What is Yaoi? What is boy’s love? How about shounen-ai

What is Yaoi? What is boy’s love? How about shounen-ai

is and is more implied, subtle. That’s the simplest way we can distinguish the two.

I was elementary when I began to delve into the world of boy’s love and immediately, so many pop up that it gets hard to remember them all.

First of all, I am not a Japanese native speaker and most of what I learned is just from contextual clues. Back then the internet wasn’t as fast as it is now and we have something called “load cards” where you have to pay a certain amount just to fire up the dial up and load the internet.

A bit of history- how the internet was back then

How these charge cards work is that every time you go online, you automatically consume one hour. So even if you go online for just 30 minutes, that would count as 1 hour and you’d lose that load. Back then, it was 20 pesos (in our local currency) per one hour. So it would be impractical to learn japanese by googling one word for a few seconds.

In fact, I’m not even sure that google exists back then, at least not in its current form and waiting for the dial-up to connect is a lot longer than what some people’s patient can endure. So you have to learn by context, by getting clues from how it was used. Okay history over. Let’s go back to what is yaoi.

So what is yaoi? Is it different from Boy’s Love?

By all honestly, it was only until the proliferation of broadband that I knew what yaoi really is. Turns out it’s a portmanteau of yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi (translated: “no climax, no point, no meaning”).

What is yaoi then? Taken in this context, yaoi is meant to refer to a genre of Boy’s Love where there’s really no point to it apart from the “climax”. In short, it’s precisely what you think it is, cold hard uncensored act between two men.

There doesn’t have to be love. There doesn’t have to be meaning. There doesn’t have to be any plot. Simplicity at its finest.

So what is Boy’s Love?

Boy’s love is the over-all category to which yaoi and shounen-ai belongs to and it was initially and primarily marketed to women and females of all ages; much like how shounen like Naruto and Dragonball were marketed to males, guys and boys.

What is shounen-ai? And how is it different from yaoi?

If both yaoi and shounen-ai are both forms of boy’s love how are they different from each other? What is shounen-ai?

Translated, shounen-ai is simply “boy’s love”. Confused yet? So you have boy’s love which is a genre under Boy’s Love. What gives?

Shounen-ai is meant to distinguish itself from the meaningless plotless world of yaoi by showing plot, progression.

During my initial foray into the internet, I used to describe shounen-ai as

Love so tender it hurts

and I believe that still applies even today. Most of the shounen-ai plots can haunt you. And I like it about that.

Yaoi and Shounen-ai

Nowadays however, yaoi and shounen-ai are meant together like salt and pepper. For after all, each complements the other nicely.

Sprinkling a little bit of plot or thought-provocativeness to yaoi or using yaoi as a reward for going through a long frustrated plot of shounen-ai

this is precisely how it’s meant to be. And we should all be glad that most of the boy’s love world is working towards a delicate balance between the two.

The downside- unsuitable for young audiences

Intertwining yaoi and shounen-ai together have its downsides. For one, if you mix yaoi and shounen-ai together, you’re always guaranteed to come up with a product that is not safe for young audiences. And this is why I believe even with recent trends in the world of Boy’s Love or BL, there still remains a significant distinction between Yaoi and Shounen-ai.

What Boy’s Love Stands for- Controversies, fetishism and mainstream lgbt representation

Initially, it was meant for women to explore sexuality by removing themselves from it. This is why in a lot of cases, yaoi is just heavily fetishized and that’s where most of the criticism comes from.

However, over the years, it has meant different things for different people in different times. While it may have started as mere fetishism, it has the potential to normalize lgbt art and media in the mainstream.

It just depends on how the artist and in its audience guide the genre. Today, boy’s love or BL has proliferated in mainstream media. It has its fair share of supporters and it has its fair share of detractors. One thing’s for sure, it continue to fascinate, to entertain and to indulge women and men everywhere of all ages.

May it be a hopeless romantic or just someone in need of a quick rush, it’s as diverse as the world of anime itself.

The wrap-up

Boy’s Love is the umbrella term, with two subsets-yaoi and shounen-ai serving different purposes. In an ideal world, they both serve different age groups, but in a lot of cases, they can be intertwined to the point where you have a shounen-ai with some yaoi in it, or yaoi with a little bit of shounen-ai in it.

Further Readings

https://geekculture.co/geeks-guide-the-hard-truth-about-what-yaoi-is/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaoi

https://japanpowered.com/anime-articles/a-brief-history-of-yaoi

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