manga bookshelf

Soapbox: Women’s Manga

Over the weekend, I participated in a discussion about josei manga (manga for women) on Ed Sizemore’s Manga Out Loud podcast, along with Manga Out Loud regular Johanna Draper Carlson and guest David Welsh. I was pretty surprised to be invited to this discussion since I’m not particularly knowledgeable about josei manga, nor have I written much about it here at Manga Bookshelf. In the end, though, I was quite thrilled to be there, as the topic resonated strongly with me in one way especially.

I’ve harped a bit on this before, in articles like Twilight & the Plight of the Female Fan at The Hooded Utilitarian, about fan perception of fiction for girls, and most recently in a mini-rant (scroll to item 3) about industry perception of boys’ love manga. One of the things that bothers me most as a fan of comics created for female readers is how little respect they command outside of their target audience (and often even within their target audience), to the point that we as an industry end up either apologizing for or deliberately concealing their intended demographic in order to try to make them palatable to others.

Publishers do it, and who can blame them? Would Ooku and Bunny Drop sell if they were marketed as part of a josei line? Would Wild Adapter have remained in print so long if TOKYOPOP had released it on their BLU imprint? Sadly, the answer is, “probably not.” Everybody’s research has proven to them that while women will buy books marketed for men, the opposite is simply not true. So who can blame them for trying to attract a broader audience, if all that means is that they simply decline to mention that a book was originally created for women? It’s still the same book after all, right? Do I want to see these things in print, or would I rather they just faded away, like all the books from Aurora Publishing and NETCOMICS, whose awesome collection of women’s manhwa apparently couldn’t survive even in digital form?

Readers do it, and it’s hard to blame them either. Who hasn’t been put in the position of having to over-explain to a skeptical friend, “I know the cover is pink, but it’s really good, I swear!” We explain because we think we have to, and we think we have to because we’ve been conditioned to believe that something specifically created with girls or women in mind is less well-crafted, less intelligent, and less universally relevant than something that’s not. I came down pretty hard on female readers in that earlier HU article for distancing themselves from “girly” stuff, but there are a lot of reasons why that happens, a lot of traps set for women to fall into, and it’s really quite difficult to avoid those traps since they’ve been in place for so long.

We’ve been told repeatedly (and many of us, recently) that certain traits most often attributed to works for women are inherently inferior to those valued by men, and it’s difficult to make an argument against biases that are treated as fact to begin with. Not all that long ago, for instance, after I’d taken the time to write a thoughtful, heartfelt explanation of what I look for in fiction, how I talk about it, and why I think that is important, a man commented with this reductive statement, “Melinda: Your school of fiction was established over 200 years ago: sentimentalism. It had its virtues, but there are good reasons why sentimentalism is generally deprecated today.”

Well. How can someone argue with “facts” like those?

And the truth is, I’m far from immune to the traps, especially when it comes to talking about romance comics, and particularly boys’ love, which I’ve made the mistake of critiquing as a genre in the past. Take my writing for the recent Manga Moveable Feast, for instance. Though I think I should be able to say, “Wild Adapter is an excellent manga,” explain why it is excellent, and leave it at that, what I found myself saying (sometimes subtly) throughout all my features was, “Yes, Wild Adapter is BL, but you should read it anyway, because it’s an excellent manga,” or even “Yes, Wild Adapter is BL, but you should read it anyway because this really smart man says it’s an excellent manga.” It was desperate and out of character, but I could feel myself doing it, and I couldn’t stop because I felt so strongly that the series was being dismissed out of hand specifically for that reason.

So what can we do when the biases are so clear? What can we even ask for in an industry that struggles for readers regardless of demographic?

Maybe all we can do is continue talking about it, at least for now. So, readers, what do you think?


Download the podcast, “The Plight of Josei Manga,” at Manga Out Loud.

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Comments

  1. Noah Berlatsky says:

    It’s especially unfortunate to feel one has to apologize for women’s genre fiction in comics when the male genre fiction on offer in comics is so soul-crushingly godawful. Really, the default position should be something like, “Wild Adapter — it is not a mainstream superhero title! See…it might be good!”

