3:54 PM |
An Addiction. Or: Bai Luo Yin and Gu Hai Forever
Meet Xu Weizhou and Huang Jingyu. They are perhaps the biggest and the unlikeliest stars to come out of China in the past few months. As the fictional characters Bai Luo Yin and Gu Hai, they have also inflamed the hearts (and colonised the minds) of millions in Asia -- and they've done it by embodying the unexpected: young men falling in love in the literary mode we know as BL (or "boys love"). It is the craziest thing.
I have always had an ambivalent attitude towards BL or yaoi, loving the kilig the genre brings but also finding parts of its formula a bit disturbing. In yaoi, the lovers almost always consist of an older seme, who is aggressive, and a younger uke, who is passive; and their courtship almost always involves a tango of advance and resistance that to a casual observer would look like rape. While I know that this genre is not at all tailored for me (its biggest audience are young girls scattered all over Asia -- more particularly in Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand), even if I am a gay man, its queer aesthetic and storyline nevertheless mark me as a curious participant and die-hard observer. Because what isn't interesting about seeing beautiful young boys falling in love with each other? When Junjou Romanchika (Pure Romance) -- perhaps the most fully-bodied example of the form -- first came out as a manga in 2002, and later as an anime series in 2008, I was already a big fan, teary-eyed as I followed the travails of Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami. I was devoted to it, and that devotion continued in various selected iterations of the genre, embracing fully such fan favourites as Free! Iwatobi Swim Club (it is more or less yaoi, albeit of a more restrained variety).
For some reason, web streaming of late has been the most receptive platform to putting out live-action versions of yaoi. In Thailand, there are many BL series, the best of which seems to be Make It Right. In China, there is Counterattack (or Strike Back), based on the novel Falling in Love with a Rival by Chai Jidan. But towering over them all is Addicted (also known as Heroin), based on the novel Are You Addicted? also by Chai Jidan.
The series follows, for the most part, Bai Luo Yin (the incandescent Xu Weizhou) who lives with his careless but well-meaning and loving father and his grandmother. His mother has remarried, and the new husband, recently widowed, is a wealthy military official, who happens to have a son named Gu Hai (the irrepressible Huang Jingyu). Bai Luo Yin and Gu Hai rebel tempestuously against the new marriage, and their paths finally cross when the latter transfers impulsively to the former's high school -- all the while innocent of the identity of each other's parents.
The series chronicles how they slowly fall for each other in the expected fashion of seme aggressiveness (Gu Hai, of course) and uke resistance (Bai Lou Yin, of course). The crisp unfolding of that love story -- slow, tender, and filled with the tension of teenage hormones -- is what makes Addicted a winning series. It forfeited sleep for me, and I opted instead to binge in one go all of the fifteen episodes of its first season, which started streaming in China in late January 2016.