A popular Asian character type, the bishōnen, or "beautiful boy", is a male character that possesses androgynous or "feminine" physical traits. He is usually tall, slender with almost no fat and little to no muscle, and no body or facial hair. Large, expressive eyes are almost a given, though Tsurime Eyes are also common in more serious examples. In anime, many bishōnen have female voice actors, although those that don't will instead get startlingly deep, sexy voices. It is not uncommon for those at the more feminine end to be mistaken for women by other characters, or for savvier examples of the type to take advantage of such an assumption.
Bishōnen can be found equally distributed between heroes and villains; bishōnen villains often develop devoted followings among fans. Bishōnen with white hair are almost always villains, no matter how they initially seem.
The broader equivalent to this trope would be the Pretty Boy, which covers similar territory in terms of raw attractiveness but can be older and doesn't necessarily cross any androgynous line. Indeed, the Pretty Boy is often an accusation of being too attentive to their own appearance, whereas the Bishonen just rolls out of bed looking like they do.
In the English fandom, the term bishōnen simply connotes "a really, really attractive male", but in its original usage, it refers to a specific type of attractiveness that is found in adolescents. The cutoff for bishōnen in the strict sense is around 20 years old. Beyond this age, the Japanese describe male attractiveness through terms like biseinen or bidanshi ("beautiful man") or ikemen (roughly "good-looking guy"). The affectionate English fandom shorthand "bishie" bypasses the lexical issues somewhat. Examples of both bishōnen and biseinen should be placed on this page. Likely to have drawn on a moe aesthetic when they were younger.
The comparable Korean concept is kkot-minam ("flower pretty boy").
The appearance and behavior of the archetypal bishōnen is often used to explore sexuality and gender norms. Thus, Yaoi Guys have a tendency to be this.
Originally, bishōnen characters were the province of Shoujo and Boys Love Genres, but since the mid-90s, it has become the default style for teenage boys in pretty much any work looking for a cross-demographic audience. Since more modern anime and manga are overwhelming geared towards appealing to both men and women in this respect, a large majority of virtually all mainstream works will feature at least one bishōnen character, if not more. Also, the farther bishōnen characters disseminate from their source genres, the less likely it becomes that there will be in-universe mention of their androgynous looks/attractiveness.
Older Than Print, since The Tale of Genji frequently describes Genji himself as one. Often comes with the Bishie Sparkle. If all the guys are bishōnen without many women to balance them out, you've got yourself a Cast Full of Pretty Boys.
Do not confuse with Dude Looks Like a Lady; while some Bishōnen may be androgynous enough to look like ladies, not all Dude Looks Like a Lady count as Bishōnen. If the boy, in particular, is more girly cute than androgynously handsome, they probably don't count as Bishōnen.
Contrast Gonk, The Grotesque, and Puni Plush. Also, contrast Hunk which can nonetheless cross over with this trope, such as for Vega from Street Fighter. Pretty girls are known as Bishoujo ("beautiful girl"), but the aesthetics of bishoujo are different, typically emphasizing cute, petite femininity rather than sleek androgyny. See Bifauxnen for ladies who conform a bit more closely to the bishōnen aesthetic. Not to be confused with the Bishōnen Line.
- Roulette Rampage Reloaded: Deconstructed with Kiyoyuki Irino. He is portrayed as handsome and girls do find him attractive for his small frame and pretty boy looks, but he thinks that he's not in his ideal type of body. As an actor, he wants to get more masculine roles to play, but he can't do it with his type of body, so he dived head long into voice acting, which allowed him to play any type of role he wanted. Combine that with his insecurities about his more popular and masculine-looking older brother and his in-game mentor figure, Tetsuo Shingen, and you've got a boy who really needs to find some measure of inner peace.
- Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Both Italy and Japan are this. Germany noticed this, even more, when they both wore kimonos.
- In misakiyu's illustrations of SilfofinaDragon's Sengoku Basara fanfics, Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura's son Masa resembles his mother with his father's hair color, and is shown to be quite attractive. His Split Personality Sei and adopted nephew Nobushige also fit the bill.
- Quite a few of Miyazaki's male characters, such as Haku in Spirited Away and Howl in Howl's Moving Castle.
- Leafie, a Hen into the Wild features bishōnen ducks. Wanderer has a mysterious allure and long, messy head feathers. Leafie is smitten by him but it's unrequited.
- Mei from Arashi no Yoru ni manages to be this even though he's a non-anthro goat. He's pretty and small, which contrasts with his burly and taller best friend Gabu.
- Death Note: Even though Rem was a female Shinigami in the manga and anime, she was made a male in-voice-only. The rest of her feminine-looking design is kept exactly the same.
- Gohatto: Sōzaburō is a new recruit who joins The Shinsengumi in the 1860s. He is a Bishōnen straight from central casting: young, slender, smooth of chin, and very pretty, androgynously pretty, with long hair that falls over his brow. He's also an Uke. The only way that he deviates from this trope is that, in addition to being a rather feminine pretty boy, he's a badass samurai, possibly the best fighter in the regiment.
