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Yaoi Genre
aka: Boys Love
Why? Because Guy on Guy Is Hot and that's all there is to it.

The Yowie is an Australian cryptid bearing many similarities to the Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti.

Yaoi, on the other hand, also known as "Boy's Love", is a subgenre of romance focusing on male homosexuality, for a predominantly female audience. In a typical plot, two boys fall in love and the story shows their progress as a couple. Sometimes it's just part of the scenery, although most series directly foster what the audience expects and likes.

Yaoi series are mostly made by women, for women, though it's not uncommon for them to draw a straight and gay male audience, and some male writers, especially in fanfiction, exist because some are transgender and wrote while still living as female, and some gay or bisexual men prefer The Twink aesthetic and/or Porn with Plot, both of which are in short supply in Bara Genre and in much Western mainstream gay erotica - and one of the controversies has been the presence of these writers. Because of this, the older and more stereotypical Boys' Love works have idealized male characters who are sensitive and nurturing. They are usually drawn in a romantic style and exist in a world where homosexuality is considered no more unusual or transgressive than heterosexuality. These stories mark the first and more well-known grounding base for what we know today as Yaoi, a direct passing-over from shoujo where the characters were mostly pre-pubescent or barely pubescent teenage boys, "bishounen" (11 to 13 years-old mainly), having tender romantic relationships.

There is, however, the other side of older Yaoi works, which is generally not known to the Western world, having been hand-fed shoujo-style material through the translation market. These are the stories targeted to an older and mature female audience - taking much from Jossei artwork and Seinen atmosphere - where men are sexually, physically, and emotionally dominated, often with soft bondage themes and with incredibly explicit attention to anal penetration, often focusing on rape and communication through sex. These stories helped to lay the groundwork for the darker side of Yaoi, and were often either doujinshi featuring canon characters or had minimal publishing in native Japan with no export to the Western world. These circulated in Japan locally in magazines and through those who were in the know.

With both of these extremes laying the basis for the Yaoi we know today, it is no wonder that the genre grew so fast and so dynamically in Japan, taking from both its light romantic and dark violent sides to sprout into many different kinds of stories and mix-and-match art styles, all revolving around the idea of two (or more) men or boys in a relationship (Western fans were slow on the uptake on this, until scanlation groups started up on the internet and the flood gates opened). With the change in Yaoi over time, there are now many subgenres with many different art styles, everything from fluffy light shoujo-esque romance, to realistic "Slice Of Life" stories, to high drama, to extreme violence and gore borrowing more from Seinen fare, and even explicit hardcore S&M (where heeding the "Mature" rating is a good idea). The genre includes all ranges of explicitness, one of the reasons stories aimed at a more mature audience don't make it to television often.

It's sometimes conjectured that gay romance appeals to women because non-female characters aren't as "threatening" to the audience, nor are the social boundaries the same. However, to be utterly blunt, most common theories today are that women like to see men vulnerable (and exploited) - emotionally and sexually - and to see explicit gay sex, mainly penetration, as an observer, allowing them to substitute mentally for both the dominating figure penetrating the submissive, or for the vulnerable submissive being dominated (hence why Seme and Uke archetypes are so popular). This is why penetration is such a major theme in Yaoi sex, while in Real Life gay sex it is less an issue (although most gay film sex scenes do feature penetrative sex fairly frequently). However, this theory is then belied by the fact that Shonen-Ai stories without sex and Yaoi stories that aren't explicit are valued just as highly as those which are basically PWP, with the emotional interaction between male characters being focused on and celebrated.

Without having to cater to the social standards of heterosexual courtship, a lot of female authors use the male x male relationship dynamic to ignore the social niceties they are usually constrained to and add in the violence and roughness that gender issues prohibit (remembering the rather stricter and more polite codes of behavior that are inherent in Japanese culture). Of course, it could also simply mean that if one hot guy is good, two or more are even better. It's interesting how some viewers, especially male ones, don't get that.

The stories are stereotyped and well-known as having a high degree of melodrama especially within the younger teenager reading audience, although in reality Yaoi tends to sport less melodrama than the equivalent target shoujo storylines (this is a result of nearly all Yaoi/Shonen-Ai being far more rough, realistic and sexually-determinant, cutting out the expanded courtship and attention to female vulnerability that is maintained in Shoujo status quo). These shoujo-like stories have been exploited by the manga translation market for years, aiming for a similar demographic, and this is how Yaoi came to be known to mainstream manga and anime fans. The rest of the Yaoi genre, particularly the more mature violent material, was side-lined significantly. However, with the greater expansion of the manga market into the Western world and principally the translation of manga online, Yaoi is now known to its audience as an umbrella term encompassing a mass of sub-genres, covering everything from shoujo-like Shonen-Ai with no sex at all, to violent and heavily explicit Seinen-like stories with a huge variety of art styles, even crossing into borderline Bara territory at times with fans from both sides gaining new reading material, and a large amount of transgender stories being thrown into the mix. With published manga-ka releasing yaoi-based doujinshi as well, Yaoi is an extremely fast-growing super-genre, swinging between the melodrama of high romance to gritty realism, angst-filled dramas, silly fluff stories, and PWP that makes no bones about exhibiting two hot guys screwing.

