I don’t know if I have told you, but I just moved across states. You see, early this year I left my job in Pennsylvania and took a position in a remote job. This meant I could live anywhere in the US. I choose to move to Iowa because the town I used to live in PA sucks and I have a lot of friends in the Midwest. Of course, all this to tell you that I am super behind in my BL watching. Between the move, exploring the new town, spending time with my friends here in Iowa, and work, I just have not been able to watch as much BL as I use to.
I just finished Fish Upon The Sky. Yes, it ended weeks ago but I finished it this week. I wanted to give you my impression of this show, as well as some thoughts on how this show pushes the envelop (or not). Below a quick review and analysis of the series.
Synopsis and Review
Pi (Phuwin) is a freshman in college. He was bullied in high school and like many college freshmen, he wants to reinvent himself. He meets a guy named Nan (Mix) and quickly falls in love with him. However, Nan’s good friend Mork (Pond) really likes Pi. Nan is Pi’s “Fish Upon the Sky” (out of his league) while Mork thinks of Pi as his “Fish Upon The Sky”. In a separate story, Pi’s brother Duean (Neo) falls for a guy named Meen (Louis). Part of the charm of the story is the idea that opposites attract: Duean is a loud mouth, rough and macho kind of guy, think big dog that doesn’t bite. Meanwhile, Meen is like a gentle, sweet and innocent puppy. His brother Pi is a paranoid, nerdy, insecure, kitten who suffers from self-esteem issues, while Mork is a tiger, ready to pounce at his prey. A pair of shippers, a fujoshi and a fudanshi, roundup the list of characters. The series tries to tackle important issues, including internet bullying, self-esteem, peer-pressure and the phenomena of shipping.
I think I should start by pointing out this series is written by Jittirain, who wrote 2Gether and Theory of Love, and it is directed by Aof, who directed He’s Coming To Me and Dark Blue Kiss. Jittirain is really good at creating interesting characters like Sarawat, Kai and Green, but she can’t portray healthy relationships, which explains many of the issues I had with this series.
This series was a lot lighter than 2Gether or Theory of Love, and it was a lot more sexy and homoerotic than either of those two shows. The homoerotic scenes came mostly from the interaction between—-wait for it—-the brothers. Duean, Pi and their older brother Wan (Papang), do pretty strange stuff. At one point, Duean massages Wan’s leg and inner thighs. In another scene, Duean is spread wide eagle by his brother with the excuse of teasing him. There is also a scene in which Duean literally jumps on top of Pi. I may be a fudanshi at heart but I don’t make stuff up. There was something weird going on here between the brothers.
Speaking of Wan, it turns out he is gay. His coming out scene was handled well, though it never really felt realistic, not that the show cared for realism however. I think this show made it clear early on that it was a comedy. Many have complained that this is an issue, that the show had too much comedy and too little drama. I don’t agree. I think the show wanted to be both and it succeeded, though I personally enjoyed the comedy in 2Gether a little bit more.
The fact that the 3 brothers are gay (or at least like men), is never addressed, which was a missed opportunity. In general however, one of the strength of this series was the relationship between the brothers. I think it was cute, healthy and even realistic. Duean defends Pi all the time and even tries to help him with Mork and Nan. Wan tries to give relationship advice to Pi.
If I had to describe this series with three words, it would be “entertaining, formulaic, comedic”.
I rarely got bored watching this. The series moves well from one scene to the next. The dialogue is never too preachy or too long. Sound effects, a catchy OST and a very good sound track, keeps you from falling asleep even when the plot gets a bit stagnant.
The most entertaining parts for me in this series were those involving Neo. Neo is, in my humble opinion, the dorkiest and sexiest twink in all of GMMTV. I can’t count how many times I thanked the BL gods for giving us a wet Neo, Neo in his underwear, naked Neo (well, censored and naked!), Neo’s thighs and legs (who I think should have their own show), Neo’s chest, sweaty Neo, Neo in the shower, Neo in a towel, and a soapy and wet Neo. I think I probably lighted a candle almost every night I watched the series. The BL gods do hear our prayers. Sometimes.
Anyway, because of this, Duean’s and Meen story was always entertaining. Many have complained that Meen constantly calling on Duean was annoying. However, I thought it was endearing. Louis played Meen as a gentle, sweet, caring and innocent young man. You can’t help but root for him. Meanwhile, Neo played Duean as a loud-mouth, harsh and annoying guy. The contrast between them was pretty funny and highly entertaining.
This show had too many things we have seen before in both BL and hetero romantic series. Pi is pretty much the ugly duckling that turns into a beautiful swan. He is Betty La Fea. Mork is the prototypical Seme, constantly harassing the Uke and imposing his will on him. There was also the typical scenes in which the Seme helps the Uke, because well, as you know, Uke’s are just not able to do anything on their own. We see the fall and catch, the taking care of the Uke’s cut, and the wipe the mouth, not once or twice but several times.
Another formula this show repeats is the “Uke-gets-jealous-of-the-Seme’s-girlfriend”. We saw it in Love Sick, 2Gether, Tonhon, 2Moons, etc. It is pure cliché and unoriginal. The way it happens here is so left field that I was really upset. Mork’s friend is trying to help Pi and Mork out by pretending to be Mork’s girlfriend, since Pi is concerned that people will find out that him and Mork are dating. She fakes being in love with Mork. However, Pi is inexplicably jealous of her, especially when people start shipping Mork with her instead of Pi. Keep in mind, this was Pi’s entire objective: he didn’t want to be shipped with Mork.