    • It’s really too early to declare for sure, but you may have won the post with this comment.

    • This coming from a guy who thinks Jack Kirby sucks, invalidating every opinion he has on anything related to comics. Superhero comics are mainstream for a reason. People apologize for boys love manga for a reason. Why not just state the obvious and say “hey, if you like characters with giant eyeballs who are gay as hell, then check out this comic”.

      • Noah Berlatsky says:

        Um…I don’t think Jack Kirby sucks. And superhero comics probably have less of an audience than shojo at this point, and certainly less than something like Fun Home; audiences for mainstream superhero comics are tiny compared to any other medium.

      • You’ve actually made my point for me, semi-troll guy, since the one BL manga I specifically mentioned in this post, Wild Adapter, is definitely not about guys with giant eyeballs, which you would already know if you’d been willing to spend even a minute with any of the image-heavy posts and discussion pieces from our recent Manga Moveable Feast. It’s people like you, who would dismiss an entire genre out of hand (and possibly an entire medium, since comments about “giant eyeballs” demonstrate ignorance of manga as a whole) based on stereotypes and (apparently) homophobia that create the environment I’m talking about in this post.

  2. I think the tendency to apologize for genre happens a lot no matter the media/form. At least, for people who are more concerned about the thing itself than for just the genre. So much genre is average or worse, that one begins to associate the worth of the individual with the genre.

    Of course some genres have way more to work against than others depending on one’s perspective (at this point it would take a hell of a lot of praise by the right people to get me to read another superhero comic). As far as comics go, anything targetted at women seems to fall into that category, though I hope that is changing (?). It has to be better now than when I started reading comics (or when I started reading manga).

    Two of my favorite manga discoveries over the past couple years were targetted at women: Nana and Suppli. I probably wouldn’t have read either if I hadn’t read criticism/reviews that forced my attention on them, as neither, on the surface, seem of particular interest to me (perhaps, partially due to the marketing and packaging, Suppli less so than Nana with it’s pink book design (falling right into your example above) (some biases are harder to get by I guess)). Which isn’t all that disimilar to other genres (I’m not a fan of westerns but certain writings got me to watch and really love a few examples).

    I’m not sure I’m making a point.

    • I had trouble getting past the pink covers for NANA, too, so it’s not just men who carry that bias. :) I’ve been working on it hard, though. Lately, I’ve bought a lot of pink.

      Also, whether or not you’re making a point, I really appreciate the comment! And I think you may be making one anyway. I definitely agree that fans apologize for genre pretty regularly, and that discussion of genre often feels like a discussion of one’s own worth.

      • Yeah, try broaching the subject of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to someone who’s never heard of it. There’s bound to be a lot of “I know it’s a silly name, but I swear, it’s really good!” going on. Heck, I myself was dubious about it, despite recommendations, until I finally visited friends with the S1 boxset.

        • Oh, yeah. Just today on the phone I was complaining about True Blood to a friend and she was all “but you’re the one with 7 seasons of Buffy on dvd.”

      • “that discussion of genre often feels like a discussion of one’s own worth”

        That is a real problem when it comes to criticism. Some people are really invested in the genre. KInd of like some people are really invested in the generic “comics” or “manga”.

  3. The word fujoshi entails two characters: “rotten” and “girl” or “lady” or “woman” (depends on which translator you get.)

    This term was created with the intention of showing the corrupted and twisted world of BL readers. And while it may seem like a self-deprecating word, in the end, they don’t care. They like what they like no matter how rotten, corrupted, or twisted it is. In Japan, they don’t exactly wave banners around but their presence in Ikebukuro’s Otome Road is like a subtle, almost passive aggressive revolt against the industry that supposedly condones them. “Here we are, buying like mad maniacs for things you folks actually hate. We like this stuff so don’t be hatin’.”

    I think at the end of the day, just like what you like and say what you want to say about the things that you like (or don’t like). Apologize for it if it’s really awful but still like it (e.g. Hot Gimmick!) but if it’s great, then it’s great. Don’t hesitate to say why it’s great for you because that’s what entertained you. I think at times we forget that manga is really for our entertainment and we can read it in any way that entertains us, may it be because we have our BL goggles while we read it or because authors are geniuses in putting us in emotional traps.

