What is Yaoi?

English: Example for shōnen ai artwork, German...

I have had a few queries as to what yaoi is and, rather than send people off to consult Professor Google, I thought I would make a (somewhat pathetic) attempt at explaining things here.

In simple terms, yaoi is anime featuring romance between two men but things are rarely simple in anime. There are three terms you may come across when researching gay anime. These are shõnen-ai, which loosely translated means boy love, yaoi – shõnen-ai with sex scenes, and hentai – anime porn. However, just as there is a fine line between Californication and Debbie Does Dallas, so there is a fine line between yaoi and hentai.

One of the biggest differences is that, while hentai has a basic plot, it is there mainly to lead to the sex part. In contrast, while it is quite explicit, the sexual content of yaoi is presented in the context of a romantic relationship – with the emphasis being on the emotions behind the act, more than the act itself.

In TV/Movie terms, shõnen-ai would be on a par with, say, Modern Family or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (or To Wong Foo for you yanks), yaoi would be on a par with Queer as Folk or…or…Oh Dear, I can’t think of another movie or show on this level – a sad indictment on inequalities in Hollywood. Finally, Hentai is anime porn – both gay and hetero and any other way you can imagine (and a few you can’t – the Japanese are just as creative with their porn as they are with everything else!)

In even more basic terms (and for those who have no clue about the TV Shows listed) – if it can be shown before 9.30pm, it’s probably shõnen-ai; if it can be shown on TV in adult viewing hours, it is probably yaoi; if you have to order online or visit a porn shop, it’s hentai.

Now, having cleared everything up for you, I am going to throw you all back into a state of confusion. In recent years, with the influx of American anime fans (the American tendency to babyfi everything is a topic for another debate altogether), the term shõnen-ai has fallen into disuse, and the term yaoi has come to mean any kind of boy-love anime or manga short of actual hentai (and sometimes even that).

I watch anime more than I read manga so, using the new loose definition of yaoi, here are some of my favourite programs:

Ouran High School Host Club twins

Ouran High School Host Club

Loveless

Loveless

Gravitation

Gravitation

Black Butler

Black Butler

Junjou Romantica

Junjou Romantica

Kyo Kara Maoh

Kyo Kara Maoh

Princess Princess

Princess Princess

Sukisho

Sukisho

Papa to Kiss in the Dark

Papa to Kiss in the Dark

Sensitive Pornograph

Sensitive Pornograph

These are just a few of my favourites – there’s a lot more out there. In addition to the ‘official’ yaoi, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of ‘unofficial’ fanfics (short for fan fiction) and fan art- stories and artwork based on official anime and manga. Many of these fan-made prizes feature take characters who are officially just platonic friends and transform them into yaoi couples – many of which have a huge fan base of their own. Some notable examples of this are:

Sasuke Uchiha & Naruto Suzumaki from the anime series Naruto and Naruto Shippuden combine to create the couple SasuNaru.

Sasuke Uchiha & Naruto Suzumaki from the anime series Naruto and Naruto Shippuden combine to create the couple SasuNaru.

Roy Mustang and Edward Elric from the series Full Metal Alchemist combined to create the couple RoyEd.

Roy Mustang and Edward Elric from the series Full Metal Alchemist combined to create the couple RoyEd.

Lelouch and Suzaku from the series Code Geass.

Lelouch and Suzaku from the series Code Geass.

L and Light from the anime series Deathnote.

L and Light from the anime series Deathnote.

Most of the time, the original manga or anime contain no romance whatsoever between these characters. However, many creators are now deliberately scattering ambiguous moments throughout their manga and anime, so as to court the yaoi fan base.

Has this cleared things up for people or are you more confused than ever? Have you seen, or are you interested in checking out any of the anime listed above?  Drop a comment and let me know!

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2 thoughts on “What is Yaoi?

  1. Thanks for the greater clarification. You’re right- over here in the States, yaoi is any romantic inklings between guys and has a lot of fangirls in the 13-25 year old range. If what was presented here was true yaoi, a good 3/4 of that audience wouldn’t even be able to watch it.

    When I was looking for pictures to link into my blog post, I was surprised by the number of straight out graphic art (borderline and sometimes not borderline pornographic) pulled in the Google search from shipping sites on deviantART. Whoa.

    And thanks for the link back! I was worried I would get super weird search terms leading folks to my blog, but so far it’s been more like-minded fans and not straight out creepers.

    Like

  2. Pingback: In Defence of Anime | Rafferty's Rules

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