Yaoi and Yuri: An Informative Look into LGBTQ Manga

Yaoi and Yuri: An Informative Look into LGBTQ Manga

If you’re a manga reader or at least browsed that section of the bookstore, I’m sure you have noticed a few titles with 2 men or 2 women lovingly and affectionately embracing or interacting with one another.  Two hidden genres with a cult following are beginning to emerge: Yaoi and Yuri. In a world where the LGBTQ community are still fighting for equality, the increasing popularity of these two genres is mind boggling.  What is Yaoi and Yuri and why are they so appealing to the masses?

Bloom into You by Nakatani Nio

Yaoi and Yuri are manga in which the plot of the story usually revolves around the relationship of either 2 males or 2 females.  Yaoi involves 2 males while Yuri involves 2 females. The relationships can be either sexual or emotional or they can contain both. They both can feature graphic or explicit sexual situations, but it’s not necessary. In the Yuri manga ”Bloom Into You”, the central female couple do nothing more than steal kisses and hold hands.  There is also a little sexual flirtation. On the other hand, the Yaoi “Escape Journey” contains some pretty raunchy sex scenes between the starring male couple. People may get Yaoi and Yuri confused with shonen-ai (male/male) and shojo-ai (female/female).  The difference between them is simply the level of sexual content. Shonen-ai and shojo-ai contain NO SEXUAL CONTENT. The extreme version of Yaoi and Yuri would be hentai. I’m sure we ALL know what hentai is.

Between Yaoi and Yuri, Yaoi is the more popular of the two.  This might have to do with the fact that it has a larger fanbase.  The fan base surprisingly isn’t the LGBTQ community. It consists of straight young women and girls. Most of the mangaka or manga artists of Yaoi manga are women. “Loveless” and “Junjo Romatica” are some of the more popular titles and they are written by Yun Koga and Shungiku Nakamura respectively.   It is possible that Yaoi is appealing to young women because it’s a safe way to explore their sexuality. Mangaka commonly use themes of rape and forced love in Yaoi. This could be because a lot of women in this society feel they’re forced to be in relationships for financial, familial, or various other adverse personal reasons. It is also possible that violent themes provide abuse victims with a way to come to grips with their experiences.  

Junjo Romantica by Shungiku Nakamura

While Yaoi is a way for women to explore their feelings and process their life experiences, what attracts them the most are the male characters.  These men are created in a way to specifically draw women in and thus keep the targeted audience invested in the unfolding drama of their relationships.  They can have masculine, feminine, or androgynous characteristics. They can be the bad boy with a heart of gold. They may be 100% lovable from the start. Or perhaps they’re down right cold hearted.  No matter how the characters are created, there’s something about them that makes women desire them. The Uke and Seme male are two important concepts in Yaoi. In fact, you will never read a Yaoi manga without having two male characters in the story that can be clearly identified as the Uke and the Seme.  The Uke is feminine. They’re usually more affectionate and emotional. They may also take one more traditional female roles. They tend to be drawn more delicate and softer. The Seme has masculine qualities. They’re generally cold and aloof. They’re mostly drawn with sharper angles. The Uke and Seme are designed to be a balancing pair.  They are an essential element in every Yaoi manga.

Each year Yaoi and Yuri grow more popular.  There was once a time when I would go to my favorite, now defunct bookstore and see only a few titles of Yaoi, including my then obsession “Gravitation.”  Yuri was non-existent on the shelves. Now readers have an assortment of titles between the two genres. As a fan of both Yaoi and Yuri, I can’t wait to see what new works come from the mangaka that have masterfully intrigued the world.    


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