Anime Know-How: What Is Yaoi?

If you're ready to get schooled on one of anime's most popular terms, then take a seat.

ComicBook is delving into the wide open world of yaoi, but don't be alarmed just yet. We're keeping this beginner's guide very safe for work, so there is no need to wipe your browser history just yet.

For those of you new to the fandom, you may have heard of the term 'yaoi' at this point. The word is used within certain sects of the anime community, and it has gotten a lewd connotation over the years. You may have been too shy to ask what it really means, but there's a history behind the word which you may want to know about.

In Japanese, 'yaoi' is a word which anime fans use to describe overt homosexual boy-on-boy couples. Often referred to as 'boy love,' yaoi has become a term in the anime fandom which specifically describes a show or film which focuses on a same-sex male couple.

Yaoi titles have become increasingly popular over the last few decades, and its boom began back in the 1970s thanks to old shojo magazines which published stories known as shonen ai. This new sub-genre of shojo titles focused specifically on boys and their platonic love for one another; Think ultimate bromance tales, and you will have a good idea of what these stories entailed.

Shonen ai began to get popular alongside the progressive rise of fan-fiction. In Japan, writers took to recreating popular shonen titles and bending them beyond shonen ai and its platonic leanings. These new fan-created stories were far more explicit and overtly homosexual in tone. By the early 1980s, certain shojo zines began to adopt the more hardcore stories, and the term 'boys love' or BL was gifted to it by the 1990s.

In Japan, yaoi is most often used to talk about specific explicit fanfiction titles which incorporate same-sex male couples. The term has also become a generic one that refers to a whole gambit of female-oriented mediums which feature gay couples. As for the west, most U.S. fans hear the word yaoi in association with published anime or manga titles featuring explicit gay relationships.

Today, the line between yaoi and shonen ai is still a blurred one for many fans. The former typically features more adult content, a fact which added to its illicit reputation over the years. Shonen ai is still seem as more platonic or not as graphic when it comes to sexual content.

If you are interested in yaoi, then you should know a few things coming into the genre. Anime or manga bearing the yaoi flag often feature little-to-no female characters and are often set in homosocial worlds. Angst is a must for many of these stories, and concerns has risen as acts such as rape and incest have become more apparent in yaoi.

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(Photo: Bones Inc. )

In many parts of the world, yaoi is still considered a taboo part of the anime fandom, but it has grown more accepted with time. Japan and the U.S. have more or less embraced the genre while countries like China have recently welcomed yaoi.

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