FROM SEXUALIZATION TO STANDARDIZATION
Manga has always been a field where everything is possible. Although Japanese society can be so restrictive with some subjects (such as LGBTI), the graphic arts have always been a world of possibilities and for all tastes. One such issue is homosexuality, especially yaoi or BL (relations between men) and yuri (relations between women). Although in Japanese society there is still a long way to go. A good example of them is The Poem of Wind and Trees ( Kaze to Ki No Uta ) by Keiko Takemiya.
However, this type of themes from its origins and also today, have a strong sexualizing component. They show idealized relationships where they tend to objectify their main characters. Therefore, it is a popular genre, mainly for its attractiveness or sensuality. So some of the first works represented this line of yaoi where violence and sexuality were very present. As it is the case of works like Zetsuai 1989 and Bronze, both by Minami Ozaki.
In these works the characters were beautiful and always involved in situations of entanglement and very passionate loves. Although not all of them belonged to this aspect, they were intermingled with other themes such as Fake by Sanami Matoh or authentic dramatic stories such as Kizuna by Kazuma Kodaka. Possibly this aspect of the yaoi was the most interesting to go beyond the mere sexual relationship (and the topics of the genre) and represented more objectively the reality of the LGBTI + collective. And so they were arriving little by little until 2012, popularly known as the year of the bursting of the manga bubble in Europe.
With the arrival of the 2012 crisis, one of the main genres affected was the yaoi, as it is a type of works aimed at a minority audience. However, manga readers were changing and wanted new works that went beyond mere entertainment. Works with which to empathize, and be represented.
After the bursting of the bubble, the manga market was in somewhat unstable ground. This did not prevent the appearance of new publishers who bet on a style of different works. Works with a realistic style, framed within the slice of life, but with which they sought to capture the attention of readers through naturalness. Within this vein, in 2014 Editions Tomodomo was fixed in the yaoi sort from a first moment with works like Seven Days of Rihito Takarai and Venio Tachibana or In the same class by Asumiko Nakamura. Later, we see the appearance of a more traditional side of the genre with titles like Junjou Romantica by Shungiku Nakamura and Young Boyfriend’s Love Management Habit by Hashigo Sakurabi. All of them were very well received by the public.
However, it is worth noting that, although it is true that the most topical yaoi (sexualized, entangled …) was the most successful, the public also saw with good eyes the more realistic yaoi.
Thus we can find At the Corner of the Night Skies by Nojiko Hayakawa and I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino, faithful to that realistic aspect of the genre. But above all it should be noted that they are works that explore the complexity of the homosexual relationship beyond the sexual act, especially in the case of Fumino. It is this type of works that, in the end, represent and visibilize the collective objectively and with which the reader most connects. Other publishers that would join this wave with Shoko Hidaka’s Blue Morning, within its Kigen line dedicated to LGTBI + titles, and Sakura Gari from Yuu Watase. After this awakening of the genre, yaoi works of diverse themes arrived and always moving between both tendencies. To mention some of the most successful we find Koi ni mo Naranai, Twittering Birds Never Fly , Requiem of the Rose King, among others.
Although there are some works that dare to go further and perhaps are the most interesting in terms of representation of the LGBTI+ group. Mangas that dare to visualize the complex reality such as Shadows on Shimanami or the most recent Smells like Green Spirit. Both reflect the problems faced by people of different genders and sexual orientations. However, they always leave a door open to hope and that best represent the ideal that is claimed today: Stories that encourage the reader to accept oneself, regardless of gender, orientation and sexual identity.
2019: THE YEAR OF THE REVOLUTION
Currently, the yaoi is well established in our market with practically a new volume every month. However, it seems that 2019 will be a special year for the LGBT + collective in terms of manga representation. New licenses for this market: Girlfriends or Fandogamia, autobiographical manga of a trans author.
Another one of the most talked about licenses is My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame. A work that addresses the homosexual reality from an unusual perspective, within the family environment and intermingling two different cultures: the American and the Japanese.
In short, LGBTI + is increasingly having a greater representation in manga. Something that is not a whim or trend, but a reflection of the society we live. Because manga not only entertains and excites us, but it can also reflect part of ourselves in its vignettes. In it lives the greatness of manga and, above all, of our manga market in constant evolution. Therefore, today more than ever one must be proud of our manga market.
If you still want to have more LGBTI and Manga titles to decide, here is a compilation.