A common and much played-with staple of Yaoi is the dynamic of an aggressive partner and a submissive one, which are so often used in the genre that they have become well-known archetypes, used, abused, inverted and deconstructed over the decades since the conception of the genre (remember, Tropes Are Flexible!). Some younger Slash Fic writers who are fans of the shoujo-based Yaoi highlighted by the mainstream market go so far as to feminize the shorter guy to fit this dynamic, mimicking in Yaoi what heterosexual fanfic writers do with Chickification. Many series that deal with close friendship usually develop a non-canonical Boys Love fandom. In fact, some series deliberately enhance the homoerotic subtext of these relationships in order to cater to and attract those interested in Shonen-Ai or Yaoi.

With all of its variety, Yaoi is still one of the most misunderstood genres to come out of Japan. It is still thought of as sappy melodrama in a Shoujo-style, just between boys instead of a heterosexual pairingnote . Funnily enough, the people who complain the most about it and those who make it into a frequent joke know very little if anything about the genre. Most opinions about Yaoi are based on Western stereotypes.also note 

See Boys Love Notes for a list of standard character types and Boys Love Tropes for tropes associated with the genre.

For the corresponding genre aimed specifically at a gay male readership, see Bara Genre. For the Distaff Counterpart to this genre, see Yuri Genre.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Literature 

    Manhwa 

    Music 
  • The Visual Kei duet Adams centers around the idea of the duet being male lovers, and they are consciously a mix of yaoi and bara aesthetic.
  • Some Visual Kei Performance Video and promotional video tends in this direction due to fanservice or symbolism - see the Visual Kei entry below.
  • There are various song parodies of the "Yaranaika" meme (you may not name or link to the work it originated from, as that work is definitely a violation of site rules). The most well known are "Yaranaika (Balalaika)," "World Is Abe," "Crash Man," and "GONG." These vary in whether they are classified as bara (as the story the meme originated from was) or yaoi. They also vary in explicitness - the Balalaika remix is usually "safe" if no one around understands Japanese (which is how someone in one of the more famous videos got away with performing it in a mall in Muslim-majority Indonesia), and "GONG" the most visually so and only allowable on Youtube because of its heavy use of parody censor items (roses, lightsabers, golden wings)

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

Works commonly mistaken for Boys Love Genre:

