Why is SOTUS The Series the best Thai BL series ever made?
After one year, I still can’t pinpoint the reason.
Maybe because the theme has taken on a specific culture experienced by Thai college students that is really happening in real life. I’m not Thai but I’m familiar with that kind of university tradition because there are some schools and groups in my country that also practice hazing. As I learned from news, it’s supposed to be controversial. It’s supposed to be humiliating and violent. It’s supposed to have strong social impact. During the first few episodes, I felt the tension and fear of being hazed but it was used in the series lightly as it moved along. Even though the series opened a discussion whether SOTUS is generally good or bad for the youth and society, the approach was more comical than actual, more informative than enlightening and more systematic than brutal. The writer has mainly used SOTUS for the purpose of having a concrete structure in the story rather than taking it as an opportunity to take a stand and come up with moral implications. Nonetheless, there was social relevance. It was an eye-opener for an outsider like me.
Maybe because the idea of infusing a boy-to-boy romance in a concept like SOTUS seemed farfetched. It is a love story between a freshman and a senior situated in hazing culture. The newcomer Kongpob was headstrong. The head hazer Arthit was vicious. Despite the knowledge of a happy ending, at the beginning I was clueless. There’s no way they will end up together based on mere impression. There were no hints on how the succession of hazing activities will ever lead to romantic scenes. A relationship blossoming in a constrictive environment was impossible. But my cluelessness led to curiosity and that made me jumped on the train.
Maybe because the building up of their relationship was slow-paced. As I’ve observed from previous BL series, it would only take approximately five episodes for the main characters to start realizing their feelings for each other and then develop from there. It happened in Love Sick, 2 Moons and even Addicted. In SOTUS, it wasn’t the case. It was a long and winding road. Most of the time, it was all about the SOTUS system, which is a good thing because that is the main theme and the romance only comes secondary. But I was counting on the love story. I was on the edge of my seat every episode looking forward to if there will ever be a small progress. Twelve episodes gone by, there was almost nothing. It was a waiting game. But the pacing of the development of their relationship was realistic, slowly but surely. And I didn’t feel it was dragging. I knew something was worth waiting for. After witnessing everything, the feeling was just pure happiness and contentment. When everything has fallen into place, it was euphoric.
Maybe because of Kongpob, the first year student who fell in love and persevered to pursue the love of his life. If I remember correctly, the novel was written in third-person point of view. But in the course of the story, it was all about Kongpob’s perspective. He was the primary point of reference. We felt the hardships he has gone through during the initiation period. We felt his victories when he won the sports events and the Star & Moon Competition. We felt his simple joys whenever he was given a chance to interact with Arthit. He had a mission and we, as audience, were standing before him like we got his back. In the process of achieving his goal, we were with him on his emotional roller coaster - his sadness, his excitement, his pain, his triumph, his hopelessness, his rapture, his heartbreak. Resulting to a one-sided love was foreseeable. He was on the verge of giving up but he didn’t. He truly gave his heart, not just the gear, and it was an inspiration.
Maybe because of the metaphors that gave much more meaning to the story. Kongpob personifying the moon and Arthit the sun - a simple symbolism that showed the protagonists’ personalities as well as their obvious contrast. The iced coffee and pink milk were not supposed to mean anything but they have embodied the peculiar traits of the two characters. It just goes to show that they have their own quirks and they were used very well to reference each other in the series. The gear symbolizing the heart had the strongest impact. Giving your gear to someone meant letting that someone to take care of your heart. For the giver, it’s a moment of vulnerability. For the receiver, it’s a moment to prove you’re worthy. The use of the gear has romanticized the plot with engineering students as main characters undergoing hazing. Originally, it’s a symbol of an engineering student’s pride. In the end, it has become a symbol of Kongpob and Arthit’s love.
Maybe because of Arthit, the quick-tempered, condescending senior, who brought the unpredictable element to the story. His actions were very uncalculated throughout. He was like a ticking bomb always about to explode without time limit. He was perceived as the villain to our hero Kongpob but for a reason. If the point of view of the story centered around Kongpob, the character development focused solely on Arthit. His profile was set up in the most unapproachable way but in the end he’s the sweetest thing. He was responsible for all of the most memorable romantic moments in the series. When it was his turn to reciprocate, everything went magical - when he was having heartfelt conversations with his close friends to discuss his confused feelings towards Kongpob, when he chased after Kongpob at the wedding, when the dreamy Rama VIII Bridge scene happened, when he surrendered to his feelings and gave his gear, when he replaced Kongpob’s old dirty string with couple bracelets, when he finally asked Kongpob for a date at the rooftop and, above all, when he declared his love at the party in front of everyone. It was Kongpob who planted the seeds but it was Arthit who made them grow. It was truly remarkable. He is indeed the sunshine of the show.
Maybe because of Singto and Krist who brought Kongpob and Arthit to life. They were new in the business and their chemistry wasn’t obvious in the beginning. Their acting was better compared to most actors of their age but I feel like they could still dig deeper. But the most interesting part is they have known each other before everything started. They studied in the same university taking up the same course where Singto was the hazer and Krist was his junior. They have first-hand experience of how it was like to undergo the SOTUS system. Their appeal comes from the fact that there was a connection even before they’ve become popular. It worked to their advantage as if they were destined to portray the roles. They may not be the most comfortable with their acting skills yet but they were very comfortable with each other. The effect of the overall chemistry was sensational. The fans went insane and the real-life friendship has made everyone delusional. Of course, they will never end up together. I’m bursting my own bubble here. But the fact remains that Singto and Krist started their journey as actors together. Side by side from being nobody, they went through the highs and lows in the process of earning fame and success. SOTUS put them on the map and unexpectedly became the Thai BL superstars that they are right now. I’m a huge sucker to cute backstories and this is my most favorite. I will treasure it forever.
So, why is SOTUS The Series the best Thai BL series ever made?
Of course, other people will argue that it’s not. The development was prolonged, the acting was not the best, the last episode was unnecessary, the SOTUS storyline was a missed opportunity, the editing lacked consistency, the portrayal of supposedly gay characters was inaccurate, the romantic scenes needed more intimacy and the list goes on. Other people could prove to me that it’s just another Thai BL series but here I am still thinking and wanting to defend why it is the best of all time. All I know is that I got emotionally invested. It was my first time to sign up on an online Asian forum to keep myself updated. It was my first time to create a separate blog solely for a tv series. It was my first time to purchase online to collect photobooks. I dragged my friends to fly to Bangkok to see the Rama VIII bridge. I attended a fan meeting in Bangkok to see Singto and Krist in person despite the language barrier. I went to Bangkok twice this year just to drink pink milk.
After a year and all the SOTUS memories, I still can’t pinpoint the reason.