…of reading yaoi/BL manga these days, to be really honest.
This is the very first time that I’m actually acknowledging this head-on, though I did mention this to my group of online friends (who are both gay and fudanshis) the other day. Our thread got distracted because immediately after posting that sentiment above I felt bad and tried to read any yaoi manga. I’ve read a few chapters, and ended up seeing a picture of a threesome (the 2 seme and 1 uke variety–which I really really like, it has to be this specific lol) and sending it to them. They laughed at me and didn’t think of my earlier post seriously. But the truth is, I’ve been holding on to these thoughts for almost a year now. I was just in deep denial mode all this time.
For the record I’ve only been reading yaoi for around 5-6 years. I was only in my 20s then, but definitely a late bloomer, and definitely a late comer, to the yaoi scene. Though I have a Twitter and a Tumblr, I’m not that updated to the goings-on in the yaoi scene. I’m not an avid fan, so to speak–I’m too poor to purchase merchs and physical copies of manga or subscribe to a streaming service. I attended a local yaoi con a couple of years ago (I bought tickets to the succeeding events the following years but I ended up not going). I have a job, but I only make enough to pay the bills and buy essentials. If I wanted to buy something, I needed to save for it for a couple of months, and even then I can’t buy a lot: I have to think looong and hard which stuff I will buy, not just because it’s cute, but also to consider what I titles I will continue loving and liking for years to come, plus there’s the issue of very limited shelf space. I only have a couple of yaoi manga at best, and I usually keep it hidden for the meantime. Most of my reading and watching are done online, but I’m slowly dipping my toes to purchasing licensed digital translations. I bought one so far and I like it. And I’ll be buying more in the future as long as I can afford it.
When I accidentally stumbled upon yaoi on Youtube, which maybe I could discuss on a separate post one of these days, it was like a storm that swept and carried me away. Thanks to the power of Google, I discovered yaoi as a genre–I watched some of the most famous (or infamous) yaoi anime around, read a couple of manga at first, and discovered some sites where I can satisfy my yaoi cravings. I fell into that rabbit hole. And slowly but surely, my brothers discovered their eldest sister’s new obsession. Well, I never denied it though 😀
As the years went on, I discovered some hidden gems (well, at least for me), but most of the manga are starting to look so much like a copy of another copy, of another copy. Before I find it amusing (and wanting to brag–but no one to brag on to lol) to guess who the mangaka is by just looking at a page of their manga/cover art, or perhaps guessing the title, or both. Over the years, more mangaka popped up with art styles looking more like duplicates. Their art is already so polished and clean, but looking so similar to other mangaka who entered the scene years earlier.
But at the end of the day, what I’m really after was the story itself. Of course, I’m a pretty shallow person, and manga is a visual medium first and foremost, so I first look at the cover and the art, specifically, to check if a manga has some potential. If the cover looks nice, I check the summary. There are times when it doesn’t have any, so I have no choice but to rely on tags. I pretty much read anything, except for bara (I won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole, and I’m not a fan of the art style tbh), or shota (I rarely read them since most of the time they’re just porn and tragic, so meh). But if the summary looks interesting, I read it. Sometimes I stop reading after 1-2 chapters because it’s so weird/fucked up/absurd, other times it took me a couple of works from the mangaka before I stop reading her/his stuff altogether.
A perfect example is Haruka Minami. Her art is cute, I won’t deny that, and it felt nice and fluffy at first. But it gets tiring especially when her uke are always the innocent but sexy and helpless at other things in life. I recently went back reading her two newest manga, and though her art remained consistent and pretty as ever, my opinions on her stories didn’t change that I don’t feel the need to finish them anymore. Or maybe the completionist in me will, though I don’t know when, but most likely when my mood is good.
Another one is Minase Masara. Just look at the chins. Just. Look. At. It. Anyhow, a couple of her stories are good, especially that one between childhood friends, one who’s a normal human, and the other ages very slowly (Ikusen no Toko o Koete). It ended in a bittersweet note, I cried sad tears, but after that I haven’t read the rest of her more recent works.
Another mangaka that’s slooowly ending up on that same direction is Sakyo Aya. I do admit, just for the art and smut factor alone (and the cats too!), she’s high up in my list of favorites. But I’m slowly getting tired of one of her works, which I call the Kuroneko Kareshi series (since the titles all start with that, meaning “black cat boyfriend”), more specifically to the seme of the story, Keiichi. He’s such an immature guy. Yes he’s hot and rich, yes the art is top notch, the smut scenes are so good, and I don’t mind a possessive seme (most of the time I usually welcome it), but not in his case. At this point I feel bad at the uke since Keiichi acts like a kid most of the time. Acting like that in volumes/titles 1-2 could be forgiven, but as of this writing there’s already like 5-6 titles released for this couple for the past several years, and he hasn’t changed a bit! Maya from Hidoku Shinaide had done a lot more growing up than him, if you ask me.
