Yaoi Manga: Not Your Grandfather's Comics

Think you've already got plenty to worry about when it comes to nurturing this generation of young people? Well, add another item to your list. Check out this scary article (warning: graphic content and images) in the alternative newsweekly Village Voice about Yaoi, a boy-on-boy genre of erotic manga that more and more teen and even pre-teen girls are consuming:
English-language manga is one of the fastest growing segments of the American publishing industry. Sales of that category amounted to about $175 million in North America last year, around triple the sales in 2002 ... National chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are scrambling to find more shelf space for these hot-ticket items, and are installing benches and couches at which readers can lounge. In that context, yaoi is the success story within the success story ...

Yaoi's success with its target audience has surprised even comic industry insiders. "When it was first presented to us, we were very skeptical," says Joshua Hayes, associate director of sales and marketing for Diamond Book Distributors of Maryland, the largest U.S. distributor of graphic novels. "Even though everyone told us that it was going to be sold to female consumers of a certain age level, we just couldn't believe that was true. I was looking at the first volume, untranslated, and thinking, 'There's no way; surely this would sell to a homosexual audience.'"
Some of the most disturbing (and popular) titles include stories about stepbrothers "falling in love," an underage student and his male teacher, and a boy and his dog. Parents take heed: that might not be Shonen Jump your daughter is reaching for at the bookstore. Take a closer look.

Here are some resources to help you find treasures in the world of reading.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I know that my stance won't be a popular one on this website or with a certain group of people, but I feel compelled to make my stance anyway. I have not visited your website before, but from the looks of it, it seems to be a Christian weblog. I have no problem with any religion, and will not criticize someone for their beliefs. But it also has to go both ways where I wish more people were open to talking about things rather then immediately going on rampages against them.

This is more of a general comment as you seem to be telling parents to watch what their kids are reading, which is something we all can agree on. If your son or daughter is bringing home a questionable manga(japanese comics) or a steamy romance novel, it's the parent that should investigate and see what their child is up to. Again, I understand that we may not see eye to eye on this subject, as your faith and views clash with mine.

I'm a straight male, so I cannot speak to the influence that yaoi has within the teen girl demographic. I have been a fan of anime and manga for many years, and I'm sure from your posting that you know at least what each is. I'm not telling you to embrace both mediums as that would be childish to try to force my beliefs onto someone else. But I'm asking for a fair chance; knowledge instead of fear. Not all of anime and manga is what the article describes. Like any other medium be it books, movies, or even things like plays, you have different genres. I can go into a local bookstore and become bewildered by different romance novels with steamy covers that cross all genres.

Now I can see why some might take more issue to normal anime and manga(not yaoi) because it's presented in a visual medium, one which many associate with being children's entertainment. But films like Sin City(which was adapted from a graphic novel) show us that it's a medium that covers many demographics. I'm encouraged that you seem not to vilify all of anime and manga as some others would, but are simply alerting some parents to monitor what their children are reading.

Being a anime and manga fan, it's hard to keep misconceptions out of peoples minds. The problem that I face is a lack of knowledge or education among people if you will. I'm not insulting your intelligence, but anime and manga are relativley new and not many people outside of fans have a firm grasp on what the medium is all about. I admit to a onlooker, things like this might give you a warped view of what the whole medium is about. This is one little niche of the medium, much like how you have romance novels, questionable movies, and many plays which deal with the same subject matter. But still nothing should be forced onto people, and perhaps if a concerning parent finds their teenager with a risque manga, talk to that child about why they bought it and so on.

I'm not asking you to change your views on the matter, I'm simply asking for open communication and the realization that you can't vilify a whole medium of shows and books on one area. If that was the case, movies and music would be ancient history. Of course homosexuality is a hot topic, and has been for many years. But while I can understand your objection to the yaoi manga you mentioned, I don't think it gives clause to mention things like Shounen Jump as something to look out for. We might not see eye to eye on this subject, but I hope that with your warning, you have a understanding that just because you have one area of a medium that deals with this hot topic, that the whole medium isn't immediately evil and needs to be purged.

I know it sounds like I'm over reacting on this topic as you're just warning parents to look at what their teens are reading, but sadly that is what I have to do now and then. Again anime and manga suffer from a lack of understanding, many see flashes in the pan and go on knee jerk reactions. While I won't protest you finding some content objectionable(I agree with most of what you said), I did want to post to make sure people realize that anime and manga while new, foreign, and a little strange is a vast medium that has something for everyone.

Thank You

Jen said...

If I'm guessing the titles that you've mentioned correctly ("Brother," "But I'm Your Teacher," and "Man's Best Friend"), it is worth noting that they are all sexually explicit titles and as such are not sold to anyone under the age of 18.

There are, of course, a number of yaoi manga out there (usually referred to as "shounen ai") that are non-explicit, non-erotic, purely romantic tales.

I don't know if many of the people in this audience would care about the distinction, I'd hate for people to get the idea that all yaoi was pornographic when that is not the case.

Mitali Perkins said...

