Boys Love VS Gay Comics

I’m not usually a manga reader but I’d like to share an interesting article I found regarding the differences between “Boys Love” comics and “Gay” comics which I thought some of my readers may be interested in. In recent years, the demand for gay comics has grown so that now they commonly appear in many Boys Love (BL) magazines. In a talk show interview last year Gengoroh Tagame revealed that surprisingly, almost half of his readership consisted of women. The market for BL manga in Japan in undeniably larger than that of gay manga, but what are the differences? For some reason, most people lump all art depicting love between two men into the same category, but they are fundamentally different. This article from Masuda Nyaneruß explains why.
1. Point of View: Gay manga depict situations in which the reader would like to actually participate whereas BL manga is purely voyeuristic. Readers of BL manga have no interest in taking part in the situations depicted but rather want to watch the action. Take, for example, a situation where a straight character is seduced by a gay character and realizes he himself is gay. Ina gay manga version of this situation the protagonist is almost always the gay seducer, where as in a BL version, the protagonist is principally the straight character.
2. Reality: BL manga values the “the suspension of reality”. Most stories centre around the rich and famous rather than the average person. Conversely gay manga work on the premise that the situation depicted could actually happen, and the protagonist is usually a regular person.
3. Physical or mental? : For the most part, gay manga tend to focus on the physical where as BL manga focus predominantly on the mental aspects of character relationships. It can be said that BL manga more strongly emphasize the relationship between the characters. While readers of gay manga may be moved just by the appearance of their favourite character, BL manga must feature at least two characters, if not more, to be successful.
4. Characterisation: In gay manga the characters are distinctly categorized into “top” or active and “bottom” or passive roles but in BL manga these two archetypes are broken down into a number of sub-types, for example: the seducing bottom or the demonic top. Besides this, there is a convention in gay manga that the top is always the aggressor whereas BL manga does not discriminate.
5. Excessive Expressions of Love: BL has a tendency towards exaggerated declarations of love. Lines such as “I can’t live without you!” are not uncommon. However gay manga readers view these as clichéd and unrealistic and these feelings are usually depicted through monologue or the actions of the characters.
6. Friendship and Love: In BL manga, ordinary friendships quickly transform into romantic relationships, but this is not the case in gay manga. From a gay male perspective, from the beginning, relationships are divided into “possibly-romantic” and “non-romantic ” so even if a romance does develop, these relationships do not suddenly occur out of nowhere.
7. Male Depictions: Obviously, gay manga are marketed to gay men, and so feature characters that gay men are attracted to. BL manga are targeted at “Fujoshi” or “Rotten women” (Japanese women with a perchant for “gay” themed manga and novels) and show men that those women want to see. To this end BL manga characters tend to have little to no body hair and phrases such as “beautiful legs” are not uncommon.
8. Summary: Even if depicting the same theme, principally gay manga are more closely comparable to “shojo” or girls manga, while BL manga may be compared to “yuri”. (Manga and novels concerning lesbian relationships.)


  1. Alex W. wrote:

    This is very interesting and I’d like to know more. Do you have the link to the original article?

  2. Masa wrote:

    this article is Japanese one is that okay for you ?

  3. Julie wrote:

    A link to the Japanese article would be much appreciated. Thanks for writing this up! :)

  4. Masa wrote:

    yes this one

  5. Nishingeppo wrote:

    After reading the article in both Japanese and English, I’m not sure if I totally agree with the author’s opinion.
    I wonder if the author is male or female. It just seems that s/he has lumped the majority of readers into one box and decided that the all like the same thing.
    I think that a lot of gay men would be more interested in reading manga that depict realistic relationships rather than just pure sex.
    I personally much prefer the romantic side of gay manga rather than the rape scenes and hard sex that Masuda Nyaneruß writes about. That’s why I usually read BL manga, rather than gay manga. (Though I do sometimes get sick of seeing all those wispy skinny guys)
    I’d be ineterested to hear what Japanese readers of gay manga think about depictions of gay men. Seems to me that most of the time they’re just as stereotypical as the BL manga are. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion I guess, but don’t lump us all together!