HIStory 2 – Crossing the Line AKA Boundary Crossing

crossingtheline

HIStory 2: Crossing the Line AKA Boundary Crossing

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The third and final Taiwanese BL series I recently watched was the second story in the HIStory 2 series, Crossing the Line. It was an 8-episode BL drama that aired from 3/6/2018 to 3/28/2018, with each episode coming in at 22 minutes long. The drama starred Fandy Fan as Xia Yu Hao, our main character. Zach Lu was Qiu Zi Xuan, the object of Xia Yu Hao’s affections. Nick Yang played Wang Zhen Wen, Xia Yu Hao’s friend and the younger brother of Wang Zhen Wu. Patrick Shih played Wang Zhen Wu, Zhen Wen’s older brother.

The BL drama had two basic BL story lines, one of the delinquent and the volleyball geek and the other of the two step-siblings, with many other characters that added depth to a story that we had only 8 episodes to view and enjoy.  I highly recommend this series as one that is a must watch for all BL drama viewers out there.

The drama is about Xia Yu Hao, a rebel on the surface, and a loving and caring son deep underneath. It is about Qiu Zi Xuan, a high school senior who has had setbacks in his life, and about how he has persevered despite them. It is about Zhen Wen and Zhen Wu, step-siblings who are learning to redefine their relationship in a new way. And it is about their friends and family, who are living their lives one day at a time, working at the things they are passionate about and supporting the main characters.

Xia Yu Hao is a new student in school, having been kicked out of his old school for getting into a fight. Because of his history, one of the administrators at the school keeps a close eye on him, lecturing him for his every wrong move and punishing him. One day, while Xia Yu Hao is escaping yet another lecture, he literally bumps into Qiu Zi Xuan (volleyball team manager), who is walking with his best friend He Cheng En (volleyball team captain). Throwing back a quick sorry, he jumps over the school fence and escapes, leaving both Zi Xuan and Cheng En in awe of his athletic ability. The two determine that Xia Yu Hao will be a good addition to their volleyball team.

Thus begins Cheng En’s pursuit of Yu Hao, who only becomes more and more irritated by his behavior. Tired from Cheng En’s shenanigans, Yu Hao and his friends go to the volleyball court to confront the team. In his anger, Xia Yu Hao derides their passion for a sport that’s merely throwing a ball around. Zi Xuan delivers a verbal smackdown, telling him that he has no idea what it is to actually feel passionate about something, to value it because he has never worked hard for anything. He tells Yu Hao to leave, calling him a pig and pointing out that he only seems to be able to solve things with a fight. Xia Yu Hao leaves, incredibly pissed.

Cheng En continues his pursuit of Xia Yu Hao, until he entraps him with the help of the physics teacher aka the volleyball coach, who threatens to fail Yu Hao if he doesn’t join the team. Xia Yu Hao goes to practice, and makes a bet with the captain that if he can hit 1 out of 3 balls served to him, he won’t have to attend practice. Xia Yu Hao picks Qiu Zi Xuan as the server, thinking the manager would not know how to play, and loses the bet to the one who used to be the team’s star player before his injury. Despite losing, Xia Yu Hao still refuses to go to practice.

One day, Yu Hao and his friends come across a young girl, who is excited to see him. We learn that Yu Hao got into a fight to protect this girl at the urging of Zhen Wen. Because Yu Hao got expelled due to that fight, Zhen Wen followed him to the new school; Zhen Wu followed the two of them to the new school. The young girl spazzes out over Yu Hao, because he is not interested in the girl and leaves.

One day, Zi Xuan seeks Yu Hao at his workplace, hoping to get him to come to practice. We discover that Yu Hao works at a nightclub and is currently in the middle of getting beaten up by some thugs. Zi Xuan steps in, and gets injured for his trouble. It is only when one of the nearby business owners intervenes that Xia Yu Hao and Zi Xuan are saved. When Xia Yu Hao asks why Zi Xuan stepped in, Zi Xuan says he’s the manager and needs to protect his team member. By keeping his job a secret and stepping in to try to protect him, Zi Xuan wins over Xia Yu Hao.

