Thailand brings ‘boy love’ back to Japan with local dramas

Once an importer of “boys’ love” media from Japan, Thailand has now come full circle in the genre with its growing lineup of dramas themed around romances between stunningly handsome young men.

Known locally as the “Y series” – a reference to the Japanese term “yaoi” which refers to works featuring homoerotic relationships between male characters – these local dramas have seen a surge following the success of the Thai series BL “Sotus” from 2016.”

But it wasn’t until the release of “2gether,” a 13-episode series about two handsome college kids who go from a fake relationship to falling in love, that the flame of a boom in Japan was well and truly ignited. lit.

The show, produced by Thai television production studio GMMTV Co., debuted in February 2020 and quickly became a hit overseas due to the “stay-at-home” lifestyle brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Promotional poster for the Thai “boys’ love” series “2gether”. (Copyright GMMTV)(Photo courtesy of Contents Seven)(Kyodo)

“One of the biggest appeals (of the show) is that viewers can learn about a different culture than Japan, such as food and fashion,” a spokesperson for Contents Seven Co said. , a video licensing company that quickly acquired the Japanese. distribution rights for “2gether”.

While the Tokyo-based company had previously imported BL dramas from China and Taiwan, it decided to choose its first Thai drama when it saw the potential of “2gether” even before it aired. Until January, the series, which first aired in Japan on Rakuten TV in July 2020, aired on 13 domestic streaming platforms and aired on 10 TV channels.

Yui, a Japanese fan living in Bangkok, said she started watching Thai BL last May after hearing about its popularity in Japan. In no time, she was hooked.

“The first thing that attracted me to Thai BL was the beautiful faces of the actors. The more I watched, the more I found that the chemistry between the actors and their roles was so great that I could get emotionally involved,” she said. said, adding that it also offered him the perfect opportunity to learn the language.

Yui, who first moved to Thailand in 2012, recently collaborated with travel company HIS Tours Co. to take fans on a virtual “pilgrimage” tour to locations in the Southeast Asian country. where some scenes from “2gether” were filmed.

According to HIS Tours, the online tour held on February 11 attracted more than 250 people, nearly 99% of whom were women, with people in their 40s and 50s making up more than 76% of attendees. The event was so well received that plans for future Thai BL tours are already underway.

“We came up with the idea for the tour because we thought a lot of people would want to see the places, even at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to physically visit (Thailand),” a HIS spokesperson said. Towers.

Japanese TV and publishing companies have also jumped on the Thai BL bandwagon. After announcing a business partnership with GMMTV in November 2020, TV Asahi held exhibitions in Tokyo and other major cities in Japan in conjunction with the studio throughout the past year.

Meanwhile, major Japanese publishing company Kadokawa Corp. acquired the translation rights to original Thai novels through its local subsidiary Kadokawa Amarin Co., officially launching its foray into Thai BL with the release of the Japanese edition of “Manner of Death” in January. 2021.

Set in a fictional rural town in northern Thailand, “Manner of Death” depicts a romance between a medical examiner and a suspect in a murder case, providing a refreshing change from the vanilla campus themes typically used in Thai BL.

A drama adaptation premiered on WeTV, the international streaming platform of Chinese IT giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., in November 2020.

The novel’s original author Sammon, Day Doctor, said it was ‘beyond (her) imagination’ to be recognized in Japan, a country that produced the manga she grew up reading and from which she draws inspiration in her works.

Sammon, the author of “Manner of Death” and other popular Thai “boys’ love” novels. (Photo courtesy of Sammon)(Kyodo)

“I really love Japanese culture, and now we can send something back so that Japanese people can experience Thai people and Thai culture. I’m very happy and very grateful as a Thai woman,” she said. , naming Ayano Yamane and Kou Yoneda among his favorite Japanese BL manga artists.

“Manner of Death” also became one of the first Thai BL novels to be serialized in a manga by Kadokawa in March 2021, with Sammon working on character designs with artist Yukari Umemoto.

“My dream is to go to a bookstore and find my work there, a Japanese ‘Manner of Death’ or ‘Grab a Bite’ (another of his BL novels) there, and then I will be so happy” , she said.

Thai government agencies are also pinning high hopes on a Thai drama sensation in Japan. Last April, the Thai Embassy in Japan held a “Thai Theater Festival” in Tokyo’s Shinagawa district, hosting virtual encounters with famous Thai BL actors, among other cultural activities.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand, which launched a project to promote Thai BL in Japan in September 2020, hopes the trend will encourage more Japanese to visit the country once the pandemic is contained.

“Many people have started to get interested in Thailand through Thai dramas, and we hope they will come and experience the culture and charm of Thai culture for themselves once travel becomes easier again,” an agency official said.