Wowie Yaoi

Okay, it’s not quite pronounced the same. It’s pronounced ya-oh-ee. But if you say it fast it’s close. What is it you ask? Yaoi is a Japanese graphic form of m/m romance, often referred to as Boy Love or BL. Think comic books with more nekkidness. :-)

I’m certainly no expert in the genre, I only discovered it about a year ago myself thanks to Kris who offered to send me a book and I was totally hooked. I thought I’d share my thoughts as a relative newbie to the medium with you and maybe someone will give it a try or some of the “experts” in the house can share their recommendations with us.

Format: Generally yaoi is read back to front and in the shape of an S, you start in the upper right hand corner and end up in the lower left. It took me a couple of books to get into the groove but now it’s “normal”. Some books are also a collection of 3 or 4 shorts rather than one longer story but there are also many series out there.

Artwork: There are numerous styles like any art form, some I adore such as that by artist Ayano Yamane above or Košen (on the right). Unfortunately the books are mostly black and white. I would kill for a full-color version of Crimson Spell or Saihoshi.

Characters: Yaoi heroes fall into two categories – the alpha male (seme) who is ALWAYS the top and the beta male (uke) who ALWAYS the bottom. There are no switches in yaoi. A seme would never take it up the butt. He’s usually taller, stronger, more aggressive and sexually experienced than the smaller, prettier, virginal uke.

Themes: I haven’t read that many books but the over arching theme tends to be opposites attract or power imbalance.  The poor orphan and the rich benefactor, the boss and employee, the popular boy at school and the quiet artist/nerd, the teacher and student, older man and younger boy, the warrior/wizard and prince, etc. etc.  Rarely are the couples of equal social status or socioeconomic status. Of course there are variations on the theme, but I’ve seen these ones come up over and over again. Gay for You (GFY) or straight (bi?) guys who suddenly decide to have gay sex are also common. In a few books the characters identify as gay, but I find that less often.

Sex: Oh yes, there is smexin’, plenty of it and in some books it’s VERY graphic, in others it’s more discretely drawn. However much of it starts off with dubious consent or “dub-con” which may border on rape and go on for several scenes or an entire book/series. There is also plenty of underage sex, by North American standards. Teenagers in high school or younger (14 or 15) are often the protags and adults with younger teens is not uncommon,  be sure you check the blurbs if that’s an issue for you. (The little brownhaired boy on the left looks about 12 but he’s 18. They are often drawn to appear younger.)

Lube & Condoms: Lube is like a yaoi version of a blue diamond. RARE! You rarely see lube in yaoi and from time to time the self-lubing ass crops up. No, not in a paranormal sense. 0_0 If lube is rare, condoms are non-existent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in anything I’ve read.

Anime: Yaoi anime that can be found on-line and Junjo Romantica is a great one which is not very explicit but follows the books really well. Hey, I learned to say “I love you” in Japanese thanks to that show. Sensitive Pornograph is another one that is very faithful to the book but is definitely NSFW.

Fantasy: I am not a huge fan of epic fantasy, swords and sorcery type books. I’ve never read Lord of the Rings (fast forwarded through to the battle scenes in the movies to get to the elf – yes, I’m shallow). However in yaoi form I adore it. Who knew? Maybe because it moves quickly. The first book I read was Saihoshi by Košen and I fell in love with the artwork and the story. Another amazing series is Crimson Spell by Ayano Yamane. Here’s an example of finding the appeal of a sub-genre in another format.

3 Dislikes: 1) I find the over-reluctant seme annoying and some authors draaaag it out. I don’t mind “no, don’t” a couple of times, but after 6 months, either stop having sex with the guy or just go for it . 2) Sometimes I don’t “get” the Japanese cultural mindset that can be part of the books. Doing anything, including having sex with someone, to protect your honour is difficult for me to understand. I find this more in yaoi novels than manga. 3) It’s not cheap, in a $ for minutes entertainment sense it’s overpriced compared to a novel.

