Leyla Aker: I could recommend Satosumi Takaguchi's work (Shout Out Loud, Can't Win With You), which gets close to depicting what gay relationships are like, but that's not what sells. What sells is manga by Asami Tojo (Thunderbolt Boys Excite) — the most insane crack — that's what sells. That's not just yaoi or BL, that's manga, period.
Alex Woolfson: The stuff I write, people say how realistic it is, and there's a part of me that wants that realism. But one thing that's refreshing for me about BL is the escape; having a story about a gay relationship that's not just about being gay. It's not about coming out, or gay bashing, or dealing with parents: it's just about the love between two guys.
When you grow up gay, there's not a day that you're not a gay person, or that you don't have to deal with people's attitudes about gay people. I tend to like the more realistic stuff because it tends to be better written, but as a reader, I like BL because it does provide an escape from all of that.
Chris Butcher: In general, I don't respond to "cracktastic" stuff. It's not my fantasy. The stuff that really seems to turn the crank of hardcore yaoi fans, it's not my thing.
I tried to read Under Grand Hotel, and that stuff is awful! (laughs) I can see exactly why it's some people's favorite book; in fact how it could be many, many people's favorite book. It's certainly not poorly done or poorly drawn — it's just not for my fantasy.
So when I do gravitate to yaoi, I look for the stuff that speaks to me and my life. So when I look over my recommendations, I can see how people might think, 'Oh, he likes the most boring stuff!' (laughs) But I always try to remember, 'but at least there's porn in it!' (laughs) but it's just dirty in a different kind of way!
As a gay man coming to yaoi, I look at it and think 'this isn't my fantasy, but the stuff that speaks to me is the stories that get closer and closer to a depiction of an mature adult relationship that involves love and romance and also sex. It could be me or someone I know.
When you go outside of that and get into bara, which is gay comics for gay men in Japan, when you get into that kind of fantasy stuff, it goes off the deep end, and it's fantastic! That's for me! Yeah! I think the really extreme fantasy stuff just speaks to someone's taste as an individual. As gay guy, it's not for me, but Alex seems to like the more romantic stories, so yeah, it's really a matter of taste.
Erica Friedman: I identify yuri as lesbian content without lesbian identity. You'll typically have two girls looking at each other, they kiss, and then end of story! There are no lesbians in that story. There are two 14-year old girls who have no context, or lesbian identity.
I'm constantly searching for stories where a woman says "I'm always hitting on women." There's like two of them out there. Yuri to me is identified by the lack of lesbian identity.
You're starting to see more josei yuri stories out there, slowly. There are artists out there who are going to their editors saying "I want to do stories about adult lesbians, and the publishers say "No, no!" So there's a big issue there.
There are stories like Gunjo, which is a horribly dysfunctional story, but I adore it with every fiber of my being. It's about a woman who asks the lesbian who loves her to kill her abusive husband. This happens all before the story begins. The story opens after the murder has occurred, and the two women go on the run together. It's still a horrible fantasy. Reality? What's reality? I don't know anymore.
Scott Robins: I tend to like realistic stories in the non-manga graphic novels that I read. And then i was introduced to Love Pistols! (laughs) It really… touched me!
This whole animal sex thing — I thought, 'This really is interesting!!' It really straddles the line between sexy and funny. It's hilarious! The two characters get all hot and heavy, then the one character turns into this cute fuzzy animal! I'm reading it and thinking, 'That's ridiculous and it's really funny and it's really cute!' (laughs)
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL YAOI/YURI MANGA AND HAVE YOU FOUND IT?
Robin Brenner: What would be your ideal yaoi or yuri manga — and have you seen titles that are close?
Chris Butcher: Antique Bakery. I thought was about as close to what I wanted in a perfect yaoi manga. It could use more sex, but the characters are so well-defined. It's clearly fantasy, but there's a sharp realism there.I like Ichigenmei for almost the same reasons. It's about two guys who go to law school. It starts off like they almost have no chemistry. I think, 'why am I reading this?' but it's so compelling! Then it turns into smut in the second part, and it takes off!
Scott Robins: When was doing research on yaoi when I was working on my library degree, I came across NY NY — it's not translated. It's a more realistic story about gay men living in New York City. I would really enjoy reading stories like that.
Alex Woolfson: I have yet to find my ideal yaoi. I recommend Little Butterfly (by Hinako Takanaga). But I haven't quite found the perfect thing.
One of the challenges with yaoi is that I find the art beautiful, but not sexy. The tall, thin, feminine-looking guy isn't what does it for me. I don't like the bearish stuff either. I like the Goldilocks kind of guy! I want the unicorn!
This is what inspires me to create: you create what you don't see out there, you create what you want to see. I want to see the smart writing of Hinako Takanaga with the artwork of (bara manga artist) (Gengoro) Tagame — that kind of solid, naturalistic artwork, without the hardcore fetish S&M — coupled with smart, funny, sweet writing; if I could find that kind of stuff, I'd never leave the house. (laughs)
Leyla Aker: I can't answer this question. The perfect title for me is whatever I'm in love with at the moment. Generally, the things I like fall into two categories: Tomoko Yamashita (Black Winged Love), est em (Age Called Blue, Seduce Me After the Show). These are all works that are produced by independent, smaller, magazines, so they're not quite so stereotype-bound in their execution; the creators get more latitude. These books can do that because there's no standard imposed on them.