JUNE is one of the terms used to describe male/male romantic fiction in Japan. The word, coined in 1978, has long since retired from mainstream use. But its legacy continues in the current amateur comic scenes. In this article, we will explore the history and journey of JUNE.
The name “JUNE” (read as ju-nay) originally came from the magazine named JUNE, which had one of its primary focus on male/male romantic fiction. It was first published as Comic Jun in October 1978 until it changed its name to JUNE in the 3rd volume since the original name was similar to another company. Many speculated that the term came from the name Jean Genet, a gay French novelist whose pronunciation in Japanese sounds the same with JUNE. However, it is also possible that it referred to the month since the talk show with JUNE’s ex-editor Toshihiko Sagawa in 2011 was titled “Eien no Rokugatsu” (The Eternal June).
As a magazine, JUNE was initially not published for male/male romantic fiction only. It was more about the fusion of shojo manga and eroticism, especially for women, something rare in the 1970-80s. When the premiere edition came out, the magazine’s tagline was “Aesthetic Magazine for Gals,” which connected the dots between JUNE and tanbi.
JUNE heavily emphasized aestheticism and tragedies, just like tanbi, but with a more dangerous and robust flavor of pornography, similar to yaoi works. It is not a coincidence because, although JUNE’s leading artist was 24-nen-gumi shojo manga author Keiko Takemiya, the works published in the magazine mainly came from commercialized self-published works (doujinshi).
JUNE, which was temporarily suspended due to disappointing sales figures in 1979 and revived in 1981, featured fictional narratives and actual information about gay relationships and local and international cultures. Thus, it became the bridge that connected the commercial and non-commercial male/male fiction in Japan. Still, as Ishida Hitoshi argues, it also became the “queer contact zone” between shojo manga readers and the gay community.
JUNE then slowly evolved from just a name of a magazine into a label that describes male/male romantic fiction that mostly deals with gay romance, intense plots, explicit relationships, and tragedies aesthetically. Works outside of the magazine can be called a JUNE-mono (JUNE things) if it includes many JUNE elements. JUNE-mono is still being used today to describe a work, although not officially.
As a category, JUNE remained significant in the non-commercial doujinshi scene. It is used among amateur comic circles to describe original male/male romantic doujinshi to separate them from niji sousaku doujinshi (transformative works). The “J” in J.Garden, one of the most prominent original male/male romantic doujinshi events in Japan, is a nod to JUNE.
For some people who grew up with JUNE and are still reading contemporary BL works, They may appear to be two unique labels with similarities. However, for the generation that delved into it from BL, it would seem like there are not many differences between the two. It is just an older term not often used much nowadays.
James Welker (2015). A Brief History of Shōnen’ai, Yaoi, and Boys Love. McLelland, Nagaike, Suganuma, and Welker, Boys Love Manga and Beyond, 42-75.
Ishida Hitoshi (2012). Suji de miru JUNE to Sabu. Yuriika 44 no. 15, 170.
Fujimoto Yukari (2015). “The Evolution of BL as ‘Playing with Gender’”. McLelland, Nagaike, Suganuma, and Welker, Boys Love Manga and Beyond, 76-91.
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