3 Likes: 1) Part of the appeal is I know exactly what I”ll get. The seme always behaves the same way more or less as does the uke.  2) Some of the artwork is beautiful, and some of the smexin’ is pretty hot for a graphic novel. 3) It’s a fast read, great for carrying in your purse to appointments. (People shouldn’t be reading over your shoulder anyway. Give them the evil eye or let them get an eye full.)

Please share some of your favourite books and websites in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.  I think Ingrid is a bit of an on-line yaoi guru. 😀 Perhaps she’ll share some of her secrets with us. I know some people have given yaoi a try and just don’t find it works for them. I never would have guessed it’s my thing but I really do enjoy it.

Where can you get it? Book Depository is an amazing source, of course there is Amazon and other on-line retailers and I’ve found larger comic book stores in my city carry a fair bit but it’s more expensive than BD. If you’re a newbie I’d start with some of the recommendations I’ve listed below and I hope others will add to the list. ETA: Ingrid had kindly volunteered to compile a list based on the comments left which we will then publish in the site. Thanks so much Ingrid for taking that on. Mwah!

Yaoi that I enjoyed

Crimson Spell 1 & 2 – Ayano Yamane (3 not yet translated to our dismay)
Saihoshi: The Guardian – Košen
U Don’t Know Me – Rakun (this is actually a Korean version of yaoi and this book is hard to find or expensive)
Junjo Romantica Vol 1-10 – Shungiku Nakamura
Love/Knot – Hiroko Ishimaru
Love a la Carte – Haruka Minami
Chocolate Surprise & Mr. Flower Bride – Lily Hoshino
Black Knight Vol. 1-4 – Kai Tsuragi

Yaoi Anime

Junjo Romantica Season 1 & 2 (Covers most of the series)
Sensitive Pornograph (NSFW)
Veoh has a gazillion links if you search “yaoi” but unfortunately I don’t recognize any of the titles, but some are short clips if you just want to try it out.
YouTube you’ll also get a lot of yaoi videos, but again, it’s a bit hit and miss.

78 comments

  • vampkiss mentioned “Totally Captivated” above and that’s one of my favorite manhwa. You’ve got the sexy/scary gangster and the funny how-did-I-get-into-this uke. Plus on http://www.netcomics.com I believe you get to read the first chapters of all their titles for free.

    “Only the Ring Finger Knows,” is a great high school romance. No sex. I still maintain that it contains one of the best kisses ever drawn in a manga.

    “Loveholic” tells the story of a corporate suit and the tempermental artist he often contracts with. I enjoyed how the mangaka incorporated both characters’ backstory into it, showing how they got to the point they’re in on the first page.

    And “Hero Heel”! Oh my god. Volume one ended on one of the worst cliffhangers ever and publication just…STOPPED. It killed me. Then, years later I’m visiting a friend in another state and stumbled across volume two, which just happened to be released that week. It was the weirdest little miracle.

    But all three volumes are published now, so you don’t have to go through what I went through. 😀

    And then there’s “Tokyo Babylon,” which might not even be considered yaoi because there’s no sex, no kissing. But it’s one of the most tragic love stories of all time (and trust me, me telling you that doesn’t mitigate the tragedy at all). It concludes in “X/1999″ with…even more tragedy.

    Still, “Tokyo Babylon” is one of the best manga you’ll ever read.

    • Thanks for those Rowan. Nothing worse than when a book with more to tell just … ends. Arrgghh. Luckily you found it so you won’t be haunted for all your days. LOL

  • It took a while to remember,but here I have some recs. ( to drive you all completely insane!..Heh.)
    Many of them have their original Japanese titles but the language is always English.
    As far as I know all of them are available at Mangatraders or as paperback.

