I guess it’s that time of the year. That’s right folks, Link Click has finally gotten it’s second season released and the one question that’s on people’s mind isn’t about whether the cliffhanger from the first season got resolved. Oh no, that’s beginner lore. No, the real question here is whether Link Click is a BL (Boys Love) or whether we’re just getting duped yet again. Because real fans ask the real questions.
No but seriously, it’s not hard to see where this question is coming from, even if Link Click isn’t outwardly a BL. Link Click has always had two protagonists, Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang, both male and clearly very close to each other. They go through some very intense situations, leading to a very familiar relationship. Sadly, that doesn’t mean they are in an actual relationship together, even if the creator of the series themselves ships them. Link Click is not a BL, because China very heavily censors any queer content.
However, as stated before, there are clear hints of them being much more than just simple friends. The entire story revolves around Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang’s business, the Time Photo Studio, which is less of a photography spot and more ‘time travel opportunity where you can right your wrongs’. With a simple photo from their clients, Cheng can travel back in time to the moment captured in said picture, meanwhile Lu can navigate and keep him updated on what’s happening on the outside. And because of the nature of things, it can all get really high pressure.
So, to trust someone through traversing time itself is an intimate thing. It’s something you can only fathom doing when the other person truly knows and cares for you. And with the way Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang interact, well. There has to be something there, right? However, queerbaiting is a thing, especially for productions from places that wouldn’t generally allow queer content. So, Link Click might not be a BL, but here’s why that interpretation is up in the air yet another round of Lore Analysis!
Link Click: Time Travelling and The Bonds Forged Through
So, how does this story pan out? Well, as discussed before, Link Click is a time-travel story that revolves around whether messing up the past has implications in the future. Even if the reasons for changing the past are good, there is something to be said about the Butterfly effect it might cause. In that regard, trying to alter what has already happened, might prove more perilous in the long run. Even if it was for the betterment of a situation. After all, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
And despite both Lu Guang and Cheng Xiaoshi being extremely adept at what they do, mistakes can happen. But in their line of business, mistakes are not something they can afford. Which is why tensions between them can run high, seeing how the two do appear to be of diametrically opposed natures. How their powers work is also interesting, because it genuinely takes the both of them to get a successful run through time. Cheng Xiaoshi is the ‘active’ participant. He’s the one that goes through and actually travels back in time, inhabiting the body of the subject in the photo. This also means that he inherits their thoughts at the time, their feelings around their surroundings and all of their memories of their life lived at that point.
Lu Guang, however, is the brains of the operation. He helps ground Cheng Xiaoshi by reminding him of what’s happening back in the present, where his body is asleep and being taken care of by Lu Guang. He knows that the rules are there for a reason, that getting over regrets doesn’t mean altering the past. Because as the Butterfly effect suggests, one small move that you think is inconsequential, can lead to catastrophe in the future. So, Lu Guang is definitely the more mature out of the two, not letting his emotions cloud whatever work needs to be done.
Which is why Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang’s relationship is so important. They aren’t just friends, they are the two people in the world who have knowledge of a power that can permanently change said world as we know it. They are, in a way, the only people in the world who understand each other. That kind of dynamic gives them a sense of familiarity that they don’t share with anyone else in the world. That’s soul mate behavior, honestly. And you can see it in how they interact.
Of course, the series never comes out and announces them as a couple. Why would it? It’s not like Link Click is a romance. But there is something to consider here when the two young attractive male characters aren’t given a love interest, or show any desire for being with anyone. Except, you know, each other.
The Complicated Relations of BL and GL in China:
Now, you might be thinking that if it is so apparent that Link Click is a BL, why not come out and say it? Well, here’s the thing: Link Click is a Donghua, a Chinese production. And it’s a fairly popular one too, being considered as one of the few projects that put the Chinese animation industry into the same mainstream popularity that Japanese anime tends to benefit from. But because of this, there are a few restrictions.
China, for all intents and purposes, is very conservative. It has extremely strict laws it abides by, which is why you can’t find explicit queer content that isn’t censored in some way or the other. And these laws are unstable. Sometimes, they get relaxed enough that you can put on romantic content involving same sex characters, without it being NSFW, of course. But even when things are heavily in the process of being made, suddenly these laws are brought back, and they have to either drastically change the story to fit a ‘bromance’ or risk losing the project to being shelved altogether.
Which is why a lot of Danmei and Baihe, terms for BL and GL (Girls Love), are a hit or miss. In hindsight, they are extremely popular, being released under anonymous pseudonyms as web novels or manhua on sites like BiliBili where they enjoy being the largest and most consumed section. But because of Chinese censorship laws and their murkiness, the legality of some of them remains up in the air.
And no one who has invested time and resources into their project wants it to get canned because of something so confusing, when it can do so extremely well. Just look at the case of The Untamed, which is a live action adaptation of Mo Dao Zu Shi, an extremely popular Danmei. It was so prolific that it actually helped boost the Chinese economy, even when it was censored to Hell and back for it to be released. However, there were enough hints in the plot that helped people realize that maybe the main characters weren’t ‘just bros’.
Which is why Link Click isn’t a BL, or even confirmed as one. It would simply be a huge hindrance in the long run, causing delays and issues that eat up too much money. This is sadly where queerbaiting is all we can get and have to settle for. The subtext of Link Click shows that Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang are clearly very special to each other, but that’s as much ‘proof’ as we are going to get.
Hopefully, there will be a day when we can get more amazing series like Link Click that would actually be open about their queerness, instead of having to hide it. But for now, Link Click is not a BL. Sorry. ChengLu stans!