(18+) AX: Learning About the World of Boy on Boy: The Yaoi 101 Panel

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed as part of this panel recap are those of the writer and do not reflect those of oprainfall as a whole.

Yaoi | Meaning

Yep, I went to a Yaoi panel. Hey someone has to learn about this.

I’ve covered a lot of Yuri for oprainfall and it’s no secret I adore the genre. Heck, we’ve even covered VN’s and Eroge regarding the matter. But we haven’t exactly covered a lot of Yaoi have we? Well, that’s certainly not fair, so I think it’s time that I start trying to delve into the world of Boy’s Love. Before that though, I thought it would be a good idea to get a crash course into what I’d be getting myself into. Thankfully there was an 18+ Yaoi 101 panel at Anime Expo and of course I made sure I was there.

Our hosts were “Fujoshi Queen Bee” and “Amedeus” who is actually the director of Yaoicon. To open the panel, they let us know that “All the more D the better” and that “Harder is better.” With the crowd roaring and laughing we began the panel with some history.

Yaoi, Seme, Uke? What the Heck Does This All Mean?!

Yaoi | General

The basic definition of Yaoi, which I think we all know. But let’s go a little more in-depth.

Yaoi was coined in the 1980’s and comes from the phrase “Yama nashi, Ochi Nashi, Imi Nashi” which means, “No Mountain, No Fall, No Meaning”. The translation of that we were given was basically “Plot, what plot?!” Which is pretty much the idea of Yaoi in general if you think about it. The idea is to focus on the relationship between the characters. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a plot, and many Yaoi manga these days have very complex plots. However, in the 1980’s maybe that held a lot more literal meaning. After all the main point of a Yaoi is to have two guys fall in love. So that handles the history but what about the terminology.

We all have heard of Yaoi fangirls referring to themselves as “Rotten”. This comes from the word Fujoshi which roughly translates to “Rotten Girl”. There is also a male counterpart which is Fundanshi, and just in case you thought there weren’t male Yaoi fans, there were just as many male cheers in the panel as female when our hosts asked the Fundanshi sound off. The other terms you’ve probably heard are Uke and Seme, though these require a little more explanation.

Yaoi | Why Yaoi

Hey, you can’t fault that logic. You like what you like and there’s no shame in that.

Uke are the ones “Taking the D” as it were. Usually they are more submissive in nature. While you might think that makes them the “woman” in the relationship, I hesitate to use that word as gender roles are a bit more complex than who’s on top and bottom. Not only that, but Yaoi and Yuri are specifically designed to play around with gender roles. The Uke is sometimes also called the Neko or the Catcher as well. There’s one more term, but I’ll save that for the Seme.

Semes are the “Givers of the D”. They tend to be more assertive, aggressive, or dominate. A Seme is sometimes also called a Pitcher, but they can also be called a Tachi. This term is actually used for both Semes and Ukes, but there’s a slightly different meaning. A Uke who is a Tachi is more in control still. They may be the ones riding, but they own that ride and are firmly in the driver’s seat. This is one major reasons I don’t think you can fit Semes or Ukes into a gender role. As much as we love to categorize things as humans, reality is much more complex. Add to this the fact there’s a third term, “Seke” which is basically a guy who can switch between the two roles, and you can cover almost any combination of sexuality and psychology.  Ok, so that’s the roles, but what about genre definitions.

The Genres of Yaoi: From Innocence to Sexy Sexy Smut!

Yaoi | Genres

As you can see there’s quite a few recurring tropes and genres, but don’t think that means Yaoi is constrained to this

Well to start there’s Shounen-ai. Now in western fandom it tends to mean more puppy love. However, I’d probably caution against using the term too much with Japanese friends. One thing I’ve been told is that both Shoujo-ai and Shounen-ai are frowned upon in Japanese conversation as you literally are saying “Boys love” or “Girls love” which can equate more with Lolicon and Shotacon. This is probably going to vary based on your own circle of friends and the sites you visit, but just a word of caution. Aside from that that you also of course have Softcore and Hardcore.

