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Cover of "Fake" by Sanami Matoh as published by TokyoPop. Cover of "Fake" by Sanami Matoh as published by TokyoPop.

Yaoi is a controversial term of Japanese origin for a publishing genre that originated in Japan, that often encompases manga, doujinshi (self-published comics) anime, or fan art that always focuses on sexual homosexual relationships between male characters and is generally created by women artists and marketed to a straight female audience. Male Japanese artists who create homosexual-themed material for male audiences operate in another genre. Some consider yaoi to be synonymous with shōnen-ai, which focuses on the same topic, but shōnen-ai is (typically) not as graphic in its portrayal of homosexuality. Others insist shonen ai is an older genre that must be considered completely separately from yaoi. Both categories are now commonly referred to as Boys' Love in Japan.

Contents

Overview

The word Yaoi is an acronym of Japanese origin, which has come to be used in America and elsewhere to describe the Japanese publishing phenomenon of sexual gay-themed comics, animation, and prose created by women for women. The phenomenon has spread beyond Japan, with examples of what is called "American yaoi" coming into being. Exactly what the term means and what it encompasses is a subject of debate. At least one anthropologist has suggested that yaoi is a product of the intersection of two fairly universal cultural taboos: women's freedom of sexual expression and homosexuality.

Etymology

The English letters form an acronym derived from the Japanese phrase 「ヤマなし、オチなし、意味なし」 (yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi), that is often translated into English as, "no climax, no punch line, no meaning." A variant English translation, "No peak, no point, no problem," is often prefered as a translation that "works." The term appears to be used in Japan originally (perhaps as long ago as the 1970's) for any doujinshi that was a bizarre, playful parody, and came to be applied to sexually explicit homosexual material, but only that created by female artists and marketed to female consumers.

Pronunciation

In Japanese, each vowel is prononced separtely, making the prefered prononciation, three syllables, yah-oh-ee 「やおい」. However, to hear the Japanese artists who create yaoi say it, and people who speak Japanese and market yaoi, too, it sounds more like two syllables, "yow-ee".

Usage

Some people have a very narrow definition of what consititutes yaoi, others insist on much broader definitions. Yaoi is often thought of as less "story-based" than heterosexual hentai manga or anime; as there are often pairings between mortal enimes or rivals. (Goku and Vegeta, Inuyasha and Sesshomaru, etc.) however, a broad spectrum of "intensity" exists in the genre. Themes range from ordinary themes and mild adult situations to extreme fetish-oriented works, including anthromorphism, cosplay, nonconsensual sex ("non-con"), and even monsters, incest, orgies, and assorted other highly taboo depictions of homosexuality.

Doujinshi

Some purists insist that yaoi as a term be only applied properly to doujinshi, Japanese for "same people zine," meaning the "same people" create and publish it. Typical yaoi doujinshi features male-male "pairings" whose names are always joined with an "x" never with the "/" of slash. Most, but not all doujinshi, are done by amateurs who often work in "circles." CLAMP started as a doujinshi circle. However, professional yaoi artists including Kodaka Kazuma and Maki Murakami make their own doujinshi as well. Just about any work of literature can be turned into a doujinshi. Collectors often focus on the doujinshi for a particular comic. There are doujinshis of "Yu-Gi-Oh," "Naruto," "Trigun," and even material that has nothing to do with comics, such as "Harry Potter" and "Pirates of the Carribean." Some common subjects of doujinshi include the boys of Trigun, Cardcaptor Sakura, Dragon Ball, Final Fantasy, Megaman Battle Network (aka Megaman Nt warrior, axcess,stream,etc..)Gundam Wing, Naruto, Prince of Tennis, Weiss Kreuz, Yu-Gi-Oh!, YuYu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, Fruits Basket, Saiyuki, Wolf's Rain, DNAngel, and One Piece. Generally speaking, if a series features attractive male characters, it will attract yaoi fans. Thus a large amount of doujinshi material, and therefore yaoi material, actually comes from male-oriented shounen and seinen demographics. This sometimes causes conflict because many fans dislike such themes, especially when inserted as fanon.