    As a reader, at least I’d like to see that honesty in reviewers. In my opinion, the MMF this month was a nice honest affair. I’m not a big fan of her works but reading that has made me appreciate WA a little more.

  4. Danielle Leigh says:

    I’m so glad you are still fighting the good fight when it comes to women’s manga. I’ve gotten past my embarrassment for liking things like Fruits Basket and Kamisama Kiss, but a part of me still feels some shame for liking BL. There’s some politics happening there, but mainly, I’ve been in slash fandom since I was 15 years old for god’s sake (i.e. OVER HALF MY LIFE). When, oh when, am I going to get over myself? One of these days, I hope.

  5. I know I was somewhat negative toward josei and shoujo in America on Twitter recently, and I know in my case, it’s because in the US/Canadian market, we’re not getting the full spectrum of what shoujo/josei can be. I loved what I read of A Drunken Dream, I’d love to read Rose of Versailles and Kuragehime. We may occasionally get a Karakuri Odette or a Nana, but the highest profile titles, the Twilights, the Black Birds, the Butterflies, Flowers, and the Bunny Drops have misogyny so ingrained that they’re suffocating.

    It’s a catch-22, as if what josei there is doesn’t sell, there’s no chance we’ll see other, more varied josei titles brought over. Hopefully Princess Knight and Sailor Moon will sell so that companies might once again be willing to take a risk. I know I’ll be buying.

    • Hi Tom, thanks for coming by! Looking at my pretty extensive collection, I think you must be missing a lot of great shoujo and josei titles if you think either demographic is dominated by the likes of Black Bird. And while I can certainly appreciate your feelings about that series (I have panned it repeatedly myself), I have to ask… Where in heaven’s name is the misogyny in Bunny Drop? I am totally stumped on that one.

  6. > “Melinda: Your school of fiction was established over 200 years ago: sentimentalism. It had its virtues, but there are good reasons
    > why sentimentalism is generally deprecated today.”

    Wow, what a pathetic dude. Too good for either emotion or manners apparently.
    Knows a big word though, so I guess he has that going for him at least. ;-)

    > Well. How can someone argue with “facts” like those?

    Yeah, you can’t. That’s indeed the problem.

    But I like your comment above about how discussing genre feels like discussing your own worth. Taking that seriously has helped me a lot with apologizing for genre. I know my own worth, so if I like something, I have nothing to apologize for in it. If I think it’s valuable, then it is (I guess this is arrogance as a strategic tool, lol).

    And for me at least, it also helps to have a strong alternative social frame that both accounts for the other person’s assumptions and doesn’t devalue my own preferences (that would be feminism in this case). It helps (or at least it helps me) to understand the reason for nasty comments like the one by Mr Rationalist Lit. No one can really logically think pink is worse than blue (I’m an ex-pink-hater too), we can only react to the totality of our circumstances and try to widen that totality little by little.

    • I think I haven’t quite come to the place where I can really understand comments like the above or the people who make them (especially that guy… That’s not the worst he’s ever said to me by far) but I feel somehow heartened by the fact that you can.

      • Well, I’m not so sure I really can either, lol- especially if they’re directed at me. It’s always so, so much easier looking in from the outside. (Jeez, and if that’s not the worst he’s said, he’s a nasty person indeed).

        But I do think I have a strong enough frame that doesn’t have anything to do with me personally so that even though incredibly sexist comments like that still make me mad, they don’t actually feel *true* to me at all anymore- not even like that sneaking worry that they might be partly true and I just don’t realize it (which used to bother me sometimes).

        (What I would assume from my intellectual frame about that comment, btw, is that Mr Rationalist Lit is afraid he might be “weak” enough to feel a bunch of really scary stuff he can’t control under his armor of logical manliness, that he’s therefore about to slip into bad, girly-man status at any moment if he doesn’t put up a strong defense at all times, and that if he does, then he doesn’t deserve his own safety and privilege. And of course he’s right about his privilege, and no one is safe, so that just makes it scarier and more futile to have to hold that manly line all the time, which makes it even more necessary to hold. Of course, who knows, really- it’s all just armchair psychoanalyzing based on almost no data at all. But still… why else would anybody be such a stupid jerk, xd?)

