Hybrid bookstore honto conducted a survey on BL (Boys’ Love) among approximately 1,800 honto members who purchased products in the BL genre.
The results are announced here together with the sales trend of BL books on “honto” in 2019 and 2020.
Sales Trend and Survey Results Summary
- In 2020, the year of staying inside our nests, the total number of BL manga sold (paper and electronic) increased to 131% compared to the previous year, and 154% for electronic only.1
- Over 80% of readers answered that they read BL when they want to “refresh and relieve stress.”
- Over 40% of readers read BL every day, while over 80% of readers read BL at least once a week.
- The two most popular genres were “childhood friends” and “Omegaverse”2 which were chosen by about half of the BL fans!
- The most common reason for becoming interested in BL was “encountering it at a bookstore.”
1 Ratio of the number of books sold by the US in 2019 and 2020. The percentage change in overall manga and comics sales for [paper and electronic total] and [electronic only] is 122% for both.
2 The term “omegaverse” refers to a group of works that are in a special setting in which there are three biological sexes (alpha, beta, and omega) in addition to male and female. It is said to have originated as a secondary creation from overseas, but the definite origin of this popular setting is unknown.
(When using the survey results and graphs in this release, please indicate that the survey was conducted by “Hybrid type general bookstore “honto” survey results”)
In 2020, the demand for BL comics increased significantly. Compared to the previous year, the number of books sold grew 131% for paper and electronic comics combined and 154% for electronic comics only.
Furthermore, the growth difference between BL comics and the comic genre overall was 9% for paper and electronic combined, and 32% for electronic comics only, making BL comics one of the most read comic genres overall.
When asked when they wanted to read BL, more than 80% of the respondents answered, “when I want to refresh or relieve stress,” followed by 40% who answered, “when I want to liven up.” This suggests that BL may have played a role in refreshing people during their stay-at-home period.
Additionally, many others also answered, “whenever I have time for myself” and “I read BL like I breathe air,” expressing that BL is an essential part of their daily lives.
Answers in “Other”
- I read BL like I breathe air (female/20s)
- I love it so much that I read BL manga and novels every day (female/40s)
- Reading BL right before sleeping to treat myself is pure bliss (female/30s)
- It’s in my everyday routine, basically a habit (female/10s)
- When my heart and brain is running low on sugar and is wanting some sweetness (female/50s)
- When I want to be moved. When I am lacking entertainment, especially during the pandemic. (female/40s)
- When I want to laugh out loud without limitation (female/30s)
- When my favorite mangaka releases new work (female/30s)
More than 40% of BL readers read BL every day, and more than 80% read BL at least once a week. As you can tell from the previous question’s answers, BL is highly attractive and addictive and once you get into it, you want to read it every day.
Even if we say “BL,” there is a wide range of genres in BL, isn’t there? When asked about the genre BL fans read most often, “childhood friends” was the most popular with over half of the votes!
The next most popular genre, “Omegaverse,” is a special setting in which there are three biological sexes (alpha, beta, and omega) in addition to male and female and has been interpreted and arranged in various ways by creators. The popularity of this genre has been gaining, perhaps because of its depth and the ability for creators to freely mold the genre. Recently, the “non-human, beastman” genre seems to be gaining popularity and even ranked 9th.
About half (44.1%) of the respondents chose “I saw it in a bookstore and became interested in it” or “I bought it by chance or I misunderstood it and it was BL.” It seems that many people became interested in BL after seeing it on the shelves at bookstores.
More than 20% of the respondents started reading BL on the recommendation of acquaintances or friends, indicating that BL readers are creating new BL readers. Other respondents were inspired by the works of their favorite authors or voice actors, or by their interest in secondary works.
Answers in “Other”
- The online review was good, so I bought it to test it out (female/50s)
- A writer I liked also wrote BL (female/40s)
- I went to a doujinshi event (female/30s)
- I saw secondary works (female/10s)
- From the romance between men that was depicted in novels and general shojo manga, when the term “BL” didn’t even exist yet. (female/50s)
- I became interested in voice actors through anime and listened to BLCDs then decided to read the original manga (female/50s)
When asked about the appeal of BL, the most common answer, at 60%, was “it can be enjoyed regardless of gender, age, or position,” followed by “it can be used to escape reality,” at over 50%. Other answers such as “I (female) characters don’t appear much,” “I can read it as a fantasy that has nothing to do with me at all,” and “My fantasy takes shape” showed that the main appeal of these games is that they allow you to forget your own gender and reality and enjoy them as an ideal fantasy.
In addition, 41.52% of the respondents answered, “the art is beautiful” and many of the other respondents said, “the stories are excellent”, so we can imagine that the quality of the works is very high.
Answers in “Other”
- I feel we are equal because they are the same sex (female/20s)
- They and I are in a completely different world (female/40s)
- Fantasy, parent-child problems, friend problems, etc. any genre is accepted. (female/40s)
- The stories are excellent (female/50s)
- There are rare cases where the choice of theme and the construction of the story are skillful. (male/40s)
- There are not that many female characters (so I don’t get irritated) (female/30s)
- I can see the cute side of men (female/30s)
- I can read about a completely different world and there are many happy endings, so I feel good. (female/60s)
The most popular BL work in terms of tone was “sugary sweet.” Sad stories and serious developments are part of the appeal of BL, but “sugary sweet” seems to be an indispensable element. The other responses included “happy endings” and “drowning in love,” giving the impression that many readers were looking for happy developments in BL couples.
Almost half of the respondents started buying BL when they were in their teens, those who started reading BL in their teens were part of the majority by a longshot. Readers in their 20s and older seem to be enjoying reading BL since they were younger and will continue to enjoy reading BL for life. But there are also many people who started reading BL in their 40s and 50s, illustrating that BL is a genre that any person of any age can enjoy.
At honto there is a BL-only floor called “Swamp.”
It is a specialized floor a “swamp of BL” full of information and items
that satisfy the high interests and commercial desires of readers of
the BL genre.
We provide a service that can be enjoyed
not only by heavy readers of the BL genre, but also by those who
have yet to get in touch with the BL genre.
Original article in Japanese: BL読者1,800名に聞いた！“BL（ボーイズ・ラブ）”に関する意識調査
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
Readers who subscribe to futekiya and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.futekiya.com and create an account. More information is in our Guide.