I think if I had a penny for every time someone asked me, “What is the best BL series you have watched?”, I would have at least… ten dollars? Seriously, the most common questions in BL forums are “What is your favorite BL?”, “What is the best BL series?”, “What do you recommend?” and variations of these. Naturally, the most common way to get into an argument in a BL forum is to reply to any of these questions.
Recently, I finished A Tale of Thousand Stars (ATOTS), which everyone seemed to be convinced was one of the best BLs ever. I have written a review about it here, in which I argue it was not as good as people say it was. At the same time I was watching ATOTS, I watched My Tee, which is a 2018 BL that I completely missed on purpose because the reviews were so bad that I didn’t feel like watching it. Long story short, I ended up liking My Tee a lot more, at least in terms of the “heart” of the story than ATOTS. I liked it so much that I began wondering if it was recency bias or if it was in fact that good. So, I setup to do a little math…
I don’t know if I have told you this, but I am a scientist by training who has moonlighted as a computer programmer. I like to think of things in a very methodical way. So, I came up with the idea of creating a spreadsheet to weight the different aspects of a BL series that I think are important to me. I came up with the following dimensions (Maximum score in parenthesis):
- Originality (10): How original was this series when it first came out? Is the plot original? Is the concept fresh?
- Legacy Bonus (5): How much has this series influenced subsequent series? I created this category to ensure we don’t downweigh the first BLs that came out of Thailand, which were very low budget. This also is a bonus I hand out to series that have shaken up or significantly influence Thai BL (e.g. Lovesick)
- OST (5): Is this series soundtrack unforgettable or can I barely remember it?
- Love Story (10): This is a complex category, so I won’t define it with a question. Basically, what I wanted to weight was how romantic, realistic and tender the story between the MAIN characters is. If a secondary character had a more interesting or romantic story, I cut those points in half and average them with the MC’s points. This is the case of Make It Right, in which the BookFrame story had a more romantic storyline (and more realistic) than the TeeFuse main story. I also downgraded series with significant abusive partners or in which abuse, rape, or other forms of inappropriate behavior were prevalent (e.g. TharnType).
- Substance (10): Was this series trying to convey a message about love, friendship, family, etc.? This is another hard to describe category because it encompasses a lot of things, but basically I tried to value if the director or writer had an important message to convey. This is in contrast to series in which the message is either lost or there is no message. Think typical fluffy or hard core erotic Yaoi vs. series with a strong LGBQT narrative.
- Messiness (0): Was the editing choppy? Was the story not well written? Did the story get derailed towards the end? This is the only category in which I handed down negative points (up to -5). Anything that made the series less than perfect meant it got a negative point. Interestingly, only one series did not get a negative point from me, Boys lockdown.
- Acting (10): This is self-explanatory but once again I tried to weight the main leads acting more than the supporting cast, though I think both are important. Only one series got a perfect score here, He’s coming to me.
- Re-watch Potential (5): Will I watch this again?
- Made me cry (5): I tried to make this proportional to how much I cried or if on re-watch I have cried again.
- Made me smile (5): Sometimes I smiled because it was funny (Tonhon Chonlatee) others made me smile because the series was pure fluff (Boys lockdown).
- Made me think (5): BL is Yaoi and in Yaoi there is little “thinking” but modern Thai BL can be deep and philosophical. Ok. I am kidding. BL is never deep or philosophical but there are some series that have really made me think about mortality, love, coming out and life as a gay person in a conservative country. Here, only one series got the full five points from me (He’s Coming to me).
- Hard to get over (5): This is perhaps the most important category for me. Was this series hard to get over? Lovesick may reign triumphant in this category but there are many BL series that have really given me a serious case of melancholy once they were done.
I tried to enter the data without calculating totals so that I wouldn’t be tempted to give more points in a category to a BL just to bump or lower its position. I also tried to “calibrate” my scores by going back again and lowering or raising the scores after I was done with the list. Thus, I did this in two or three “passes”.
Ready for the results? The table is below. Please note that this is not a list of all the BLs I have watched but a list of the ones I think that could seriously compete for a spot on a top 10 list or that I have watched and folks have told me they have them on their top 10 list.
So who sits at the top of my list? Not surprising, He’s Coming to Me, Lovesick, and Gameboys are fighting it out at the top, with only 1 point difference between each of them. One of my biggest surprises is The Shipper, which comes in at #4. If you asked me, I probably wouldn’t even mention it in my top 5 or even top 10, because I hated what happens at the end. I was also surprised that Boy’s Lockdown did not come up higher and I was even more disappointed with Make It Right, which ended up at #8. I wasn’t too surprised about DBK or 2Moons2 ending at the bottom of my top list but I was a bit surprised to see TharnType so low in the list. You can also see that for all my complaints about it, ATOTS ended up snagging #10.
In what place did My Tee ended up at? It was actually #5, which is not bad! I think recency bias can play a strong role in what we determine as best ever thought (e.g. my current feeling about Boy’s Lockdown), but I also think that another important factor is how much we identify with the story, such as happens with me and Lovesick.
Feel free to use my idea to create your own list of top BLs and see how different it is from what you expected. Have fun!