Yu Hao begins to show up for practice, continuing to do so even when  Zi Xuan works him hard or the other team members bully him. He tells Zi Xuan that he’s doing this for his mother who wants to see him play. Zi Xuan takes him on, telling him that he better follow all of his instructions. Practice continues, with Zi Xuan focusing his entire attention on Yu Hao. And then one day, Zi Xuan touches Yu Hao, holding his chin so that he can see if the younger boy is injured, and everything changes for Yu Hao. He becomes aware of Zi Xuan in a way that he hadn’t been before.

Zi Xuan’s attitude is also changing towards Yu Hao, who has begun to care for Yu Hao, rather than treating him just as a responsibility. Although, Zi Xuan is a bit embarrassed when called out on this, he encourages Yu Hao by giving him his own volleyball.

After practice one night, when he is all alone in the gym, Zi Xuan begins to serve, remembering his old days as the team’s golden server. His jumping serves cause him to hurt his already damaged leg, and Xia Yu Hao witnesses his breakdown (both physical and emotional) with each subsequent throw.  That moment when Zi Xuan is breaking down in tears, and still struggling to go forward, really touches Yu Hao’s heart, who is shocked by this vulnerable side of the boy who has been so stoic and masterful up until now. He struggles to help in the small ways that he can, helping Zi Xuan to gather the balls, letting him lean on his shoulder, and then piggybacking him when Zi Xuan’s leg gives out from under him.

He misses work due to this, but promises his boss that he would make up the time. He also calls Zi Xuan after watching past videos of him as a server, raving about his serving ability, but Zi Xuan just points out that Yu Hao is just checking up on him. Yu Hao quickly hangs up.

Zhen Wen and Zhen Wu end up joining the team, as well, because Zhen Wen wants to protect Xia Yu Hao, who is being bullied by Jia Jun (the new volleyball server). The two brothers talk afterwards, where Zhen Wu wants to know why the younger brother joined the team, but Zhen Wen just calls him annoying and walks away. We discover that Zhen Wu used to be a famous volleyball player in his own right, but he quit the sport for some reason.

It is only now that Xia Yu Hao finds out the girl he protected and got expelled for is actually Zi Xuan’s younger, much-beloved sister, Qiu Quan Ru. Excited by this discovery, she asks her older brother to take barely cooked, sickness-inducing bento lunches to Xia Yu Hao to express her love and gratitude for saving her. Zi Xuan reluctantly agrees once she very prettily begs him.

While Yu Hao is initially excited to see the bento, thinking Zi Xuan made it for him, he refuses to accept it once he realizes who it’s actually from. Zi Xuan ends up eating the food so that his sister won’t be hurt. He gets sick, passing out in the locker room. Xia Yu Hao visits him in the nurse’s office, and the two have a friendly moment whilst calling each other names like ‘mama’s boy’ and ‘[having a] sister’s complex’.

When Quan Ru refuses to stop with the food, Xia Yu Hao takes pity on Zi Xuan and actually cooks the food so that it is edible. We found in the conversation the two have at this point, that Yu Hao is the child of a single mother, and has been cooking since he was a little boy to take care of himself and his mother. Zi Xuan points out that it must have been really hard for him as a child. Yu Hao shrugs it off. Over time, we catch Xia Yu Hao becoming more and more intrigued by Zi Xuan, even freaking out when he sees Zi Xuan with his best friend, He Cheng En, and how close they are.

Xia Yu Hao is not the smartest student, and, when the team leaders tell everyone they must keep their grades up to continue with volleyball activities, he can only sit uncomfortably when Zhen Wen outs him as a poor student. Zi Xuan steps in and tutors him, preparing cards for him to study, as the two spend even more time together. The little moments, when these two spend time together with Yu Hao gazing lovingly at Zi Xuan, Zi Xuan begging Yu Hao to pay attention to the math problems, or Yu Hao’s reaction when Zi Xuan ruffles his hair are some of the most fun in the series. Xia Yu Hao even begins to have (wet) dreams of Zi Xuan, finally understanding what these feelings are.

