Hey Yaoi!

What Is Yaoi?

Yaoi is a type of Japanese animation that is meant for girls and focuses on male-to-male relationships. Yaoi can come in the form of comics and cartoons, and is often referred to as "Boys' Love", or shounen-ai in Japan. The word "yaoi" is an acronym for "Yama nashi, imi nashi, ochi nashi," which literally means "No climax, no meaning, no resolution" in Japanese. Yaoi is created to explore the romantic and sexual relationship between two dating men, so the plot and character development isn't really of importance to female readers.

Yaoi got its start as doujinshi comics in Japan in the early 1980s. Once publishing companies realized how popular this subsection had become, they branched out and started creating comics solely focusing on creating stories for women about beautiful boys and their relationships. Today, yaoi is one of the top moneymakers of manga in Japan.

Why is Yaoi So Popular?

There is much speculation as to why women love yaoi so much. First of all, yaoi comics are very beautifully drawn and showcase true artistic prowess. Great care is taken to create the delicate images, and this detail is not lost on the women that read yaoi. Women also appreciate yaoi because the stories focus on two very attractive men, which is not only enjoyable to some women, but may also be considered "safe" since the sex and violence is being directed towards men and not women. Yaoi is also highly romantic, something that isn't always portrayed in regular manga and anime.

To the suprise of many not familiar with yaoi, it is purposely intended for women and not gay men. Most of the artists are women, so the stories are usually very soft and romantic. Much like some men enjoy reading about or watching two women together, some women like reading about two pretty boys. While there certainly are gay men who may enjoy yaoi, its intended audience is female.

In Japan, women have been loving yaoi for almost 30 years. Since starting off as an offshoot of doujinshi, yaoi has skyrocketed into becoming a cultural phenomenon. Now, it's also enjoying commercial success in the United States. It's more difficult to find Yaoi manga in the United States, though there are plenty of American female fans. Americans have only recently gotten in on the yaoi trend, though "slash", stories about two men from TV shows or movies in intimate situations, has been quite popular for many years. The best way to get a Yaoi fix here is to attend a convention, import the manga from Japan, or find a specialty store that may carry it. Yaoi is still not considered "mainstream" in the United States, but luckily many fansites have sprung up on the Internet, to the delight of all the American yaoi fangirls.

Common Yaoi Terms

New to yaoi? It may seem confusing at first - there are entire glossaries devoted to Japanese yaoi and manga terms. Here's a starter guide to help get you on your way:

Anime: means "animation".
Bishounen: means "pretty boy" and usually refers to the beautiful boys and men in yaoi stories.
Manga: means "comic books".
Seme: the "aggresive" male in a yaoi comic. Semes are typically older and more experienced, and are traditionally drawn with darker hair and narrower eyes.
Shoujo: means "girl" and refers to comics, manga and anime meant for girls.
Shounen ai: means "boys' love", and refers to any anime featuring two boys in love.
Uke: the "submissive" male in a yaoi comic. Ukes are generally younger, less experienced, and more emotional. They typically are drawn with lighter hair, and round, innocent eyes.


Yaoi Resources

  • Yaoi-Con - An annual meeting where yaoi fans can purchase new comics and interact with other fans.
  • Yaoi Press - The top producer of yaoi comics in North America.
  • Anime News Network - A great source for news about yaoi, anime, and manga.
  • Pure Yaoi - A very popular yaoi fansite with pictures and stories.
  • "Boys' Love," Yaoi, and Art Education - An excellent academic article detailing the rise and popularity of yaoi and its significance in the art community.

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