It’s no surprise to anyone that I’m a massive fan of the BL genre. I initially dabbled years ago and, as time and supply and supply quality has marched forward, so has my fandom. However, I’m also aware the genre is not for everyone. Not just because of subject matter but due to actual story and production value. I had a walk with a friend who knows someone very interested in dipping their toes in but is overwhelmed with all of the options and is afraid to jump in on the hardcore BL. She and her dear friend like shows, but even in the straight variety, prefer their romance, their physicality to be at the softer level, awkward with tonsil hockey or the…wink-wink nod-nod.
I totally get it and, never fear, dear friends, I’ve seen many BLs, and there are plenty to choose from if you want to try BL and are looking for something sweet rather than spicy. Here’s a list of some of my favorites that fit that bill!
I’ve separated these into two sections, series and movies, and within those sections, I’ve alphabetized them in order to not show favoritism.
One of my favorite shows from last year! I swooned and cheered my way through the story of Tine and Sarawat, essentially a fake dating story that takes place during college where SURPRISE, neither one of them are engineering students. The story is cute with no real angst to speak of. There’s a little bit of a flub storywise towards the end of the first season, but if you watch 2Gether and Still 2Gether, well, together, the flub just ends up being an awkward middle. While the looks that Sarawat gives Tine will make you swoon Every. Single. Time. It doesn’t get much spicier than those looks and a kiss at the end of season 2. Oh, and Sarawat asks Tine if he can touch his boobs a few times, but try to sit through one of those scenes and not laugh!
Now, if you search around, you’ll see that there are 2Moons and 2Moons2, now sweetness level, both stories are about the same, and both stories cover the same storyline with 2Moons2 essentially backing up, restarting, and then pushing past where season 1 ended. There are pros and cons to either version of the story. I think the actors are better in 2Moons2, and I love the time we got to spend with the two side couples, but, 2Moons, I always associate with warm fuzzies as it comforted me as I was recovering from Bells Palsey a couple of years ago. This story is a reunited couple story, where the main couple was attracted to each other during high school, were separated by a misunderstanding before they could really become a couple, only to reunite as enemies in college. Oooh surprise-surprise, there isn’t a single engineering student in this main couple! (If you’re new to BL, just know, if you meet an engineering student in your show, the likelihood he’s about to get boy coupled is like 98%) As for spiciness level? If I think real hard, they kiss. Maybe? Probably.
Our first Filipino show! But don’t worry, not our last. Filipino production companies really jumped headfirst into the BL game in 2020, and let me tell you, I couldn’t be happier. Some of my favorite shows of last year BL or straight came straight out of the Philipines. Boys’ Lockdown is a COVID romance, which, I promise, is not as creepy as it seems. The boys meet by chance and then are forced to work around COVID restrictions in order to start their romance. GAH! These boys and their story and the way that they act together are the CUTEST. You will just grin your way through it. Now, believe it or not, despite this being a COVID lockdown romance (Hence the title Boys’ Lockdown, it’s not something pervy, you big perv.), this one is a little spicier than some of the others on this list, but we’re talking just some pretty sweet kissing at the end. (NOT THAT I”M SUPPORTING WHAT THEY DID! MASKS ON, BOYS!)
Level of spiciness of Cherry Magic? .2%? But don’t let that fool you! This is one of the cutest, well-done love stories. Full name of the show, Cherry Magic or 30 Years A Virgin Can Make You a Wizard? Socially awkward office worker finds himself at 30, still a virgin, and with that, he earns the power to read minds when people touch him. Just as he’s testing out this new magical power, he realizes the office hotshot has an impossible crush on him. HOW CAN YOU SAY NO TO A STORY LIKE THAT??? You can’t. You know why? Because I’m telling you you can’t. Go out and watch this right now; come back and tell me how much you loved this sweet Japanese show.
The first of the Philipino BLs! Our first COVID drama! Look at those cute faces! Essentially a love story of two strangers told through various social media platforms during the height of the pandemic lockdown, Gameboys is sweet but has a ton of unexpected heart. The episodes are short (expanding as the show grew in popularity) and spiciness level? Let’s say they are all talk and no action as literally they have no actual interaction with each other until the end of the show.
