Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers

October 11th, 2010

Saturday at NYCC/NYAF it was my incredible pleasure to be able to sit on a panel about BL/Yuri manga for LGBTQ readers. It was, in my opinion, one of the best panels I’ve ever had the honor of being on. Great conversation – and great questions from the audience, too.

One of the features of the panel was a handout that moderator Robin Brenner put together, of a suggested reading list based on the panelists’ suggestions.

I’ve edited my comments a bit, but this is otherwise what was handed out Saturday.

Update: And, btw – Happy Coming Out Day. If you have a young LGBTQ person in your life, do them a favor and tell them you love them for who they are. Thanks.

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Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers

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

Yaoi/BL

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
(Juné 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 listworthy.

Erica’s note: Yamashita also wrote HER, which I recently reviewed. That had a Yuri story in the collection.

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 L. 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
(Juné 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 clichés, 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. Topnotch 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 clichés, 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 clichés. 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
(Juné 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 plotwise, he 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.

Erica’s note: Takaguchi is also known in the Yuri world for gang-girl classic Hana no Asuka-gumi.

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 Boy’s Love”. Instead, these pages contain thoughtful, sad, wistful, complex and subtle stories for grownups 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.

Yuri

Strawberry Panic Omnibus by Sakurako Kimino
(Seven Seas, 2 volumes manga, 3 volumes novel)
Erica’s note: Strawberry Panic is a parody of many typical Yuri tropes

Iono-sama Fanatics by Miyabi Fujieda
(Infinity Studios, 1 volume published in English)
Erica’s note: A fun Yuri fantasy. Volume Two is included in Erica’s license requests.

Yuri Monogatari by various creators
(ALC, 6 anthologies to date)
Erica’s note: Yuri anthology in English, artists and writers from all around the world (conflict of interest, well, yes, duh. Still, I think it’s great!).

Hayate x Blade by Shizuru Hayashiya
(Seven Seas, 6 volumes, ongoing)
Erica’s note: Not “Yuri” but with pairs of girls who swordfight to work with, it’s a great action/comedy-drama.

Erica’s wish list for titles that SHOULD be published in English.

Aoi Hana by Takako Shimura
(5 volumes, ongoing)
Erica’s note: Fantastically excellent series – all the Yuri tropes, like Strawberry Panic, but done with elegance, grace and strength.

Rica ‘tte Kanji!? by Rica Takashima
(ALC Publishing, 1 volume)
Erica’s note: Out of print, we’re working on an omnibus. It may be e-book only.
Robin’s note: I agree this needs to come back into print! It’s adorable and perhaps the only title I’ve read that’s both realistic and adorably romantic.

Gunjo by Ching Nakamura
(1 volume, ongoing)
Erica’s note: Dark, violent, dysfunctional story about a woman and the lesbian who is in love with her, on the run from the police after the lesbian kills the woman’s husband. Sounds kind of “meh” it’s actually genius. Reading it is like eating the most delicious razorblades ever.

Maria-sama ga Miteru by Oyuki Konno
(35 volumes novel, 6 volumes manga, ongoing)
Erica’s note: The anime is in English, we really need the novels to come out here, but they never will.

Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan by Fujieda Miyabi
(1 volume, ongoing)
Erica’s note: There is no “plot,” but the women of the Amber Teahouse do nothing in an incredibly pleasant way.

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9 Responses

  1. JRBrown says:

    I’m sorry I missed this. If I already hadn’t used up my one-con-per-year limit, I would have gone to NY just for this panel.

    Who is this Scott Robins and why is he recommending Love Pistols? I mean, I love that thing, but it is cracky crack with crack sauce and contains enough WTF in each volume to keep the entire manga industry running for a year. I have a hard time believing that any actual gay man would do more than laugh his ass off at it. But then, maybe that’s the point…

    Also, votes for Age Called Blue and Seduce Me After the Show, but not Red Blinds the Foolish? Why? (Although those should really be collapsed into one: “all the est em that you can get your hands on, stat!”)

  2. @JRBrown To give Scott credit, he did indeed say it was cracky crack with a crack filling. ^_^

  3. Annelise says:

    Will the manga Girl Friends by Morinaga Milk ever be serialized in America or have an anime/OVA to it? Is there any plan for the future or is it just finished forever as it is now? I think it is a very beautiful story and should get more recognition and popularity.

  4. @Annelise – If I hear of anything, i will certainly share it. As far as I know, no English publisher is currently looking to license that. The Yuri market is very small, and without some quality that could broaden the audience to more mainstream sales, it would be hard to make any money on a purely Yuri title right now.

    The Yuri market is about 2000-2500 people right now, and publishers really need to be able to sell 4000 books or more to make a license worthwhile.

  5. It was really nice to meet you in person, Erica – and awesome to actually be on a panel with you. You had so many interesting and insightful things to say. It was definitely interesting to learn about the history of Yuri and how creators are becoming more empowered in Japan (and how you were part of that with Yuricon) – and it makes me excited to pick up one of your Yuri recs. This being my first panel, it was really a pleasure to know I was surrounded by so much good experience, too. Helped make me feel less nervous. :-)

    It’s a shame you couldn’t come to dinner; I would’ve loved to get a chance to chat more with you and get to hear more of your stories. But I hope to get the chance in the future! Who knows? Maybe at Wondercon, huh?

  6. @Alex – It was a real pleasure meeting you too! I had been working the DR at the con for three days, I needed to go home and get some downtime. Unfortunately Wondercon is coming too near Anime Boston, so I will probably miss it this time around. :-( But who knows and yes, next time, we’ll definitely sit and chat some more.

  7. SaYuri-P says:

    Will be HayateXBlade going on zo be published by Seven Seas? Do you know anything about it?
    It seems that they’ve stopped to publish any more volumes D:

    Ah, it would be so great to read Aoi Hana in English.

  8. @SaYuri-P When there is news to share, I will share it, just like I always do.

  9. Thank you so much for posting this; I’ve found myself increasingly irritated with the usual BL fare available within the American market, so it is wonderfully helpful to find a list of suggested titles by those who have an eye to greater realism and/or depth in narratives.

    On the other hand, the shortness of the Yuri list is saddening since it reminds me of the dearth of quality Yuri available in America. I hope that the increasing interest in digital publishing may help change this, though.

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