    Author:Masara Minase(famous for the beautiful
    artwork)
    Titles:Empty Heart
    Uso to Kiss
    Gokujou no Koibito(The best lover)-
    4 volumes

    Author:Miyamoto Kano (real life-yaoi)
    Titles:Not/Love
    End of Youth
    Calling
    Amayakane Toge
    Aisanai Otoko
    Name of Love
    Make me Happy
    Lovers and Souls
    Please
    Vanilla Star
    Night Walk
    Moony
    The complete “Rules” series (maybe
    twenty books? I don`t know for sure)

    Author:Takashi Kanzaki
    Titles:Slave and Slave
    Retsujou Kyoumushitsu
    Junai Fetizm (Pure Love)

    Author:Momoko Tenzen
    Title:La Satanica

    Author:Yugi Yamada
    Title:Darenimo Aisarenou(No one loves me)

    Author:Mika Sadahiro
    Titles:Under Ground Hotel -3 volumes
    (Strong violence/rape)
    Shujii
    Innai Kansen
    Mukizu Ja Irarenee

    Author:Mizukami Shin(historical/fantasy/military)
    Violence,rape,crossdressing – the artwork
    is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!
    Titles:Ricara
    Made Koi Towa Shirazu
    Ryoshuu Reijin

    Author:Akira Norikazu (Mafiosi,beautiful artwork)
    Titles:Trigger
    Heart Strings
    Twins

    Author:Hyouta Fujiyama
    Title:Freefall Romance

    Author:Fuwa Shinri
    Titles:A Gentleman`s Kiss,2 volumes
    Gravity Eyes ,2 volumes ,my favourite
    yaoi!!

    Author:Azami Tojoh
    Title:Love Prism (Very hardcore/graphic. Including
    incest,BDSM,bondage,piercings….makes
    every porn actor blush *g*)

    Author:Ryoku Tsuneda
    Title:Ai Wo Doko Itta (Where has love gone)

    Author:Riyu Yamakami
    Title:Lover`s Name

    THAT`S IT

    You have enough to read for ages and I`m beat!!

    • You’re a crazy woman Simsala. Go to bed. LOL Thanks so much though. I’m sure this will keep Ingrid busy as she compiles everything. She may wish she’d not volunteered now. 😀

      • *pout*
        I quit reading yaoi two years ago.So I`m not that bad (?).Most of the recommandable yaois are already mentioned here.The whole rest (two years and older)is more or less – crap!
        Sleep well !

  • Ok im new here and I really dont leave any comment *shy* but I couldnt not comment here, damn, Ive been reading yaoi since I was 14yo, Im 21 now so… its been quite a long time lol and like Alexi, yaoi is what brought me to M/M. What is there not to like about yaoi?? Hot guys kissing and touching each other is wonderful *q* like simsala said the downloads arent illegal, groups stop translating ans sharing the scans when the manga is licensed.
    So here’s what I recommend:

    by Yamane Ayano: Crimson Spell (3 volumes/ongoing); You’re My Love Prize in Viewfinder (5 volumes/ongoing); Koi wo Suru DNA + (1 volume); Ikoku Irokoi Romantan (1 volume); Cat and Master Dog (oneshot); Baked Sweet Glasses (oneshot).

    by Fujiyama Hyouta: Dear Green (3 volumes); 1K Apartment no Koi (1 volume); Akutai wa Toiki to Mazariau (1 volume) and the sequel Akutai wa Ude no Naka de Futatabi (1 volume); Junjou (3 volumes/ongoing); Rakka Sokudo (1 volume); Warito Yokuaru Danshikouteki Renaijijou (2 volumes); Teppen no Himawari (2 volumes)

    by Hidaka Shoko: Signal (1 volume); Arashi no Ato (1 volume) and the sequel Double Line (oneshot)

    by Honjou Rie: Konna Otoko wa Aisareru (1 volume); Ai no Kotoba mo Shiranaide (1 volume); Ginchou Kidan (1 volume); Ikura Nandemo Suki Sugiru (1 volume); Welcome to the Chemistry Lab (3 volumes); Love Skit (1 volume); Yubisaki wa Koi no Aji (1 volume)

    by Kitakami Ren: Honenuki ni Saretai (1 volume); Signal Red Baby (1 volume)

