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 (most comedically, Naruto Uzumaki), 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.
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 most similar Western type is 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 has it in spades. 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 Bishonen may be androgynous enough to look like ladies, not all Dude Looks Like a Lady count as Bishonen. If the boy, in particular, is more girly cute than androgynously handsome, they probably don't count as Bishonen.
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 esthetics 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.
This is an East Asian media only trope. For pretty boys in other cultures see Pretty Boy. The difference is primarily cultural, and it is not at all uncommon for Animesque media to use this trope much in the same way as the examples here, but for convenience's sake, let's just put the Eastern ones here and the Western ones there.
Anime & MangaThere are so many examples in anime and manga that they're being put in their own section.
- AKIRA: Kai is short, slim, well-dressed, girlishly faced, and can knock a guy through a window. Being relatively sensitive and apparently crushing on Kaneda in the manga and Yamagata in the anime, he's often perceived as a young homosexual.
- Griffith is explicitly labeled as "too beautiful to be a man" in about a dozen separate chapters by different characters! His Godhand transformation, Femto, even has purple-shaded lips, making him seem as if he's wearing lipstick.
- Ishida Uryuu has a very slender, delicate build and an exceptionally fair complexion for a male character. He takes after his father Ryuuken, who is a Silver Fox was his school's heartthrob when he was Uryuu's age.
- Jugram Haschwalth of Vandenreich is a blonde Long-Haired Pretty Boy with pale skin, narrow green eyes, and a tall, slim build. He looks delicate but he could stand within close proximity of Yamamoto's bankai without flinching.
- Bokura no Hentai:
- Ema's thirteen stepbrothers
- Chrono Crusade:
- Joshua Christopher is quite thin, even implied to look underweight at one point, has pale blond hair and blue eyes, and looks quite a bit like his sister.
- Aion is actually quite muscular when he takes off his Badass Long Coat, but his long, white hair does a lot to give him an edge of androgynous beauty.
- In Chrono's true form, he's a bit rough around the edges and his outfit goes out of the way to highlight his muscular chest, but in his Sleep-Mode Size, he's got longer hair and looks much younger and thus cuter. However, he still has moments of looking quite pretty in his true form, and a flashback in the manga shows him with long hair.
- Ryuk had delicate features in his original design before the creators decided that his looking more interesting than Light could cause fans to ignore Light's character.
- Hyakkimaru in the 2019 anime adaptation of Dororo is basically a living Asian ball-jointed doll, with glossy long black hair, pale skin, fine features and a slender build.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- While not usually drawn as such, May Chang's fantasies of him have Ed as a dashing, slender Prince Charming.
- Parodied with Major Alex Armstrong. He has Bishie Sparkles, hairlessness, beauty, deep voice, and vanity, but he's also a muscular, oversized bodybuilder, who constantly flexes and lacks an indoor voice.
- Father's final form after absorbing Truth is a slender adolescent Hohenheim with waist-length blonde hair and delicate features.
- Kill la Kill:
- Compared to his two male companions, Inumuta has a lighter build and far less muscle, but still possesses a handsome face.
- Shiro Iori is short, slender, and has long, wavy blonde hair.
- My Hero Academia:
- Shoto Todoroki's facial features are a bit more slender than most of the boys. Mina even refers to him as "The Preeminent Pretty Boy of the Class" at one point.
- Parodied with Yuga Aoyama. He has glossy blonde hair, thin eyebrows, glinting eyes, prominent eyelashes, and a slender build. His design is purposefully unusual as it makes him much more disturbing when he's not in his over the top persona, best demonstrated by his blank stare as he watches Midoriya sleep through his dorm room window at night.
- Downplayed with Kai Chisaki/Overhaul. He is tall and an androgynous face, with thin eyebrows, narrow eyes, prominent eyelashes, a short, narrow nose, and a pointed chin. His build, however, is actually large and muscular as seen in his Shirtless Scene, though not to the extent of All Might or Endeavor.
- Chronostasis has softer features and longer hair than those of Chisaki under his mask, making Chisaki look masculine in comparison.
- Played for Laughs. While not usually drawn as such, Boa Hancock's romantic fantasies have him as a tan young boy with a full Bishie Sparkle and brown glinting eyes, as well as speaking with a more mature voice than he actually speaks with.
- Cavendish has a tall, slender yet muscular build, fair skin, armpit length blonde hair in Regal Ringlets, the Bishie Sparkle, and glinting eyes, the last of which is a trait commonly used only for female characters.
- Princess Tutu:
- Mytho is slender, has large eyes, eyelashes thicker than Duck's, and thin lips.
- Tweeny Witches:
- Tiana is tall, slender, pale, and has delicate features, with blonde eyebrows and narrow blue eyes.
- Lennon turns out to be an androgynous boy with sandy hair, smooth fair skin, a red Guyliner, thin lips, and a tall, slender figure. He's so pretty in his disguise as a witch that Arusu and her friends mistake him for a girl until his mother corrects.
- Molza from "Magical Girl Squad Storm and Stress" is a slender young boy with blonde hair, fair skin, and delicate features. Lampshaded when Arusu asks Sheila if he's a pretty boy, making Sheila get a Luminescent Blush.
- ''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.
- 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.
- In nine* nine, Gackt is shown some pictures of himself when he was younger, to which he responds, "I was a total bishonen back then...But now I'm a biseinen." The difference being that bishonen technicality applies to only boys in their teens but biseinen applies to adults.
- 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 bishonen appearance, Krishna is The Ace - a superb intellectual, scholar, strategist, warrior, charioteer and Chick Magnet.
- Bayonetta 2: The Masked Lumen is an androgynous-looking man under his mask, with flowing, waist length platinum blonde hair, narrow eyes, thin lips, smooth pale skin, and a slender build. The impressive thing is you can tell he's one when just a sliver of his mask gets knocked off, revealing only one of his eyes and the general shape of his features around it. Balder was quite a looker when he was younger.