  7. We need a “like” button here. Great discussion. Good laughs, too. Sentimentalism will never go out of style….thankfully. :)

  8. I have had this expernce also but in other thing i.e. Shuffle!’s a good Anime despite the fact that it’s based on a Dateing Sim I think sometimes with Manga and Anime fans where almsot always on the defnsive to show people that Manga in gneral is not all creepy and distrubing.

    This sort of defensiveness is espeically true with Women’s and Girl’s Manga (not so much the creepy or destrubing part) becuese it get’s treated with kid gloves as “oh that’s for girl’s so it’s lesser than.”

    Remember those condescending reviews of A Drunken Dream where they said it was too “girly” to sell to a wider aduince? But ultmeitmelly I think how this is overcome personally is just being comofrtible with what you like and not apolgizeing all over yourself for likeing something or haveing to explain why a paticuler Title is good despite the fact that it’s BL, Yuri, Shonen Romance, etc.

    As far as an industry level goes I think the idea of just marketing as an non gender spcfic title for example Yotsuba & ! is serialized in Degeki Daioh wich is ostensivelly a Men’s publucation but it’s not market as such in The States. I think moveing away from marketing it towerd spcfic groups is a better way to go about it Ooku and Kingyo Used Books being a perfect examples they’re just marketed as a good Manga neither are marketed spefcilly to men or women their just sold as good titles ultmitelly I think getting away from such riged gender distincitons in marketing is the best plan IMO.

    • But ultmeitmelly I think how this is overcome personally is just being comofrtible with what you like and not apolgizeing all over yourself for likeing something or haveing to explain why a paticuler Title is good despite the fact that it’s BL, Yuri, Shonen Romance, etc.

      Here’s the thing, though. As critics, even when we are talking about stuff we may personally be fans of, we actually do have a responsibility to explain why we like it. So we really don’t have the option of just sitting back and being content with our own personal tastes. We actually do have to analyze our own responses and express them clearly to others with the understanding that our audience may not share our background or tastes. We don’t have to care if readers or other critics agree with us, of course, but I do think in this industry, with most of us having become critics through being fans in the first place, most of us also feel a responsibility to motivate people to buy manga, particularly the types of manga we’d like to see more of.

      In the case of something like the MMF, one of the goals (as I’ve understood it) is to encourage people to expand their horizons, and I have to say that with Wild Adapter this felt like an unexpectedly insurmountable task. In the end, we were incredibly grateful for the couple of people who gave the series a chance, but as the week wore on, I’ll admit to feeling increasingly desperate on that front. With a stake in both the success of the event and the sudden need for a license rescue (assuming Minekura is able to return to the series), we did feel a responsibility to motivate people to pick up the series. Unfortunately, our efforts yielded little fruit. On the upside, I wrote a hell of a lot about Wild Adapter last week, which was gratifying by itself, I suppose.

      I think moveing away from marketing it towerd spcfic groups is a better way to go about it Ooku and Kingyo Used Books being a perfect examples they’re just marketed as a good Manga neither are marketed spefcilly to men or women their just sold as good titles ultmitelly I think getting away from such riged gender distincitons in marketing is the best plan IMO.

      If all things were equal, I’d probably agree. I’ve never been big on gendering things. But things are very much not equal, and as it stands, I feel that this type of general marketing is a bit of a cop-out, not to mention unhelpful to adult female readers who (as Johanna points out in the podcast) may have difficulty identifying series they might like, between the josei that’s marketed as shoujo and the josei that’s marketed basically as seinen.

  9. I would feel more shame reading Tenjo Tenge (and indeed I did) than…well…almost any manga meant for girls. Man, that one hurts to read. And the boobs and pantie shots on nearly every page don’t help.

    • Yeah, it’s kind of sad that out of all the great licenses CMX had, *this* is the one that got immediately picked up after their demise, instead of something like Swan or From Eroica With Love.

