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Boys Love Manga and Beyond - History, Culture, and Community in Japan

Boys Love Manga and Beyond

History, Culture, and Community in Japan

Edited by Mark McLelland, Kazumi Nagaike, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker
Paperback : 9781496807762, 304 pages, 42 b&w illustrations, January 2016
Hardcover : 9781628461190, 304 pages, 42 b&w illustrations, January 2015

A critical examination of the "beautiful boy" love comics that enthralled fans in Japan and then worldwide


Boys Love Manga and Beyond looks at a range of literary, artistic and other cultural products that celebrate the beauty of adolescent boys and young men. In Japan, depiction of the “beautiful boy” has long been a romantic and sexualized trope for both sexes and commands a high degree of cultural visibility today across a range of genres from pop music to animation.

In recent decades, “Boys Love” (or simply BL) has emerged as a mainstream genre in manga, anime, and games for girls and young women. This genre was first developed in Japan in the early 1970s by a group of female artists who went on to establish themselves as major figures in Japan's manga industry. By the late 1970s many amateur women fans were getting involved in the BL phenomenon by creating and self-publishing homoerotic parodies of established male manga characters and popular media figures. The popularity of these fan-made products, sold and circulated at huge conventions, has led to an increase in the number of commercial titles available. Today, a wide range of products produced both by professionals and amateurs are brought together under the general rubric of “boys love,” and are rapidly gaining an audience throughout Asia and globally.

This collection provides the first comprehensive overview in English of the BL phenomenon in Japan, its history and various subgenres and introduces translations of some key Japanese scholarship not otherwise available. Some chapters detail the historical and cultural contexts that helped BL emerge as a significant part of girls' culture in Japan. Others offer important case studies of BL production, consumption, and circulation and explain why BL has become a controversial topic in contemporary Japan.


"This volume adds depth and complexity to the study of boys’ love manga in English and brings Japanese-language scholarship into the Anglophone discourse. It is a welcome addition to the growing field of scholarship on Japanese popular culture, particularly on manga for girls and women . . . it helps provide a fuller picture of what girls and women are reading, writing, and drawing and why."

- Deborah Shamoon, Journal of Japanese Studies

"Boys Love Manga and Beyond, the first comprehensive analysis of the boys love phenomenon in Japan, traces narratives of beautiful boys and young men across a range of media and reading publics. While crafting a remarkably cohesive volume, the editors have also made room for lively disagreement among their writers, opening questions that will no doubt inspire vigorous debate inside and outside the classroom. Drawing from diverse disciplinary homes, the authors unite in their attention to historical context, analytical precision, and close readings of diverse boys love texts. Boys Love Manga and Beyond exemplifies the best of cultural criticism, keenly aware of the politics and pleasure of fantasy. An indispensable book for all interested in contemporary Japanese popular culture."

- Jan Bardsley, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill