Gay for You? Yaoi Manga for GBLTQ Readers

So, I had a really great time at NYCC! I’ll try to share some pics and video later, but the most fun was the panel I was on: “Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers”. We had a really great turnout and I learned a lot from my fellow panelists.

Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers

Compiled by Leyla Aker, Robin Brenner, Christopher Butcher, Erica Friedman, Scott Robins, and Alex Woolfson

After School Nightmare by Setona Mizushiro
(Go Comi!, 10 volumes)

Chris™s note: A complicated though somewhat intense handling of gender and trans issues, in a very readable format. While the series works best as a metaphor, I think there’s a lot there to enjoy (as a story) for any older teen or adult reader with interest in gender identity issues.

Age Called Blue by est em
(NetComics, 1 volume)

Scott’s note: A poetic and angsty look at the tumultuous relationship between two members of a punk/rock band and how their love for one another eventually pulls the band apart. This less traditional yaoi title will appeal to teens and fans of more European-style comics or art-comics. Est Em’s art evokes a little bit of Paul Pope here.

Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga
(Jun© Manga, 4 volumes)

Chris’s note: A PG-rated series about men working in a bakery. Addresses traditional gender roles and male friendship in a direct and funny way, but real depth and weight is given to the gay characters and relationships as the story develops.

Black Winged Love by Tomoko Yamashita
(Netcomics, 1 volume)

Leyla’s note: Short story collections are usually a tough sell, but this collection is well worth a reader’s time. Yamashita is another mangaka who I’d love to see more of for English- language audiences. Like Kunieda, she’s incredibly strong with characterization–no cookies from the cutter here–and with story construction, which for her ranges from comedic to tragic, from BL to shonen ai to josei, from short stories to volume-length works. Net Comics has released another one of her volumes, Dining Bar Akira, which is also list- worthy.

Bondz by Toko Kawai
(801 Media, 1 volume)

Chris’s note: Two really hot guys sleep together, profess to regret it, and then have to navigate the very muddy waters of coming out and their attraction to one another. Dirty. The other 3 stories collected with it are only okay. 🙂

Dog Style by Motoru Motoni
(Media Blasters, 3 volumes)

Leyla™s note: This is my curve-ball candidate. Most of Motoni’s works are insane crack, but this three-volume series is distinct from the rest of her oeuvre. The story is humorous, angsty, and smarter than it may seem on first read. The art is stylized, with clean, strong lines that are rather unusual for BL. Also unusual for BL, the teenage guys actually act like…teenage guys. Readers who are looking for romance, pretty art, and more linear storylines will probably loathe this (although the story is very romantic in its own way), but those who are looking for something fresh and sharp will probably find much to appreciate here.

Don’t Blame Me! by Yugi Yamada
(Jun© Manga, 2 volumes)

Robin’s note: Yamada follows the Mr. Darcy school of romance: snarky bickering until the couple realizes it’s been love all along. Just with more sex. Following adventures of a university film club, this tale is as much an ode to college’s reckless mix of passion and creativity as it is a romance. A few side plots, including fangirls, porn, and love between brothers (must we?), veer into BL cliches, but the main pairing is messy and tender. If you like her style, Close the Last Door is as compelling about adults, though with sillier notes.

Future Lovers by Saika Kunieda
(Deux, 2 volumes)

Alex’s note: The book that *every* hard core yaoi fan friend of mine told me I had to read. I wasn’t disappointed. Top- notch art where the bishonen ukes still look like guys, an openly gay romantic lead (a rarity in yaoi), very believable character interaction and some sex that’s actually, well hot (also a rarity in my experience with yaoi). A very compelling, page-turning story of two guys with very different personalities who fall in love.
Leyla’s note: Seconding Alex on this one. With one possible exception, all of Kunieda’s titles are top-notch, and I wish she were better represented here.

