Recently, my time has been sucked into the amusing, fujoshi-filled world of the series, “Lovesick”.
Lovesick: The Chaotic Lives of Blue Shorts Guys is a famous internet novel in Thailand written by Indrytimes.
Phun has a girlfriend but his father wants him to date his friend’s daughter. Phun’s little sister, Pang, is obsessed with boys’ love. Phun needs to convince Pang that he has a boyfriend so that she can help talk their father around the idea of dating his friend’s daughter. So he asked Noh to become his fake boyfriend in exchange for helping Noh raising fund for his Music Club. However, the two 17 years old high school boys eventually fall in love after the deal brought them closer together. —mydramalist.com
The web novel became so massive online that it was eventually published as a book. A few years later came the TV series which probably rocked the whole Thai nation with its quirky characters, fluffy yaoi storyline, and of course an ensemble of new, but fresh, handsome and pretty faces as actors.
I say probably in the most limited sense of a foreigner who gauges popularity based on her own readings.
I stumbled upon this series by accident. It was in the recommended list of Youtube after browsing through many Thai romantic-comedies during my phase of feel-good movies to ease my growing issues of singlehood. Hmm.
This thumbnail seemed appealing enough (despite the lame title, I thought it to be too mushy) so I searched the synopsis, found out there’s a fujoshi as perpetrator of the gay angle, and I was sold. It’s rare to have an actual fujoshi in a yaoi-themed story because, well, that’s kinda redundant. On the other hand, it’s nice to have a representative in the story once in a while.
Jumping to the series post some minute of reading about it, I had zero expectation. It was my first Thai TV series, so I had no idea whatsoever how they develop plots, if there’s a mainstream formula, or if they are overly corny or serious. I mean, the movies are usually well-made, how about for television?
Anyway, when I watched the first episode, I almost stopped. I was only streaming it, so I had the freedom to back out (it’s a different deal when I’ve spent time and effort to download the episodes).
My first impression of the first episode was of disbelief. Was the show about a bunch of rich spoiled brat teens? It was a party with dialogues that didn’t drew in the viewer at all. The actors looked too young for my taste, the acting was lame, and by the end of the party, some were wasted and I still didn’t know what was going on. Well, inside scoop: the whole production and actors got a lot of bashing for this episode as well. A bold, whooping FAIL was branded to that episode. Nonetheless, like light at the end of the tunnel, the confusing party scene didn’t have the series sinking entirely. Turns out, the hope and bait is at the very end of the tunnel.
Then there was a screech of a sound escaping from my lungs.
Seriously, my mom messaged me if something was the matter because of my noise. LOL
On the other hand, it took some time to adjust to the amateur acting (which got better in time, thank gosh), the language, and even the faces of the actors (these kids are not overly attractive, and as I said too young), but the story was endearing anyway. The themes are not that strong, and I felt there were side plots that were not necessary, but there were socially relevant topics and conflicts, so I guess that’s enough for me to carry on. Think, manga. BL MANGA. NE? KA!
Once I’ve adjusted to the elements, and even the fast development of the story, I was hooked even before I knew it. When I finished the first season, there were two weeks before the start of the second season, so I decided to read the translated novel. (Thank you, P’Kuda!)
In terms of literary technique, the writing style is simple, even childish, though the writer can argue with this as she’s using a first person limited POV to narrate the story. The narration is in present, with some flashbacks and side comments (lots of them! Just like me now, egad), so stream of consciousness folks. The character, I would say, is spot on to the voice of the narrator. I’m usually particular with writing styles in choosing stories to read, but this is pardonable.
May 2, 2015 then came season two. TEN TENENEN!
I’ve always had this caution to myself to separate a written story from its media adaptation because they are two different mediums, therefore, there are strengths and weaknesses to each in executing a story. Also, always watch the TV/movie adaptation because I’m biased with details and texts is always victorious in that aspect with more flexibility in length and dimensions.
