Yaoi Manga: Romance Between Boys, Loved By Girls!

  • I would like to give you a warning first: you are going to read something about gay romance. If you do not wish to read about anything related to that subject, you would be better off clicking on a different article. However, if you would like to learn more about this fascinating and captivating genre in Japanese manga, do read on!

    If you are a huge fan of Japan and Japanese manga in particular, you may have heard about the term ‘yaoi’ already. But how much do you actually know about it? Yaoi is a term that has its roots in English, and it is also known as Boy’s Love (abbreviated as BL). It is a genre of Japanese fictional media and focuses on a sexual romance between two males.

    Its contents is not related to the actual things that happen between homosexual lovers, but is only the imaginary work from the authors. The yaoi genre does not only pertain to manga, but can also be anime, fiction, movies, and drama. Its targeted readers are female, but recently more and more men also enjoy this kind of work, and even work in the industry themselves.


    The origin of yaoi dates back to the previous century. In the early 1970s some female authors writing shojo manga (manga targeted at young girls) started to publish platonic stories about boys. Such kinds of works were known as’ tanbi’ (aesthetic) and ‘shonen ai’ (boys’ love) at that time.

    Since the late 1970s and 1980s, women and girls from ‘dojinshi’ (fan fiction) markets have recast the male characters from famous manga and anime series as gay men, and produced sexualized parodies with them as main characters. Later on even magazines began to publish works of this emerging genre. Finally, in the 1990s, the term ‘Boy’s Love’ or ‘BL’ was invented. From then on, it became the dominant term used to name the genre.

    Are you already getting curious about yaoi? If so, there are two terms you must know. Otherwise fujoshi will consider you as an outsider!


    Fujoshi (腐女子) is a self-mocking name, used to call the women who feel a strong passion for boys romance, and it means ‘rotten woman’. Fujoshi is a pun of fujoshi (婦女子), which actually means respectable woman. People replace 婦 (pronounced as fu, means married women) with 腐 (pronounced as fu, means rotten). This term has already been coined by mass media. It first appeared on website ‘2channel’ (an influential textboard in Japan) in the 2000s, and its detailed examination by Eureka in 2007 has helped the spread of the term.

    Since more males have also become the audience of yaoi, a new term ‘fudanshi’ (腐男子) has been invented. Similar to fujoshi, fudanshi refers to the boys who are passionate about yaoi works. They may not necessarily be gay, but many gay men choose to call themselves fudanshi, as it is socially more acceptable than calling yourself gay.

    Seme and Uke

    ‘Seme’ (top) and ‘Uke’ (bottom) are the two characters involved in a yaoi relationship. And believe it or not, these two terms actually originated in martial arts slang! Seme is derived from the verb ‘to attack’, while Uke is derived from ‘to receive’. There are two ways to distinguish Seme and Uke in a relationship.

    First by the look of the character. Seme characters are usually portrayed in a way that they look physically stronger, more powerful, taller, older, with shorter hair and smaller eyes. On the other hand, Uke are portrayed as more feminine, with bigger eyes and a smaller build, and they look physically weaker than the Seme.

    Second, it’s the role they play. Seme are more dominant in a relationship, they usually pursue the Uke and can greatly influence their emotions. A character can be an Uke, even when he is more masculine or powerful, as long as he is more persuasive.

    Still confused as to who is the Seme and who is the Uke? That’s okay, let me introduce some yaoi manga to you. After reading those I’m sure you will have a better understanding of yaoi and its characters.

    世界一初恋 (World’s Greatest First Love)
    Author: Nakamura Shungiku
    Seme: Takano Masamune
    Uke: Onodera Ritsu

    You can click here for more information about this manga.

    ファインダーシリーズ (Finder Series)
    Author: Yamane Ayano
    Seme: Asami Ryuichi
    Uke: Takaba Akihito

    You can click here for more information about this manga.

    花のみぞ知る (Only the Flower Knows)
    Author: Takarai Rihito
    Seme: Arikawa Youichi
    Uke: Misaki Shouta

    You can click here for more information about this manga.

    To be frank, I admit to being a fujoshi, and I have been for over 10 years! The series mentioned above are my top three recommendations. I hope you will find these works interesting, and get to know more about yaoi, that are amazing and unique Japanese works!

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