The Spirealm, Adapted from BL Novel, Canceled After It Premiered

BL adaptation The Spirealm

Have you watched the premiere of The Spirealm? It quietly premiered on iQiyi on February 2, and then abruptly disappeared 30 minutes after its broadcast. ūüėĄ

So every now and then, Chinese productions with BL drama adaptations filmed before the complete ban of the genre in 2021, will attempt to broadcast their projects to recover their investment but then changed their minds and pull out the drama for fear of being punished by the state authorities.  

BL adaptation The Spirealm

The Spirealm is adaptated from the BL novel, Kaleidoscope of Death. Its Chinese title has a literal English translation of "Deadly Game". 

Its theme is survival game but the format is different from Squid Game as it's a virtual reality game and the death of players could never be true. The drama stars young actors Xia Zhiguang and Huang Junjie. 

The novel was popular and it has many fans who are waiting for the adaptation to be aired, so when iQIYI suddenly released it on February 2, 2024, dropping the 78 episodes all at once, fans rushed to iQiyi to watch the drama, only to be disappointed when it was pulled out 30 minutes later. 

Some complained they didn't even finish watching the first episode when it was quickly taken down from the app ūüėĄ

In other words, this drama was abruptly deleted on the very moment it premiered! It feels like the production just put it there so that international streaming platforms can download it and show it to overseas fans. ūüėā

BL adaptation The Spirealm
Scene in The Spirealm 

Netizens speculated that the production behind this drama might have known it would be pulled off but they were desperate to recover the investment so they quietly released it. 

As all the episodes (78) were uploaded at once, overseas independent video streaming platforms were able to download them (the episodes). Thirty minutes sounds like just enough to download all the episodes. It has a running time of 20 minutes per episode only.

Last year, an executive from a popular streaming platform said that there were new guidelines disseminated by the state regulators emphasizing that all BL dramas, even if the script will be altered to just bromance, would never be given a license to air, ever again. 

BL adaptation The Spirealm
Scene in The Spirealm 

So, out of curiosity, I watched the first five (5) episodes of The Spirealm in Dramacool, to see where this drama had gone wrong, and why it was taken down.  

Okay, there's a bromance sense but was done in good taste, and far from obscene. If you didn't know that it was adapted from a BL novel, there's no way you would conclude the two male leads are into romance. 

It's a virtual reality slash survival game drama with a dash of horror and crime woven into the screenplay. So there's a thrill everywhere. 

The story follows Ling Jiushi (played by Huang Junjie), a Virtual Reality game designer who resigned from his job. One day, he unexpectedly received a game CD about a virtual reality game. 

But while figuring out what's it all about, he met a car accident. The next scene showed him walking to a corridor with 12 iron doors, and when he opened one, he was thrown into the snowy village and was chased by wolves. 

BL adaptation The Spirealm
Huang Junjie and Xia Zhiguang in The Spirealm 

Then he heard a man's voice instructing him how to escape. The man, Ruan Lanzhu (played by Xia Zhiguang) also entered the door and was thrown into the survival game with monsters around. 

To survive and get out of the dangerous snowy village, they must work together as a team to find a key to the right door. But there were tons of challenges to conquer. 

BL adaptation The Spirealm
Scene in The Spirealm 

This drama is filled with thrill as people trying to solve the puzzle and find the key to the right door to get out of the mysterious village. There's a creepy ghost haunting them. 

But the interaction of Ruan Lanzhu and Ling Jiushi has no malice. They are just teammates in a survival game who need to cooperate to solve the puzzle and get out of the place safely.

There are hints of care and concern between them but those actions can just be passed as a brotherhood feeling or some bromance rapport, but never sexual. 

But in the original novel according to reviewers in Douban, there was sexual desire between them (this was removed in the drama altogether of course). 

Gong Jun's character in Word of Honor has more malice towards Zhang Zhehan's character compared to the guys in The Spirealm. 

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But then again this is adapted from a BL novel and the state regulators have clearly stated that dramas adapted from BL novels would no longer be given the approval for release.

BL adaptation The Spirealm
Xiao Zhiguang 

BL adaptation The Spirealm
Huang Junjie 

The commotion attracted by The Spirealm, however, largely benefited the two main leads, Huang Junjie and Xia Zhiguang. After the drama was taken down, they became hot topics on Weibo and netizens began taking interest on them. 

Don't worry fans you can watch Xia Zhiguang in the upcoming Dashing Youth with Neo Hou and He Yu, and Blossom (Ju Jingyi and Liu Xueyi). 

The Spirealm was filmed at the time the state regulators already banned BL adaptations. So there's no way this drama would ever be approved for final release in China. 

Luckily for overseas fans, you can watch all episodes (78) on Dramacool and Kissasiantv, they were quick to download it when it premiered on iQiyi. 

It looks like the quick release was truly intentional (dropping all episodes at once) so that people outside China can download it and watch it in full!

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