    by Takaku Shouko: Gekkou no Rankan ni Kuchinashi no Nioi (1 volume); From Yesterday (1 volume); Passion (4 volumes) also the novel Passion – Forbidden Lovers (1 volume)

    by Tenzen Momoko: Aozora no Sunda Iro wa (1 volume); Junjou to Furachi (1 volume); La Satanica (1 volume) and the sequel La Satanica dj – Fluffy Thing (oneshot); Oka no Ue no Rakuen (1 volume); Sonoki ni Sasenaide (1 volume)

    by Yamada Yugi: Takaga Koi daro (1 volume); Darenimo Aisarenai (1 volume); Close the Last Door (2 volumes) and the sequel Into Your Heart Through the Door (1 volume).

    by Minase Masara: Aishuu (1 volume/ongoing); Mijuku na Kareshi (1 volume); Empty Heart (1 volume); Gokujou no Koibito (4 volumes); Lover’s Position (1 volume); Toiki Yori mo Yasashii (1 volume); Uso to Kiss (1 volume); Unbalanced Heat (1 volume)

    by Sakuragi Yaya: Calorie (1 volume); Koi Cha no Osahou (1 volume); Nee, Sensei? (1 volume); Renai Kyoutei Nukegake Nashi! (1 volume); Yume Musubi, Koi Musubi (3 volumes/ongoing); Soba ni Oitene (1 volume)

    by Kousaka Tohru & Shinozaki Hitoyo: Okane ga Nai (8 volumes/ongoing)

    Well… these are what I remember now, also Im tired of writting ^_^;

  • Thanks for coming out of lurkdom Lala-Chan. Don’t be shy, everyone is very nice here and we love posters to chat with us. Thanks for the recs, we’ll add them to the list.

      • @Tam

        So true! I have hundreds of yaoi manga (and shounen manga) that I’ve purchased over the years in my efforts to support the industry. Not too long ago, I actually thought about taking out insurance on them, as some of those publishers no longer exists and the books are out of print.

  • I’ve been reading yaoi for many years, starting with some of the original scanlating groups like Nakama, Fushichou, Beautiful Soup, Desparate Love, Essence of Purity, LTBY, etc, long before English publishers even thought about licensing yaoi (except for ADV who only pub vol 1 of Kimera from Kodaka Kazuma).

    I’ve seen semes/ukes actually switch roles in some books. And I have seen the elusive condom in a few!

    For licensed materials (that I own), I can rec the following:
    JUNE
    A Gentleman’s Kiss
    Blue Sheep Reverie
    Close the Last Door
    Cut
    Endless Rain
    Hero Heel
    Hot Steamy Glasses
    Jazz
    Laugh Under the Sun
    Maiden Rose
    Red
    S (novel)
    Shards of Affection
    Strange and Mystifying Story
    Sweet Revolution
    The Art of Loving
    Vampire’s Portrait
    Viewfinder
    Yellow

    801 MEDIA
    Affair
    Black Sun
    I’m Not Your Stepping Stone
    Sensitive Pornograph
    Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy
    The President’s Time

    BLU
    Black Knight
    Gerard & Jacques
    Gorgeous Carat
    Innocent Bird
    Junjou Romantica
    Love Mode
    Shout Out Loud
    Tea for Two
    Wild Rock

    TOKYOPOP
    Loveless
    Martin and John
    Vassalord

    DEUX (possibly defunct)
    Cigarette Kisses
    Future Lovers
    I Shall Never Return
    Mister Mistress
    Noodleshop Affair
    Red Blinds the Foolish
    Seduce Me After the Show
    Spring Fever
    Yakuza in Love

    BeBEAUTIFUL (now defunct)
    Casino Lily
    Embracing Love – example of a switch
    Viewfinder – being reprinted by June
    Kizuna
    Playboy Blues
    Samurai Love
    Yebisu Celebrities

    MEDIABLASTERS
    Crimson Spell
    Dog Style
    I Can’t Stop Loving You
    Pleasure Dome
    Rose of the Rhine
    Skyscrapers of Oz (one of the earliest BL books to be published in English)

    YAOI PRESS (original OEL)
    Saihoshi the Guardian
    The Lily and the Rose

    DRAMAQUEEN
    Allure
    Empty Heart
    The Last Portrait
    Lies and Kisses
    The Judged
    Virtuoso di Amore
    White Guardian

    YAOI GENERATION
    Breath

    YENPRESS
    One Thousand and One Nights – not really classified as BL, but has elements in it.

