Interviews

Interview with Ichiman, a BL Artist from Germany (Part Three)

In the previous weeks, we introduced German BL artist and doujinka Ichiman and asked her about her activities as a BL artist and doujinka in Germany. In this final part of our interview, Ichiman shares her knowledge about how Boys’ Love is created and consumed in Germany.

 

Lastly, please tell us about Boys’ Love in Germany. How do fans consume BL in your country? 

Ichiman: People consume BL through manga (physical and digital), doujinshi, visual novels, zines, and merchandise. I don’t think it’s much different from how people in other Western countries consume BL.
Doujinshi are still mostly only accessible with specific online services, but in recent years I’ve seen some doujinshi resellers on conventions, too.

 

What kind of BL manga do people prefer in your country? Are there any characteristics or trends?

Ichiman: The manwha Killing Stalking has been extremely successful here and has even been translated into German last year. Manwha rarely get published in Germany, so this is quite noteworthy.

This makes me think that people seem to enjoy a story that gives them a strong, emotional reaction. They also seem to like sexually explicit content and a more realistic art style.

I haven’t noticed a particularly evident trend, but from my personal observations, I can only conclude that currently, popular BL comics in Germany have definitely a darker tone than they used to have 10 years ago.
A few German artists also seem to have moved away from Boys Love and now focus more on realistic LGBTQ* stories that are meant to be more about the representation of different types of “queer” people instead of creating self-indulgent romance stories that are strictly only between gay men.

As a woman who dates women exclusively, I am, of course, always welcoming of stories that include more lesbians, but I personally view Boys Love very separate from stories meant to be LGBTQ*-inclusive. Despite BL being “controversial” in Western countries because of accusations of “fetishization of gay men,” I definitely think BL and stories that focus on the representation of LGBTQ* can coexist or even intertwine.

 

How do fans get access to BL manga?

Ichiman: Sadly, I think that a lot of fans who can speak English read BL manga illegally.

I personally have an account on Lezhin Comics and on futekiya, but not everyone is fluent in English and therefore, can’t use these services.

Other than that, they mostly buy physical manga from more prominent publishers like Tokyopop, Carlsen Comics, Kaze, etc. once they come out in German.

Indie BL comics that artists sell on their own private online shops and on conventions are also popular.
Online subscription services in German don’t exist yet, as far as I know.

 

What do you think is the difference between BL fans in Japan and in your country?

Ichiman: From what I know (and I hope this isn’t just my own individual observation), I think Japanese fans value fanmade content way more than German fans.

Doujinshi artists in Japan seem to be close to being fandom celebrities. At the same time, in Germany, some people berate other fans who do doujinshi with claims of it being “stolen” from the original author.

Sadly, there’s this climate of “fanart isn’t real art” amongst some fans, which created a bit of a divide between creators. I have only seen this occur in Germany, so it’s probably noteworthy.

To be fair, criticism like that is often about how some artists tend to play it safe and create merch of popular ships simply for monetary gain. In Japan, fan events seem to be tied directly to one show/series/movie franchise, while in Germany, we only have general cons where all fans of Japanese pop culture come together.

A lot of people in Germany even depend on fanmade content financially, while the doujinshi artists I have met in Japan seem to see fanmade content more strictly as a hobby. I’m not sure about this, but would it be frowned upon to be a Japanese doujinshi artist and earn money mostly from doujinshi and fan merch? Because while this is definitely controversial in Germany, it’s still happening a lot.

Other than that, there is also the divide between BL content and LGBTQ*-representation focused content, as I have mentioned earlier. It hasn’t really been brought up on a larger scale so far, but I definitely have noticed that a lot more people seem to think BL is damaging to the LGBTQ*-community.

I think that’s a conversation that definitely needs to happen more publicly, because as a BL artist who is not a gay man, yet still part of the LGBTQ* community, I understand where the criticism is coming from, but I also disagree with a lot of the claims.

It’s a complicated topic, and I don’t think a lot of Western fans have caught up to the fact that BL in Japan changed a lot from what it used to be in the 1990s and 2000s.

 

What are the changes you have observed in the BL manga industry in your country? How do you think it will change in the future?

Ichiman: To be very honest, I haven’t followed the current BL manga industry in my country too closely. However, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of popular independent BL artists selling their comics in conventions or on websites like Patreon and that there is a broad acceptance of BL by the more mainstream manga audience.
When I was a teenager, BL content was still a huge taboo, even if it was very popular at the same time.

I also noticed more publishers popping up who have committed to publishing more unusual stories.

I get the feeling that doujinshi and fan content, in general, is more popular than original BL, though. But that might be because I am mostly in those circles, and it’s my individual perspective.

But there are some bigger names in the industry who are well known and liked by almost all German BL fans and who almost exclusively do their own original work. One good example is Nana Yaa, who goes by the name @FlamboYAAnt on Twitter.

There is also the German independent publisher Schwarzer Turm, who has been around for a long time and has published a lot of original German BL manga in the past. They also released Nana Yaas original story Java Bonds.

I hope that there will be a lot of new and interesting content and good possibilities for indie artists to be recognized and published.

I also hope that a lot of newer Japanese (and other East Asian) BL comics will get translated into German and reach a broader audience.

 

What can you say about futekiya?

Ichiman: I checked out many manga titles on futekiya and am very happy with the service! I hope you can grow more and more and get a lot of recognition in the West!

I think that the support of any comic book artists, no matter if Japanese or Western, is extremely important and that it’s about time we talk more about how normalized illegal consumption of manga is and what better ways there are to read manga legally (like through futekiya).

We, comic book artists, provide readers with work that requires a lot of effort and time, and we’re all working for extremely low wages. If you support Western BL artists, please also support East Asian ones and consider subscribing to websites like futekiya.

futekiya is doing good work, and I support your service!

 

Thank you very much! Lastly, what is BL is for you?

Ichiman: BL is a fun hobby to me, not meant to be taken too seriously.

I enjoy BL because it gives me an outlet for my creativity and interest in fictional sexual themes without being too close to my own life experiences. I view BL as a romance/erotica genre similar to many popular YA fiction novels in the Western world, only that it’s explicitly about homosexual love.

 

Thank you very much for your time, Ichiman!

Follow Ichiman on social media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/i_chi_man
Tumblr: https://ichiman.tumblr.com/
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ichiman
Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/ichiman

 

How is BL created and consumed in your home country? Let us know on our Twitter account @futekiya!

 

If you’re interested in reading more of futekiya’s interviews, be sure to read our exclusive interviews with Butlers Iori and Kagawa of SwallowtailChristopher Hepburn, the owner of Local MangaSeru, the founder of The Yaoi ArmyWhite Eared, creator ofFrom Points of Three, Mingwa, creator of BJ Alex, and Fargo, creator of If You Hate Me So and Love is an Illusion.

About futekiya: BL manga subscription

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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.

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