Alright, clear with that. Now, I had 14 days to wait on the new season, so what was I to do? I’ve finished two seasons of another Thai series, but I still had time! I’ve finished chapters 1 to 22 of the Lovesick novel which covers season 1, and so I decided that in order not to ruin my impression of the TV series, I would try my best–BEST–to stay away from the rest of the chapters, but…
Well, I cheated.
I couldn’t help it! I had nothing to do and I just skimmed through, but I eventually settled to reading the whole chapters until chapter 30. I reasoned that it’s harmless, then here I am. AHAHA! Me and my self-control. Congratulations.
The problem is this: I’m not sure if my expectation of the series is too high now that I’ve known the events and story of the novel which I liked; the plot has thickened and there’s more internal conflict which is my plot bias. On the other hand, the story telling is the main problem. I thought I was alone complaining about the brand of production for it, but upon reading reviews after reviews, apparently I’m not. The problems are glaring, and unfortunately continuing, and I just hope they do something about it soon because a lot of the viewers/fans are getting frustrated with the way they are presenting the story, me included. I’m sure we’ll never be able to abandon this ship, but I just don’t want to end up groaning the rest of the season, especially for another 32 episodes remaining.
Alright, the following parts would be a list of things I’ve been knit picking from the start of this new season. I’ve been itching to have them written down since I don’t have anybody to talk with (I lurk around a certain website, but I don’t talk to anybody directly). If I don’t do this, it’s gonna eat me up.
The first episode of the second season was quite weird. I noticed the difference in the shooting style in which the actors faces are too zoomed in.
We’re missing much of the background because of this style. It’s also uncomfortable to have their faces so big in the frame. It’s really not flattering for them.
On certain moments, like Noh and Phun’s confession, this style fits because the point is to heighten the emotion with facial expressions and dialogues.
On the other hand, for establishing setting and comfortable atmosphere, this is just awkward. There are many parts of the story wherein Phun and Noh are thrown in situations they have to deal with their feelings for each other, and at the same time had to act like nothing is going on in front of their friends. Mostly, they are shown to dance through this situation through playful bickering which is cute. However, in this new season, there are these uncalled-for slow-mos zooming on their faces as its point is to highlight the suppressed affection between the leads. Later on, the playful atmosphere becomes very awkward because we’ve seen the serious POV of the two. The transition is rough or overly dramatic. I feel like I’m watching a soap opera instead of a romantic-comedy.
There’s also a lot of bad angles and blocking. I’m not very good at this, but I can judge bad from not. All I know is when a dialogue is present but the characters seem to be forced to fit in the frame, or the other is awkwardly blurred, it’s bad.
Moreover, I appreciated the sunny atmosphere of the first series. As most of the events happened in school, or sometime in the late afternoon or morning, they use natural lighting which compliments the general lightness of the story.
So far in the three episodes I’ve watched from the second season, they don’t even turn off the lights.WUT.
In episode 3 when Pang and her gang went to sleep, their lights are probably on since it was not dim or anything. We know that Pang goes to sleep without light based on episode 2 of season 1. Later on, Phun and Noh also goes to sleep with the lights on wherein it’s shown that they both sleep with the lights off based on season 1’s episode 5.
Speaking of softness, this new season’s “softness” is too much. The daylight scenes seemed to be too washed out, photo-editor filtered for my liking. One fan pointed out that the light is actually kinda pinkish. Lord help us. Anywho, somebody probably pointed this out as the following episodes has more contrast.
Seriously, I didn’t even know I was this particular TV production until I saw the bad. Tsk.
I’m not very credible with judging how a video was edited since I’m not a communications major, but I can somehow leave a worthy two cents on it.
I’ve noticed the rough cuts of this new seasons, jumping from one couple scene to another. As there are several couple/character stories involved in the series (the novel focuses only on Phun and Noh), scene changes are necessary. However, the editing for this new season doesn’t even finish an idea/situation of a scene before it moves to another. If the there’s a running theme per episode, this works, but only for an episodic format which Lovesick is not.
