When people ask me about what excites me about reading boys love manga, people often have an impression that I primarily enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humour, the emotional drama, or the steamy sex scenes. I will not deny that these contribute to what I like about BL stories. These narrative elements also make BL a very powerful and affective medium as these elicit visceral responses that allow us to remember the queer potentials of romance. In recent years, I’ve even be enamoured by how different BL narratives queer notions of romance. To any of you who have read Kashio’s How to Kill a Heart and Asada Nemui’s My Little Inferno, you know what I mean. There are days, however, when the sweeping motions of BL do not excite me. Instead, it’s the quiet thrill of watching boys slowly fall in love.
A quiet trope?
Allow me to explain what I mean by the ‘quiet thrill.’
In Ueno Potato’s The Man on the Other Side, there was this scene in the second chapter where Makuta returns to the restaurant where he ate with S in an effort to recall the good memory he had with S. With little or no expectations, he ate well and got caught in the rain. At this point, the story has not established the possibilities of their reunion. In fact, it has set readers’ hopes as impossible. And yet, as soon as I noticed the silhouette of a person running in the rain and towards the restaurant where Makuta stood, I felt shivers under my skin and I started to hope that maybe… just possibly… it was S running to meet him. The quiet thrill of seeing the possibility of romance unfold.
I may have overdescribed that scene but for many who enjoy the romantic whiplash of BL manga, the very page and chapter I described are really quite boring. That chapter (and the entire book) has a stillness of everyday banality and mundanity since it tries to capture Makuta’s world. Rather than be swept by waves of emotions, that scene is like a tiny drop that caused a ripple in Makuta’s quiet life, a mild tremor to our anticipating hearts.
BL stories that give this quiet thrill are not new in BL but it’s one that I’ve grown to appreciate now that I’m reading through futekiya’s library. The Man on the Other Side executed this quiet thrill quite well and it reignited my interest in this kind of narrative. It wasn’t long before I found myself reading through BL stories that make the mundane just a little special.
Thanat’s Here and There and Us is another lovely title that gives a quiet thrill. The mundanity of classes alongside the budding friendship between Sonoki and Majima did not leave any room for grand romances but it had these quiet moments that left goosebumps under my skin and a smile to my face. I recall the relief Sonoki felt when he found out that Majima was single and the face Majima made when he heard Sonoki’s happiness in hearing the truth of his story.
Rather than bold confessions, my heart longs for these moments that give me these quiet thrills. Is this a sign of age, a response to madness, or have I grown too tired of dramatic romances?
A quiet intimate romance
I’ve gone through rounds of reading quite a number of titles on futekiya yet somehow I find myself re-reading The Man from the Other Side and Here and There and Us. I honestly questioned my taste and pondered if I have become desensitised by the genre. Thankfully, after reading through How to Kill a Heart, I realised that genre can still send me in emotional turmoil. This left me wondering why I was particularly drawn by these quiet thrills and why they resonated with me.
My easiest answer is I need these quiet thrills in this already insane life. 2020 has thrown a lot of curveballs in our lives and I am not emotionally prepared to get swept off my feet. These grand gestures felt unreal in a world that’s already too insane to be real. Hence, these titles feel intimately close, an everyday that I can take comfort in, a moment of romance in mundanity.
Who knew that these titles would have that impact on me in this pandemic. Had I read this when I was younger or when I was probably in a better mental state, I would probably think differently of these works and would probably write about other interesting titles on futekiya. But right now, I wanted to share the comfort I felt in reading these titles and the smile they’ve placed on my face as I experience its quiet yet comfortable effects.
Follow Khursten Santos on Twitter at @khursten.
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.
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