  10. Firstly, I just so happened to listen to that Manga Out Loud podcast yesterday and I honestly felt thrilled (thrilled, I say) to hear such impassioned discussion on this particular topic.

    I think one of the (many) interesting things you’ve brought up here is a kind of gut-level packaging/marketing prejudice that–when we’re absolutely honest with ourselves–has a perhaps unreasonable amount of influence on our perception of the media we consume. When I saw those book porn-y videos put out by Fantagraphics to titillate potential readers of Wandering Son with their high production values it struck me that this series was being marketed as “serious art” rather than “queer content.” In all honesty, I like pretty things so I was quite pleased to see Shimura’s work all decked out, but I had to wonder how much of this special treatment was functioning as an effort to convince the folks at home that an adolescent, trangender youth, slice-of-life narrative has artistic merit. I’m quite curious to see how the new editions of Sailor Moon are going to be marketed now that they’re not “just” comics for girls, but objects of “HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE” in the grand narrative of “how Japanese popular culture broke into the American mainstream.”

    I think that everybody has a kind of narrative/structural formula that they just, for whatever reason, find really exciting and endlessly interesting. The key, I think, is never taking that formula for granted as something inherently good, but recognizing the ways in which, however well we rationalize it with in-depth analyses, we all have tastes that can be pandered to. The reality is that sentimentalism-guy was allowed to believe that his formula carries some special weight while the rest of us in our relatively tenuous social positions actually have to maintain an awareness of why we like what we like and constantly re-present this rationale to people who would actually have the audacity to designate an entire body of diverse artistic output as a dead end.

    • In all honesty, I like pretty things so I was quite pleased to see Shimura’s work all decked out, but I had to wonder how much of this special treatment was functioning as an effort to convince the folks at home that an adolescent, trangender youth, slice-of-life narrative has artistic merit.

      Yes, I wondered that too. Like you, I’m excited to see it published here no matter what, but YES.

      I think that everybody has a kind of narrative/structural formula that they just, for whatever reason, find really exciting and endlessly interesting. The key, I think, is never taking that formula for granted as something inherently good, but recognizing the ways in which, however well we rationalize it with in-depth analyses, we all have tastes that can be pandered to. The reality is that sentimentalism-guy was allowed to believe that his formula carries some special weight while the rest of us in our relatively tenuous social positions actually have to maintain an awareness of why we like what we like and constantly re-present this rationale to people who would actually have the audacity to designate an entire body of diverse artistic output as a dead end.

      And that whole paragraph was just brilliant and spot-on. Thank you so much for commenting!

  11. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with Ooku if it weren’t part of Viz’s Signature line and it didn’t have that classy black cover with the characters’ profiles. Thanks to that title though, I’ve dared to venture a little out of my comfort zone and get some of Keiko Takemiya’s stuff, and I’ve preodered Sailor Moon.
    And while I’ll admit to biases and say I’m not gonna even try any boys love, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with it, but it just doesn’t interest me. And I’ll admit some of the stuff I read most likely isn’t palpable for a majority of people like Negima.
    But if there BL comics out there that are actually good, then by all means, they shouldn’t be apologized for.

    • And while I’ll admit to biases and say I’m not gonna even try any boys love, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with it, but it just doesn’t interest me… But if there BL comics out there that are actually good, then by all means, they shouldn’t be apologized for.

      I really appreciate your honesty here, but actually, you’re exactly the kind of person I wish we could have gotten to read Wild Adapter. My question would be, if you haven’t read any, and especially if you haven’t read any that has been specifically recommended as being excellent manga, how do you know it doesn’t interest you? How do you even really know what the genre offers? I bet you’d be surprised.

      • Just speaking for myself, but I also generally find boys’ love uninteresting. I did read about a volume and half of Wild Adapter before losing interest. And while I haven’t tried a *lot* of BL, I think I’ve tried enough of the high-quality stuff (i.e. Fumi Yoshinaga’s BL, and I love Antique Bakery and Flower of Life) to come to the conclusion that the genre is not for me.

