As a particular genre in Japanese comics (and to a lesser degree, animation), Boys’ Love and the related generic/content label of yaoi has attracted significant scholarly attention from English-language scholars of Japanese popular visual culture. Boys’ Love, often abbreviated to BL, refers to texts with homosexual or at least homoerotic romance themes, created primarily by, and primarily for women. Yaoi is used generally for explicitly pornographic fan-created works, depicting sex between male partners, and using characters from established media properties such as novels, films, and anime/manga. Some of the ways that scholars are writing on BL/yaoi can be seen in book chapters such as Suzuki, Kazuko (1998), Pornography or therapy?: Japanese girls creating the yaoi phenomon, in S. Inness (Ed.), Millennium girls: Today’s girls around the world (pp. 243-267), and McHarry, Mark. Girls doing boys doing boys: Boys’ love, masculinity, and sexual identities, in T. Perper & M. Cornog (Eds.), Mangatopia: Essays on manga and anime in the modern world (pp. 119-133), and journal articles like Welker, James (2006), Beautiful, borrowed, and bent: “Boys’ Love” as girls’ love in shojo manga, Signs, 31(3), 841-870, McLelland, Mark (2006), Why are Japanese girls’ comics full of boys bonking? Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media, 10, and Pagliassotti, Dru (2008), Reading Boys Love in the West, Particip@tions: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 5(2). In addition, out of the less a dozen edited collections of essays on anime/manga that have been published in English before this year, one specifically focuses on “Boys’ Love manga”.
The publication by the University Press of Mississippi of Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan now brings the number of English-language essay collections on shounen-ai/Boys Love/BL/yaoi to two. And the obvious question is – what makes this essay collection unique. Is it anyhow different from the already-published five years ago now Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre (Jefferson, NC: McFarland), or is it just more of the same?