Another one of my favorites from last year, another (and I think final) COVID drama on our list, Hello Stranger is the story of school mates shoved together for an online school assignment. They go from enemies to friends to possible lovers all via zoom meetings working on this class project. Mico is the definition of adorkable, and Xavier is hot as hell, but the two together are just teeth hurting sweet.
History 2 – Crossing the Line
I thought long and hard about the addition of the HIStory series. While I love this series and would count many of the seasons (3 seasons each season is two separate stories) as some of my favorite BLs, some of them are…steamier than what I was looking for on this list. So, I’m going with HIStory 2 – Make It Right. In this story, the school ‘troublemaker’ becomes smitten with the captain of the volleyball team and is determined to capture his attention and heart. GAH, you think he’s all badass, but really, he’s like a giant puppy. Look at me! Love me! Love me! I’m here! Added bonus of no one dying at the end!
Like In The Movies
Absolutely, positively, hands down my favorite show of all of 2020. I’m talking BL, straight, Asian, non-Asian. This show had so much efffing heart it HURT my heart. Like In the Movies is a forced cohabitation story of two college students over the holiday. It’s not just the story of their relationship, but how that relationship helps them realize who they are as people and what they want in life, no matter how hard it is to get it or what they have to give up in the process. There’s a pretty spicy, probably a solid 6 kiss, but that’s as far as it goes. Please watch this show. Seriously.
Lovesick: The Series (Season 1 and 2)
Lovesick was the first show that kicked off my BL obsession…the show that I think kicked off a world of BL obsessions. It’s after the success of this show that we started seeing more and more production companies putting out BLs with better and better production value. This story is about Phun and Noh’s fake dating escapades, but really, it’s so much more. Since it was away back when, while there is sexual content, it’s all off-screen or implied. The only thing you see here is like one kiss and some EPIC handholding. Oooh, the handholds.
Our first Korean show on the list! The Koreans are behind the curve on BL, but they are starting to tip their toes into the genre with some great additions, proving, I think if they ever took it seriously, they’d probably rival the Philipines for story quality. Mr. Heart a college romance that starts on the running track when a marathoner gets paired up with a new pacesetter. I know I say this a lot, but this story is so cute. For being so short, it has some great back story and a complete romance. (Like you can see why they both like each other, it’s not “whoops, we’re in love”). Another show where the spiciness level is pretty much nonexistent, but that’s okay; you don’t need it.
To My Star
I didn’t think there would be another show that would top Mr. Heart for me, but surprisingly, this year’s To My Star beat it out. Though it’s just as short as the other Korean BLs, it doesn’t feel it. There is so much story and hints of back story woven into this thing; you’d swear you’re watching a full-length show. It’s another forced cohabitation story, this time between an actor in hiding and a chef. Now, there is some bed kissing at the end, but all in all, it’s pretty mild to taste.
Theory of Love
How vanilla is this show? We’re talking nonfat vanilla latte with extra whip and vanilla sprinkles. But don’t think this show is boring, no, it’s cute and focuses on the relationship of this friends-to-lovers story. Essentially the story is told the first half by Gun, who has loved his longtime best friend Off (real names) and puts up with SO MUCH CRAP because of it, and the second half by Off once he gets his head out of his butt and realizes what he’s lost once Gun decides not to play anymore. For the first half, I’m totally Team Gun, and then they do so well in the second half; I switch allegiances. Well done, show!
Seven Days Monday – Thursday
Seven Days Friday – Sunday
Turns out, I don’t watch a lot of BL movies, and the ones I have seen are not really of the vanilla variety. BUT I could not end this post without including the Seven Days Movies. Two movies, set up Monday – Thursday and then Friday – Sunday, are based on a manga of the same name. These movies are moody and excellent. I could watch them and then watch them again and then watch one more time. One guy is fascinated by the other who, legend has it will date anyone for one week if they ask him. On a whim, he asks. Okay, just talking about it makes me want to watch it all over again. It’s Japanese, so it’s slow-moving with a story that’s not quite a story and a couple that just makes your heartache for them. There are a couple of kisses, but nothing explicit at all.
I think these shows/movies prove you don’t have to be super spicy to be totally romantic and swoonworthy!