With Juné Manga's upcoming "yabara" kickstarter project, winter anime hits like "Yuri on Ice," and psychological online manga like "Killing Stalking," the definition of "yaoi" has become much more of a grey area.

At its core, yaoi is defined as romantic relationships between two male characters. These stories are predominantly made by women for women. Beginning in the 70s, the boys love genre would depict "bishounen," or pretty boys, having platonic relationships with one another (what some would consider "shounen ai" today). These would progress into more explicit contents in fan made doujinshi, slowly becoming regularized in the manga form as well. 

For many years yaoi was not considered "gay manga" as it did not depict homosexual relationships in realistic ways. Intending it to be a fantasy, mangakas would create overly dramatic plot lines, features, and content that would never be found in the real world. These fantasies appealed and catered to the female aesthetic and desires much more than males, thus male readers grew to have a distaste, and even offense, for the genre.

"Bara" was created as the male counterpart to yaoi, made by males for males. Instead of having feminine features, these men are extremely muscular and hairy. Exchanging less plot for more sexual fantasy, the contents are mostly explicit

In more recent years, the blending of the two genres has been occurring more and more. Moving away from stereotyped plots like dubious consent or overly feminized men, modern changes such as this have started to resonate with both fujoshi fans and the LGBTQ community. Many authors are now exchanging these known yaoi tropes into more realistic human relationships with plots such as traumatic pasts and less social taboo. Works by artists such as Sakira, who draws very muscular bara men with plenty of sexual content, have grabbed the attention of both sets of fans for her ability of comedic storytelling and unique art style. 

With modern streaming and subscription services, the ability to watch and read online with same day releases has caused anime and manga fans alike to flock to these digital sources. The blending of cultures and fans has caused both positive and negative effects for the yaoi, LGBTQ, and general otaku communities.

Last season's hit anime "Yuri on Ice" caused a rift with these communities and sparked debate on what the definition of yaoi truly is and where does one draw the line. Modernizing the yaoi genre and getting rid of social stigmas can cause people to argue "is it yaoi?" or "is it just a relationship that happens to be homosexual?" Some have come to define modern yaoi that if the relationship between the two males is the main plot source for the story, then yes it is a yaoi. If there are much larger plot points and two characters happen to be homosexual, then it is just a subplot romance, thus not a yaoi.

It has truly become a definition in the eyes of each personal reader. Where someone draws the line may vastly vary to someone else based on their upbring, lifestyle, or even just their personal taste. The best part about having an expanding grey area are the debates themselves, if done in healthy open minded settings. Talking about issues and social awareness can be massively helpful and healthy when done under the right circumstances. Now while this is not always done in the most positive ways, as most any disagreement can lend itself to, the community itself still encourages everyone to be as respectful and open minded to any and all. 

Whether you spell it yaoi, yai, yoai, or simply yaoi, the big question is: where do yaoi comics go from here? With an ever expanding yet smaller world, there are thousands of plots, artists, and genres to choose from. Whether you enjoy the beautiful bishounen, muscular baras, or even a blend of both, chances are there is a story out there just for you. 

 

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