Why The Yaoi Genre Is Problematic.

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When even self-proclaimed fans of a thing admit the thing is problematic, you know there´s a problem. Personally, I´m a huge fan of the BL genre, I don´t know why and I also think it´s better not to dwell on it for too long, but by the end of the day, everything that has the yaoi or shonen ai tag attached to it automatically grabs my attention, and no matter how trash, low-quality and ultimately awful it is, I´ll be more than likely to watch the entire thing anyway just out of my loyalty to the genre.

Manga can afford its variety in styles and storytelling, manga has countless of amazing BL titles that aren´t just good BL works, but just amazing romance stories. Anime, unfortunately, has to play it safe, grabs the most popular and if the formula works, beat it dead to the ground and shove it down everyones throats. I have no doubt in my mind that the existence of Junjou Romantica is one of the bigger reasons that the genre has such a bed rep.

It´s not hard to see why. Junjou Romantica is basically the textbook definition of what a toxic relationship is, the proportions and ugly aesthetics doesn´t really help its case either, now I will channel my inner SJW and call out all the reasons why yaoi in anime is in complete shackles (and how it seems to be improving bit by bit)

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“It´s just a fantasy, don´t take it so seriously.”

Of course it´s fantasy, but it´s obvious that people are going to be influenced by fiction to some sort of unconcious degree, especially young girls, who are the biggest demographic of the genre – 50 Shades of Gray gives the wrong impression of BDSM culture and romanticizes abuse, Junjou Romantica is doing the exact same thing on a smaller scale but with just as much damage; pinning your romantic partner down against their will isn´t cute, being jealous over everyone they hang out with isn´t love, not letting them go anymore because you don´t trust them isn´t relationship goals, it´s abusive, and that´s the first exposure you get to the genre.

“Do you hate Nakamura or something?”

I don´t hate Nakamura at all, I´m sure the manga are a lot more bearable than the three anime her works has spawned. I like Sekaiichi Hatsukoi a whole lot more than Junjou Romantica, but the problematic base is still the same. Nakamura isn´t a good storyteller, her romances are recycled and her artwork makes it hard to distinguish one character from another. She´s not awful, she´s just as commercial as they come and there are so, so many better mangakas out there with actual storytelling skills.

“Will we ever see a good yaoi anime?”

I think we might. I´m optimistic, and the fact that Love Stage got a full budget anime series should support my thoughts. Furthermore, Doukyuusei is getting a film and that manga is absolutely amazing. Depending on its success, I think we might see more respectable shows in the future.

“So what are the problems with the genre?”

The genre is completely drenched in cliché and preconceptions that have only been proved right by the standards Junjou Romantica has set – correct me if I´m wrong, but I´m pretty sure that Junjou Romantica pretty much holds the torch in popularity for BL, mainly because it was one of the first to do it.

Cliché in a genre that´s as small as it is is pretty much a death sign right away, but when the cliché is completely problematic and sixty percent of the genre is written by the same person, it´s no wonder people aren´t going to give a fuck about the genre. I´m sure a lot more people would be open to BL, but with the negatives havily outweighting the positives, there´s really no way to ease them into the genre without getting into manga ground, something a lot of people are too lazy to do. Basically, the yaoi genre needs to move forward and consider that there is a wider audience than just the die hard fujoshis, Love Stage has proved this, and it succeeded in every way.

At least it isn´t in the state the yuri genre is, but it definitely shares some of its flaws; adaptations seem to be scared of actually adapting the things the actual fans want to see. DRAMAtical Murder, despite being a harcore yaoi Visual Novel which is actually really cool and dark and trippy, the anime was completely vanilla, it was all tease and no substance, DRAMAtical Murder wasn´t fun for the fans and it certainly wasn´t fun for newcomers. This happens in almost every yaoi visual novel adaptation.

In that sense, Junjou Romantica, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi and now Love Stage are the three yaoi anime we can actually get some kissing in, and out of those three two of them are almost always without consent and not cute at all.

Meanwhile, the better stuff comes from independant artists, like the This Boy Caught A Merman OVAs.

So, in the end, the yaoi genre is in shackles not because the people don´t want it or won´t accept it, but because the adaptations don´t know who to please and settle with the same two shows for years – even if the answer might be treating yaoi anime like every other romance anime.

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3 Comments

  1. I gave Love Stage a try when it aired, but I did find the attempted rape scene early on creepy.

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    • Yeah, but as far as yaoi anime go, it was pretty tame. Still problematic though.

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