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Yaoi Genre

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Yaoi, also known in Japan as "Boys' Love", is a subgenre of Shoujo focusing on male homosexuality, for a predominantly female audience. Typical pairings have the seme and the uke roles, which signify the characters' roles during sex, penetrative and receptive respectively, and often times even dictate their personalities and masculinity relative to each other. The word itself comes from "yamanashi, ochinashi, iminashi" (or "no climax, no ending, no meaning"), though fans have also come up with another memetic acronym: "Yamete! Oshiri ga itai!" ("Stop it! My ass hurts!"). However, the term is outdated in Japan and the more neutral term "Boys' Love" is more often used to describe the genre, which also refers to any gay content in general.

With its roots in the chinbi (aesthetic) novels of the 1970s and doujinshi culture, commercial Boy's Love has developed drastically in terms of style and content. While some stereotypes and cliches remain, such as characters denying homosexuality, or lack of realism with regard to gay culture, and the prevalence of rape fantasy as a common theme, modern BL often grapples with subjects like homophobia and gay identity, and has gained popularity among gay men as a result. Furthermore, transmasculine fans may relate strongly to men being assigned feminine bodies and female social roles.

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See Boys' Love Notes for a list of standard character types.

For the corresponding genre aimed specifically at a gay male readership (though many female readers also enjoy it), see Bara Genre. For the Distaff Counterpart to this genre, see Yuri Genre, or Hentai.

No relation to the Yowie, an Australian cryptid similar to the Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti.

If you're looking to write in the genre yourself, see the page on how to write a good Yaoi.

    Tropes associated with the Yaoi genre 


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Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Film 

    Literature 

    Manhwa 

    Music 
  • The song Stab Me In the Back by X Japan is a fairly graphic description of Intercourse with You between two men in its original version (the 1987 and live version, not the Jealousy version), and qualifies as both this and Bara Genre due to the appearance of the band when they performed it, though, with some of the band members likely having been/being bisexual, it's probably closer to bara.
  • 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).

    Video Games 
  • Alice Blue, produced two BL RPGs .(Oujisama Lv1, Oujisama Lv2) and a BL simulation game (Ore no Shita de Agake) before going under.

    Visual Novels 

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

Works commonly mistaken for BL:

