Like any blogger, I keep an eye on my Web site’s stats and visitors and I’ve discovered that a significant number of readers come here though search engines looking for “bara” — that is, Japanese gay male romance manga written by gay men for gay men (referred to by some as “muscle yaoi” due to the fact that the character design often is fairly muscular — particularly compared to traditional yaoi-style bishonen.)
As I’ve mentioned before, discussions of bara in English — let alone English translations — have been hard to come by. But this looks like this might be starting to change. As a service to my readers, I will use this post to provide links for English-speakers to explore Bara manga. I will update it as I discover more sites (and if you have any other suggestions, please include them in the comments!)
(Needless to say, the links I’m including below are ALL Not Safe For Work [or for looking at in front of Grandma, etc.] — you’ve been warned [or encouraged, depending… 😉 ])
Bara is hot
First off, let me get this off my chest — I find bara quite hot, more so than many (but not all) of the yaoi works I’ve read and certainly much more than traditional Western gay male comics.
It’s fairly easy for me to put my finger on what it is about bara that beats out the majority of what gets published in Western gay male comics (such as what you might find at, say, Class Comics) — it’s the character design. Bara guys tend to be fairly muscular, which is not so different than what you’d find in Western gay comics. What does seem different is the obsession with monstrous proportions we seem to have in the west.
Take for example the work of LOGAN. This is a gay male comics artist whose artwork I find absolutely superb — he’s got serious chops in terms of linework, colors, composition, you name it. But his men leave me icy cold. Their muscles have muscles and the penises appear easily as large as my forearm. I understand that this sort of thing is hot for some (just like I’m aware that monstrous-sized breasts are appealing to certain straight boys), but for me, looking at this artwork doesn’t turn me on — I just want to buy these poor fellows a back-brace or something. (For a particularly freaky understanding of this, step into the uncanny valley with me and check out some of LOGAN’s Poser artwork.)
Now, I’m sure that serious bara fans would be able to provide me with links to Bara Of Unusual Size, but my point is that this sort of design seems to be the norm with Western gay comics and not so much with the Japanese ones. Likewise, and this is done less often (as there is a fair amount of “twink” art), this “super-sizing” also seems to apply to depictions of hypermasculinity in Western gay comics’ design — making all the guys super-furry, tough-looking and ideally wrapped up in a whole lotta leather. (Ultimately, I suppose we can thank the influence of Tom of Finland for much of this.) It just feels to me like it’s trying way too hard, protesting too much, so while Your Mileage May Vary, for me it’s a big meh. I’m just not much for extremes, in real life or in comic art, so there we are.
And now that I think of it, one reason why bara might often be hotter for me than much of yaoi probably has to do with avoiding another extreme — the hyperfeminization you often find in the design of male characters. Not surprisingly, as a gay man I like my guys to look like guys. Now of course, some yaoi artists like that too — and their art I often will find erotic — but for those who don’t, well I can appreciate the romance in those books, but it won’t get my motor running.
So bara carves out a bit of a happy medium for me in terms of how the guys look — and that makes its artwork especially appealing for me.
(And to be perfectly honest, I’ve found that there is some technical understanding of how gay sex usually works in real life that the bara creators seem to get a bit better. While there does seem to be a fair amount of the inevitable anal intercourse consummation that you find in yaoi works, there also seems to be a deeper awareness that oral sex and mutual masturbation are also considered equally valid and fulfilling ways for two guys to make love — and that anal sex isn’t necessarily something first-timers would be down for. I find this understanding makes the sex more believable for me and thus, ultimately, hotter. Again, I’m sure we could find yaoi/bara examples that disprove the rule, but speaking generally, this is a distinction I’ve found appealing.)
A Good Place to Start
So hopefully I’ll be able to add a number of links to this post, but I found that good place to start for a nice sample of bara in English is at
Baralover (EDIT 7/31/10: Yikes! For the past 24 hours the Baralover link has been delivering a 404 – Not Found page. 🙁 Hopefully it’s a temporary glitch, but if it’s not resolved in a week, I’ll remove the link here… EDIT 8/17/10: It’s still down. I sent an email to the owner but did not receive a reply. I did find this update of sorts over at BARA Club. We’ll see how this develops. EDIT 9/1/10: And now we have an explanation — looks like Baralover is down for the count for the foreseeable future.)
