Why BL Anime matters and studios need to do better

Despite what some may lead you to think, Boy’s Love (BL) or yaoi is still a very specialized genre within the wider anime community. Yes, there are active senders for almost every major title, but they’re still a minority among everyone who enjoys watching a given anime. But given the lack of LGBTQ representation in anime in general, BL is still one of the few genres that offers representation at all.

This anime season The night beyond the tricorn window is a strange case for BL. It’s often more horror than BL, and it doesn’t feature any real romance, just a load of sexual innuendo and a very suggestive central relationship that starts off as toxic, with non-consensual possession and creepy yandere behavior. While relationship dynamics improve in the future, the series isn’t necessarily a model for a healthy relationship, and it doesn’t really inspire too much confidence in those looking for positive portrayal in their BL content.

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Last year went better, with the release of Stranger from the Shore and GivenThe sequel to the movie, both are excellent movies and feature some much-needed healthy and / or complex same-sex relationships. But overall, positive representations are still quite lacking.

Granted, BL as a whole grapples with problematic relationships, non-consensual and dub-con relationships are still dominant within the genre, as evidenced by the wild popularity of the Omegaverse trope. But many recent titles are starting to tackle these issues in a self-reflective way. For example, Tokyo in april by Haru is a great exploration of #metoo in Japan.

Anime studios typically use manga sales to determine which manga to adapt into anime, which is why the incredibly problematic Dakaichi was turned into anime so quickly. But studios may want to consider the message they convey when choosing certain projects.

There are also more optimistic signs for next year Sasaki and Miyano, which features an incredibly healthy high school couple who builds their relationship through mutual understanding and respect, this is kind of a BL version of Kimi ni Todoke, and who doesn’t like it.

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There are also so many other great Boy’s Love manga that are worth turning into anime, which feature realistic, complex but consensual and relatively healthy relationships. Below is a list of a few that some studios could potentially be interested in adapting.

Escape trip by Ogeretsu Tanaka

When high school sweethearts Hase Taichi and Hisami Naoto go their separate ways over a very small argument, things get awkward when they meet again in college. It’s a love story about breakups, emotional trauma, and what happens when people who truly love each other still fail to communicate.

The characters in Escape trip are imperfect, often infuriating, but are painfully realistic in how they often resume bad habits. The way this series approaches issues like coming out and societal pressure is nuanced and mature. And unlike your typical BL, the female characters in Escape trip are genuinely interesting and adorable. There are three long volumes of this manga, and it can be turned into a very well-paced seasonal anime.

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I hear the sunspot by Yuki Fumino

This manga was adapted as a live action movie in 2016, but there are a lot more manga left, so it can certainly be made into a full anime series. It tells the story of an almost deaf college student, Sugihara Kohei, who wishes to hire a note taker, and when he meets optimist Sagawa Taichi, Kohei’s world begins to open up.

The series features very subtle yet powerful portrayals of disability-related isolation and depression, but also talks about how one person’s positivity can completely change another’s life. In addition to a central relationship of support and love, this series also features some very important and realistic deaf representations. And it’s one of the healthiest BL titles that can be a big hit with the general public.

10 dance by Inouesatoh

When standard ballroom dancer Shinya Sugiki meets Latin dancer Shinya Suzuki (yes, their names are intentionally similar), they are a powerful couple who are aiming for the world championship. But before they compete, they need to master each other’s dance styles, and that turns out to be a more difficult endeavor than they originally thought.

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Besides the incredibly beautiful ballroom dance sequences, the sexual tension between Sugiki and Suzuki is definitely the highlight for anyone who enjoys a good relationship. It’s also a respectful but competitive relationship, Sugiki and Suzuki constantly challenge each other and make each other better dancers. But they still have to overcome their own pride before giving in to their passions. The series is still in progress, but it is possible to make it Yuri on ice! for ballroom dancing.

Black or white By Sachimo

Himemiya Shin and Tatebayashi Kazushige are both promising actors, Shin is a character actor who is often relegated to the role of the villain, while Kazushige is the typical idol. But despite their differences, they share a secret: they’ve been dating since high school. Now that they’re both celebrities, they have to navigate the cutthroat show business while trying to keep their relationship going.

This series is a rarity among BL stories as the main couple actually waited a long time to consummate their relationship. This means that their love is quite pure and innocent at first, and it is also very consensual. But there are still plenty of personal dramas that feature jealousy, gossip, scandals, and more.

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It smells of green spirit by Saburo Nagai

A heartbreaking story about rural gay high school student Mishima Futoshi who is bullied by his classmates for being effeminate, Mishima quietly accepts the bullying and finds solace in cross-dressing. One day, he finds out that one of his bullies Kirino Makoto is actually also gay and transvestite, so they form a secret friendship.

It is an in-depth exploration of sexuality, bigotry, the evil of repressing oneself, and the beauty of acceptance. Mishima and Kirino aren’t a romantic couple, but their friendship is truly touching, and quite rare for any manga, let alone a BL manga. Yet the melancholy ending reminds us that the real world doesn’t always have happy endings for everyone.

This series will be a refreshing addition to the BL anime genre with its non-stereotypical characters, serious subjects, and a very unique style that mixes the absurd with the heart-wrenching reality of bigotry in rural Japan.

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