    Anime and 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.
  • Adekan by Tsukiji Nao, is a historical shoujo manga featuring Yoshiwara Shiro, a sexy umbrella maker and Yamada Kojiro, an uptight but kind-hearted police officer. It is especially notable for its impossibly detailed art, as well as the sheer quantity of steaming Fanservice and innuendo. It's so blatant that the series could almost be considered as a BL on its own, though it never crosses that line.
  • Banana Fish has a male/male relationship as its main pairing and ran in a shoujo magazine, but the series is primarily a gangster drama. Author Akemi Yoshida has explicitly stated that it's not BL and the series has never been marketed as such, though it's still considered to have been influential on the genre.
  • Betrayal Knows My Name is made up of a mostly male cast who very occupied in confessing their mutual admiration for each other, and they even have a pet dragon called "Sodom". Several sites tag this series as BL, but the subtext never actually crosses the line into text.
  • Black Butler is officially Shōnen despite the rampant Homoerotic Subtext between the teenaged protagonist and his Bishōnen demon servant that early on included an infamous Does This Remind You of Anything? scene where Sebastian puts a corset on his master while the latter is pinned against a wall.
  • Blue Flag is a shounen drama in which a number of central characters are gay, which has caused it to sometimes mistakenly be labeled as yaoi. The main character is actually caught up in a Bisexual Love Triangle between a girl and another boy, and he's conflicted over his feelings for both of them. The fact that the two male leads do end up Happily Married still doesn't make it a yaoi.
  • The Case Study of Vanitas: The two Bishōnen male protagonists have a relationship filled to the brim with Homoerotic Subtext that often borders on plain Unresolved Sexual Tension, and some of the most poignant scenes are demonstrations of their devotion to each other. The anime's OP and ED center solely on their Homoerotic Subtext. Due to this, the series has been mistaken for a Boys' Love anime/manga, when it's officially a Steampunk shounen.
  • CLAMP loves gay couples and Homoerotic Subtext (they have their own Ship Tease page), and they began as a doujinshi group that focused on male/male pairings from series such as Devilman, Saint Seiya and Jojos Bizarre Adventure, but none of their professional works are officially Boys' Love. CLAMP works that are particularly yaoi-esque include:
    • Legal Drug, which was later restarted and renamed Drug & Drop, is for all intents and purposes a slow-moving Boys' Love story. While it ran in a shoujo magazine as Legal Drug, it moved to a seinen magazine as Drug & Drop.
    • 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.
  • Descendants of Darkness (aka Yami no Matsuei) has a 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.
  • Excuse Me Dentist, It's Touching Me!: The story has quite a bit of Ship Tease between the two male leads, which hints they may actually become a couple, but it is a comedy shounen series, not a yaoi.
  • Game×Rush: At times it seems to run on Homoerotic Subtext, 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: Not only does it have copious amounts of Homoerotic Subtext between its many beautiful male characters, but the artist of the manga is 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 BL elements, but it's not officially BL as the main characters' feelings for each other are never made explicit.
  • 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.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers. 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.
  • Ilegenes - Kokuyou no Kiseki is shoujo but the relationships between the male characters and especially the cover art depicting them in close positions have many fans asking if it's boys love.
  • Jyu-Oh-Sei: Women are scarce on Chimera, and tend to live separately from men. As a result, a lot of otherwise straight men aren't against going for the next best thing (read: Thor). There's also blatant Ho Yay between Thor and Third, and Thor and Zagi. Zagi can't keep his hands off of Thor, especially in the manga (where the Ho Yay is so obvious that Zagi's love interest, Karim, gets jealous of Thor). Third prefers the "getting in his face" method. It's officially shoujo.
  • K is loaded with Ship Tease and Foe Romance Subtext between kings and vanguards with a Cast Full of Pretty Boys. It would have made a really good BL series if it weren't for its shounen label.
  • Kaguya Hime is a shoujo manga with characters who blur the lines between male and female, with gender identity being one of the main themes as well as LGBT scenes figuring same-sex relationships.
  • Karakuridouji Ultimo, while heavily in the Shōnen robot genre, and not to mention 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 came around, Viz Media pulled Ultimo from its Shonen Jump lineup.
  • The four Bishōnen protagonists of Knight Hunters 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.
  • 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. Despite this, romance isn't the main focus of the story and its boys' love undertones tend to be Played for Laughs.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes was published in a boys' love magazine even though it's actually a cross between the shoujo/shounen demographic.
  • Loveless focuses on the relationship between Ritsuka and Soubi, who are both male. However, the manga 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/josei mag), so it's not officially BL; creator Yun Kouga has stated that she doesn't personally consider the series to be BL, even though her fans do. It also doesn't focus solely on male/male relationships, as there's also a lesbian couple. Not to mention all the horror and Mind Screw.
  • Monochrome Factor is riddled with pretty boys and Homoerotic Subtext in the anime, and is sometimes labelled as BL even though it's officially a seinen.
  • Manga sites often mistakenly tag Nabari no Ou as BL. You can't really blame them with the blatant Homoerotic Subtext, though. Unsurprisingly, it's serialized in the same magazine as Black Butler.
  • Naruto features the relationship between Haku and Zabuza, along with other male/male subtext examples, as well as the hugely popular Sasuke/Naruto. Some fans assume that the manga was originally meant to be BL due to the fact that Naruto and Sasuke get about as much Ship Tease as the heterosexual relationships, especially on cover pages and in the anime. Even after Naruto marries Hinata and Sasuke marries Sakura in the epilogue, some fans still prefer Naruto and Sasuke together.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion falls into the shounen/seinen demographic and one of the series' popular aspects was the relationship between Shinji and Kaworu. This was to the point where KHARA released engraved Kaworu and Shinji wedding bands and necklaces from the wedding company KISS that read "Good things happen when we play together". In the original drafts of Kaworu's appearance, the Ho Yay was meant to be even more blatant. Originally, they were going to go skinny dipping in the ocean together, kiss and Shinji was actually going to confess his feelings for Kaworu.
  • Rare Shōnen example of a male-male romance: No Bra, a manga where a guy falls in love with a Wholesome Crossdresser.
  • No. 6 does this with Nezumi and Shion. Things essentially get more Homoerotic Subtext-fueled with every episode/chapter, including a "good-night kiss" and a "good-bye kiss", eventually ending with them becoming the Official Couple. Despite this, the series is typically considered shoujo/josei rather than BL.
  • PandoraHearts is shonen and is primarily marketed as a dark fantasy series, but there are multiple instances with Homoerotic Subtext and the main character's friend is hugely devoted to him and often fights with the female lead for his affection as a result. Regardless, you can interpret it as Homoerotic Subtext, overprotectiveness or something else entirely.
  • Peacemaker Kurogane has an incredible amount of Homoerotic Subtext, a Bishōnen main cast, and a boring female love interest, 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 their school's male population. Not to mention all the Homoerotic Subtext between Tooru and Yuujirou. It's officially shoujo even though it's sometimes tagged as BL.
  • 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 Homoerotic Subtext to list even if the mangaka wasn't a former yaoi doujinshi artist who deliberately adds to it.
  • Seraph of the End is a shounen anime/manga that plays up the relationship between Yuu and Mika and other male characters to the point where fans wonder if it's BL.
  • Silver Diamond has gotten this reputation (its a shoujo manga). Probably due to its story art and cover art featuring Chigusa with Rikan in suggestive positions.
  • Shounen Note: Shounen Note attracts both an LGBT fanbase and a music-loving fanbase. It has several canonically LGBT characters and several implied ones. This is unsurprising, as it's written by the same X-gender mangaka who made Nabari no Ou and Our Dreams at Dusk. Though it's seinen, not BL.
  • 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 it's more apparent in the manga than in the anime, but still there. It's not BL, though, but shounen, and was featured in Monthly Comic Avarus, the same magazine that featured Vassalord.
  • Tokyo Tribe is sometimes believed to be yaoi because of the infamous Goosh Goosh scene, but it is seinen.
  • Vassalord features the relationship between Charles and Rayflo with various blood-sucking scenes that remind one of boys' love. It's officially shoujo.
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday? focuses on the everyday lives of Shiro and Kenji, a middle-aged gay couple, and the meals Shiro cooks for Kenji. While it's easy to assume this is a BL series, the manga actually runs in a seinen magazine, making it more of a seinen manga that just happens to star a gay couple. The manga has been noted by critics to not fall into typical manga tropes, being a good deal more realistic and down-to-earth than most BL series.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice has enough Ship Tease between two of the main characters that easily exceeds all the Ho Yay that can be found in other sports anime like Kuroko's Basketball, Haikyuu!!, Free!, etc.—combined. Because of this it's garnered a reputation as a boys' love series despite not actually being boys' love, as it's primarily marketed as a sports story. The fact that these characters, who are both men, actually become a couple halfway through the series helps.
  • Yuureitou has a LGBT Fanbase with its cast full of gay and bisexual men and the main character Tetsuo is a handsome trans man who eventually falls in love with the male Amano and vice versa. It's because of this that fans have mistaken it for being a Boys' Love manga despite it not being labelled as such. It's actually a dark seinen manga.