    Anime & Manga 
  • 07-Ghost frequently dances right on the edge of this trope without coming right out and saying it. Teito and Mikage's relationship teases at it, and Kuroyuri and Haruse darn near imply it. Not to mention Hakuren's outright statement that he does "not like women", with a couple of exceptions.
  • Axis Powers Hetalia. Despite being a major Cast Full of Pretty Boys and having two not entirely confirmed canon male-on-male pairings (Germany×Italy and one-sided Sweden×Finland if you ask, not to mention all the other male-on-male Ship Tease), this fanservice is almost entirely Played for Laughs, the story doesn't revolve around those relationships, and it's marketed as seinen.
  • CLAMP loves Yaoi Guys and Ho Yay (they have their own Ho Yay page), but so far they have not published any official Boys' Love. CLAMP works that are particularly yaoi-esque include:
    • The formerly suspended Legal Drug series, which has since returned and been renamed "Drug & Drop", is for all intents and purposes a very slow-moving Boys' Love story.
    • Subaru and Seishirou of Tokyo Babylon are more or less in a romantic relationship, although it might not be the kind you imagined at first.
    • Unsurprisingly, CLAMP has their beginnings in shounen-ai doujinshi, one of the most well-known of which is of Jotaro and Kakyoin from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, of all things.
  • D.N.Angel ship teases Satoshi and Daisuke like crazy.
  • Game X Rush: At times it seems to run on Ho Yay, without ever crossing the line to actual Boys' Love.
  • Gankutsuou: Albert's relationships with the Count and Franz are dripping with subtext, though it's more text on Franz's part.
  • Get Backers: Let’s just say there is a reason why this series provides the default image on the Ho Yay page’s Anime section. Not only does it have copious amounts of Ho Yay between its many beautiful male characters, but the artist of the manga is also a self-admitted Yaoi Fanboy, and the anime contains several suggestive artworks. In fact, one of the most commonly asked questions about Get Backers is whether or not it’s a Yaoi series. The truth? It’s actually a gritty Shounen manga with tons of Fanservice (for the guys).
  • Golden Days has shounen ai elements but it was published in Hana to Yume.
  • The lead of Hana-Kimi is only dressed like a boy, but Boys' Love romances abound among the supporting cast.
  • Hands Off! due to the absurd amounts of subtext between two of the male characters, which gets mentioned a lot - but is completely about ESPers.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo, while heavily in the Shōnen robot genre, and not to mention being authored by the creators of Shaman King and Spider-Man, is becoming more and more known for its Boys' Love subtext. The main character Yamato's best friend Rune becomes evil due to his jealousy of Yamato liking somebody else. This... leads to some surprising and horrifying situations. Whether this was intentional or not is unknown; don't think anybody would have the guts to ask Hiroyuki Takei or Stan FREAKING Lee about this.
    • The subtext becomes so strong that when Part Three comes around, Viz Media pulls Ultimo from Shonen Jump.
  • Black Butler is officially Shōnen despite the rampant Ship Tease and Does This Remind You of Anything? and the little fact that both times Sebestian had sex, it was with women...
  • Kyo Kara Maoh is a series about a boy who becomes king of the demon realm; in the process of doing so, he accidentally proposes marriage to another man. It's officially shoujo.
  • Loveless was originally published in Monthly Comic Zero Sum, a magazine that was looking for crossover shonen/shoujo readership (although it has since turned into a shoujo mag), so it's not officially considered BL. It has the added bonuses of Nekomimi, Shotacon, and a pair of Schoolgirl Lesbians. Not to mention all the horror and Mind Screw.
  • Monochrome Factor is ridden with pretty boys and Ho Yay in the anime and is sometimes labelled as a shounen-ai even though it's officially a seinen.
  • Manga sites often mistakenly tag Nabari No Ou as BL. You can't really blame them though. Not surprisingly, it's serialized in the same magazine as Black Butler.
  • Rare shonen example of a male-male romance: No Bra, a manga where a guy falls in love with a Wholesome Crossdresser.
  • No6 does this with Nezumi and Shion. Things essentially get more Ho Yay fueled with every episode/chapter, including a "good-night kiss" and a "good-bye kiss". It has fans that always ask whether it's a shounen-ai or not. It's really a shoujo/shounen series. The novel was written by Asano Atsuko, an infamous writer of BL-ish novels she claims are 'children's books'.
  • Pandora Hearts has multiple instances with Ho Yay and the main character's friend having a huge infatuation with him and often fights with the main love interest for his affection as a result. Regardless, you can interpret it as Ho Yay, overprotectiveness or something else entirely.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane has an incredible amount of Ho Yay subtext/text (?), a Bishōnen main cast and the one female love interest is very boring so it's not surprising some would consider it Boys' Love.
  • Princess Princess does this with having the very feminine guys dress up as girls to be adored by the male population of their school. Not to mention all the Ho Yay between Tooru and Yuujirou. It's officially shoujo even though it's sometimes tagged as shounen-ai.
  • Saiyuki is a shounen manga about four pretty guys traveling together on an epic journey, spending most of their time in close proximity. There would be too much Ho Yay to list even if the mangaka wasn't a former yaoi doujinshi artist who deliberately adds to it.
  • Tactics. The characters are so gay that the authors themselves have made yaoi doujinshi of them. (Specifically, "Lovesick".) Kantarou and Haruka in particular are the most notable example, and its more apparent in the manga than in the anime but still there. It's not shounen-ai though.
  • Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru mostly have males in the cast, very occupied in confess their mutual admiration for each other and even have a pet dragon called "Sodom". Several sites tag this series as shounen ai but officially is shoujo.
  • The four Bishōnen protagonists of Weiß Kreuz and their opposite numbers are all canonically heterosexual, but their status as terminal Doom Magnets combined with copious amounts of subtext has gained it a reputation as a Boys Love series.
  • Descendants of Darkness (aka Yami no Matsuei) has a rather complicated Love Dodecahedron involving most (male) main characters, but focuses mainly on the love/hate triangle between the psychopath Doctor Muraki, Tsuzuki Asato, and Kurosaki Hisoka. It's officially shoujo.

     Music 
  • Visual Kei provides a complicated, multilayered case. Early on, the scene was a safe haven to some degree for actual bisexuals and gay men, owing to its descent in part from Kabuki and other theatre, its androgynous aesthetic, that (while no one from them actually came out in a traditional manner until much later) some of the members of the founding bands of the scene were either gay or bisexual or allies of gay or bisexual friends, and that at the beginning displays of man on man sexuality were seen as a way to shock Japanese society at large and flip off the "to grow up you must marry a woman and have kids" and "we will pretend real gay and bisexual people don't exist in Japan" societal standards of The Eighties and early 1990s Japan. As the scene developed in The Nineties and the fujoshi / Yaoi Fangirl was recognized as a demographic to whom the Ho Yay and fanservice appealed, straight artists began to engage in it solely for the sake of making money and attracting fangirls, which led to a backlash of people considering it insulting or denying the presence of the actual gay or bi men in the scene, in a sort of gender inversion of how Les Yay is often considered. It's kind of reached an odd equilibrium at this point, with plenty of straight men pretending to be Yaoi Guys for the fangirls, but a fair amount of actual bisexuals and gay men as well (especially with the older bands, which are more likely to have these as opposed to 100 percent straights faking it)

Use of BL manga/anime itself as a trope (for uses of BL tropes outside BL, see Yaoi Guys):

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Webcomics 


Shoujo DemographicAnime GenresYuri Genre
Queer MediaQueer as TropesYuri Genre
Bara GenreQueer RomanceYuri Genre
YandereLove TropesYawn and Reach

alternative title(s): Yaoi; Shonen Ai; Boys Love; Shounen Ai; Boys Love Genre
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