I’ll stop at these three mangakas before her fans pull their pitchforks and aim them at me. *ducks under my desk*
I wanted to see how yaoi manga in general changes in its art style and story and pacing, and how mangaka improves their art and storytelling through the years, so I wanted to read as much work as I could from a certain mangaka. But of course, just like athletes and other artists, not all of them are capable of pulling this off. Or maybe it’s because of their editors? Anyhow, story-wise, some can produce good manga consistently, others falter after their debut (Kuraka Sui comes to mind–just read her first work, Itou-san and compare it to her second major work, Sakaku Opera). If that happens, I keep an eye on the mangaka, still holding on to the hope that they can find their muse again and release another memorable work. Most of them recover from this “slump.” Some mangaka releases those “meh” manga every now and then, but if you look at their works as a whole, you will see that majority of them are really good. Still, some only focused on 1-3 works at a time, and/or they didn’t release a lot of lengthy manga over the course of their career, but the quality is just so damn good that you won’t mind waiting longer. Some just churn smut after smut after smut on a very consistent pace, and that’s fine with me too. I do like a good smut. Who doesn’t.
But as I grow older, I tend to get tired of the “usual” yaoi staples:
- High schoolers and young couples. AAAAARRRGGHHH. No explanations needed. They’re sweet and all yes, but 99% of them are forgettable, unfortunately.
- Salarymen in general. While I like (hot) men in suits, I get tired of this one too. If they’re wearing suits but working on a totally different industry, I guess it’s fine?
- CEO x secretary (or its other variants: boss x employee, section chief x employee, yada yada). Seriously. This is related to the salarymen category above.
- Teacher x student (or its other variant: tutor x student, or vice versa). I like age gaps, I really do. But after reading so many of these, I’m slowly starting to feel that I’m unable to pick one apart from the other! The one that stands out to me so far, and one of my absolute faves, is Young Good Boyfriend by Dayoo. Now I have to fight that strong urge to ditch this post, forget everything and read the manga for the 9452742875th time.
- Beautiful, androgynous men. Unfortunately, I do get that it’s what yaoi is in a nutshell, and majority of the mangaka’s art styles fall in this category, but is asking for more manly-looking men too much to ask?
There are still some things that I don’t want to change though:
- Megane. Because you can never have enough of them. With this I applaud Masao Sangatsu. She’s very consistent with her love of megane, majority of her manga has one. (Though I haven’t seen both megane uke and seme as partners in any manga so far..right? If someone knows a manga like this, let me know!)
- Puppy seme. The classic character that comes to mind is Nowaki from Junjou Romantica. Several seme from Masao Sangatsu’s works also fall in this category. But my absolute fave is Toujou from Kanai Kei’s Eigyou Nika! Sometimes too much testosterone for the seme isn’t good, you know?
- Assertive and independent uke.
Gone are the days where the uke is too whiny and weak, I’m looking at you Ayase from Okane ga Nai.Nope, we still have ’em. But thank goodness, recently there are more and more manga that depicts strong-willed uke that know how to get what they want and use their sexiness to their advantage. They’re not dependent to any man, and can stand on their own, whether financially or career-wise. Some may falter a bit sometimes, but they know how to stand up and continue the fight.
- One of my more recent favorites is Suwa from Yoidore Koi o Sezu.
- An earlier favorite of mine (and never gets old) is Okamura from Kiken na Otonari-san.
- Yet another classic one, the main character of Sex Therapist by Kodaka Kazuma.
- Writer characters, or perhaps working in publishing. I’m not complaining on this. I like writer characters. What I don’t like is the inaccurate depiction: living on a high-rise expensive condo, buys expensive stuff, doesn’t release books that often but still has a lot of money, that kind of stuff. I doubt that kind of lifestyle could be supported on just being a full-time writer, unless you’re a Stephen King or a J.K. Rowling. Yes, I’m a cynic. I don’t buy it.
- A perfect example is our very own Usagi-san from Junjou Romantica. And nope, his family fortune doesn’t count, since he said it himself that he’s not asking for any support from his father.
If I only have a say, I really would like to see more of these in yaoi manga:
- Older couples, preferably in their 30s and up. Readers do grow up. Though some of them give up reading yaoi for good as they grow older, some of them remain fans of the genre, and I do believe that the industry as a whole should grow up with the readers, since they are the source of their income. I do plan on reading manga in general even if I’m already in my 60s. As long as I can still read, you bet I will.
- Their ages should reflect their looks too! I know this is fiction, but am I really asking too much?