In between Yu Hao angsting over Zi Xuan, the two come across Zhen Wen following Zhen Wu around. We then find out that Zhen Wen has had a crush on his ‘brother’ since they were in eighth grade. The two became siblings when his mother married his father. One day, Zhen Wen was kidnapped on his way home. Zhen Wu, who wasn’t able to go home with him because of volleyball practice, has felt guilty ever since. The older boy quit the volleyball team and has taken care of Zhen Wen this entire time.

After this revelation, Zi Xuan shores up Zhen Wen emotionally, and tells Yu Hao that if he judges his friend now because of his sexual orientation, then Zi Xuan will look down on him. He also tells Yu Hao that like is like, regardless of gender. When Yu Hao eagerly presses on what that means for Zi Xuan’s orientation, Zi Xuan refuses to respond. Although Xia Yu Hao threatens to fail unless he gets an answer, he studies hard and passes all of his exams. This earns him a smile and an approving punch to the shoulder from Zi Xuan, which takes his breath away.

The volleyball team then goes on a trip to train and bond. The team practices, and then sets up their mats for the night. While Yu Hao subtly tries to place himself in a location where Zi Xuan could conceivably lie with him, Zhen Wen (intent on avoiding Zhen Wu) misses those hints and parks himself right next to Yu Hao.

While everyone is settling in for the night, Xia Yu Hao uses this opportunity to go searching for Zi Xuan. While showering, Zi Xuan’s leg begins to cramp, and Yu Hao arrives in time to usher him to a chair. Showing that he has been reading up on Zi Xuan’s injury, he begins to massage the calf, and then asks about the scar and how far up the pain goes. Zi Xuan hurriedly assures him that it’s only the calf. While the two of them share a charged moment, they are interrupted by the rest of the team. Yu Hao pulls Zi Xuan into a shower stall, where the both of them wonder why they’re hiding when it’s a men’s bathroom. After another moment of awareness, Yu Hao hands Zi Xuan his missing towel and races off.

We get another few moments of Zhen Wen angsting about Zhen Wu, and then avoiding him. When Zhen Wu pushes for an explanation, Zhen Wen congratulates him on getting a girlfriend and races off.

We then turn back to Yu Hao who finally, openly admits his feelings for Zi Xuan. As the team is sleeping that night, Zi Xuan hobbles to the bathroom once more due to his aching leg. Yu Hao soon follows with a heating pack and massages Zi Xuan’s leg once more. When he hesitantly asks if the leg will get any better, Zi Xuan says it’s the best it can be. Yu Hao bursts out with the question of whether Zi Xuan wants to play, but Zi Xuan remains silent. Yu Hao runs off to reheat the pack, leaving Zi Xuan to his thoughts.

Much later, Xia Yu Hao helps Zi Xuan lie down on his mat, and then lies down beside him. He takes the chance to caress Zi Xuan’s hair before nestling in close and falling asleep. The next morning, Zi Xuan awakens to find Yu Hao inches away from him. With a smile, he raises a hand to caress Yu Hao’s hair but stops himself and then covers Yu Hao with the sleeping bag instead, before settling down to gaze at Yu Hao’s sleeping face.

The team learns of a practice match planned the next day against their closest rivals. That night, as Zi Xuan continues to teach Yu Hao the rules of volleyball on the court, Xia Yu Hao leans in and kisses Zi Xuan through the net. Yu Hao acknowledges that he has crossed the line, but that he likes Zi Xuan. Zi Xuan silently walks away. When Yu Hao grabs his hand, assuring him that he’s serious, Zi Xuan asks him if he’s nuts. He ruthlessly rejects Yu Hao, breaking the poor boy’s heart. Yu Hao runs off, and the two spend the rest of the night licking their wounds.