    NETCOMICS
    U Don’t Know Me
    Let Dai
    Love Recycle

    For Anime, there’s also (but not limited to):
    Ai no Kusabi
    My Sexual Harassment – very explicit
    Close the Last Door
    Embracing Love – Cherished Spring
    Embracing Love – A Cicada in Winter
    Hey! Class President
    Ikoku Irokoi Romantan
    Kizuna
    Loveless
    Maiden Rose
    Mirage of Blaze
    Sex Pistols
    Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru
    Bronze
    Zetsuai
    Fujimi Orchestra

    For scanlations, it’s just too impossible to list all that I’d like to recommend. There’s just too many :) But, a few off the top of my head based on recent readings/re-readings would be:

    New York, New York
    When a Man Loves a Man – whole series
    Border
    Bi no Isu
    Giglio
    Gravity Eyes
    Zion no Koeda
    Even if this is Love in Captivity
    Yatteraneeze
    Yojouhan Sweet Home
    Junk! (not scanlated)
    Vibrator Company
    Brother x Brother
    Mousukoshi yoru ga nagakereba
    Violence na Kimi ga Suki
    Fujimi Orchestra
    Hana to ryuu
    Yononaka wa bokura ni amai
    Usagi Otoko Tora Otoko
    Kishido Club
    Rikara

    *whew* I could go on, but my fingers feel like they’re about to fall off.

    • You’re welcome :) I’m looking forward to seeing any list that is put together from what everyone suggests. I have a lot that I like/love, and a lot that I don’t.

      Which stories one likes really depends on one’s preferences more than anything.

  • Great post, Tam! :-) Gave me more insight into Yaoi books (cause they confuse the heck out of me). But if they are mainly graphic then why do is the label also put on novels???

    The Japanese culture is quite different. Just like the Chinese. They have this mindset that wasn’t unlike knights of old. Honour is pretty darn important and sex is menial compared to that. Some even cut of body parts to protect one’s honour or someone elses. They almost always put someone else before themselves. I never got quite used to that!

    • “But if they are mainly graphic then why do is the label also put on novels???”

      Two reasons! :)

      1. The Japanese also publish “light novels”. These are basically prose novels with an illustration every so many pages. Mangaka (comic artists) are often hired to do the art, since that is the style that currently sells. In the case of a yaoi light novel,it would contain yaoi themes/tropes, with an established yaoi mangaka brought in to help boost sales.

      2. Certain western M/M authors are heavily influenced by yaoi. Our work contains yaoi themes and tropes (like seme/uke), while the visuals we depict are influenced by the manga aesthetic (such as beautiful men with pretty hair). Certain e-book publishers are aware of this and actively market such titles as yaoi, right down to appropriate cover art by yaoi-knowledgable artists (like PL Nunn or Anne Cain).

      So yes, yaoi is primarily a visual medium, but some publishers (including in Japan, where this all started) are marketing yaoi-inspired prose novels to the readership as well. I hope that answers your question! :)

    • What Katrina said. :-) The novels are basically just fleshed out stories. You get the same themes, character types, situations but a longer more indepth version (with the occassional picture). You get more of the honour thing there because they have more time to explain a characters motivation. I prefer the graphic stuff myself but have read a few of the novels.

      • Thanks both! That makes the picture a whole lot clearer. It’s still a really weird “genre” to me, but fun anyways! :-)

  • I really love this article, it’s concise and complete.

    Could I translate the definitions part for my site with the proper credits? Thanks!

  • I noticed the yaoi tumblr yaoi&flesh has closed down. Fear not I am searching for a replacement !

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