- More manly-built and manly-looking characters. And mind you, not just the seme. One mangaka that immediately comes to mind is Ike Reibun. Just look at her uke–they look a little less “manly” than the seme, but they’re unmistakably men. And gosh, her oji-sans and father figures..even the side characters are just so fucking hot! *drools*
- Reversible couples!!! Do I really need to explain this? Seriously? Just go and read Satou-kun ni wa Kanawanai by Sachimo and give me 5 valid reasons why we don’t need more reversible couples (I know you won’t be able to, because you’ll love it–too bad it’s just a damn oneshot *sobs*). Bonus: it’s also a threesome. *teehee*
- Partners experiencing realistic challenges in being a same-sex couple. I won’t go SJW on this (because I’m not, and I don’t want to include politics in my manga reading pleasure as much as possible). I’m just interested on how the Japanese society views homosexuality in general (it’s still not widely accepted), and how gay couples there realistically manage it. I need realism here!!!
- One manga that comes to mind trying to tackle this topic and seems to be succeeding is Gengoroh Tagame’s Otouto no Otto (aka My Brother’s Husband), who’s surprisingly a bara manga artist! It is totally out of my league, but as long as the story is engaging I am willing to make some exceptions. I really need to review it one of these days.
- People with disability. It would be nice to see more of this. A perfect example is Hidamari ga Kikoeru, whose seme(?) is deaf.
- People experiencing realistic problems in Japanese society. We all know the issues plaguing Japan these past few years: low birth rate, the issue of hikkikomori, suicides, the slow growth of the Japanese economy, among other things. Manga needed not to be an accurate mirror of what’s going on in the Japanese society in general, but wouldn’t it be nice if we read some characters actually experiencing these kinds of things and seeing how they deal with it?
- Threesomes. We already have several of them (most of them just straight up porn, sadly). Story-wise, we’re still lacking. We need more of these sweet, sweet threesomes with awesome compatibility and chemistry. I want to see how they handle the potential feud and jealousy between them, how they balance things out. Believe me, we need more of these (P.S.: It has to be my favorite combination, 2 seme + 1 uke. Don’t ask why, I just love it and won’t have it any other way).
- So far only a few have passed my standards: Satou-kun ni wa Kanawanai, Futari no Musuko ni Nerawarete Imasu (I just have a weakness for Kamon Saeko’s works lol), and Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla.
- Men working in blue-collar jobs, or other jobs aside from being salarymen. I know that the manga industry in general is still Japan-centric, but gosh, there are so many workers aside from salarymen and hosts that you can find in Japan! Why not write more about them?
- There’s restaurant owners and their assistants (check out that smoking hot manga about ramen shop owners by Ueda Aki and there’s Yoidore Koi o Sezu by Aoi Hashimoto).
- Yakuza (yes, let’s classify this as a job–just read the famous Saezuru Tori wa Habatakanai, Bi no Isu, Acid Town, and Honto Yajuu).
- There’s also assassins/hired killers/former secret agents (Itou-san and Papa’s Assassin).
- The mafia/underground (Asami from Viewfinder comes to mind–this is also technically a job, ok).
- There’s also artists of every kind (Given, Yoru to Asa no Uta, Hana wa Saku ka?, Not Equal)
- Construction/manufacturing/etc. The 10000% steaming hot Nemuri Otoko, Koi Otoko immediately comes to mind (it gives me nosebleeds just thinking of it). Another one, albeit heartbreaking, the bonus chapter of Sofure Buka. It now has a continuation of sorts named Renchin!, which will hopefully give our poor uke a happy ending.
- Doctors/therapists/dentists (Ten Count, Akakute Amai, Himegoto Asobi).
I could go on and on.
Anyhow, these are just an observation. I do see some faint glimmer of hope. More and more mangaka are starting to broaden their horizons when it comes to their plots. Though we could rant all day about the categories that we are already sick and tired to read, the mere fact that they are still being released means there is an existing (and hopefully growing) market for it. Let’s just be glad that yaoi is slowly getting more fanbase not just in Japan, but in other countries as well.
Now, there are some things that I won’t go in this post (because it’s polarizing, and a kind of tiring discussion): the prevalance of rape in yaoi, the existence of shota, the way gay relationships are treated in yaoi in general, the omegaverse, etc. Maybe I could give some thoughts about these someday, let’s see. Let’s do it one at a time. But better think about it carefully first (I can’t make shit up about those topics like how I did in this post lol).
This blog was made to keep that love of yaoi burning in me, by way of reviews and observations. I may have to be creative in some of my future posts, maybe I could post some pics of my manga, or if I manage somehow to buy some merch? Participate again in cons? Let’s see. Though I do admit that I rarely post something, but it doesn’t mean that it’s like that because I am viewing it as a burden: it’s just me and my crappy time management skills. I still need to learn how to write without needing to be “in the mood” for it. Not because I’m forcing myself, but it’s a form of disciplining myself. I know there’s still so many things I wanted to say and share about this genre, so I really should try my best to post more. But for now, since I’m already having these invasive thoughts, why not post a blog about it? The manga reviews could come later. I hope you don’t mind.