During the night, Zhen Wen confesses to Zhen Wu, thinking that Zhen Wu is asleep. It is only when the camera pans out that we see that Zhen Wu is awake and has heard the entire confession.

The next day, during the practice match, Zi Xuan coldly ignores Yu Hao, trying to not even look at him. When Yu Hao injures himself during the game, Zi Xuan takes care of him. The two have a sweet moment, and Yu Hao’s hopes are raised once more. He leans in for a kiss, only to be rejected by Zi Xuan after a moment of hesitation.

Zhen Wen and Zhen Wu have their own moment of revelations on their way home from the trip. Zhen Wen realizes that the girl he thought was Zhen Wu’s girlfriend, actually liked him and was  trying to confess through Zhen Wu. Zhen Wen asks Zhen Wu why he tried to hide it. Zhen Wu finally confesses he likes Zhen Wen, but begs for more time to figure things out. It’s not that long, before the two are cooing at each other, Zhen Wu’s feeding Zhen Wen food, and they’re planting innocent kisses on each other much to Xia Yu Hao’s confusion who can’t understand why they’re choosing to focus on what makes them happy now rather than dealing with the problems that will come.

Zi Xuan spends a few more days ignoring Yu Hao, even stepping back from special training, but is then forced to face him head on when his sister blackmails him into going with her for her confession to Xia Yu Hao. Zi Xuan asks his sister what she likes about Yu Hao. She responds with a “he’s hot”, as young teen girls are wont to do. Even when he tells her that Yu Hao likes someone else, she says as long as the other girl is not as pretty/young/good-looking as her, then it’s all okay. The two go to meet Yu Hao, who comes in with a hopeful face but quickly realizes what is going on. He directly tells the sister that he can like her, but only if she becomes Zi Xuan. She races out angrily, and Zi Xuan follows after one regretful glance at Xia Yu Hao.

Only after apologizing to his sister for hiding the truth, who says “it’s not the end of the world”, and then consulting with Cheng En, who encourages him to stop worrying so much, Zi Xuan is finally ready to face Xia Yu Hao. He heads off.

Sitting in his own corner, sulking, Xia Yu Hao suddenly gets a phone call and runs off, leaving the overly chummy Zhen Wen and Zhen Wu behind. He races into the school gym and finds Zi Xuan sitting there. The two talk, while Yu Hao automatically begins to massage his leg, hoping to alleviate the pain he thinks Zi Xuan is in. Zi Xuan apologizes for the confession, that he didn’t do it on purpose. Xia Yu Hao accepts his apology, and says he’d rather be rejected than be pushed off on someone else.

Zi Xuan points out that he’s a twelfth grader, he’ll be preparing for college entrance exams, has to help with the volleyball team, and is very busy. That he’s a volleyball geek. That he’s a senior and will be leaving for college earlier than Yu Hao. Xia Yu Hao impatiently asks what Zi Xuan wants to say.  Zi Xuan asks, even if it is like this, whether Yu Hao will keep giving him massages? Xia Yu Hao promises to be there, willing to give Zi Xuan a massage anytime and anywhere, even promising to miss school. Zi Xuan rejects that, telling him he’ll wait. He leans in for a kiss, but Zi Xuan turns away before swooping in for his own kisses. The two hug and smile in relief.

The End

 

I’m not a big fan of high school, coming of age stories. I’m at a point in my life that those worries and cares seem too alien.

For example, I was watching the Chinese drama, A Beautiful Love, recently, and ended up mentally cursing the main girl out many times for her laziness, self-involvement, stupidity and selfishness. I know those traits are just part and parcel of being a teen, but I just can’t empathize anymore. Which makes the whole drama viewing experience of high school dramas very unpleasant for me.

That’s why the fact that I really liked this BL really surprised me.