- The Beast Player: Damiya is described as tall, slender, and effeminately beautiful.
- Genji in Cloud of Sparrows is described as 'too pretty for a man' — as is the character's Older Than Print namesake, Hikaru Genji in the Tale of Genji.
- Most of the cast in ½ Prince falls into this category. The game world requires your character to resemble you, but lets people beautify themselves, and a lot of people look very lovely in game. Prince, who is actually a girl in real life and the only person playing an opposite gender in game, ends up being the single most bishie thing in existence. Only a few main characters don't take this route, with Wolf having a more mature look in real life and making himself uglier in the game, Gui turning out to be a bishie in real life and not altering his in game appearance. Nan Gong Zui, who makes himself look like a victim of Testosterone Poisoning in game, also turns out to have a very boyish appearance in the real world.
- Alcuin from Kushiel's Legacy has fine white hair and delicate features.
- Serph in Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner outright describes himself as androgynous. The narration mentions how pretty he is on a frequent basis.
- The boys in the starting cast◊ of Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note are good-looking, but not this trope. But the characters added later mostly falls in this trope, in this cover◊ we have Sunahara (lower right) and Mikado (upper left)—and the latter is officially recognized as "beautiful." The males spinoff series Genie Team G Jiken Note's starting cast◊ mostly falls into this trope.
- The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The "gay mage" tour companion is described as a long-haired "pretty boy" in beautiful clothing who's indicated to be quite androgynous or effeminate in appearance, and probably Camp Gay (at least implied to be).
- The Metamorphoses: This counts for a great deal of the male cast in the work, the most well known being: Narcissus, Hermaphroditus, Hyacinth, Ganymede and Adonis, and among the Olympians: Apollo, Hermes and Dionysus
- Shichan from Aflame Inferno who models on the side.
- The Breaker: Hyuk So Chun.
- Yoo-min from Cutie Boy.
- Duo Xi from Divine Melody.
- Since the vast majority of the characters in ½ Prince are made in a video game they're all gorgeous (as players often make their characters so). The titular character is noted for being the best-looking character, since they turned the pretty effect as high as it could possibly go.
- Id from Id is the very definition of this trope. Men and women alike fawn over his beauty. Though more often than not, every person he's met has initially thought him a woman.
- Let Dai: Jaehee is explicitly stated in-series to be very literally a "pretty boy", and the artwork makes that abundantly clear. It's one of the reasons that so many girls tend to go after him.
- Magical JxR has a lot of these.
- Dong-whi from Nineteen, Twenty-One.
- Rai, Frank, Shinwoo, M-21 and Takeo from Noblesse.
- Woojae from One has the nickname "Prince Charming" due to his good looks.
- Armand from Priest.
- A HUGE number of the characters in Ravages of Time fall under this category. Most of the Water Mirror Eight Geniuses, Sima Yi, and the young members of the Yuan clan are all delicate-looking and gorgeous. Xiao Meng is the extreme, but well, he's a eunuch, so that comes with the territory.
- Kyu Ra from Rure which fits with his "prince charming" image.
- Junho from The Three Times.
- Twenty-Fifth Bam aka Jue Viole Grace from Tower of God.
- Weak Hero:
- Gray is a beautiful young man, with silky silver hair, purple eyes, and long lashes. The story's inciting incident is Colton groping Gray to confirm that he's not actually a girl.
- Stephen can give Gray a run for his money with his gentle eyes and K-Pop-esque haircut and physique.
- Though not as pronounced as Gray, Alex is a slender boy with bright green eyes and long lashes.
- Jake Ji is quite pretty, with soft eyes and ginger hair, and compliments it with his fashionable style.
- Yoonsung from Welcome to Room #305 is so pretty that rumors spread that he crossdresses sometimes. People mistook his Half Identical Twin sister for him.
- BigBang's G-Dragon (Korean Pop Music) is noted in the fashion world for his androgyny and his proclivity to feminine styles while on-stage. He opens one of his songs with the lyric, "I'm still not inferior/yes, I'm a pretty boy."
- Music/BORNS, aka Garrett Borns◊, has been mistaken for a girl before, what with the long hair, slim build and flowery jackets. Not that he minds.
- Dong Bang Shin Ki's Jaejoong can very well pass as one. Many people say he's an anime character come◊ to life◊.
- In nine* nine, Gackt is shown some pictures of himself when he was younger, to which he responds, "I was a total bishōnen back then...But now I'm a biseinen." The difference being that bishōnen technicality applies to only boys in their teens but biseinen applies to adults.
- Korean Pop Music singer Juniel talks about this trope in her song "Pretty Boy", saying how much she prefers one to a "handsome guy like a movie star".
