy premise set in a hill tribe village of northern Thailand. After being saved by a heart transplant, headstrong youth Tian (Mix Sahaphap Wongratch) heads to the remote village where his heart donor, Torfun, volunteered before her untimely death. Keeping his connection to Torfun a secret, he takes over her teaching position and struggles to adjust to a new life. Tian meets Phupha (Earth Pirapat Watthanasetsiri), the forest ranger mentioned in Torfun's journal, and notices that his heart beats faster for him. Love is only part of the journey in this story of personal growth as Tian copes with survivor's guilt and finds new purpose in life while trying to fulfill Torfun's unfinished dreams. Directed by Noppharnach Chaiwimol, 1000stars stands out with its unique setting and universal themes exploring the value of life. Earth and Mix reunite in the new GMMTV drama Cupid's Last Wish as well as the upcoming Moonlight Chicken.
TharnType is definitely not the drama to reference for how to start a healthy relationship, but the immensely popular Thai BL series is off the chart when it comes to steamy chemistry. Mew Suppasit Jongcheveevat and Gulf Kanawut Traipipattanapong play the titular Tharn and Type who are freshman roommates. Type goes into over-the-top homophobic bullying mode when he learns his roommate is gay. Tharn, however, refuses to move out and instead makes a move on Type. Animosity gives way to lust and a sexually charged relationship that awakens deeper feelings and realizations. Known for its passionate scenes, TharnType takes a toxic route to eventual true love. The sequel TharnType 2 checks in with the gay couple seven years later when their domestic bliss is shaken by new challenges. Based on the novel series by MAME, TharnType is part of the same universe as the Love By Chance series.
24. Theory of Love
How many times can a heart break in one drama? Theory of Love: Yes. The first half of this angsty 2019 Thai BL series is a fest of tears, frustration and toxic friendship as film student Third (Gun Atthaphan Phunsawat) pines after his oblivious best friend Khai (Off Jumpol Adulkittiporn), a serial playboy who speeds through girlfriends and constantly makes Third feel terrible with his inconsiderate behavior. Stick around for the second half to watch a flustered Khai realize his mistakes and flounder to win back Third's trust. Film geeks will appreciate the drama's myriad references to classic romance movies ranging from My Girl and Dear Dakanda to Love Actually and 10 Things I Hate You About. Among the most popular ships in the world of Thai BL, Off and Gun are also paired up in Senior Secret Love: Puppy Honey and Not Me.
25. To My Star
Helmed by the director of Where Your Eyes Linger, the 2021 BL drama To My Star is recognized as one of the best Korean BL dramas by fans. Due to a fake scandal, popular actor Kang Seo Joon (Son Woo Hyun) has to hide away from the public. The enthusiastic and goofy actor starts living with cold, young chef Han Ji Woo (Kim Kang Min), and love soon blooms. Reality hits hard when they have to face challenges from friends, company and paparazzi, as well their personality differences and their inner struggles. The fine acting of the two leads, plus the natural flow of the story and emotions, makes To My Star well worth watching. Can't wait for Season 2!
In order to fend off a persistent male suitor, Tine (Win Metawin Opas-iamkajorn) comes up with the crack idea to pretend he's dating the handsome and popular Sarawat (Bright Vachirawit Chivaaree). Tine joins the music club to get close to the icy-cool Sarawat and convince him to become his fake boyfriend, but this fake relationship naturally turns real. Based on a novel by JittiRain, 2gether is shiny and youthful to the max, from the photogenic cast to the pretty cinematography to the buoyant soundtrack. Probably the biggest Thailand BL hit to date, 2gether not only got a quick mini-series sequel in Still 2gether, it also became GMMTV's first BL drama to get a feature film. It likely won't be the last.
27. Until We Meet Again
Prepare to have your heart ripped out with this lakorn-worthy 2019 romance told over two lifetimes. Based on the novel The Red Thread by LazySheep, the Thai BL series opens with the tragic ending of star-crossed lovers In (Earth Katsamonnat Namwirote) and Korn (Kao Noppakao Dechaphatthanakun) in the 1980s. Their ill-fated love story haunts the dreams of present-day freshman Pharm (Fluke Natouch Siripongthon), who knows at first sight that senior Dean (Ohm Thitiwat Ritprasert) is the person he's been searching for. As Pharm and Dean affirm their love for each other, their indelible connection to In and Korn is also gradually uncovered, revealing the grief and generational trauma of everyone affected. When Until We Meet Again isn't making people cry, it delivers a triple dose of sweetness with the swoony pure love of the protagonists' two incarnations, plus the cute interactions of Boun and Prem as Pharm and Dean's friends, who headline their own upcoming season Between Us. Additional benefit: learning about traditional Thai desserts.
28. We Best Love
Helmed by Golden Bell-winning director Ray Jiang, We Best Love is divided into two six-episode seasons: the college romance No. 1 For You and Fighting Mr. 2nd set five years later. In No. 1 For You, Gao Shi De (Sam Lin) uses tactics to get closer to Zhou Shu Yi (Yang Yu Teng), whom he has been in love with for years. Young love gives way to adult misunderstandings in Fighting Mr. 2nd when the estranged couple meet again at the workplace after years apart. WBL is so committed to the BL genre that it's signaled in the title, but what audiences will remember most about this Taiwanese drama is how committed Sam Lin and YU are to their roles. Though the story is typical of idol dramas, the emotions hit hard, be it the heartbreaking anguish of unrequited and broken love or the tearful outpouring of confession and reconciliation. Two words: sofa scene.
29. Where Your Eyes Linger
Long-time besties are afraid to become something more in W-Story's romantic Korean drama Where Your Eyes Linger. After 15 years of friendship, Han Tae Joo (Han Gi Chan) and his bodyguard Kang Gook (Jang Eui Soo), who claims they have a "master-servant" relationship, gradually realize their feelings for each other. However, the two high school boys keep holding back and pushing each other away as they try to figure out their true relationship. Where Your Eyes Linger brings out the close bond and palpable sexual tension between the leads through lingering stares and gestures. Released in 2020, this series is one of the early favorites among Korea's recent wave of web BL dramas.
30. Wish You: Your Melody in My Heart
"I wish for you, you're the reason. I want you to, you believe me." Two aspiring musicians and buskers fall in love at first sight in the 2020 Korean musical BL drama Wish You: Your Melody in My Heart. Working at a major record label, keyboardist Sang Yi (Lee Sang) helps recruit street performer In Su (Kang In Soo), whom he secretly admires, to his company. While preparing for his debut as a new musician, In Su starts living with manager Sang Yi, and intimacy grows as they spend more time together. But the good times don't last as they're forced to part ways before admitting their feelings to each other. Accompanied with soft and sweet music, Wish You: Your Melody in My Heart easily makes hearts flutter with its gentle love story.
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Published March 30, 2022