So, in the meantime, please look below for links to more sites with English-translated bara!)
At this site you will find bara manga from a good-sized variety of creators all translated into English. Now, be warned, these are scanlations — meaning that the original creators have NOT been compensated for the work you are downloading. There is a complicated (and sometimes ignored) system of ethics that scanlators follow in order to respect the artists they admire that mostly boils down to “We will only make available works that you cannot already buy in English — and as soon as English-language versions are published, we will remove our scanlations and encourage you to buy the for-pay books.”
As a creator myself (with limited financial resources), I have mixed feelings about scanlations. On the one hand, I do believe that increasing the exposure of niche works can ultimately benefit creators and publishers commercially (which is why I am making and will continue to make available free downloads of some of our comics.) But, on the other hand, no one has asked any of these creators for their permission to post these works — and I certainly wouldn’t be happy to have that decision taken out of my hands. And no matter how you frame it, it is piracy — and at least according to a panel discussion I heard at YaoiCon, this sort of online piracy has devastated the manhwa market in Korea.
So please, please, please — if you like what you see in some of these links, do take the time to compensate the original creators. A few bucks from you makes a huge difference in how much future work they can create. (Check out the sections below for ways to find and pay creators for bara downloads.)
First off, if you’re liking this bara stuff, let me humbly suggest you take a moment to check out our comics, like Tough: “No Kissing” which has a hot guy-on-guy painted cover and art and is a free download for our subscribers. Just saying… 🙂
Other great places (last update 8/4/11):
– Kyo, the original webmaster of Baralover just sent me the link to this saying “someone has made a sequel to my old Baralover website”. I’ve checked it out, and so far, it looks pretty great! 🙂
– Lots of full scans of bara mangas from famous creators in an easy to read format. Most are scanlated into English. Definitely worth your time.
BARA – Club (+18) [Yaoi]
– Lots of hot images, lots of links to scanlated Bara. A nice forum to talk about it all. You have to register to get access to the links, but the process is quick and painless. Some pop-up windows seem to have been recently added, though…
– Bara boards site with lots of art (updated link!)
The Bara Forums
– Currently active discussions and postings on Bara (with lots of images), worth your time (but looks like the spammers might be taking over…)
Bara Club on MyAnimeList
– A variety of bara-themed posts and images (includes some photos, some furry, but lots of bara art), definitely worth your time
– Not updated since 2007 but some good work
The baralovers community at LiveJournal
TAKU HiRAKU’s iLLUSTLATiON SiTE
– Creator site with explicit bara, lots of nice images (NON-ENGLISH)
– chubby cartoonish bara, and all by the same artist (I think) NON-ENGLISH
SOME TUMBLR BLOGS
On the plus side, these sites have well-drawn and very explicit pin-up art, often updated everyday. On the downside, they almost never credit the artist, which is frustrating as a viewer and deprives the artist of even the (non-consensual) gain of building a fan-base. Hopefully, the culture on these Tumblr blogs will change around that…
Bara all day, every day – does just what it says on the tin and the moderator seems willing to try to find out who the artists are if you ask nicely. For the artist’s sake, please ask. 🙂
The Queer Geek – lots of bara, with some Western art and photos. Quite nice. Also seems to list the artist more than others, also nice. Should be your first stop just for that reason alone.
bara-onda – offers a mix of Japanese and Western art in a thumbnail layout. Not the most convenient set-up, but there were some pics here I hadn’t seen elsewhere.
Rainbow Robin – a mix of Western art, bara and real-life photos. (Seems to have a lot more gay porn photos/animated gifs lately. And the comics art mostly concerns Robin and Batman.)
FUCK YES YAOI – lots of bara and Western art as well as slash. States in its FAQ that “slash” and “yaoi” are “the exact same thing”, which might come as a surprise to some original BL creators, but the moderator also expresses an interest in crediting the artists which is, at least, a nice thought.
(I’d also be remiss not to include a link to Japanese Gay Art here where a lot of the nicer pieces in the blogs above seem to come from and where you can purchase work and support artists. It’s a really well done site — definitely check it out.)