        • Mind you, I would prefer to read BL than, say, sports manga, another genre I have tried and come to the conclusion that it’s not for me.

      • I don’t have anything against homosexuality or BL titles or gay rights, but I’m just not interested in reading a title where a homosexual couple is featured. Maybe that makes me prejudiced of gay fiction, but I just don’t want to see any gay activity if I can help it.

    • “…Ooku if it weren’t part of Viz’s Signature line and it didn’t have that classy black cover with the characters’ profiles…”

      Isn’t that cover style Viz keeping the cover art and simply translating the text of the original Japanese covers, instead of disguising the original cover styles?

  12. I’m pretty young so please excuse such a childish example, but when I was young(er) two of my favorite shows on TV were Cardcaptor Sakura and The Vision of Escaflowne. Both were . . . destroyed by the TV companies. “Cardcaptors” is such an infamous example, so I’ll leave it at that, but in some ways The Vision of Escaflowne is more insulting. As a series that strived to please to the male and female demographics while still making an awesome show with relatable characters, it’s horrifying to think back to how it was edited. In the actual show, the heroine gets a lot of focus (as do admittedly her shoujo love problems) but so does the hero and his mecha. Their relationship was fairly equal and they really grew together. Hitomi, the heroine, was so sidestepped on the televised version that the first episode which primarily features her and her crush on a sempai was originally removed (even though episode had a great scene of Van slaying a dragon). She spends half the series saving Van from certain death, and all she gets is a “Sorry, you’re a girl so you don’t get to be a hero let alone the protagonist” treatment from TV companies. Also they removed large portions of Yoko Kanno’s score. I think that’s a cardinal sin or something.

    A lot of shoujo stories at the time were changed in order to gain more “important” male consumers or were pinkified beyond recognition like Tokyo Mew Mew (I can’t even remember what the adaption was called, I think it was Mew Mew Power or something). I remember buying Sailor Moon action figures as a little girl. I got her cresecent moon wand for my 6th birthday and Sakura’s first wand for my eighth. I mean, It’s not like boys were the only ones buying stuff from the shows, so why couldn’t i get to have shows with cool heroines who didn’t exist to be saved from the monster every week?

    And you’re write, it’s not just the publishers and licensing companies. Fans make fast judgements too. One of my favorite shows ever is Princess Tutu (seriuously if you like shoujo, even just a little, see this show. ALL OF IT. you owe it to yourself.) You won’t believe how well done it is. My mother who is huge anime/manga fan, wouldn’t let me on the TV because she was marathoning it. So I sat down and saw some of it and was impressed. This is one seriously good show. You wouldn’t have gotten me to see it on my own (or at least not back in 2004-2006) and most people who see the title will avoid it like the plague, but I can’t help but feel bad when I know it will never get the respect it deserves because it sounds like the girliest thing that ever was (and for some reason that makes it less that if were for a different audience).

    And that is a huge shame. I watch some anime with my little sister. And I truly look forward to the days when we watch CCS, Escaflowne, Magic Knights Rayearth, Kadocha, and Gakuen Alice (shows that are technically for her age group, not mine), and I feel really thankful that she gets to watch such awesome shows (with all the good parts still attached) the way I couldn’t as a little girl. Shows that are girly and smart and fun, and at least when she’s with me, she doesn’t have to say “even though it’s girly . . .” because she knows I get it.

    If you ever need something for a roundtable (which I’m sure you don’t, but I’ll recommend something anyway) manga for younger girls is really truly overlooked. I recommend Kodocha (which talks about a lot of stuff american tv won’t touch, but kids see and experience all time, while still being a good comedy) and Gakuen Alice which is a cheerful story of a girl who goes to a school for kids with magic powers at first glance . . . but is actually really really dark. To the point where I won’t let my sister read the later manga books, which leads to what kinds of clutural differences lead us and Japan have such different standards on what we let our children see.