I heard that the actors underwent acting workshops in preparation of the new season, but why do they seem more stiff now? I like it that White and Captain make up for great facial expressions in serious scenes for what they lack in dialogue. On the contrary, I dunno, but the acting seems weaker now especially for the leads. Their acting in season 1 was not that great, but their interaction was at least natural mostly. There’s just less chemistry, to think that they should be closer now in both the canon and real life. I hope I’m just prematurely judging their general performance. I’m willing to apologize for this. I’m sure I’d notice it if there are improvements. In retrospect, White and Captain could start feeling more conscious of each other because of the fantasy scenes they have to deal with on cam.
Too much emphasis on the BL (most irksome part)
As a fujoshi, I have no qualms with fanservice especially if they are done by men/boys that I ship together. On the other hand, I’d rather have this played in my head, outside the canon.
I’m not sure what the new production team of season 2 is thinking, but they are going over the top with the BL fanservice. I mean, yeah, it’s good to have some dream sequences as a fresh offer of the new season, BUT IN MODERATION! When these additional cuts of fanservice starts messing the flow of the storytelling, IT HAS TO STOP. We’re here supporting the second season because we are after the translation of our imagination to something tangible, not to be presented with someone else’s fantasies. Not to mention these added fantasy sequences are sooooo squirmy!
- Noh falling in a pool. Phun and Noh having these 3-second staring moment. K-drama style.
- Noh flailing down and Phun catching him at the right moment. Noh like a demure girl being caught by his prince. 3-second staring moment. K-drama style again. Fantasy sequence to Noh and Phun (probably in Korea since they’re wearing winter clothes) and Phun saying something in Korean that translates to scripted mushy line. K-drama style yet again.
- Noh bumping onto Phun quite hard and him almost falling again and Phun catching him again. IS NOH REALLY THIS CLUMSY REALLY.
- Noh and Phun having the necklace scene across a grass art shaped as a heart with them fitting inside. WTF ARE THEY SERIOUS. THAT’S SOOOO NOT CUTE. Considering this scene is bitter-sweet. It’s Phun giving Noh a piece of his heart because he can’t offer anything else, and he knows that Noh will not take anything else other than small symbols of their affection for each other. They can only do so much now. T_T This scene is supposed to be emotional, not jealous-filled or mush-filled with Phun glaring seriously wicked at Earn. I appreciate the fuel of a third party element, but Phun would probably not be this aggressive to Earn especially in front of Noh.
- Crotch-shot angle of a drunk Noh when Phun put him to bed.
- Brokeback Mountain reference
- Phun and Noh dancing in Pang’s fantasy. Phun behind Noh, both of them thrusting forward. WE KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.
- Having Pang and her gang take away Phun’s clothes so the forbidden lovers can sleep naked next to each other. SIGH. This was kinda fun, but errr, I think it’s really better if the series stay light with hints of adult thoughts.
Basically, they’ve thrown out the window the idea of subtlety. Subtle is beautiful. The mind is a very powerful tool, play with our minds with things we can’t see! That goldfish referencing to sex in season 1 kept my fantasy short, but the effect is me shipping the couple harder. I’m sure–pretty definite–that I wasn’t alone on that.
The first season was successful despite some flaws, but it never begged for us to go crazy because of the fanservice. The storyline of having two handsome boys as the main story is fanservice itself. The way the story unfolded in the original novel is good enough, please stick to that! I read the novel after the I watched the first season, so I’m indeed very happy that they stuck close to the plot of chapter 1 to 22, so fans of the original novel and the new ones were very pleased.
Reality: TV production, as a business, can get dirty. In the Philippines alone, wads of money are wasted on dramas with decades-old soap-opera formula stories, and TV ratings and success based on the popularity of actors. It took many years to stumble on a fantastic local series, really.
As an international fan, I missed the chance of the same happening to Lovesick the Series. Production researchers should have predicted the expectations of the bigger, probably more aggressive and critical audience of the new season. Three things:
- After the success of the first season, the fanbase has become massive. I’m sure fans of the original novel has become solid followers of the first series if they were impressed, and tons more of fans from Thailand and other parts of the world has also become supporters of the story, the series, and of course, the actors. I’m sure they’ve realized that people who are new to the novel after the series would have picked up the book (or translation), so fans would be more eagle-eyed with details; comparing and contrasting. Like me! To be safe, they should have just really stuck to the original as best as they could, like season 1. I’m reading P’Kuda’s notes on LS 1 per episode and she has read the book before deciding to sub the series, and I don’t really read her complaining much compared to the most recent works she have of season 2. So that confirms it, it’s just not my bias towards the book.