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you stopping by. Jen, thanks for making the distinction between shounen ai and yaoi -- while the latter is usually more graphic, they both still deal with boy-on-boy romances and are mostly consumed by women, and teen girls. Shounen is the word for boy. And anonymous, you misunderstood me -- I'm a big fan of appropriate manga and anime like Shounen Jump and Serenity, and have no quibbles with the genre at all. My purpose was to inform and educate parents about this trend.

Mitali Perkins said...

I should qualify and say I'm a fan of some of what Shounen jump produces ...

Anonymous said...

Ah, then I'm sorry that I misread your entry Mitali. In fact, I think it's great and a testament that anime and manga can bring in many fans. Again, I can see why you would want to warn parents about what their kids are reading. We agree on that, and I apologize if it sounded like I was lashing out at you. It's just that sometimes as a anime and manga fan I feel like I have to constantly defend my hobby and interest.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my misguided rant.

Mitali Perkins said...

I understand about feeling like you have to defend your interests. Some people think that only nutcases are interested in following Jesus today. And some Christians think that only nutcases are interested in seeking and enjoying the best in pop culture. Either way I end up a nutcase. Since another purpose of this blog is to help Christian parents find beauty and truth in pop culture, I'm thankful that there are so many in the realm of comics.

Leslie said...

Mitali,

Thank you for letting us know about this sub-genre in anime. With all the buzz about it, we need to look carefully at what our kids are choosing. As a mom and library school student (hoping to someday work in a school library), I see the benefits of comics for kids. Here is a good website that some of your readers might be interested in (it reviews graphic novels for kids):
http://www.noflyingnotights.com/sidekicks/index.html

Thank you, also, for being a clear, thoughtful voice for Christians who are interested in engaging in pop culture.

Leslie

Anonymous said...

what? No yaoi love T_T Well, can't say I'm suprised... if you are really concerned about your tweenage daughter picking up a copy of "Lies & Kisses" talk to her and find some sort of compromise. This course of action may be incompatable with your personal views, but I've talked to many people on anime/yaoi message boards and the responses to "do your parents know about yaoi" is generally either "no but they would kill me if they found out" or "they found out and and burned my 200+ doujinishi collection *cries*" but of all the people I've talked to, I've never once heard of case of parents sucessful cutting their offspring off from yaoi and the "they burned my collection..." is followed by "now I have to pay full retail price when I get my friend to buy it for me at B&N (alright, not B&N since there selection sucks, but you get the picture)" I think it's sad parents can't communitcate with their children, and it's naive to think simply checking the manga your kid is buying is going to solve they problem (although I certainly don't think it's a bad idea for parents to know what there child is reading). Tha article really only focused on material for those over 18 with the most sensational titles dealing with taboos were mentioned (I keep telling myself to be cultrally relative and not point out anything sexually explicit in Japan is pretty freaky, but it is) which doesn't apply to most of the "shonen-ai" demographic (ai=love, Shonen-ai consists of angst and relationship subtext you have to squint at sideways to see too much of the time) and while there is all this talk of the market doubling and tripling that's because there literaly wasn't anything before and translates into less then half a dozen titles (usually less actually making it to your book store which your daughter won't buy because they aren't very good (maybe that's why there hasn't been that backlash the whole yaoi community's been waiting for?) So why did I post? I'm not sure... I think after seeing all the girls who are terrified that there parents will find out and disown them, I'd like [the parents] to know what's going on because when they don't things are bad for everyone, but also give fangirl-ish perspective k'thnxby. Oh, and I'm 14 BTW in case you were wondering.


And as for "appropriate" well, it's all relative, titles Shonen Jump and Shoujo Beat are clean, safe picks but people forget manga is Japanese and Japan's idea of what is appropriate is different from America's, for instance nudity in nonsexual context isn't uncommon. PS manga isn't so much a genre as a medium

Mitali Perkins said...

Hey anonymous, I'm glad you stopped by and posted -- you're so right about wanting parents to know what's going on. I also appreciate you pointing out the cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I enjoy yaoi.I'm 14 and not all of it is pornographic,and I don't understand what the big deal is.If you don't like it thats your opinion,but the people who do like it should be able to look at it without any objection from anyone.Its sort of offensive to homosexual people too.In my opinion people should be excepted for who they are.Thankyou.

Mitali Perkins said...

14-year old anonymous, I appreciate you stating your right to read a book or graphic novel, but we parents have the right to know what you're reading ... even if you don't tell us yourself. We care because we love you. We want you to grow up whole, body, mind, and soul, so that's why we're so interested in your lives. Read away, but my job on this blog is to let your parents know about what you're reading so that they can engage you in a relationship-fortifying conversation about the content if they are concerned. Blessings upon you!

Anonymous said...