Short height with a round face
A cute guy who looks good in glasses
Eyes that disappear when he smiles
But a guy who has a child-like smile
- Though most members of the K Pop group NU'EST could qualify (excluding Baekho), Ren is the most obvious example, bordering on Dude Looks Like a Lady with his big eyes and long hair.
- Lord Krishna from the Mahabharata is painted as a beautiful 20-year-old with clear dark or blue skin, dressed in distinctive yellow silk, and with a peacock feather attached to his diadem. Despite his bishōnen appearance, Krishna is The Ace - a superb intellectual, scholar, strategist, warrior, charioteer and Chick Magnet.
- Kristoph Gavin and his brother, Klavier Gavin, from the Ace Attorney series. Max Galactica and Matt Engarde in Justice For All, as well.
- Most notably, the effeminate Max Galactica, with his flamboyance, camp, and pure fabulousness. (Because you, too, have stolen one of Max Galactica's many, many hearts.)
- Yukito from Air. As well as a Silver-Haired Tall, Dark, and Snarky Ineffectual Loner, he later shares some traits with The Doctor himself!
- In Akatsuki no Goei, Kaito claims his greatest skill is that he's really hot. He kind of has a point given that he can just sit down and read in public and girls will instantly come flirt with him.
- Asagao Academy Normal Boots Club has Jared, AKA Pro Jared, according to his character description he's the most attractive person in school. He even sparkles!
- Taichi in CROSSCHANNEL has a rather androgynous but attractive appearance. He, on the other hand, is convinced he is horribly ugly for reasons that are never really revealed.
- Dev and Dominic from the Death Room. Evie flirts with Dev, while Dominic is very, very self-aware of his good looks.
Dominic: I know Im the best-looking guy youve ever seen in your entire life, but don't let that intimidate you because I can guarantee that you definitely still have a chance with me.
- The five male leads from Hiiro no Kakera.
- Takuma and Hamaji from H₂O: Footprints in the Sand.
- Kyousuke from Little Busters!!. Mio outright calls him a bishōnen one time. And in the Mask the Saito OVA, at one point he dramatically tears off his mask at sunset and sparkles fly as his hair shakes. (The sparkles being his tears from when he was crying because he was so touched a moment before, but still...)
- In Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! Touma is the most notable contender, but Cap also fits, both of them with fan clubs.
- Monster Prom: The Interdimensional Prince is a parody of this. He has all the traits and even the Long-Haired Pretty Boy look, but he is so unfittingly sparkly to his surroundings that these traits make him seen hilarious.
- Mizuho in Otoboku - Maidens Are Falling For Me. Of course. That being said, he is quite pretty even when not dressing as a girl.
- The Shall We Date? franchise has a lot of these in all of their games. It makes sense; they make otome and other female-oriented games.
- Spirit Hunter: NG:
- Without his perpetual grimace, Akira actually looks quite nice. If he appreciates Kaoru's gothic lolita style, then she'll reply that he should try it for himself, since his face is pretty enough for him to look good in woman's clothing.
- Seiji is a doe-eyed pretty boy with a gentle smile and slim body. It makes his cruel personality all the more surprising.
- All the boys qualify for this up to some extent in War: 13th Day but especially Arsenik and Night. In-universe, the former more so than the latter.
Brooks: Ive seen that tight blonde youve been eyeing. Now, he is fine.
- When They Cry:
- Higurashi: When They Cry: Keiichi is noticeably pretty, and even sparkles a couple of times, as well as Satoshi, who is a more extreme example than Keiichi and is even voiced by a female.
- Umineko: When They Cry has the absolutely adorable Kanon, not to mention Battler. George was made to be this in the anime and the Updated Re-release for the PlayStation 3, but in the original sound novels, he's rather plain in comparison to Kanon and Battler. Kanon is a complicated example. He is the same person as Shannon. Their true identity, Yasu, is female-identified but heavily implied to have been Raised as the Opposite Gender after she received injuries to her genitalia as a young child. This left her with complicated issues involving her gender.
- Yo-Jin-Bo: Bo is considered so pretty he's practically female by the other characters; he's annoyed when a crossdresser hits on him, but plays this to his advantage and says he should be allowed to guard the Princess during her bath because he "looks androgynous" with his long hair and wouldn't disturb her as much as the other guys.
- In Adventurers!, Khrima's final boss form is described as such, due to the Bishōnen Line.
- Erika and the Princes in Distress : Most men seen in the comic have very pretty and effeminate looks. While part of it (notably their large, expressive eyes) is due to Yatuu's art style, it is mostly a consequence of the inversion of gender roles. Being the "weaker sex" translates to more slender and graceful physiques, and men are shown to be subject to strong standards of beauty; facial and body hair are notably considered "ugly" by most women, and thus the vats majority of male characters don't sport any.
- Yokoka's Quest has Azha, Mao, and all of Copycat's forms shown so far.