You Say It’s Boys Love – I’m Telling You It’s Not

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 ship them

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.

Banana Fish

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.

Yeah, still not boys love

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.

No. 6

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.

DRAMAtical Murder

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.

Here, have some boys love; You’re My Love Prize In View Finder. Comes in anime as well.




20 thoughts on “You Say It’s Boys Love – I’m Telling You It’s Not

    1. I actually dropped the anime. Or rather, I watch an episode when I feel like it. I think there is like 10 episodes or so and they follow the manga page by page more or less so I don’t feel like I need to watch it. It took me about 12 (!) volumes to get really interested in the manga but it was very good in the end. And yes, I agree, I would say the sub genre is romance when we talk about YoI. It most definitely is present, the love story. I like it because it doesn’t take focus from the main story. I want more of that kind!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, the number of times I have seen arguments on the whether a show is a yaoi or not, especially when Yuri on Ice was airing. That being said I have to disagree with you on Dramatical Murder if the source material is boys love then I count an adaptation of that the same genre. The way you have worded it there it would almost be like saying certain episodes of a boys love series are not boys love because the ‘boys love’ element was not there. I know it’s nitpicking but I guess that it just how I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t see how an anime can be a boys love if you strip it of all the boys love element from the source material. If you have no relationship to the visual novel there is no reason to see Aoba or anyone else as gay really. By labeling it BL you scare off an audience that could very well enjoy the anime. I did say it was a tricky one though. 😉

      As for the comment about certain episodes not being boys love in a boys love anime because the lack of boys love element; seriously? All I said was that DmmD is a mish mash of the good endings with the main story, something that is common in visual novel adaptations.


      1. Hey, it’s okey! I like to hear your opinions. We may not always agree but I like to discuss. And I know this subject is dividing the BL world. It was painfully clear during the whole YoI debacle.


  2. Great post! You made a topic I have little to no interest in engaging and well-thought out! I’ve been watching Banana Fish every week and while I don’t think it’s great, I do think the drama of it is very good, plus it’s a darn good-looking show too!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! Banan Fish sure is very good looking. And the plot is interesting. I have read the manga and I can say that it took me almost 12 volumes before I got really into the story and started to love it. So right now I sporadically watch an episode now and again. I have a bad track record when it comes to reading the manga and then watching the anime; I always end up liking the manga better. Also, I know what’s gonna happen and since the author has said nothing, except the time period, has changed well, the end is what it is. But yeah, I like the whole political game and it is really good looking.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly…people should just stop becoming obsessed about wanting to put labels on everything. It’s not only for this, but I mean that in general. Who cares what something is called. As long as one enjoys it, I couldn’t care less about something like that. I have seen sometimes incredibly heated arguments erupt between people defending something and then someone else putting in arguments trying to convince the other person why he/she might not be right. Seriously…why? Entertainment is meant to be just that: entertainment. And if someone enjoys something who cares what it’s called.
    I haven’t seen Banana Fish by the way..but that’s because it isn’t available here. I have heared some pretty great things about it though. As always: great post Lina 😊😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree with you in general but not when it comes to BL. BL is such a negative genre to many and if you are not into guys wit guys then yeah, that really isn’t for you and you avoid it. And that’s why it is so important to not call anime like YoI or No.6 boys love. Why? Because we need good lgbtq+ representation in anime and if you put the label BL on something that mainly isn’t about the gay couple then you lose a huge audience. The representation goes completely down the drain. We who like BL don’t need representation, most of us aren’t bothered by gay guys anyway but the regular viewer might not be used to seeing gay couples on screen very often and that has to change. But by calling something BL scares them off. Because, they don’t want to watch that crap the crazy fujoshi’s watch. In all my examples (except DmmD which is a special case) the story is important. Fujoshis can still watch it for the gay couple and revel in it if they will but regular people can watch it for the story and enjoy it without feeling intimidated by the boys love label. It’s all about reaching out to as many people as possible. About being seen. Call BL boys love when it is about the couple. Call it whatever the genre might be when there is a gay couple in it and invite everybody in to watch it.

      Thank you! 😊 Banana Fish is okey. I might compare it to the manga and my track record of comparing the anime with the manga is so so. I always like the manga better and I almost always drop the anime or it takes for ever to finish it. So yeah, it looks amazing but I already know how it ends and what will happen. The authors have already said the only thing they will/have changed is the time period (from the 80’s to now). Anyway, it is worth a look if you get a chance. The politics and drug war alone is interesting.


  4. Defining something in a single genre is always a little problematic because most stories have more than one thing going on. I honestly don’t mind if people want to call something a romance when it has drama, action or otherwise as well, if that’s the part they are watching for then that is what resonates for them. Then again, I’m also fine with others disagreeing and pointing out that the romance is a sub-plot rather than the main focus. I think it really just depends on what the writers want to label it and then viewers will mostly just call it whatever suits them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely agree. I in general think that genres as a whole is a bit…dumb. I mean calling EVA a mecha and nothing else is not really telling for what EVA is. BUT, when it comes to BL it is unfortunate that some anime has gotten that label and I feel like it is important to separate BL from other genres. Anime like for example YoI. As soon as an anime gets the label BL it alienates a huge potential audience who doesn’t like that type of anime. I understand and definitely respect that of course, boys love isn’t for everyone. But those anime where the gay representation is just representation and not the main focus is called BL as well, it gets the wrong idea and those who would watch it don’t because of the [negative] label the wholesome representation is lost. We need lgbtq+ representation and by calling something that is wholesome [gay relationships] BL, which BL more often than not isn’t, then that representation goes down the drain because “normal” people won’t watch it. Because they don’t like BL. Does it make sense? Am I just rambling now?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely see where you are coming from because the label itself is problematic due to the way many people will be put off by it and sometimes, even though there may be a relationship between boys, none of the aspects that put those people off BL will be focused on and they might have really enjoyed an anime that had a more diverse set of characters if they’d watched it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. THANK YOU. I have been arguing for years that just because there’s a gay male couple doesn’t make it yaoi sometimes it’s just a nifty thing called representation (the amount of yaoi fangirls calling any media with gay male couples or implied gay males yaoi is astounding), or sometimes it’s just… not.

    I appreciated your thoughts on the subject a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you.🙂 I’m a huge fan of BL myself but I stay away from the yaoi fandom (yeah, the people who call BL yaoi are the worst kind unfortunately). They are like rabid dogs sadly. I just wish they understood why it is so damaging to call something yaoi when it is not.

      Liked by 1 person

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