While Hitorijime My Hero is airing, let me have this post.
Boys’ Love (or BL for short) is notorious for making a fetish out of same sex relationships. Acts of harassment and rape were interpreted as passion, and the glorification of Stockholm Syndrome is imminent in most works. That explains why I was never into BL until 2015 despite liking eye candies.
About two years later, I am one of those you can call trash and I proudly wear the badge. My mental state has either laxed or was tainted by tropes I used to despise before. I still hate those up to this day but damn, you can never loathe a trashy story with juicy art. Anyway, I am not going to make another post about my BL experience but a list of works I recommend if ever you want to venture in this territory.
(PS: I cannot reassure you can escape from this hell though. Even if you stop reading yaoi mangas, the anime with fujoshi laden elements will still keep you hooked. Good luck!)
As regards to my recommendations, you can also read the author’s other works. It is just that that certain BL manga is my most favorite work. I may also sound a hypocrite here but buy copies if you can to support the artist.
SQUEAKY CLEAN ROMANCE
So I started with shounen ai on which kissing is the most obscene act you can have. I still haven’t read Dokyousei so forgive me for excluding that in this list.
My first, and still my most favorite boys’ love manga of all time, Seven Days managed to avoid nearly all the tropes in BL and simply labelled it as a love story between two young men. Well, dating someone over a week is fairly ridiculous but the journey is worth the read. I am still spazzing with the confession scene in the climax and the very last line of this manga.
Hidamari ga Kikoeru
Disabilities in yaoi are often treated as fetishes but Hidamari ga Kikoeru seriously presented this aspect. You got two characters who are sort of alienated with their own circumstances until they found each other in the end. Also, as much as this screams drama from time to time, the confession scene was kind of hilarious. Be careful though, since the last few chapters are dragging a bit.
Yozora no Sumikko de
The least romantic in the list, Yozora no Sumikko de may be remembered by its dreamy artwork and slow-building romance. I think this is your usual kouhai x senpai story, only that they met again ten years later. The poor kouhai still loves the senpai, but the senpai wants to bury the feelings he had before. You may get bored with its unromantic nature at first but I advise you to keep on reading. The final chapters are a treat.
PS: Hayakawa Nojiko-sensei is my most favorite BL mangaka for writing moments that hit well to the kokoro coupled with great artwork. I want to see her works in animated form.
Hello Again (or Slow Starter or Colorful Line or Blue Sky Complex)
Ichikawa-sensei practically mastered the art of crafting interesting teenage BL works so you can pick any of the four in my recommendations. The raunchiest in this group, Hello Again featured two childhood friends who eventually became lovers in the end. Yet that twist is.. uhm… the dude is just kind of oblivious on what he does when he is drunk and the other one’s reaction to it. The dialogue is snappy and I chuckled once or twice with her works.
His Romance of 500 Years
Despair desu! Ufufufu… (in Monokuma’s voice) This should be retitled as “Shounen Ai manga: the Despair” because all it inflicted in me was this grey feeling of sadness upon reading chapter after chapter. Set in futuristic Japan, it tells a story about a character who woke up with a robot version of his ex serving him. Then hell broke loose. Nope, the robot did not go berserk or something.
The South Korean gloss made this manga akin to shoujo than shounen ai but you have two hot guys who were exes and a normal girl caught in the mess. The plot is glacial but the characterization is on point, making you confused on who to ship.
PS: That Summer has the best translator in any manga I have read. Such funny translator’s notes.
19 Days is comparable to munchkins (or mini-doughnuts if you ask) with loads of cocktease. The story is cute and has lots of sexual tension if you ask. Nonetheless, it can go pretty dark at times (hello Jian Yi’s troubled past) or hopelessly funny (the imouto’s misunderstanding about the leads’ relationship). Do not get intimidated with the 200+ chapters published because every chapter only consists of 8 pages.