    As far as comics for women . . . (which is the actual topic – sorry again for getting so carried away) I’m not really big on Josei but Reiko Shimizu (she’s josei, right?) and Flowers magazine are things I really like. But I wonder if it’s easier to recommend them so easilly (even though they’re so weird), because their not so much girly as they feminine, which I think is the key. Even in shoujo manga where something isn’t necessarily girly (Kaze Hikaru, Kaori Yuki, Wild Adapter, Pet Shop of Horrors, Earthian, etc.) there is something in it that makes me feel a great sense of empathy or a particular viewpoint or piece of dialogue that makes it strike me as feminine. Not that it’s inferior or superior to men’s comic, but I feel that “this was written (probabably) by a woman and speaks TO women in a way that men’s comics don’t.”

    I think that has something to do with what you were saying on 3 Things Thursday.

    • I don’t watch a lot of anime, but I am a huge fan of Princess Tutu, so we definitely agree there. :)

      I do agree, too, that manga written by women tends to really *speak* to me, often even when they’re writing outside of what’s specifically marketed to women.

      Thanks for sharing all your thoughts!

    • Kodocha is one of the first manga series I ever read, and truly holds a special place in my heart. Melinda, believe me, you would love it.

      I’ve read seven volumes of Gakuen Alice and really liked it, but somehow haven’t found the time to read 8-16. I intend to continue the series, though, so much so that I’ve purchased volumes 17-21 in French. Ooh la la!

      I still have yet to actually read any Reiko Shimizu (Moon Child and Kaguyahime ran in LaLa, which makes them both shoujo, but Himitsu runs in Melody and its collected volumes come out under Hakusensha’s Jets imprint (just like Ooku), making it josei) but her story ideas are so fascinating to me. Too bad we’ll probably never get Kaguyahime and Himitsu here. Thankfully, the French are ahead of us there again.

  13. I’m glad you were on the MOL podcast, because it was cool to hear your voice! (And David Walsh’s too!) :)

    I find myself doing this, despite all the ways in which I hate having to do it. I’ve struggled with my own tendency to dismiss shoujo and romance manga out of hand, and only now find myself seeking them out with the knowledge that there is an equal chance that I may find quality work. Unfortunately, even after you take the red pill and realize that the world isn’t fair to women’s work, it seems like you have to keep taking it every damn day!

    I wonder if it has to do with the fact that women are socialized to apologize much more than men when it comes to their own interests or accomplishments. We tend to apologize for things that need no apology, just to downplay our own achievements and not seem boastful. So maybe we accept the fact that we feel the need to apologize for our fiction, in a way that men would never accept having to apologize for theirs. Can you imagine a guy saying, “Well, it’s a raunchy guy-comedy, sorry, but it’s still quite good!” So since the market accepts women’s fiction as inferior, instead of being outraged, we accept it and move on?

    (Also, Wild Adapter is just a cool manga, no doubt about it. No apologies needed! BL falls into the trap in an unfortunate way – it is stigmatized in a very different way than straight ero/hentai/ecchi material is.)

    • BL falls into the trap in an unfortunate way – it is stigmatized in a very different way than straight ero/hentai/ecchi material is.

      Yes, yes, YES. If someone’s willing to try romantic stories in other genres, but not BL specifically… well, that tells me something, doesn’t it? Romance is romance. And Wild Adapter is something else entirely. :)

      • “”BL falls into the trap in an unfortunate way – it is stigmatized in a very different way than straight ero/hentai/ecchi material is.”

        “Yes, yes, YES. If someone’s willing to try romantic stories in other genres, but not BL specifically… well, that tells me something, doesn’t it? Romance is romance. And Wild Adapter is something else entirely. :)”

        How about when someone’s willing to try romantic stories in other genres, including stories about men being in love with each other, but not BL specifically and not GL specifically either?

        That tells me something, and that something is “she or he prefers to have romantic fantasies about adults, not boys.” :)

        • I’m having some trouble figuring out what you mean here, especially since, despite the name that’s been given to the genre, a great deal of BL is, in fact, about adults. Most of the BL I personally read is about adults. So I’m not sure what you’re getting at here.

          • doesn’t the B in BL stand for boys?

            • Yes, it does, but that title is not indicative of content outside of the gender of the same-sex pairing(s) featured in the genre. The term applies to all male/male romance written for a female audience, regardless of the ages of the characters. Future Lovers is BL. Red Blinds the Foolish is BL. And so on. The list of BL written about adult men is virtually endless.

