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Yaoi-Con Celebrates 10th Anniversary With Manga and More

By November 1, 2010

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Lady Gaga cosplayThis weekend, a whole lot of yaoi / boys love manga and anime fans from across North America (and more than a few from around the world) converged on the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport Hotel, just south of SFO to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Yaoi-Con.

Yaoi-Con is North America's first and longest-running show dedicated to boys love manga, anime and fandom, and it has garnered a world-wide reputation for providing a fun, safe and sometimes raucous playground where straight, gay, male and mostly female fans can celebrate their love for stories about boys who love boys.

This year's show attracted a solid roster of guests, including Ayano Yamane (creator of The Finder Series), Hinako Takanaga (creator of Little Butterfly and The Tyrant Falls in Love), Kano Miyamoto (Lovers and Souls, Say Please), Jo Chen (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Japanese voice actorsRyoutarou Okiayu and Hidenobu Kiuchi. Fans also came out in droves, many dressed in some impressive costumes, Halloween or no Halloween. There was a good-sized fan-market with lots of pro and up-and-coming comics creators and illustrators. But Yaoi-Con was sorely short on one thing this year: BL manga publishers.

Vampire Hunter D and Hikaru SasaharaWhile in years past there would be several publishers on hand to chat up their upcoming releases, Yaoi-Con 2010's dealers room offered a sober indicator of the falling fortunes of the BL manga publishing business in North America. Digital Manga Publishing and Media Blasters were there, but Yaoi Press opted to skip Yaoi-Con 2010, as did NETComics. DramaQueen is M.I.A. Broccoli / Boysenberry Books is long gone. Go Comi and Aurora / Deux Press have pretty much folded up shop since their last appearances at Yaoi-Con. TokyoPop wasn't around to chat up their BL-focused BLU Manga imprint (although I don't recall them making an effort to be in the Yaoi-Con dealers room in past years either). Yen Press only publishes a handful of BL titles, so it was probably hardly worth it for them to man a booth at this show anyway. In recent years, there was talk of a "BL bubble," and if 2010's dealers room was any indication, that bubble has pretty much burst.

Bishonen auctionBut that's not to say that the fandom is faltering. Far from it. I saw large and enthusiastic crowds of fans at Yaoi-Con attending the panels, shopping in the dealers' room, dressing up in costume and bidding for "bishies" at Saturday's "Bishonen Auction." In fact, a group of four fans pooled their resources and plunked down $11,000 for the pleasure of the company of the two Japanese seiyu (voice actors) Okiayu and Kiuchi for a few hours. No, that's not a typo. Eleven THOUSAND dollars. Yes, it was for charity, and yes, Okiayu and Kiuchi are good looking guys. But still. Wow.

I also saw crowds of fans bum-rush the stage at the Ayano Yamane panel in hopes of snatching up one of the limited edition body pillow cases featuring Akihito from the Finder Series. Only ten were available for sale, and they were going for $130 a pop. For a pillowcase -- pillow not included. Given the fan response, I have no doubt that all ten were sold out in minutes. Takanaga and Yamane (both artists were enjoying repeat visits to Yaoi-Con) remarked that out of all of the BL fans they've met around the world, U.S. fans are "the most enthusiastic."

Kano Miyamoto doujinshiBut are these anecdotes examples of fujoshi (female fans) enthusiasm translating into buying power, or are they exceptional exceptions in a tight economy?

Despite the major publishers cutting back on their Yaoi-con presence, many comics creators were showing off their self-published efforts at this year's show. Several pro artists made return visits to Yaoi-Con, including Tokyo-based manga-ka Kano Miyamoto who created an exclusive English edition of a new doujinshi (self-published comic) featuring characters from her Rules series just for Yaoi-Con 2010. Jo Chen (Buffy the Vampire Slayer cover artist) was also there, selling her gorgeous prints and art books.

Jo ChenI also got a sneak peek at the first issue of F*X*T Magazine, which is printed and on its way from the printer in China to the U.S. It's a big, beautifully-designed anthology of original comics and articles that definitely deserves a look. You can pre-order your copy of F*X*T #1 through the F*X*T online store.

Alex Woolfson of Yaoi911.com was also showing off his self-published, homegrown BL comics Tough and No Kissing (which are also available to read online -- provided you're 18 or over, of course), and looking through the fan market for other artists to collaborate with for future projects.

