“It’s not Banana Fish, but it has the **vibes**” — Review of “Jie Yao” (Antidote)

I found out about this show from the Yu Alexius Anime Portal. Yu Alexius painted a very complete picture of what one might expect if they chose to view, and I knew it was the next show I needed to watch! In fact, I began doing so that same day.

So, what is it?

Jie Yao tells the story of a rich kid (Cheng Ke) who gets thrown out of his family home because reasons and a street punk (Jiang YuDuo) struggling with his own unique set of demons. Together, the two of them fight for their future and against the past all while slowly growing together as “friends.” (It’s a Chinese show, but, I mean… we all know. They’re not “friends.”)

I won’t belabor the point: I LOVED IT! I’ve been watching quite a few danmei/BL* donghua* lately. If you follow my Twitter account, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve been fangirling about Mo Dao Zu Shi for over a year now, but I’ve also enjoyed shows such as Scumbag System, Heaven Official’s Blessing, etc. Jie Yao manifests Banana Fish vibes and some basic themes (Can you escape past trauma? Can relationship empower a person to fight for their future?) and executes them in its own way with very different outcomes. It isn’t as dark as Banana Fish—I mean, there aren’t any pedophiles, for one thing—so it isn’t as emotionally taxing, but it provides enough content to be incredibly engaging. I watched all 13 episodes in one afternoon.

While I have to keep things vague as not to spoil, the way the show explores mental health issues resulting from trauma proved interesting—everything from:

  • the defensiveness over someone labeling their friend “crazy,” to
  • the fear held by someone labeled a “psycho” that they’re tainting someone they care for through association

were so well handled even in passing. Not once did they over- or under-emphasize the reality of what loving someone with mental illness might entail. The whole concept wasn’t minimized, but I felt like it was handled with respect and compassion. I just…

Those explorations and statements were some of my favorite part of the title.

Further, Jiang YuDuo helps Cheng Ke recognize his own ability and supports him on his journey to self-reliance. All the while, Jiang YuDuo never coddles Cheng Ke or pulls his punches; his honest support emboldens Cheng Ke. Cheng Ke is empowered to stand up to his father, take on his brother, and build his own life around his artistic passions.

Unlike a lot of BL, neither man in the show’s main ship is a “damsel in distress.” I won’t say I don’t love a good “I need a man to save me” trope (coming from another man or a woman!), but this show was refreshing! Jiang YuDuo and Cheng Ke save each other equally, and it is for this reason that their relationship feels very organic and real. Like most Chinese BL, the relationship between the two main characters maintains its plausible deniability, but if you remember my post on the impact of censorship on the boys love C-drama CQL, you’ll remember that the subtilty in titles like this—the way love is manifested through care and intimacy rather than sexual content—waters my crops!

The art is just the sort of bishie-ism I crave in a good romance. In this title, I enjoy the thin, subtle linework, simple shading, and pleasing color/tone. Frankly, the show is just pretty, and I can get behind that. Some people really rave about art that is unique and don’t like art that doesn’t, for lack of a better term, “stand out” as particularly unique or experimental. I think that art in titles like this isn’t meant to “stand out,” and I often find intentionally peculiar art less “stand out” and more “distracting.” That’s not to say experimental stuff doesn’t have its place, but I appreciate when its place isn’t in my romance titles. Bishie-ism all the way!

Finally, the mildest of mild spoilers, but this isn’t the 80s/90s, and BL doesn’t have to end in tragedy anymore. (RIP my Banana Fish dreams)

If you want to watch Jie Yao (and as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, I highly recommend that you do!), you can view it with English subs legally on Youtube by joining the BiliBili channel or by becoming a VIP member on the BiliBili website. If Sentai wants to make it more legally accessible for English speakers, I would not complain… Anyway, I’m sure you can find a way to view it that works for you!

*If you need definitions, I direct you to my term dictionary.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think of Jie Yao? If you haven’t, will it make your watch list?

Stay home when you can, wear a mask when you can’t, wash your hands, and stay safe!

~Shoujo🌸

P.S.

Here’s a compilation of Taemin’s songs if you, like me, are interested in such a thing.

2 thoughts on ““It’s not Banana Fish, but it has the **vibes**” — Review of “Jie Yao” (Antidote)

  1. Hi this Yu. I’m so happy that you enjoyed it and you perfectly described it even those key points that I failed to highlight. Now, let’s spread the word as this bl donghua deserves someone more love 💕.

    Liked by 1 person

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