Leyla Aker: On the other hand, some days, I want the crack! So I read stuff like Ayano Yamane (The Finder Series) and Love Pistols.
Erica Friedman: I'm like that as well. On one side, I like the really trope-y stuff. Because yuri is so boundless, I'd have to say the one title that takes all of these tropes and does the right way is Aoi Hana by Takako Shimura. It's not licensed in English, but I hope someone will take a chance on this.
Fumi comes out to her friend and says "I've always been in love with you, and I mean it in that way." How heartbreakingly hard must it be to be 16 and say this. Fumi thinks of herself as a crybaby, but she's an incredibly strong character.
I love Gunjo too. It's very sexy and violent. The other one I really love isn't really yuri, but it's Hayate X Blade. It takes the high school girls trope, and pairs them up with swords. It's comedy and it's funny. Shizuru Hayashiya is a woman who has been writing yuri stuff for years, and she's just awesome.
Q & A: IS MISOGYNY INHERENT IN YAOI MANGA FANDOM?
Attendee 1: I've noticed there's a trend of misogyny in yaoi fandom. It kind of bothers me when people just say they read it just for the men. I'm a feminist — I like yuri, I like het, I don't care. But I worry about what kind of message is being sent, in the works and in the fandom.
Chris Butcher: I run a store in Toronto called The Beguiling, and we have a huge manga selection and a wall of yaoi. Our customer base for this material is about 90% women. The other 10% are confident gay men and really shy gay kids.
I've encountered a little bit of that; I do hear girls who say things along those lines. But on the flip side, there's a famous comics artist Joe Matt — he is so revolted by the sight of another man's penis, he will edit them out of porn flicks on VHS until only the scenes of women are in them.
I understand what you're saying, and I think it's very real — but no one can tell fandom what to do. I think it's something that fandom has to police on its own; fans have to speak up and say that they're not cool with this, much better than they currently do. It's a valid issue — no one likes to feel excluded from their own fandom.
Alex Woolfson: That bugs me too, when the women characters in yaoi are drawn as unappealing or stupid — that turns me off; that takes me outside of the story. There are yaoi that have strong female characters. You can't control the fandom, but I do notice that the people who come to my site want positive representation of female characters as well as positive representations of gay men.
Q & A: DO GAY COMICS ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ABOUT BEING GAY?
Attendee 2: I'm not a fan of romance comics — I want to see adventure comics where the protagonist just happens to be gay; where the romance is a secondary element.
Scott Robins: From what I know, yaoi is what it is. If you want to see something like that, talk with creators, and get them to create stuff like that.
I would love to see that too; I would love to see a gay hero with a sword kicking ass. But I think that yaoi, it's so entrenched in its romance and its conventions, I don't see how it would break free.
Leyla Aker: The one thing that's more difficult for us to apprehend as a foreign language audience is that things we consider to be tropes in manga, doesn't mean the same thing as it does to the creators and readers in Japan.
So when we're referring to misogyny in these works, a creator would be shocked to hear that. A creator wouldn't see (a mean, dumb or unsympathetic female character) as misogyny — they see it as a villain being a villain. It's because it's a gay couple, and she's there to try to break them up. It's not because she's a woman — it's because she's the antagonist.
It's the same deal with having gay characters in adventure stories. The problem there is with the gay. You have to be very, very careful, because our idea of homosexual identity as an identity category doesn't fly in that country. It isn't the same in Japan. It's not that they wouldn't do it; it's just a concept that would be hard for them to understand.
Would it be possible sometime in the future? Sure, who knows? But given how the creative process works in Japan? Not now.
Erica Friedman: In the case of yuri, it's a little different. Let's take My Hime Otome, you have characters doing the stuff — and they just happen to be gay. With yuri, it's different because it's not a fixed audience the way BL is, the audience for yuri is anyone who buys yuri. You've got men, women and lesbians who have different requirements, and there are different artists doing different things for these different audiences. As the GLTB community becomes more viable, I'm looking forward to a day when GLTB creators start writing BL the way gay women are writing yuri.
Alex Woolfson: I've always wanted this since i was a gay teen — you might not find this in Japan at this time, but you might see this from independent creators in the next 10 years or so.
Q & A: HOW IS YAOI/YURI MANGA RECEIVED BY THE GLBT COMMUNITY IN JAPAN?
Attendee3: Does the GLBT community in Japan embrace yaoi and yuri manga?
Erica Friedman: Think of it this way: out of all of the people in the U.S., how many of them are comics fans? Not a lot. It's like that in Japan too. The lesbians who like manga are a very small part of the lesbian population, who are already a very small part of the Japanese population. So how do they feel about it? They like it lots. (laughs) If you want to find out more about it, follow my lesbian manga-ka list on Twitter.
Chris Butcher: Gay manga for gay people in Japan are only distributed in gay areas in Japan. You know Nakano Broadway? There's half a shelf that has actual gay manga from gay publishers. There's three times as much if you go to Shinjuku Ni-chome where gay people are.
Generally speaking, gay men that buy manga are buying straight manga or gay men's manga; yaoi manga doesn't make a very big impact with gay men In Japan. There's a lot of material for a gay audience, but it doesn't cross over to women readers, just as the yaoi stuff doesn't cross over much to the gay men readers.
Check out the panelists' list of 20 yaoi and yuri manga for GBLTQ readers.