- As a sequel, they should have been consistent to the original series. The growing conflict and heavier issues to be dealt with in the sequel are not reasons to cover the seriousness with lame fantasies. That’s what stories are; they develop. Even if this is a light series, the story needs to undergo these conflicts to develop properly and beautifully in the end. They have to stop sugar-coating the scenes and making it pretty, and just present to us a decent material! It’s so seriously frustrating that I’ve spewed this ass-long blog post just to satisfy my roaring annoyance.
- Why did they have to change the producer and director anyway? I now wonder so much if the director of the first season has already predicted this mess when he said in an interview when asked about his thoughts on the second season, “I don’t want to sell a dream.” then he motions the turning of a page saying that there will be changes. Even before the premier of the new season, that already came across as a negative message to me. With the new producers who ordered 36 episodes in one season (they’re really milking the money out of this) and with the script writers admitting not to have enough materials for Phun and Noh to fill it up, well, I wonder how they’ll survive until next season. They should just finish the novel until this season with that many episodes. Filling the 36 episodes for let’s say another 25 chapters of the novel would be a stretch. The story would become very dragging unless they are willing to introduce the side stories more and make it a main part of the program. Quite dangerous to fangirls too, though. Personally, I don’t mind if they do highlight the side stories since they’ve been introduced on the first series and were not further developed to give way to the main. With more episodes to fill up, there should be enough material with these characters, but they have to find a good balance of cuts, and without raising hell for Phun/Noh loyalists. I am one, but I don’t mind getting more stories as bonus since there’s also a lot more BL couples now. The writing is probably the problem. I’m not sure if 6/8 months were enough for the (new) writers to properly edit and revise the story lines. Writing takes a shit load of time, seriously.
In conclusion (when the fudge did this turn into an essay?! I’m sounding like Noh now shit), of course the new production of the new season has all the rights to change the style of the series to their liking, especially as they have big shoes to fill. I appreciate their efforts, but their idea of selling the yaoi element is harming the flow of the story. Yes, we’re fans because of the BL, but we’re not blind, ignorant fans who would overlook the degrading quality of our favorite show. As our mother hen, translator and subtitler, P’Kudalakorn noted, this show shouldn’t be turned into a fanfic for giddy fangirls. They can tweak the story line to their liking, but have mercy on the main one at least, and just a bit more consideration on production. We’re not after the innuendos or the fan service, we can provide that ourselves. I guess, as a fan, I just really want to see how the story that I read and fell in love with translate on TV.
I do wonder how the author, P’Hed is taking this all in? I’m sure she’s reading comments off twitter or forums. I hope she can say something. Although, as I said, TV production, as a business, can be of power play. If the producer/company heads say no to changes, then, uh-uh. We’re stuck with this mess until the end of season 2, still praying to our own personal gods to give us hope, just like the end of that horrible party of episode 1. I don’t mind if we don’t have a season 3 if it means quality series of 36 episodes. I also don’t mind learning that there won’t be Lovesick for one, two, three months because they are hunting down the old producer, director, and crew and would redo the whole thing from the beginning. I didn’t even include here the very disappointing soccer event (which actually fueled most of my rage), so if they’re gonna redo everything (please, please, please) I would be very, very, very thankful. They would gain from it, I’m sure.
Well, fingers-crossed to us fans!
Glossary for the non-BL reader
fujoshi : a female often described obsessed with anything related to male homosexual romance and acts
BL (Boys Love) : a genre of Japanese manga about male homosexual relationships; term losely used to reference homosexual hints of gay couples, real or imagined
fanservice: “service” or acts done actors/actresses that follows a general fantasy of fans about them. For example, an imagined couple in a serious would be overly sweet towards each other even off-camera that fans would assume they are really an item. Fanservice is mostly part of publicity and marketing.