Yaoi manga is boys loving boys and yuri manga is about girls in love with girls — but in Japan, these genres are mostly bought and read by straight readers. Can these genres be relevant, and hot for gay readers too?
See a recommended reading list of yaoi and yuri manga as selected by the panelists at the Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ (Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian, Transgender, Queer) Readers panel at New York Anime Festival 2010. Chris Butcher, Scott Robins, Alex Woolfson, Leyla Acker, Erica Friedman and moderator Robin Brenner selected 20 titles for gay readers and explained why these books are worth reading.
Japanese Title: Hōkago Hokenshitsu
Publisher: Go Comi
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Chris Butcher: "A complicated though somewhat intense handling of gender and trans issues, in a very readable format. While the series works best as a metaphor, I think there's a lot there to enjoy (as a story) for any older teen or adult reader with interest in gender identity issues."
Billy and Nick have been friends for years. Their shared love for music brings them closer together as they play in a band, even as Billy's unspoken passion for Nick smolders. But trouble brews when Billy's bandmates beg him to kick out the gifted, troubled, and rarely-reliable Nick.
Scott Robins: "A poetic and angsty look at the tumultuous relationship between two members of a punk/rock band and how their love for one another eventually pulls the band apart. This less traditional yaoi title will appeal to teens and fans of more European-style comics or art-comics. Est Em’s art evokes a little bit of Paul Pope here."
Tachibana is a scruffy-around-the-edges guy who decides to open a fancy pastry shop. To his surprise, the pastry chef he ends up hiring is Ono, an old high school acquaintance. Tachibana once turned down Ono's advances while they were teens, but now Ono is a "gay of demonic charm" who drives gay and straight men to distraction.
Chris Butcher: "A PG-rated series about men working in a bakery. Addresses traditional gender roles and male friendship in a direct and funny way, but real depth and weight is given to the gay characters and relationships as the story develops."
Japanese Title: Koi no Kokoro ni Kuroi Hane
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Leyla Aker: "Short story collections are usually a tough sell, but this collection is well worth a reader's time."
"Yamashita is another mangaka who I'd love to see more of for English language audiences. Like Kunieda, she's incredibly strong with characterization —no cookies from the cutter here — and with story construction, which for her ranges from comedic to tragic, from BL to shonen ai to josei, from short stories to volume-length works."
"NETComics has released another one of her volumes, Dining Bar Akira, which is also list-worthy."
Japanese Title: [bónd(z)]
Publisher: 801 Media / Digital Manga Publishing
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Chris Butcher:"Two really hot guys sleep together, profess to regret it, and then have to navigate the very muddy waters of coming out and their attraction to one another. Dirty. The other 3 stories collected with it are only okay. :)"
Japanese Title: Dog Style
Publisher: Kitty Media / Media Blasters
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Leyla Aker: "This is my curve-ball candidate. Most of Motoni's works are insane crack, but this 3-volume series is distinct from the rest of her oeuvre. The story is humorous, angsty, and smarter than it may seem on first read. The art is stylized, with clean, strong lines that are rather unusual for BL. Also unusual for BL, the teenage guys actually act like...teenage guys. Readers who are looking for romance, pretty art, and more linear storylines will probably loathe this (although the story is very romantic in its own way), but those who are looking for something fresh and sharp will probably find much to appreciate here."
Japanese Title: Ore wa Warukunai
Publisher: June Manga / Digital Manga Publishing
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Robin Brenner: "Yamada follows the Mr. Darcy school of romance: snarky bickering until the couple realizes it’s been love all along. Just with more sex. Following adventures of a university film club, this tale is as much an ode to college’s reckless mix of passion and creativity as it is a romance. A few side plots, including fangirls, porn, and love between brothers (must we?), veer into BL clichés, but the main pairing is messy and tender. If you like her style, Close the Last Door is as compelling about adults, though with sillier notes."
Kento is a straight-laced high school teacher who craves a 'normal' family, with a wife and kids. But fate has other things in mind as he meets Akira, a flamboyant art teacher.
Alex Woolfson: "Top-notch art where the bishonen ukes look like guys, an openly gay romantic lead (a rarity in yaoi), very believable character interaction and some sex that's actually hot. A compelling, page-turning story of two guys with very different personalities who fall in love."
Leyla Aker: "With one possible exception, all of Kunieda's titles are top-notch, and I wish she were better represented here."
Japanese Title: Ichigenme wa Yaruki no Minpou
Publisher:801 Media / Digital Manga Publishing
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Chris Butcher: "Probably the most realistic depiction of a mature gay relationship that I've come-across in yaoi, the relationships felt really strong, and well-observed. Lots of sex (particularly in the second volume), and it does not feel overly designed/pandering to its intended female audience, largely owing to Yoshinaga's skill as a storyteller."