Buying Bara E-Books
Right now, as far as I know, there isn’t any bara being published in English (yet!). And it’s hard to get enthusiastic about (and ultimately want to support) work you can’t read. So, I will continue to look at Bara scanlations. But after sampling a bara author’s work through a scanlation, I try to do the right thing — I look for ways to get the creator money. This is both to balance out the free-work I have enjoyed and also to offer the creator support so they can create future work to enjoy. How do I compensate these creators? I buy their Japanese-language works. And there are actually a couple ways you can easily do this.
First off, some Japanese manga creators offer for-pay downloads of their work — and this work is often more recent stuff that hasn’t been scanlated yet.
Let’s say you’ve become quite taken with Kowmeiism’s comic “Judo Boy” (the opening image in this post [of that guy with the sword] is also by the same creator). A Google search brings you to his Web site and there you find a Download link page with some of his for-pay e-books. You click on one of the DiGiket download links and — after clicking through the “Yes I Am 18” button [the first blue one on the left] — are brought to the DiGiket online manga marketplace page to download one of his manga.
At this point you might feel stymied — everything’s in Japanese, you see, and it’s not intuitively obvious how you’d pay for his work, let alone download it. Luckily, there is a simply excellent English-language walkthrough for how to download manga through DiGiket in a journal post over at elee0228’s DeviantArt page. Follow the instructions over at that page and it’s easy as pie to download DRM-free and very high-quality manga art.
(The payment method recommended by elee0228 is WebMoney — a Japanese form of electronic cash that uses special alphanumeric codes that you enter on payment Web sites. It’s very easy to use and it ensures your buying choices will be completely anonymous. In order to get myself some WebMoney to spend, I used kanetrade.com which provided me the WebMoney codes nearly instantaneously and whom, based on that experience, I feel comfortable recommending. They sell WebMoney codes in 1000 point increments and Digiket is smart enough to prompt you for a 2nd WebMoney code for the balance remaining if your first code doesn’t have enough to cover the cost of the manga download, so there is no need to sweat not having exact Yen amounts for the codes you buy.)
UPDATE 2-27-10: Also, for extra easiness, be sure to check out the Yaoi section (sidebar on the left under “Interests/Fetishes”) of the English-language DLSite. Lots of options from Japanese creators, descriptions in English, you can use a regular credit card. Easy, peasy. Should be your first stop. (Just ignore the boobies on the home page… 😉 )
UPDATE 12-27-10: And because some folks in the U.S. have been having a difficult time downloading from Digiket using WebMoney, a reader has created and allowed me to share a walkthrough for a similar Japanese site, Surpara.com, which also has the benefit of letting you use your regular credit card.
Buying Physical Bara Books
But what if a creator doesn’t have an e-book available over at DiGiket (or you can’t find it)?
A great place to get hardcopy Bara books is over at Rainbow Shoppers. They have a wide assortment of bara works that you can order including works by creators you’ll find on the Baralover page such as Takeshi Matsu and Tsukasa Matsuzaki. Just click on the “Comic” link in the left sidebar over at Rainbow Shoppers and work your way through the links it provides. They accept VISA and Mastercard and will ship to any location worldwide.
(Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I actually have not yet ordered from Rainbow Shoppers, but I know those who have and they’ve had good experiences. Of course, all the books are still in Japanese. But the artwork is still gorgeous — and if you really appreciate a creator’s work, don’t you want to do the right thing and help make sure they can afford to keep making it? I thought you did. 🙂 )
I’ll Keep Updating This List — with your help!
So I hope you found this post a useful introduction to getting your hands on some of that bara art that we’ve all been hearing rumblings about for some time. If you know of any other links that should be included in this post, please let me know in the comments! 😀
(UPDATE: Tina Anderson has a nice listing of Japanese language sites and sources for bara at her blog — which is especially handy as it includes direct links to creators’ Web sites, including noting who sells at DiGiket. She also turned me on to the Top Ten List of Gay Comics over at Rainbow Shoppers.)
Hey! Want links to full-color yaoi/bara comics sent to you — for free? Just sign up over at our Free Comic page and we’ll send you the download link to our first comic right away!
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