And the guest artists from Japan? They looked like they were having a blast. I saw Ayano Yamane posing playfully with a few Crimson Spell cosplayers after her panel. I also saw Hinako Takanaga tuck a buck in the pants of a "bishie" at the Bishonen Auction on Saturday night. Fun times!

I only spent a day and a night at Yaoi-Con and didn't get to see and do everything. I was underwhelmed by most of the descriptions of the fan-run panels (because, well, "Flogging 101" and "Foods Corrupted by Yaoi" just aren't my thing) but I was impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the fans who came out to enjoy the show. Sure, things got a little raunchy sometimes, but it was always done with a sense of humor and camaraderie with fellow fans. And the costumes? Some were downright amazing. I only regret I didn't take more photos while I had the chance.

Crimson Spell cosplayI would have loved to see an honest panel discussion with the guest artists, publishers and interested fans about the issues surrounding scanlation /fansubs -- not in a finger-pointing kind of way, but just to discuss what's happening out there and what could be done to bring together the needs of the fandom with the artists' wishes, especially now that Japanese BL publisher Libre has cracked down on scanlation groups recently. That could have been a pretty lively talk, and if moderated right, possibly a productive conversation. Maybe next year.

Anyhow, I didn't get to do and see everything that Yaoi-con had to offer this year -- but maybe you did? What were your impressions of Yaoi-Con 2010? Did you like the new venue? What worked? What didn't work so well? Do you have a favorite moment or memory to share? Add your comments below! I'll be posting more reports and interviews in the days to come, so stick around for more.

Image credits: Deb Aoki

Comments

November 2, 2010 at 3:48 am
(1) Corpsegoddess says:

My friend and I had an absolutely amazing time—we both agreed it was the most fun at a Con we’d ever had. Rocky Horror was awesome, Bishie Bingo was fun as always, and the carnival was hilarious. My video won for best comedy in the AMV Contest, so I was super-happy about that. The auction was UNBELIEVABLE amounts of awesome, for so many reasons. We got to talk to a lot of the bishies, and they are all the most wonderful gentlemen you could ever hope to meet.

The new hotel was beautiful, and felt a lot less isolated than the previous space. Plus, it was bigger, everything felt more convenient, the sight/sound systems in the main room were excellent, and the staff was very nice (and tolerant).

Can’t wait for next year!

November 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm
(2) Z. McDonald says:

I had a blast @ Yaoi-Con. Everything was perfect except the lack of publishers! I love BL love in any form and it would be a shame that all of the remaining Japanese and English BL publishers go away come next Yaoi_con!

November 3, 2010 at 7:45 pm
(3) Jan S. says:

It was a fun Yaoicon this year – and hopefully we didn’t scar Okiayu-san and Kiuchi-san for life. ;)

One interesting development was the presence of U.S. m/m romance publishers in the dealer’s room. Dreamspinner Press was there (as I think they were last year, as well), and I think there were at least two other publishers there. The BL manga publishers may be struggling, but the homegrown OEL m/m novel publishers look like they’re still up-and-coming. This may be a new market for those of us who write m/m romance that can translate to the U.S. audience – and that isn’t necessarily confined to the yaoi audience.

November 10, 2010 at 1:41 am
(4) ssmoonlight says:

Hi there.

This is my 2nd year going to Yaoi Con. I loved the new location for it because there was more space available for people to come to each event. The hotel was very beautiful.

I LOVED EVERYTHING!!!

It was such a great honor to be able to talk and meet with both Ayano Yamane (creator of The Finder Series), Hinako Takanaga (creator of Tyrant falls in Love).

Playing Stripping Bingo is always a blast, even if you don’t win a prize, you always have an option on what piece of clothing a Bishie can take off…

Loved the AMV videos, some of them were hilarious and one of them did make me cry…

I participated a lot in the Bishie Auctions, just being able to walk up to each of them to give them a big HUG, and putting some money in their pants…LOL

Last, was closing ceremonies, Yaoi Con offers many great prizes at the closing ceremonies. I was able to win one of them.

What is so funny is that as soon as I won my prize a the closing ceremonies, I had to pretty much run out and catch my plane. I barely made it…

What I love about Yaoi Con, is that I’m able to meet my old friends from all over the world! Canada, Australia, and even Japan! And meet and make new friends as well.

THANK YOU, Yaoi Con for making all of this possible!!!

=^_^=

January 16, 2011 at 12:59 am
(5) Rachel says:

I love the kermit outfit! If were all green.

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