Well, I enjoyed yaoi from the time I was 10. Honestly, now I like Shounen-Ai. But I dont' buy it because yes, my parents would be soooo hopping mad. But right now, see, what "14-year-old" annonymous was saying, she DIDNT want her parents to know. Now you're treating her nicely saying that you do want that to happen. Think about it from the child's point of view now. What do you think? Things like this boil my blood. Honestly, I am a yaoi/shounen-ai(mostly shounenai) fan, but PARENTS are the REASON I don't buy any of boy love manga. Because their homophobes. They hate everything that has to do with that. My mom even told me that I could draw no other romance but het! I know she's worried about me and all, but when you're 6 years older mentally, and people are still treating you like a kid, it can be VERY awful. Parents don't really "DISOWN" you (I doubt they do, but some might) but I can see that they would be mad. After all, GIRLS like yaoi because they ARE straight. Got that? STRAIGHT. NO need to worry. I'm just defending my pov, btw this ticks meh off.

Mitali Perkins said...

Anonymous most recent, I'm listening ... and trying to remember being fourteen ... keep talking ... it helps to hear your voice in my struggle to understand.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am 16 years old and I love yaoi. Shounen-Ai is alright but I don't hold much of an interest for it. I can agree with this point very much so since I live with my parents and sometimes my younger family members come and visit. I have 2 nieces who are 5 and 10. My youngest niece loves to copy me, so when I pick up a yaoi book and wish to be alone of course she wont leave me be. I don't want her to see what I am reading at all! She is much too young but not only that when my 10 year old niece sees it, it confuses her. She starts asking me questions about why two men are doing what their doing. I feel very guilty when this happens. So I fully believe parents have a right to see what their child reads. Now you might be asking why my mother and father let me read yaoi, since my taste is for the graphic stuff. My mom does not mind because I enjoy reading it. She wants me to be happy, I read normal books also. I am a huge book worm my collection of actual books consists of 67. My manga/yaoi collection is larger. Again I am rambling but I just wanted to get my point across. A parent should have views and thoughts on what their children read. Not control. A person like me just happens to enjoy reading graphic novels about men. (As odd as that sounds) This does not go for everyone. My family is all very straight but they ALL know what I read. They support that I like it. So I do think parents have earned a right for opinions and their own personal views. Though they have no right to CONTROL their children's likes and dislikes. Again since I am 16 it is very hard for a parent to control my life. I am becoming an adult. So if I per say catch my 10 year old niece reading my yaoi, I'll talk to her about it. I will explain anything she needs explaining about. If she finds me disgusting after words so be it. I will not change what I read for others, because when I read yaoi it makes me happy. And it is oh so nice to be happy.

Anonymous said...

I am a sixteen year old and straight female. I enjoy reading yaoi or boy's love and some yuri(girl/girl) titles. A lot of people around me don't know I enjoy them( peers and relatives). The reason why I enjoy it because it's just fantasy and fun in my opinion. Sometimes, I wish I can tell my parents my love for yaoi but they would not understand. Most people might find it really weird( most of my peers are really narrow minded) . My sisters might be cool with it but still. The only people that know my love for yaoi is myself and the people on the Internet.

If you don't like boy's love( or yuri, hentai,etc.), then don't read and/or watch it. And just respect the people that do like something you hate.

Bye!

Anonymous said...

I am the same writer above. One of the lines should read " A lot of people ( peers and relatives) don't know my enjoyment for yaoi." Excuse me for the little mistake. As for now, I am going to keep my BL obbession a secret. Not all of it, is porn. Ex: Gravition

Bye!

Nika said...

I'm a fourteen year old girl, who has recently turned this age as of two weeks ago.


I understand that you want to understand what your kids are reading. But honestly, if it wasn't for yaoi and shounen-ai, I'd have killed myself a few years ago. I have a lot of bully problems, and always read simple romance stories to make me feel better. But shounen-ai presented a new theory on it all, and I also thought it was gorgeous.

It's a new take on things. Something you've never seen before. I found it incredibly interesting, but after reading about eleven or so different series, I just kind of got over it. I never got into yaoi... hot, sweaty mansex doesn't really fly with me. I got into shounen-ai at a young age, and it really saved me. I would be a lot worse off now.

Just because you prevent your kids from reading shounen-ai and yaoi isn't going to make it disappear. They may stumble upon it accidentally and be scarred or something. And there's GOING to be some homos that they encounter in their life. As a Christian, you should be nice to everyone. Without any knowledge on the subject, how would you treat someone like that?


My mom is completely fine with me being a lesbian if I wanted to be, and we watch sex in the city together... we have a pretty close relationship. She knows I love gays, and her best friend is gay. Gay men are probably some of the best friends you can have as a woman, because you know for certain that they'll never try anything with you. Fun to shop with and whatnot. But if you tell everyone "no, homos, yaoi, shounen-ai, yuri, and shojo-ai is all wrong and bad!" then that could cause complications in life.


Thanks for your time! :3

Anonymous said...

Hello

I have been a fan of shonen-ai for about a year. Just like the Nika above, I do have problems like bullying and I get stressed easily. That is why I read shonen ai, because I can break away from all the stress I experienced. I also agree with Nika, you will probably encounter someone who is homosexual. I have also been taught to respect everyone regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation, etc.

My parents don't know that I love shonen-ai( I have a feeling that my mom is aware of my love for shonen ai) but I will tell them someday and also remind them that they should respect me.

By the way, I'm sixteen.

Bye!

P.S. Nika, thanks for the wonderful post.

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