BL vs. yaoi for professionally published material

Commercially published manga, anime, and novels that fit the yaoi genre are often referred to as "yaoi" in America but as "Boys' Love" or "BL"(the English words, shortened to the acronym "BL") in Japan. This is how the Japanese publishing community distinguishes the current professionally published works from both the doujinshi and the older "shonen ai" genre, which is no longer created or marketed in Japan.

Some people who know yaoi insist that the term be restricted to material originally published by Japanese publishers who specialize in yaoi. Until recently the Japanese publisher Biblos, and their Be X Boy magazine, was considered the major source of professionally published Japanese yaoi. However, that company's recent bankruptcy (due to failure in the company's non-yaoi ventures) means that Biblos' competitors will be taking up a larger share of the market for professional yaoi or BL manga. In recent years, several popular Japanese yaoi or BL works have been commercially translated and imported to English-speaking countries by companies such as TokyoPop, Be Beautiful, and Digital Manga Publishing (DMP).

In Japan at present all homosexual-themed manga (written mostly by and aimed at females) is generally referred to as BL or Boys' Love. This is the way Japanese publishers list the genre for Japanese markets, and the way the anime are described by the voice actors who play the roles. However, professional Japanese artists themselves often use the term "yaoi" at least when writing or speaking in English or to English-speaking audiences. Kodaka Kazuma, for example, who has been described as being to yaoi what the Sex Pistols are to punk, calls her work yaoi, and is careful to distingish her work as being yaoi, not gay. Whether a narrow or broad definition is applied, yaoi is usually of a more sexually explicit nature than the now-obsolete shōnen-ai. Little is known about Shounen-ai's predecesor Tanbi. In this context, the three terms are often compared to American slash.

American Yaoi

Over the years, gay-themed comic strips inspired by and referred to as yaoi have been adapted as a sub-culture in North America, with writings and art displayed on websites devoted to it. Notable American yaoi comics include the webcomic Boy Meets Boy by K. Sandra Fuhr, and its successor Friendly Hostility hosted on Keenspot. Professional yaoi or yaoi-related manga created by American artists for the American market includes the implicit "Off-Beat" by Jen Lee Quick, published by TokyoPop, and the explicit "Incubus" by Yayoi Neko, published by Bang. There are also some instances where any literary material with male-male homosexual content, including movies and novels, especially that created by female artists or writers, is referred to as yaoi. However, this definition is so overly broad as to generally be considered a misuse of the term.

Seme and Uke

Two of the most remarkable terms familar to yaoi fans are "seme" and "uke." They are borrowed from martial arts, but they have apparently been used in a sexual context for centuries and apparently do not carry any degrading connotations.

"Seme" comes from the Japanese verb "semeru" (to attack) and "uke" from the Japanese verb "ukeru" (to receive). Sometimes the words are translated into English as "top" and "bottom" but that is not accurate. The American slang terms "pitcher" and "catcher" are similar but "seme" and "uke" are not slang.

The "seme," (攻め) the "attacker," tends to be depicted as the standard male of anime and manga culture: restrained, physically powerful, protective. The "uke" (受け), the "receiver," may be more androgynous or feminized in appearance and demeanor. Certain authors and works exploit and re-invent these stereotypes; anthologies published by Be x Boy, for example, feature sets of stories centered around themes such as "younger seme" or "reversibles". The infamous "height rule"-- referencing height as a measure of power-- also relates to this element of yaoi culture.

Typically the men of yaoi art, whether seme or uke, are drawn with a soft metrosexual look. (This is one way the genre differs from gay manga, where the men tend to be much harder and more muscular-looking.) However, there is also an uprise of Muscle yaoi where adult men are featured with strong muscles and usually less feminine behaviors.

References

External links

Conventions

Publishers

Web Sites

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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