Another issue I had with this series is that the idea of just putting glasses and braces on someone to make them ugly is unoriginal and pretty insulting to those folks who wear braces and glasses. I get that Phuwin is super handsome and it is probably very hard to make him look ugly, but to just give him glasses and braces to uglyfy him is just plain lazy.
This series rarely took itself seriously. There was some slapstick comedy. For example, an entire segment of an episode was dedicated to the “let’s hide the boyfriend” gag (Mork even hides under Pi’s covers right in front of Duean). In another episode, Mork and Pi do the Scooby-doo thing in which every time the light turns on, the two of them are in different (and often awkward positions). I laughed out loud in all of these scenes.
Nevertheless, the comedy parts were not always successful. When Pi visits the dentist, who he apparently is extremely scared of (keep in mind Pi wants to be a dentist), it gets whacky and strange. I don’t know if the humor was lost in translation or it was just bad, but it fell flat and cringe-inducing. There was also a segment in which the “kitty gang” (Duean’s friends) dressed up as Middle Eastern people, wearing fake beards and all, attempted to block Mork so that Pi had a chance at taking Nan home. This received lots of criticism and GMMTV had to put out an apology. There were a couple of other times where I felt like the humor was too childish or vulgar. However, overall the series was pretty funny and I especially enjoyed all of Neo’s comedic bits.
What I really Liked
Besides Neo’s legs and his twinkish, dorky, body, there were a couple of things I thought were notable about this show:
*I liked how we see the Thai custom of paying respect to your elders, even if the elder is your older brother.
*The coming out scene here is a reminder that in Asian countries, being gay is still not widely accepted. I thought it was interesting they had such a scene in an otherwise light-hearted BL
*Neo and Phuwin have a lot of chemistry. I sort of wish they had been paired here.
*The series was never clear who, Duean or Meen, played the role of Seme or Uke. Just like in My Engineer last year, the presumptive Seme (Duean) plays the role of Uke in his own dreams. It is an interesting reversal of roles.
*Internet bullying plays a central role in the FUTS story. I thought that the way it was portrayed reminded me a lot of Lovely Writer.
*The series is very “meta”. Thai fans are known to ship the actors in a series. Here, the students in the university, led by the fudanshi and fujoshi, constantly ship Mork and Pi. Duean breaks the fourth wall several times. The narrator interrupts the story and makes jokes about what occurs to the character.
*I loved the fact that this series features a lot of snippets of character’s internal monologue. I can’t recall any other Thai BL that has used this technique. I think Love Sick would have been so much better if we got to hear Phun’s and Noh’s thoughts (just like in the book!).
*Neo putting on baby powder on his armpits was hilarious. I don’t know in Thailand but here in the US, that is mostly something a really old person would do.
What I didn’t like
*The medical analogies were terrible. I have spent a significant amount of time around medical students and they never talk like this. Also, some of the analogies were just plain wrong. Vaccines are not the same as an antidote but the writer totally confounds these two things. When the girl decides to pretend to be the girlfriend of Mork to make Pi jealous, she describes herself as the “placebo”, but this is completely wrong. A placebo is something that may or may not have an effect but that the person taking it (Mork here) thinks it is real.
*As someone familiar with medical education, and someone who has work with human cadavers, it struck me how clean Pi’s and Mork’s white gowns were after the dissections. But now I am just being fastidious.
*Like any self-respecting Seme in a Thai story, Mork insisted and persisted even when Pi told him he was not interested. Contrast Mork’s tone and behavior, “I will make you like me”, with Pi’s attitude towards Nan. Pi pursued Nan but he respected him and never forced himself or insinuated that he would force himself onto Nan. I think that the author clearly tries to portray Mork’s behavior as romantic but it comes off as a little predatory.
*Thankfully, Duean and Meen have a less toxic relationship. I like Meen a lot, but why are Meen and Pi portrayed as being innocent and pure? Why is it that Mork has to rescue Pi so many times but Pi never rescues Meen? Why is Meen constantly behaving like he doesn’t like sex? It seems Thai writers often impose an heteronormative narrative onto an otherwise homosexual story and create the Seme/Uke characterization based on a sexist template. It is annoying to say the least.
*The parents were useless for the most part. The mom-son scenes never had the impact that we get in other series such as He’s Coming To Me.
*The shippers never learn their lesson. They were insuferable from beginning to end. After they almost ruined Pi’s life, they went on to find another (heterosexual) couple to ship. I thought this show was trying to teach its viewers a lesson about shipping and why it is wrong. Alas, I was mistaken.
This show was entertaining. Like My Gear And Your Gown, this show didn’t do much to change the BL formula. In fact, it follows it perfectly well. It throws a couple of interesting things into the mix, like the brother’s relationship, internet bullying and the coming out of the older brother, but it is not enough to say it is original. However, I will say that several things stood out in this show to set it slightly apart from other shows. This show is one of the most humorous BLs I have watched. The producers were also not afraid to show skin (mostly Neo but also Phuwin). Most importantly, this show had plenty of kisses from the MCs, which is a rarity for a GMMTV show. Kudos to the producers for pushing the envelop in that sense.
Because it is highly entertaining, and because the toxic Seme/Uke dynamics do not seem to spawn a toxic relationship (e.g. the toxicity is isolated to the courtship as far as we know), I didn’t mind watching. Overall I give this 3.5/5 stars.