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A Man Who Defies the World of BL: Palate Cleanser

Samseng Zhabor
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Scene: our hero is at a matchmaking party. He’s there as a favour to the college classmate who organised it; he thinks to himself that he should find a girlfriend anyway. The party is underway, but there’s just one problem: one of the guys is late. Eventually, the door opens, and in steps the tardy participant. He’s tall, suave, and very good-looking. The women squeal, but our hero isn’t too fazed. This is the world of BL, he thinks to himself. A guy that handsome is more likely to fall in love with another boy, so he’s not a rival.
Short and sweet
Sometimes you don’t want to commit to a lengthy drama, with a multitude of characters and intricate plot twists. You’re not actually looking for something to get obsessed over; you can’t afford the time or energy to go through a late-night binge-watching session. What you’re looking for is something easy and entertaining, a power nap for your brain in-between all of life’s obligations.
If you’re someone who likes rom-coms/romance dramas, and who has some familiarity with the Boys’ Love genre, I’d recommend the Japanese series A Man Who Defies the World of BL.
Our protagonist, a very average college student, has worked something out: he’s living in a BL manga universe. There are handsome boys all over the place, and the girls have a very marginal presence. All around him these pretty boys are hooking up, and there are all sorts of scenarios — a run in the rain, a mutual drunken staggering home — in which a couple might suddenly fall in love.
This doesn’t bother our hero too much at first. It’s not going to affect him, he assumes, because he’s part of the “mob” — the background characters who are basically part of the scenery for the lead BL characters. He just wants to live his quiet, average life, far away from the spotlight of being a lead.
It all changes one day, when his younger brother comes up to him to say that he’d received a love confession from another boy.
😱 😱 😱
Our hero — who doesn’t even have a name and is referred to in the credits simply as “Mob” — is horrified. He’d thought that he and his family were too average and mediocre to become the stars of any BL story, but realises that there is a market for stories where the hot guy falls for the ordinary boy. It’s a common enough trope in all romance stories, after all, he thinks to himself as he watches his mother sob over a (spoof of) a romantic k drama in which the devastatingly handsome male lead falls in love with the plain female lead (thus allowing women everywhere to fantasise and insert themselves into that pairing).
For a dude who is determined to just remain a calefare in this BL manga world, this is a huge problem.
Gotta do research to know your enemy
Gotta do research to know your enemy
Fighting the genre
For four 30-minute episodes (see what I mean about this show being a short, easy watch?), “Mob” navigates the BL manga world he lives in, doing his very best to avoid any potential BL romance scenario. But how long can he really hold out?
It’s a hilarious send-up of BL tropes, but I don’t think you even need to be that familiar with BL to get it; many of these are also tropes that appear in straight romantic Asian dramas, and if you know that you can fill in the gaps with some of the other more BL-specific parodies. I’ve never read a Japanese BL manga (although I kind of want to now because of this drama), and all the Chinese BL web novels and dramas I’ve watched are very different from the type of BL that this show parodies, but I got the jokes just fine.
There’s not a lot of plot that you need to pay attention to follow. The show is almost more like a series of vignettes poking fun at BL situations that “Mob” comments on even as he tries to distance himself from them.
I loved the irony of a character so determined to continue being background extra even while being the actual main character in this story. It’s a lot of fun watching his single-minded (and meta) struggle against the narrative gods.
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Kirsten, the Samseng Zhabor
Kirsten, the Samseng Zhabor @kixes

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