    Manhua 
  • Ling Qi: Many readers believe Yang Jinghua and Duanmu Xi are madly in love with each other, which is not unfair, considering that 90% of their actions scream "I'm very gay" at the readers. They do everything any couple would do (just minus the romantic feelings): making cheesy confessions, blushing at the other's cheesy confessions, holding hands, hugging, crying at the thought of losing each other and ultimately, kissing. Yes, they kiss. It doesn't help that the official animated series makes it even gayer. Seriously, it would be easier to explain why bread always lands on the buttered side than to explain how Ling Qi could possibly not be Boys' Love.

    Manhwa 
  • Demon Diary has several fans wondering if the male characters are in a relationship or not.

    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 '80s and early 1990s Japan. As the scene developed in The '90s 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 gay couples 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).

    Video Games 
  • Some fans consider the Riku/Sora pairing in the Kingdom Hearts video game series to have more subtext than the other pairings in the games. This is to the point where some consider the series yaoi-ish outside of its actual genre (action/adventure RPG).

Use of BL manga/anime itself as a trope:

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Video Games 
  • The The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel games have a Running Gag of a girl named Dorothee who is head of the Thors Military Academy Literature Club, but her entire taste in literature is this. One of the playable characters, Emma, joins the club unaware of her taste in literature and throughout the game, Dorothee tries to corrupt others into becoming fans of this genre.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 


Alternative Title(s): Yaoi, Shonen Ai, Boys Love, Shounen Ai, Boys Love Genre, Boys Love Tropes

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