Adult Swim

>> Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The down side to going on strike is that one is almost honor bound to cough up a new post after the strike is over or the strike doesn't mean anything. Which is probably for the best because I've been meaning to write about why the list of mostly-shoujo manga hasn't grown much. There are two reasons. One is, I'm lazy. The other is that I got completely sidetracked and started reading a completely different manga unexpectedly. A kind I haven't written about here.

For a couple of reasons.

The first reason I haven't written about it is because, well, I'm lazy, and I've been doing a lot of reading and there have been some pretty hairy and emotionally debilitating things going on in my life since November.

The second reason is because, while I've been writing about manga (generally) you could give your kid or at least teenager to read (except, maybe, the "ick" ones), that's not true about the manga I've been reading. And, while I'm a very tolerant person and have many tolerant folks among my readers, being comfortable with idea of homosexuality and having it in one's face rather graphically, as it were, isn't necessarily the same thing.

Yes, for you others of the otaku bent, you probably already know what I'm talking about: yaoi. Boys' love written for women by women, and, no, I can't explain why that works. Heck, I still can't put my finger on why I've found so much of it compelling. I've never liked pornography or sought out graphic sex of any sort (though it hasn't much bothered me either) as long as the story was good, as long as it wasn't effectively pornography with no romance, no story, no characters.In yaoi, there is a LOT of sex, often drawn graphically and copiously. Frequently in a first chapter. Sometimes on the first page. In color.

But yaoi, despite it's definite propensity for graphic depictions of sex, is also about romance. And I'm a sucker for romance. True, that sometimes includes the aspects of "romance" I hate most like rape and superficiality, but good authors write consistently good manga. Shoujo generally is generally about romance, too, but there are some key differences, homosexuality being but one of them. So why am I reading it?

  • As a writer, I'm finding myself fascinated with facets of male characters and aspects of romance I hadn't really appreciated (i.e. took for granted) or didn't know or think about. I also know that, when my writer persona is piqued by something, reading to learn, I can't stop it until it's gathered what it's looking for. Which is why I read the Twilight books like six times and then haven't been the slightest bit interested in reading them again.
  • In some ways, the romantic stakes are higher in yaoi than they are in shoujo and other mangas. It's not just teenage love (notoriously fickle) where the most you risk is a rejection, but you don't have to presume your friendship or other relationships are at an end. For yaoi, you have to REALLY love someone  to (a) come to grips with being in love with someone of the same gender and (b) be willing to admit it to that person who might very well not share your interest. Who might never talk to you again. Who might beat the ever living crap out of you. Who might pass the word of your "perversion" around so that you're shunned by everyone. In some ways, it makes it more powerful. Gay couples are still, even under the best circumstances, facing an unfriendly world. 
  • Yaois tend to be short (though there are exceptions) with relationships that move quickly and spend less time than many other mangas on aspects that are really not part of the relationship. For someone like me in the process of watching the love her life walk out the door without a backward glance, intense doses of quickly gratifying romance are just the ticket. 
  • Even though they're short, they also tend to go beyond boy meets boy and falls in love. In other words, it's about the relationship after that, making it work, learning about the other, making compromises, without being sappy like similar type books about happy housewives tend to be. I need that at this point in my life. 
  • It can be very pretty. I won't lie. Looking at beautifully drawn men at the peak of physical perfect in various states of undress - not a bad thing. I admit it. I like it. 
  • I now appreciate ass jokes a thousandfold more than I used to.
So, while admitting it's not for everyone, I've been reading enough of it with enough intensity, I should take the time to share what I've learned for those interest. And I know not everyone will be interested.

I'll eventually add another widget for the mature manga I read. And I'll be going forward on the shoujo, too.

Bear with me.


  • SilverMuse603

    I think it's funny that you mention this because I only just recently had my first taste of yaoi. One of my very few otaku buds and I just exchanged a few of our favorite series, and she is quite the fujoshi. I agree, it's a very different approach to romance, and I do like it, and for most of the reasons you listed above.

    She sent along both the manga and the novels of Only the Ring Finger Knows. I've heard a great deal about this series, so I'm pretty eager to get started on it (I saved it for last).

  • Stephanie Barr

    Yeah, I had a different method. Because of a manga recommended to me (Betrayal Knows My Name) which I ordered from, I got like 8 jillion yaoi recommended.

    So, I checked one out on mangafox. Ate it up. Then started at the beginning of the yaoi manga list. I'm currently in the D's, but I tend to devour a good mangaka's work when I stumble across it.

  • Dr. Cheryl Carvajal

    I don't see it as that unlikely, especially since for years already male audiences have thoroughly enjoyed women getting together. I admit I didn't get that, and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN bored the snot out of me (and made me wonder whether men weren't just boring in general), but since I haven't read this kind of manga, I can't know how I would react.

    I certainly like the idea of lots of beefcake. We don't see enough of that.

  • Jade Pomme

    Oh, Betrayal Knows My Name is one of my favorites. I especially love the mangaka's extras too and the eye candy too. The anime is pretty good too.

    Love your post. I have often thought of why is it that this genre appeals to me but haven't been able to articulate it. Thanks!

  • Stephanie Barr

    One thing about yaoi, there's LOTS of eye candy. Sometimes more than you want :)

    I have to admit what I really love are the expressive faces, but a nice body doesn't hurt either.

    I have not watched any yaoi anime (or much beyond shoujo). I have heard a snippet of a yaoi drama CD. I have to admit, my reaction was laughter. Just envisioning the voice actors having to do that in the studio cracked me up. Perhaps sounds during certain scenes are best left to the imagination.

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