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quaint_twilight
I don’t know if it’s a recent thing but there seems to be more Chinese BL nowadays or maybe they are gaining prominence due to animated/live action adaptations. LGBT media isn’t legally allowed in China so what these production companies have done to avoid the censorship axe or getting banned is to water down the relationship to a bromance, playing on the politically correct idea of camaraderie. Such was the case with the Mo Dao Zu Shi animation which was originally a BL web novel. 
 
While reading a bit on this topic, I came across the series Guardian (and ended up watching all of it) a live action adaptation of a Chinese BL web novel that is set in modern times but draws upon the stories of gods and demons in Chinese mythology. I found the situation around Guardian pretty interesting. Apparently, media regulations in China don't take too kindly to the subject of gods, demi-gods and demons either (this is news to me) so to avoid attention from the authorities, the story of Guardian was changed from a supernatural BL to a science-fiction bromance. 
 
Guardian was broadcast on Youku - China’s largest streaming platform - but a week after the last episode aired, it was banned and taken down from the site. That being said, during its run, the show was massively popular, with a total video view-count of over 3 billion. Despite the ban, many sites that stream English-subtitled Asian dramas have it so it’s still very accessible online.
 
This is purely my own speculation based on my reading of the situation and after watching the show but I feel that, although the creative team drastically changed the story to keep out of trouble, they knew these changes would anger fans of the original novel (and there is some anger). So to compensate for the changes, they precariously stretched the confines of  a ‘bromance’ to hint at a deeper, romantic relationship. And I think they overstretched hence the eventual ban. I say this because I do not see a bromance in Guardian.
 
To be honest, Guardian (the TV series - I haven’t read the actual novel so this is strictly a review of the adaptation) has quite a number of flaws and I wouldn’t recommend it if an incoherent storyline and sometimes flat characterization can severely detract your enjoyment of a series. However, I can completely understand its appeal and it mostly has to do with the two lead performances. 
 
To get the bad out of the way, the plot is kind of a mess. Guardian is about a special investigation department (SID) that handles cases related to Dixing people, a mutant race of humans from the underground world, who abuse their powers and cause trouble on the surface world, where humans and demi-humans (Yashou) live. The team is led by Zhao Yun Lan who, while working on a case, has a chance encounter with Shen Wei, a young university professor whose real identity is the Black Robe Envoy - a Dixing leader responsible for maintaining the peace between the two worlds and also a known ally to the SID. It’s an interesting concept especially when the holy artifacts are introduced. Unfortunately, the screenwriters never really commit to in-depth world building and the story has a fractured focus with bits of explanation that end up not making much sense to the overarching plot. Because no concrete plot points are established or fully explained, you pretty much have to accept whatever is happening at face value. Also, some of the characterizations for the supporting characters lack emotional depth. They are either let down by poor writing, extremely rushed backstories and/or weak performances. There’s also a tad too much melodrama resulting from misunderstandings.


 
The main reason to watch Guardian is the two main characters, Shen Wei and Zhao Yun Lan, portrayed by Zhu Yi Long and Bai Yu respectively. Zhu Yi Long's popularity in particular, sky-rocketed thanks to this show. They give the best performances in the show and deserve a lot of credit for elevating the material. Furthermore, they have tremendous chemistry with each other, whether it’s Zhao initially viewing Shen Wei with suspicion before realizing that he was inexplicably drawn towards him or after Shen Wei’s identity is revealed and the two are officially ‘best friends,’ their scenes together make this series. The general consensus among novel fans is that these two are perfectly cast. I think it’s remarkable that they could bring a romantic element to their interactions with body and facial language - Zhao would flirt with his eyes, Shen Wei has the occasional look of deep longing (he waited 10,000 years after all to see Zhao again), the quiet moments between them, etc. I think the actors chose to portray the characters as in the novel, bromantic script notwithstanding. The romance is further reinforced by observations from the side characters, as they note the obvious fixation Zhao has on Shen Wei, how they are almost inseparable and Zhu Hong’s jealousy (she’s in love with Zhao).
 
Needless to say, I adore the main pairing and of all the live-action BL I have seen, I can't think of any couple with the kind of chemistry that Shen Wei and Zhao Yun Lan have despite the lack of anything really physical. I'm even curious about the novel now. On a last note, I'm also currently addicted to the opening song of Guardian.


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