The Acting

Fandy Fan was the star of this drama. He played the rebellious teen with surprising levels of depth, and he came to really inhabit his character, Xia Yu Hao. We were able to forget the actor, and invest totally in the character who slowly and gradually fell in love with a classmate that he never expected to. We saw him change from an angry, yet responsible teen, to someone who became passionate about a sport, became part of a team, and applied himself to really excel at that one thing to make his teammate, his manager and his mother proud. And Fandy Fan was that character.

Zach Lu was the perfect Qiu Zi Xuan. He encompassed the seriousness and gravity that unforeseen tragedy brings to a life, and was able to emote even behind his stoic facade so that we could see and feel his pain. Even though he is almost or maybe even is 30 years old, I could totally believe that he was a high school student dealing with the first hints of emotion for another someone.

Whenever Fandy Fan and Zach Lu were on screen together, their chemistry was explosive. I completely believed that these two were slowly falling in love with each other, coming to depend on each other without even realizing until that big confession scene. And from there, the discomfort and confusion before a final reconciliation was a treat to watch.

Nick Yang as Zhen Wen and Patrick Shih as Zhen Wu ably played their characters, Nick Yang more so than Patrick, but I don’t think they really had much of a chance to really get comfortable with their roles. Their story was the more stereotypical step-siblings falling in love, but I was never able to fully immerse myself in their love story., which I don’t really think was the fault of the actors but the story line they were given.

The other actors that played the side characters were also all good in their roles, with some being better than others. The cast was full of really young people save for the school admin at the beginning and the coach, but I don’t think I ever truly noticed that lack.

He Cheng En (the best friend/team captain) was suitably comic in his role, and I liked that he was able to be serious when the need arose.

Jia Jun (the hotheaded volleyball team player), Xiao Xiao, Cheng En’s girlfriend, Zhong Zhong (their teacher), Qiu Quan Ru (Zi Xuan’s sister) were all important characters, and I think the actors did a good job in portraying their roles.

Music

I felt the music really fit the scenes. Both the beginning and ending themes were suitably peppy and nostalgic, respectively. Especially the instrumental track (slow version) of the ending theme that played in the serious scenes. The music, I believe, really set the mood for the drama.

Characters/Story/Writing

I really loved parts of the writing of this drama, but there were some things that were just okay.

I really liked how the writer wrote Xia Yu Hao and Qiu Zi Xuan and the development between the two. The writer put in hard work in creating these characters, so much so that maybe other characters suffered for it. Xia Yu Hao and Qiu Zi Xuan had secrets that we never learned about, but I think part of their charm was that mystery. We can imagine so much for them based on the foundation we were given for each of them.

-Xia Yu Hao

“And do you know he’s bad-tempered, impatient? He likes to sleep in. He knows how to cook, and he has a sense of justice. When he’s serious, he’s more hard-working than anybody else.” ~ Qiu Zi Xuan

At the beginning of the drama, Xia Yu Hao was the stereotypical bad boy, the one who got into fights, lived without any passion and went around with his no good friends. But was that all there was to him? Definitely not.

No one came to see him more clearly than Qiu Zi Xuan, which we discovered by the end of the show.

Yu Hao was the child of a single mother who worked hard to support him. He was very aware of that reality, and so he worked hard for her. He had a part-time job, even if that might have gotten him into trouble at school. He cooked, most likely for himself and for his mother. He was a loyal friend, and stepped in to help Zhen Wen fight when Zhen Wen got in trouble defending Qiu Quan Ru. Yu Hao was expelled for his trouble, but he inspires such loyalty in his friends that they came with him to a new school.

Yu Hao went all into volleyball for his mother, and worked hard it when he committed himself to it. Not only did he exert himself physically, but he actually studied to get passing grades for the privilege of participating in all team activities. He did all of this so that he could play in front of his mother one day.

When he learned about Zi Xuan’s injury, he researched it and then researched how he could alleviate Zi Xuan’s pain. He was there to give the other boy massages, accompany him late into the night, and to sleep next to him. And when he realized what all these feelings were . . . he immediately confessed. No beating around the bush for him, no self doubt, no worrying about being gay. He liked Zi Xuan, and he jumped headlong into that emotion.

