Banana Fish is highly topical at the moment with the anime currently running on Amazon Prime Video. It is an adaptation of the 80’s shoujo manga by the same name. This is the reason for this post. Or rather, one of the reasons I decided to write this post.
Many, mostly girls, scream yaoi the minute they see a gay man on the screen. It doesn’t matter in what form or shape this gay man is, or what the anime is about, if there is any hint of gay it is yaoi. Even some anime that isn’t gay becomes yaoi because of all the fanservice. Yes, Free! is yaoi in some girls’ twisted minds.
I think yaoi is a very out dated term so from now on I will use the term boys love instead.
But, you see, here’s the thing; just because there is gay in an anime doesn’t automatically mean it is boys love. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is boys love even if the male main characters end up becoming a couple.
Boys love is made with the focus of the gay couple. The whole story revolve around their life and their relationship. The goal is their life with them in focus. Everything else is secondary. All the events that happens in the anime or manga is just a means to get to or be a part of the end goal.
What about Banana Fish? You did start with that one, Lina? Why did you do that? Because so many people have called it boys love of course. And obviously it is not. Banana Fish is the story of Ash Lynx and his war against his former sugar daddy and mafia boss. There is a drug war going on and he has ended up in the middle of it when his brother ODs and then later gets murdered when Ash is snooping around about it. With Ash is a young Japanese man, Eiji, and here’s where the boys love label comes from. The two young men has a very ambiguous relationship. It might be a close friendship, it might be a bromance or it might, in the end, be love. I have read the manga and I am not gonna spoil the end but I can tell you one thing; it is not boys love. No matter how it ends it will never be boys love. It doesn’t matter that half the cast is gay and one part of the plot is about sex trafficking of young boys or that all the middle-/old men are gay. Or that Ash is gay too. Because the anime/manga isn’t about that. It is about the drug war, the politics, the gang dynamics and the tragedy behind Ash’s persona. His relationship with Eiji is just one part of who he becomes and whether that is as a lover or just as a close friend doesn’t matter. Focus is not on the gay couple. If there even is one. As I said, it is a very ambiguous manga/anime.
Banana Fish in all its glory; if you haven’t read the manga, but only watched the anime, you might not know too much about the two young men’s relationship. So let’s talk about some other examples of what’s not a boys love anime/manga. All these are frequently listed on various sites as boys love anime you should watch.
Nezumi and Shion; I think everyone who has ever been interested in boys love has heard about these two wonderful boys. One is a privileged boy living on the inside of the wall, in an upperclass community, studying at the school for gifted children. He has a bright future ahead. The other lives outside of the wall, seeing the reality for what it is, the government manipulating the people inside the wall. The two meet and things turn to shit for Shion inside the wall. Their journey begins when Shion is accused of murder and Nezumi comes to his rescue. In short. Again, their relationship starts off with friendship but turns into something stronger. Well, maybe it has always been strong ever since Nezumi at the age of 12 took refuge one stormy night in Shion’s room. It doesn’t really matter because in the end, focus isn’t on their spiring romance, focus is on the story. Their feelings are just a part of the story, not the main goal. The relationship between the two teenagers help them (mostly Shion really) to mature and change their values but it isn’t the purpose of the story. It just is a part of the big picture.
Yuri!!! on Ice
The most infamous of them all. I know, you are gonna protest so much now. They are sooo gay, you will argue. Yes, they are gay, we all know that. But you know what, the story is about more than their relationship. Again, there is a goal and it is not to get Yuuri and Victor in bed. From the get go Victor is there to help Yuuri win gold and that is the purpose of this story. Victor helps Yuuri to overcome his anxiety, he helps him with his training and he is a friend to Yuuri when he needs one. Yuri!!! on Ice is a sports anime first and foremost with all that comes with it. The gay relationship and the romance that evolves between the protagonists are secondary.
I’m gonna repeat one more time: the main purpose of boys love is to focus on the gay relationship in an anime or manga. Everything revolves around the gay couple and all means and events strives to get the protagonists together. The story is secondary. The relationship is primary.
This is a tricky one. All [most] fujoshis would argue that this is boys love. And in a way it is. At least the OVA is. The OVA is extremely much boys love. The sex is overflowing in that one. But, it wasn’t aired on TV and thus, I won’t count it at all. DRAMAtical Murder is based on a boys love visual novel and again, it makes this a little bit tricky. The game is really lewd, and I mean really. But the anime is not. There is nothing in this anime that says boys love at all. One kiss that makes Aoba go completely crimson read from embarrassment is all you get. The rest is nothing but a bunch of one episode mish mash of endings from the visual novel and the main story mixed in. It is highly child proof. And not gay. Not that gay is dangerous to children but the visual novel this anime is based on is. So, here is an example of something that absolutely isn’t boys love but got the label because of the source material.
Well, I’m gonna round it up here. I have more examples but they are probably not known enough to bother with. I could also mention some manga like I Hear The Sunspot but I’ll just leave it for another time. I know a lot of people disagree with this but it is what it is. There is nothing wrong with liking boys love (hell, I love boys love more than anything) but could we not call things that aren’t boys love boys love. Let’s just say that it is anime and add (if that is even necessary) that it has some good (in these cases even though they are a bit ambiguous) gay representation.
If I could wish for something then that would be more anime like Yuri!!! on Ice and No.6. Anime that has good gay representation where the focus isn’t on the relationship. Anime that isn’t boys love but boys in love. That’s what I wish for.