Welcome to the fourth and final part of this story!
Who creates and consumes gay manga?
You might have noticed that most BL creators tend to be women. In fact, after looking at a sample “The Top 10 Best Gay Manga” blog post by Lindsey Lee, a google search reveals that all 10 listed manga were drawn by female artists.
In an article on Savvy Tokyo titled “Boys’ Love, the Genre that Liberates Japanese Women to Create a World of Their Own,” writer Kirsty Kawano noted that women are the primary readers of BL. This is mostly true, and consumers of other shojo series (manga aimed at teenage girls) like Nichijo, Ouran High School Host Club, or Lucky Star are familiar with the common fujoshi (literally, “rotten girl”) character who, often quiet and bespectacled, enjoys reading and/or drawing sexually explicit gay manga.
As Kawano’s article eloquently points out, many women in Japan feel “liberated” to explore their own sexuality through love scenes between two men rather than between a man and a woman.
But just because women primarily draw BL doesn’t mean only women read it. Just like fujoshi, men who enjoy BL are called fudanshi (literally, “rotten boy”).
Not all Fudanshi are gay
Not all fudanshi are gay, either. One manga series, The High School Life of a Fudanshi (2015-present), features a teenage boy who loves gay manga but identifies as straight.
Bara is supposed to be aimed more at men, and it definitely has a more macho aesthetic that appeals to men. However, Anne Ishii, a popular bara translator who also happens to be a woman, points out in an interview with women’s website The Hairpin’s Chris Randle that plenty of women enjoy the more “muscley” aesthetic of bara artwork, too.
Bara and BL are not all that different in terms of plots, and Anne Ishii notes that women read gay manga to get down to the “nutty core of desire” prevalent in both BL and bara fiction.
Let’s enjoy part IV of this story. If you like it please share it!
For those who missed part III of the series here is the LINK.
Thank you for reading and I promise to come up with more very soon!