This year introduced many new 2021 BL series, including numerous Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Thai dramas. There was also a dramatic increase in BL shows from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the pandemic imposed tricky filming restrictions, causing delays or significantly impacting production schedules. Nonetheless, the popularity of BL continued to grow worldwide, and 2021 remained a strong year for this genre.
In my opinion, one of the top 2021 BL dramas was Bad Buddy. This delightful romantic comedy features a captivating story and a juicy relationship, carried by two charismatic leads with immense chemistry. The series gets every detail right, creating a sweet, sentimental, and sexy romance. Bad Buddy is the very definition of BL, and it captures all that I love about this genre.
Another highlight is A Tale of Thousand Stars. You don’t often come across such a thoughtful and uplifting love story, set in a unique backdrop of a small Thai village. In addition to an engaging romance, the plot also contains many meaningful themes and messages. A Tale of Thousand Stars sets a new standard for BL excellence, and it will stay as one of my lifetime favourites.
I also adore Ossan’s Love Hong Kong, a remake of the original Japanese drama from a few years ago. This charming romantic comedy is hilarious, lighthearted, and incredibly polished. It’s also the first televised BL series in Hong Kong, portraying a gay couple endearingly to demographics of all ages. This TV show sets a culturally momentous milestone in the city’s LGBT history.
My list of the best BL series in 2021 includes:
- Hong Kong: Ossan’s Love Hong Kong
- Japan: My Love Mix-Up
- South Korea: Light On Me
- Taiwan: Papa and Daddy
- Thailand: Bad Buddy, A Tale of Thousand Stars
There were many other entertaining BL dramas, movies, and anime series released in 2021. Notably, some popular BL shows were released around the end of the year. To keep track of everything, I have compiled a list of 2021 BL dramas to watch, ranked from best to worst.
Please note it’s nowhere near a comprehensive list of all the BL shows released this year. I’m aware numerous entries from various countries are missing. My problem is I have too much to watch and too little time! As I watch each drama one by one, the 2021 BL series list will be routinely updated.
Other 2021 Series
Baker Boys is a Thai remake of the Japanese manga Antique Bakery. This twelve-episode series focuses on the quirky characters who work in a bakery, including an openly gay pastry chef. Each workday brings comical hijinks and delightful surprises. However, an ongoing murder investigation near the bakery makes everyone feel uneasy.
The charismatic cast is the highlight of Baker Boys. Even when the narrative deteriorates into nonsense, the charming actors still shine with natural performances. Sadly, the vivacious performers cannot rescue the woeful writing, which is the biggest flaw in this series. Many storylines are powered by silly contrivances, sappy cliches, and sheer stupidity. Several ideas are inspired from Antique Bakery, but Baker Boys severely butchers the material and strips them of any nuance.
Fairy Ranmaru is a fantasy anime series with homoerotic undertones. The story focuses on five fairies from a fallen kingdom. They descend to the human world, using magical superpowers to help various ordinary women with their troubles. As the fairies fight for justice, a rogue enemy works against them to spread discord and despair.
Ultimately, Fairy Ranmaru doesn’t have enough substance. The narrative is too superficial with oversimplified plots, shallow developments, and predictable resolutions. However, I still appreciate the series as a guilty pleasure, entertaining me with its extravagant silliness. I also enjoy the flamboyant visuals, the cheesy songs, and yes, the gratuitous nudity. Even though I can’t take Fairy Ranmaru seriously, it’s a fun, endearing anime with a fabulous charm.
The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name is a Hong Kong BL slice-of-life drama about two university roommates. This short six-episode series chronicles the relationship between the main characters, from their student days to their workplace experiences. As romantic feelings simmer beneath their friendship, an unspoken love confession might change their dynamic forever.
Overall, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name is a decent first attempt at a BL series. It captures the essence of the genre, portraying a light and sweet romance between two friends. Although the plot isn’t substantial, the events feel authentic and the characters are down-to-earth. It’s an ordinary slice-of-life love story in the best possible way, only focusing on the rapport between the characters. The viewing experience feels cozy and intimate without any fancy distractions.
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is a paranormal horror anime series with subtle BL undertones. The main characters use their supernatural abilities to exorcise ghosts and cursed spirits in the living world. Over time, they go from a working partnership to developing a close bond.
Despite feeling lost at times, I still liked The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window more than expected. The first few episodes didn’t make the best impression, but the series slowly became tolerable. I got used to the storytelling style, grew fond of the characters, and felt engaged by the dark psychological themes. Ultimately, the narrative shortcomings in The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window hold this anime back from greatness. I don’t believe the story is told cohesively, making the emotional arcs less impactful than intended.
The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window is a supernatural horror movie adapted from a Japanese BL manga. The protagonist can see ghosts and spirits, even though he isn’t comfortable interacting with the paranormal world. He partners up with a mysterious exorcist to solve a series of gruesome murders around the city.
Maybe I would’ve enjoyed The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window more if I actually read the original source material beforehand. The complex plot is never adequately explained, leaving me confused every time a character uses one of their supernatural abilities. They suddenly know telepathy, soul-binding, or whatever inexplicable powers with no explanation. The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window just feels too rushed, too incoherent, and too joyless. I finished the film feeling unfulfilled, not understanding precisely what I had just watched.