Ichigenme: The First Class Is Civil Law… by Fumi Yoshinaga
(801 Media, 2 volumes)

Chris’s note: Probably the most realistic depiction of a mature gay relationship that I’ve come-across in yaoi, the relationships felt really strong, and well-observed. Lots of sex (particularly in the second volume), and it does not feel overly designed/pandering to its intended female audience, largely owing to Yoshinaga’s skill as a storyteller.

Little Butterfly by Hinako Takanaga
(Digital Manga, 1 omnibus edition)

Alex’s note: Very sweet romance with lovable high-school aged characters and well-drawn art in the shojo tradition. Good humor, well-paced plotting and an all-around good time. Some hardcore yaoi friends I’ve talked to found the plot twists to be yaoi cliches, but IMHO, it’s a great introduction to the special joys yaoi offers gay readers.

Love Pistols by Tarako Kotobuki
(Blu, Manga 5 volumes)

Scott’s note: My first experience reading yaoi a bizarre story about sexual conquests, gay relationships and characters evolved from animals other than monkeys. The series follows a lot of the traditional dom/sub and older/younger themes found in most yaoi but turns the genre on its head with the addition of these half-animal characters. This makes sexual scenes ridiculous but also sexy and fun, especially when it’s revealed that males can be impregnated. Might appeal to members of the gay bear community or any other community where animal metaphors and sex are found.

The Moon and the Sandals by Fumi Yoshinaga
(Juné Manga, 2 volumes)

Robin’s note: As Chris notes looking at Ichigenme, Yoshinaga’s skill elevates her titles beyond cliches. Here we have a student in love with a teacher, an easily-led object of affection, and a girl pining away for her gay friend. Yoshinaga promptly upends expectations. Sometimes hesitant, sometimes impulsive, her characters are charmingly true to life. The second volume is filled with sex character driven sex, but sex nonetheless but also features a rare storyline about coming out in the workplace.

Rin! by Satoru Kannagi and Yukine Honami
(Jun© Manga, 3 volumes)

Alex’s note: The main reason to get this is for the art — no one draws huggable boys like Yukine Honami. Her penciled style combines traditional manga elements (such as the larger than life eyes) with beautiful naturalism and compelling expressionality. And while there are no surprises here plot- wise, the romance is satisfying, believable and yes, very sweet. Much fun.

Shout Out Loud! by Satosumi Takaguchi
(BLU Manga, 5 volumes)

Robin’s note: Two realistic romances for one! Shout Out Loud is set in the world of voice actors, thus appealing to manga fans, but the milieu is second to the relationships. Baby-faced Shino is unsure of how he feels about his two seductive colleagues while his teenage hockey star son falls for his assistant coach. Much more about heart than seduction, this series deftly balances questions of identity with finding love.

Seduce Me After the Show by Est Em
(Deux, 1 volume)

Alex’s note: Very non-traditional art with complex, difficult characters who feel like they could actually be real people. This book is essentially the opposite of my previous yaoi recommendations — all of which could essentially be summed up as “happy, pretty BoysLove”. Instead, these pages contain thoughtful, sad, wistful, complex and subtle stories for grown- ups that will make you think. It’s an 18-and-over book that, frankly, you might actually need to be over 18 to appreciate, and one of the best yaoi books I’ve ever read. One to pick up after you’ve read a bunch of other yaoi books so you can appreciate how special and risky it is.

Tea for Two by Yaya Sakuragi
(BLU Manga, 4 volumes)

Robin’s note: I get as tired of high school romances as anyone, especially when the uniforms and ages are more kinks than window dressing. Tea for Two neatly sidesteps the pitfalls of high school boy BL. Easy-going baseball jock Tokumaru falls for calm, sexy Hasune, the scion of a famous tea family. Their progress from admitted feelings to a working relationship is all the drama you need. Tokumaru states his feelings bluntly, taking the wind out of any pining on either side, and coming out as a couple is an issue (rarely addressed in BL, here it’s part of growing up.) Humor lightens misunderstandings and Sakuragi excels at exposing vulnerability. As a bonus, no one draws a sexy smirk so well.

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