Yankee is a rather popular, widely used slang term in Japan. In other parts of the world, the term Yankee might only mean Americans. But in Japan, this word specifically refers to rebellious, juvenile delinquents who often wear bold and garish fashion items—customized school uniforms, aloha shirts that are too bright, pompadour haircuts, and the extra puffy bontan pants, for example. However, within the Boys’ Love genre, Yankee is also often interchangeably used for characters who are simply school delinquents.
“Yankee” is written in katakana characters as ヤンキー which is the same as the English word “Yankee” that is generally used to refer to Americans. The slang term was initially used in Japan for the young rebels who began to wear bold, garish American fashionwear around the 1970s. As people started to associate the lifestyle with that fashion, the slang term persists until now.
For a slang term that persists for 40 years, Yankee’s meaning has not changed much due to how strong the association of their lifestyle with this particular fashion is. The style is intended to stand out, mainly to impose a presence and threatening aura, which goes hand-in-hand with a Yankee’s lifestyle as delinquents—the rebels in society who refuse to go along with what’s accepted. The style changed through through the years, which is why there are different styles such as classic Yankee, hip hop Yankee and even the “oraora” style (悪羅悪羅系, oraorakei).
As a lifestyle, Yankee has not changed much either. School gang culture is still very hierarchical and strict—upperclassmen figures are on the top of the hierarchy while underclassmen defer to them. There is a code of conduct for Yankee to follow, which must be reflected in their behaviors at all times: act with guts, sincerity, and full dedication. This lifestyle does not end when you leave school. they are known for dropping out of school by age 17, marrying early, and starting families—still with their bikes and bold fashion, of course.
However, when it comes to the Boys’ Love genre, Yankee is used in a rather generalizing manner, referring to school delinquent characters with a Yankee style. Stories with such tropes are popular, to the point that publishers have begun using the term as one of the many ways to categorize the BL genre when marketing manga. The popular use of these characters in the BL genre is similar to Salaryman characters’ use: rooted in the image of a particular visual style strongly associated with a specific lifestyle. Finding a BL series depicting the specific lifestyle close to how it is to reality might be a challenge. Still, it’s fairly easy to find BL series depicting school delinquents in Yankee-style. The rough, wild aesthetics of rebellious school delinquents contrasting a sweet romance is a recipe proven successful time and again.
In reality, Yankee debatably still has a negative image often associated with rebellious delinquents and school violence. But, popular culture, including the Boys Love genre, does shed a gentler light on these characters. Their bold, easily recognizable style works well to catch the audience’s eyes. At its core, their lifestyle is also quite romantic: the refusal to follow uniformity, the determination to stand out, and the stubbornness to disregard society’s eyes in favor of enjoying life with their friends.
For the BL genre, particularly, the images Yankee invokes gives room for a lot of fantasy to explore. Whether it’s the romance of a soft-hearted Yankee, or a Yankee looking for someone accepting them as who they are, or even the hilarity of a Yankee panicking over falling in love, there are countless BL series depicting Yankee characters in various setting. You can try some titles already available on futekiya, such as Mario Yamada’s Bad Boy Musashi and Oyamada!
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.