- Overall 9.0
- Story 9.0
- Acting/Cast 9.5
- Music 8.0
- Rewatch Value 9.0
Honestly, before SOTUS, I've never ventured to watch a single Thai drama series - my regular haunts were your staple K-dramas, J-dramas and C-dramas. However, finding good drama series, even in the large ponds of your K, J and C drama worlds, were increasingly hard to find.
I noticed for a long while that SOTUS was very highly-ranked on MyDramaList, and wondered about it for a long time. The synopsis of the read more show sounded like your average university drama serial and the poster picture did not strike me as particularly attractive enough for me to consider dipping my toes into a completely new language and cultural show.
So I dithered and dithered until finally, having started show after show and dropped them, I became desperate enough to try watching it to see whether the ranking on this website was justified or not.
Having never watched a single Thai lakorn or drama series before, I naturally had to take a bit of time to adjust to:-
a) Thai looks/ appearances - the supporting characters were quite refreshingly ordinary in their looks. None of that touched up stuff. Aside from J-dramas, most other drama series tend to show clinically beautiful people. The main leads were, of course, easier on the eyes (I thought the actor playing Kongpop looked a little like Yang Yang (a good-looking Chinese actor) from certain angles).
b) Thai language - which is, to me, rather nasal and high-pitched to my un-trained ears. It sounded very much like baby-chatter. This aspect of the show took me the longest to adjust because it was just so alien to me.
STORY - although I have never been hazed during my university days, there was some mild form of hazing back when I was in college. It was an initiation rite which I did not really enjoy while I was in the midst of it, but saw the benefits of it afterwards because it help break down walls and create bonds during the process. I could, in some measure therefore, identify with the hazing culture depicted in the show. However, the first episode was still rather shocking to me because of the ridiculously stern demeanour of the hazers and their harshness in dealing with the freshmen. I found myself inwardly frowning at some confrontational scenes and thinking to myself that I can't see how I can end up liking this show if it was going to continue along the same vein.
Thankfully, the show moved at a rather snappy pace and by the end of episode 2, it was already rather apparent all is not what it seems, and that the outwardly "bullying" tactics of the hazers was not really a reflection of a cruel bully culture, but that there was a deeper intention and purpose behind it. I may not necessarily agree that this sort of approach is the best, but, like some of the freshmen in the show, I was beginning to see that there was something more behind those harsh actions.
It is good that the production crew were smart enough to show us early on that all is not what it seems on the surface, because that was what really made me continue watching the series - to see more of what would unfold. Piquing the curiosity was a very clever tactic!
And THAT is part of what makes this show so good for me at the end. The snappy pace, the revealing of true intentions over time, the way the story unfolded across the show, was, I thought, very organically well done and wonderfully compelling to watch.
I also liked it very much that while it was a boy's love story at the heart of the show, the show was much more than that. It was also about youthful days, about friendships, about being human and making mistakes, about that first crush in school... very very poignant and nostalgic and REAL. How awesome is that?! So much love for this series because of all that!
ACTING - OK, this review was written after I had finished watching SOTUS and a few more other Thai lakorns, so that I could get an idea of what the acting is like in the Thai entertainment industry. Because while acting is acting, each nation or culture tends to have certain characteristics and I did not want to compare SOTUS with other non-Thai series in the event that what I find good or different, could actually be a norm or something. Hence, this review was written not directly after watching SOTUS, but actually a pretty good while after.
Back to the topic of acting. I heard that the actors in SOTUS were relatively new - and from seeing the filmography of the main leads, yeah, they certainly do not have much drama shows under their belt prior to SOTUS (actually, none at all).
So, a huge big kudos to the actors in this series, because having later watched other Thai drama series of college and high school and even some over-the-top slap/kiss series, I have to say that, for me, the acting in this series is one of the best so far. It certainly stands head and shoulders above all the other university/ college/ high-school series I have seen to date.
Comparing apples with apples (because those series tend to field young actors around the same age), SOTUS actors nailed their characters and acted so much more naturally and realistically that honestly, I really saw them as your average university students dealing with the ups and downs of campus life. I think the bonding and the friendly pranking and hijinks behind-the-scenes really helped to build familiarity, character and ease amongst the acting crew and it shows. There is a charming natural-ness in the internal interaction between the freshmen group-of-friends, and also among the hazing team members.
Spotlight on the main leads -
KONGPOP - Singto did a great job in bringing Kongpop to life. From Kongpop's initial defiance, sass and strong personality (he certainly wasn't a wilting wallflower!), to the subsequent softening of his personality as he starts to realise and see that there is more to what meets the eye, and then to curiosity and an eagerness to prove himself to Arthit, then to the chase for Arthit's attention and eventual affection - and all the attendant feelings of insecurity, angst, despair and resignation - it was beautiful to watch it all slowly unfold on screen. I was right there in the moment with Kongpop with his longing, his little joy and delight receiving whatever crumb of attention from Arthit, his jealousy and insecurity, his anxiety and fear, etc. There were lots of internal cheering and rooting for Kongpop as the series went on! Well done to Singto, for giving us such a lovely and expressive Kongpop!
ARTHIT - Singto was great as Kongpop but Krist as Arthit, was, to me, the real star and scene-stealer of the entire series. Magnificent performance from Krist as the scary head hazer Arthit from episode 1 (his eyes, his disdainful look and his commanding shout was all Head Hazer glory), to Arthit your regular university student and friend (I just love his interactions with his fellow hazers and also with others from his year. There is such natural banter, teasing and ease), to Arthit the respectful junior to his seniors and his teachers, to Arthit the boyfriend (which is the loveliest, sweetest, cutest and most adorable thing I have ever seen on screen, no joke! His shy smiles and soft looks are such a contrast to his Head Hazer demeanour it is such a sweet revelation. I honestly would not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. And yet, while the dichotomy is so great, it still does not seem off or odd. It is all Arthit and wonderfully natural and believable).
In short, Krist blew me away with his Arthit. Right out of the water!
MUSIC - Not knowing Thai, the lyrics to the music made little impact or impression on me, except for the opening introduction song which was very catchy and memorable (well, you would remember it because it keeps playing each time there is an advert break in the series). But having later watched SOTUS again with the official subs on the GMMTV Youtube channel, I now have a better and deeper appreciation of some of the songs being played in certain scenes.
RE-WATCH VALUE - I've re-watched this more than twice now - still as good as ever, if not better, because I already know the meaning behind some of the actions and attitudes so the first few episodes, instead of being difficult to watch upon the first run, are now imbued with a lot more meaning and understanding on my part. It makes it more enjoyable, so definitely a recommend for re-watches.
NOTES - I am sure the synopsis already clued you in on the fact that this is a Boy's Love series, so if you're squicky about this sort of thing, it may tarnish the series for you. But for what it's worth, I liked the portrayal of the progression of feelings through to its resolution. Wonderfully, realistically, naturally, and tastefully done.
This is a long review, but I had lots to say on this series (more actually, lol). It has definitely, for me, lived up to its MyDramaList ranking, and more. Many thanks for reading this all the way through! Hope you enjoyed it!