TASTY DRAMATIC YAOI
One thing I like with my favorite BL works is these were able to mingle sex with good stories or characterization. Note that these border on R-18 but strong writing made them go beyond porn or eye candies for the fujoshis.
If we are talking about sheer impact here, I think this is the manga you should read. It takes great skills if you forgot that these characters have sex scenes, and only look forward on how they are going to break walls they built within themselves. One part dramatic and the other romantic, I honestly think every yaoi manga should have a balance Doushitemo Furetakunai had.
Set in 1920s Japan, Tamayura made sure it utilized the hell out of its setting. Behind the relaxing art is a relatively sad story about star crossed lovers with the Kanto Earthquake as its background. Well, it the ending depends on how you looked at it but I can say that couples like that do exist, and I am quite happy with the spin the author made.
For a fairly ridiculous setting (a motel used for shooting pornography), Castle Mango tells the pains of being young and how we stand useless when faced with problems meant for adults. What I loved about this manga is the main character desperately trying (and failing) to address his family problems without seeking some help from his lover. In my opinion, Castle Mango has also one of the best endings I read in BL. It’s true that they end up together but the process is so good I can’t help but tear a bit.
Hana wa Saku ka
This is the longest work in the article if you cross out 19 Days. Hana wa Saku ka is slow-building but emotionally satisfying story between a budding artist and a jaded salaryman. You also get some tasteful drama that adds to their characterization albeit the ending is too rushed and the impact was tad diminished due to this.
Hitorijime My Hero
Screw the main manga, seriously. Hitorijime My Hero is one of the few spinoffs that is miles better than the original. Perhaps it has something to do with the dynamics in the relationships of these main characters here and their individual circumstances. This is still on-ongoing and I think I like how they are now tackling the implication of their relationship head-on.
Not as lewd as the title suggests, but this is actually a story of acceptance and forgiving oneself. Heavy themes such as bullying and suicide are gracefully handled here, and man, also prepare your heart to be smashed to bits. One nice bonus here is the uke looks incredibly delicious. Itadakimasu.
THE WEIRD AND THE TRASHY
Oops. I know my mutuals will give me weird looks for recommending these to poor newbies in the demographic but… but… they have to see everything if they intend to stay for good! Not all BL works are about rainbows and unicorns. There you go, my picks for the weird territory.
Dear, My God
Asada Nemui has a knack of developing quirky premises that hook you at first but leave you hanging in the end. I would have put Loved Circus as my favorite work of hers but the final chapter destroyed all the investment I made with the characters before. Then there’s My God, a conceptual manga that revolves around people chasing their gods. This is composed of two stories, both of which offering a good take on how people view their ‘gods’. I wish this was longer though.
Yoru to Asa
The very first hardcore yaoi I read, I was welcomed with Asa-chan doing Yoru-chan because he mistook him as a girl! Not only that it is stupid, the next chapters are equally delicious but ridiculous. It was as if the gates of hell opened in my case and I kind of read it till the end. Do not worry, the story is actually harmless but the way Harada-sensei executed this is way beyond my comprehension back then. Who thought a story about bands can be this… raunchy?
Killing Stalking or Warehouse
Uhm… I think I need to see a psychiatrist for weirdly loving the two. Killing Stalking is definitely the creepier of the two but Warehouse is also crazy. If you are up to some psychologically twisted take on BL, read those two for your enjoyment. Warehouse is more erotic because Killing Stalking is pure mental trauma when I read it. It does not mean it is bad though. In fact, I even congratulate the manhwa for making a compelling work for better or for worse.
Kocchi Muite, Ai
“I do not know if I should cry or fap to this manga” – anonymous comment.
Same. Very same. My mind is confused between drooling or crying when I read this manga.
Never mind the tasty drama about the uke not having his first love but the sex scenes are hot! Well, he found his happy end route ultimately so it’s okay? Nonetheless, Atami sensei’s artworks are always good so feast your eyes with what you see.