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What is Yaoi?

Yaoi is, simply put, a genre of manga and novels that depicts stories about same-sex relationships between men, usually aimed towards female audiences. It is often used interchangeably with Boys’ Love (BL) nowadays. However, yaoi does have its own history and usage that slightly differs from BL. As a term, yaoi is often used to refer to stories featuring relationships between men that surpass best friends but not-quite lovers, possibly with a lot of sexual depictions.

 

Etymology

Yaoi is written using only hiragana due to the fact that it was born as an acronym. The word stands for “Yama-nashi (ヤマなし), Ochi-nashi (オチなし), Imi-nashi (意味なし)” and literally means “no peak, no fall, no meaning.” The earliest use of the word indeed was referring to a parody work with no climax, no point, and no meaning. Nowadays, you can also find yaoi written as 801, which can be pronounced the same.

 

Brief History

The acronym ”yaoi” was first created in the late 1970s. Around this time, there were several terms used to refer to stories depicting homosexual relationships between men: shounen-ai, which refers to the subtle and often difficult to understand stories of love between men in shoujo manga written by the famous Year 24 Group; tanbi or JUNE manga, which refers to stories published in the JUNE magazine that often shows platonic love between beautiful boys; and lastly yaoi, which was born from doujinshi creators involved in oftentimes sexually-explicit transformative works of already existing series.

The popularity of Gundam series at the time leads to the many transformative works at the doujinshi market, and a lot of them features its main male characters being in a romantic and sexual relationship in stories that have “no climax, no point, no meaning (but there is sex).” The acronym was first featured on the title of a doujinshi RAPPORI Yaoi Tokushuu Gou in 1979. It was jokingly referring to stories depicting same-sex relationships between men that only focus on the good, sexy times and nothing else.

However, the word yaoi itself only gets officially used during the 1980s in a Captain Tsubasa parody doujinshi and began to be widely accepted to refer to transformative parody doujinshi works depicting male characters who love each other in a way that surpasses the best of friends but are not exactly lovers. This “in-between, not-quite” kind of relationship is an important point in describing what yaoi actually is. Without the burden of having to create stories that show all the subtle and complications that come with these “in-between, not-quite” relationships, people can simply draw, write, and enjoy only the good parts of it—be it the sexy times or the fluffy, sappy exchanges between the characters.

Yaoi: Modern Usage

Nowadays, many people simply take yaoi to refer to a genre of male homosexual stories that heavily focuses only on sex depictions. While the current popular usage is slightly incorrect, due to the early history of the word yaoi and how its popular use began, as well as the fact that the description of the word oftentimes overlaps with other terms such as shounen-ai and the term Boys’ Love (BL) popularized by manga publishers in 1990s, it is easily understandable why this popular usage came to be.

In Japan, the term is still used mostly within the doujin communities. This causes a lot of people to use yaoi when referring to transformative or parody doujinshi, and BL when referring to original works that depict male homosexual relationship. Internationally within fans of anime and manga communities, yaoi is most commonly to refer to male/male ships and male homosexual stories and is used interchangeably with shounen-ai and BL.

 

About futekiya: BL manga subscription

Boys' Love Manga Subscription Service futekiya promotional image

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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