Softcore Yaoi is more “Fluffy & Fluffy”. It focuses more on the romantic angle and is the majority of what’s released. While sex is implied and things can get somewhat steamy, nothing is still shown. You could probably think of The Testament of Sister New Devil as a good example as to how far they can push it. Hardcore Yaoi meanwhile does contain sex and “Contains the best defined hands”. And yes the audience both cheered and cracked up at this. This wasn’t the end of our genre discussion however as there were still situational tropes to address.

As you’d imagine there’s a lot of settings in which Yaoi can take place. Yakuza being a rather popular one (everyone loves those bad boys). There’s also the classic Student/Teacher, Co-workers, and Fan-Fiction/Doujinshi. The one we spent the most time on however was Bara, which really deserves an explanation itself.

Bara: Yaoi for Men, by Men.

Yaoi | Bara and Soft-Macho

Bara & Soft-Macho: So similar and yet so different at the same time

Bara is thought of in the west as more muscular men. So think body builders etc. However, these are done primarily by Female Mangakas and tend to still give the men very feminine, beautiful faces and bodies. Basically you’re “Perfect” male. Of course there’s still a focus on a lot of sex, but this actually isn’t true Bara. This is known is Japan as “Soft-Macho” and there is quite a big difference between this and Bara.

Yaoi 101 | Bara Explination

It’s fascinating to me just how diverse and accepting the Otaku fandom is.

Bara instead is instead targeted at Gay Men. As such a lot, but not all I imagine, of the Mangakas are male. These tend to make the men more sexualized and depict even more muscular and masculine bodies. This often includes body hair, which is something Soft-Macho does not usually include. It also is geared more towards the LGBT community. As such I’d imagine it would tackle more of the issues that Gay males would face in real life as opposed to Soft-Macho. It just goes to show how diverse the Otaku community as a whole is. We finally wrapped up our discussion with a small talk on fanservice and where people can find Yaoi.

Yaoi | Fan Service

That is actually a really good definition for Fan Service.

I’m going to gloss over the fanservice discussion for the most part as really delving into it would require its own article. What I will say though is that fanservice is just as apparent and utilized in anime targeted for women. One con goer put it as “Every sports anime ever” and that’s hard to disagree with considering how many these days’ focus on a group of guys with that one girl thrown in there. And if you think this is something recent or only applies to sports anime, I’ll point to Gundam Wing which even one of the panelists said was an inspiration for Yaoi shipping for her. You may also be surprised to know that Gundam Wing was actually designed to appeal to a female audience. Yep, even as far back as the 90’s Yaoi-bait existed. So now that you know about all this, where can you find some delicious boy-on-boy romance?

Where Do They Find All These Wonderful Stories?

Yaoi | Publishers

There’s a few publishers out there for Yaoi content, hopefully they’ll be more in the future.

Well there’s a couple of choices. Manga wise you can find it digitally through June Manga, and in print via Viz’s SuBLime imprint. SuBLime though will be more mainstream and popular Yaoi. There’s also Netcomics which prints Korean Manhwa (basically Korean Manga). Anime wise is where things get a bit trickier. Because Yaoi anime are generally made for mainstream appeal, they have to be rated 16+. So if you’re just looking for romance or some ecchi, you’re good. Sex though is out of the question. Finally, there’s of course conventions, and in particular Yaoicon. So consider dropping by if you Yaoi is your thing, let’s go ahead though and wrap this up.

Yaoi | Examples

There’s quite a few examples on that list even I know, including a certain Eroge.

I hope you’ve learned a little something about Yaoi as I have. Just like with Yuri, it has its own deep complexities, which I’m only starting to understand. I’m not all that sure if Yaoi is really for me, but at the least I’m glad I went to the panel and expanded my horizons. And who knows, maybe I’ll just have to put this knowledge to the test and review some Yaoi Eroge at some point. (Hint Hint)

Yaoi | No, Thank You!!!

Give me a few months to clear my plate of projects, but yep, this will be coming

About Benny Carrillo

A gamer since the days of the NES, this professional otaku adores Mega Man, Super Robot Wars, Yuri, Visual Novels, the Slice of Life anime genre, and of course Hyperdimension Neptunia. His mission on oprainfall is to help deliver the news straight to you.




  • Daymon

    Hey, kudos to you for going outside your usual area of comfort. Plenty of people don’t even get that far.