And I found that so refreshing in a drama character. Granted, it was an 8 episode drama, but I have seen writers ruin the most beautiful of stories, and thankfully that didn’t happen here.

-Qiu Zi Xuan

“Do you like volleyball? Could you be my tutor, making English-learning cards for me? Can you be a person who is 180 cm tall and weighing 65 kg? With black-rimmed glasses? Plus, a person who loves to take care of other people.” Xia Yu Hao turning to look at Qiu Zi Xuan. “Although you look far from warm, you’re actually very passionate. And you love volleyball to the extent that even if you can’t play volleyball anymore, you still want to be a manager of the volleyball team.” Turns back to look at Qiu Quan Ru. “A person named Qiu Zi Xuan, who never gives up because of his own dream… If you can be him, I’ll be with you.”

Qiu Zi Xuan was the more sober, more usual drama lead. He wasn’t a jerk by any means, but he was very focused on his goals, to the exclusion of all else. Or so one thought at the beginning of the drama.

Zi Xuan faced tragedy in his young life, as well. He was an avid volleyball player, dedicated to his team and the sport before some sort of accident impaired his leg to such a degree that he could never again play his beloved sport competitively. Rather than letting that keep him down, he made new plans for himself. He decided on a course of study that would allow him to still be around the sport and participate, but not endanger his own health.

He was caring of his team members, and he came to really care for Xia Yu Hao without even realizing. The best thing about him? I loved that even when Yu Hao confessed to him, even when he felt something for Xia Yu Hao, he didn’t say yes. And that was because he knew that Quan Ru liked Xia Yu Hao, and he respected that, he feared hurting his sister. How often have we seen BL dramas, where just because of feelings, it’s shown as being okay to forget your best friend who also likes the guy, girlfriend who likes you or the sibling who likes that other, all in the name of love? That level of selfishness, of refusing to cleanly break it off has always bugged me. But to see Zi Xuan back off, refuse to give into his emotions, was beautiful.

Only when his sister says it’s okay, does Zi Xuan reach out for what…who he wants.

Do we know everything about these two? We don’t. Not about Xia Yu Hao’s dad, or how they came to be just mother and child. We never get to meet his mom. We don’t know the details of Zi Xuan’s accident or how long it took for him to recover physically and mentally from it. We don’t see his parents. But we have enough to imagine the past and build their future together in our minds. Despite the differences in their statuses, those that come with single parenthood versus a two parent household, between a family that most likely is in a higher income bracket than the other, they will be together. These two were so caring and aware of each other’s needs that I can’t imagine them not having a future together. Which is awesome writing on the script writer’s part here.

-Zhen Wen/Zhen Wu

The story about the siblings was not as good. Maybe it was shoehorned in, or maybe because the writer became so involved in the first two, that there just wasn’t enough room to flesh these two out? Zhen Wen and Zhen Wu had a history that we never got to see. They have a love that we never got to feel. Seeing them on screen was awkward because they felt awkward with each other for a large part of the drama.

At the end, their union, their agreement to just be together felt too sudden. We don’t get to see them deal with the fallout of their decision. Because, believe me, there would have to be a fallout from this.

So, their ending didn’t feel right. Which was kind of sad, since I felt the actors were shortchanged in that regard, and they could’ve given so much more to their roles.

-Side Characters

The stories of the other characters fit right into the main story line, and I think we got just enough of them to make the story complete.

We had a caring friend, who had his own issues like a fujoshi girlfriend who just wanted to see BL stories happening in real life.

We had Quan Ru, who grew up just a little when she gracefully let go of her crush so that her brother could get his happily ever after.

We had a volleyball coach who had a little something going with her own xuezhang (upper class man).

And we had Jia Jun, the ever passionate volleyball player that swore to do good for his manager and captain.

Overall, Crossing the Line was an awesome BL story, but also just a great story in itself. I highly recommend at least one watch of this drama.

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