              ETA: In fact, just as a quick case in point, Michelle and I posted our July installment of BL Bookrack (our monthly BL review column) just yesterday… Neither of the two manga I read and reviewed were about boys. One was about private detectives and the other about a surgeon and a yakuza boss. I can’t necessarily speak for Michelle’s (though I believe Kizuna, at least, is not about boys) but that’s pretty common to see. Now, I wouldn’t say I loved either of the volumes I reviewed this month, but that’s another issue entirely. ;)

              • Ah. So it’s not only about boys, it’s just marketed that way (if the publishers of the English editions had wanted the money of adult readers who are turned on by adults and turned off by kids, then they would have called the genre something else instead of Boy’s Love which in English literally excludes men).

                • Well, manga fans are pretty picky about wanting American publishers to use the same terms as the Japanese, and that’s what the Japanese call it, so… I guess you can’t please everyone.

                  Also, to be clear, the Japanese use the English words, “Boys’ Love.” That is exactly the term.

                  • “Well, manga fans are pretty picky about wanting American publishers to use the same terms as the Japanese, and that’s what the Japanese call it, so… I guess you can’t please everyone.”

                    Yep. There’s two audiences here: people who want the translation as literal as possible, and people looking for good reads in English (no matter if originally in English or in translation from Japanese or in translation from another language). I’m definitely in the second audience :) and if that means I can’t be a “manga fan” even though I like comics including a whole bunch from Japan then so be it. :/

                    “Also, to be clear, the Japanese use the English words, ‘Boys’ Love.’ That is exactly the term.”

                    So?

                    By leaving the term “Boys’ Love” in English the English-language publishers are making the English translations sound more pedo than they have to. That sends either of 2 messages to a new potential reader:

                    a) the publishers do know enough English to edit well, and the genre is about boys instead of also having romances for readers who prefer romantic fantasies about adults

                    b) the publishers don’t know enough English to edit well, and the books are poorly edited instead of also books for readers who prefer well-edited books

                    Meanwhile, it’s not just an English-to-Japanese thing. I know an American who is to Islam as secular Jews are to Judaism. The Arabic term for her translates into English *literally* as “one who has accepted Islam” but English is her only language and she never describes herself that way. She knows that in English “one who has accepted [insert name of religion]” sounds more like a convert to the religion than like someone born in a family that has the religion in its heritage but doesn’t practice it, so she says “secular Muslim” instead of making herself sound more devout than she has to.

                    • Linda, it’s just a name. If the name of a genre alone stops you from reading manga or feeling like you can be a manga fan, I don’t know what to tell you.

                    • Forgot to add this:

                      So, I gotta clarify my earlier statement:

                      How about when someone’s willing to try romantic stories in other genres, including stories about men being in love with each other, but not BL specifically and not GL specifically either?

                      That tells me something, and that something is “she or he prefers to have romantic fantasies about adults, not boys or girls, and prefers well-edited books” :) It *doesn’t* tell me that she or he shuns fiction written for female audiences, and it *doesn’t* tell me that she or he is homophobic either. :)

                  • “Linda, it’s just a name. If the name of a genre alone stops you from reading manga or feeling like you can be a manga fan, I don’t know what to tell you.”

                    I didn’t say that the name of a genre alone stopped me.

                    You said:

                    “manga fans are pretty picky about wanting American publishers to use the same terms as the Japanese”

                    and I replied:

                    “Yep. There’s two audiences here: people who want the translation as literal as possible, and people looking for good reads in English (no matter if originally in English or in translation from Japanese or in translation from another language). I’m definitely in the second audience :) and if that means I can’t be a ‘manga fan’ even though I like comics including a whole bunch from Japan then so be it. :/”

                    In the sentence “I’m definitely in the second audience :) and if that means I can’t be a ‘manga fan’ even though I like comics including a whole bunch from Japan then so be it.” the “that” in “…if that means…” refers to “…I’m definitely in the second audience…” which refers to “…people looking for good reads in English…” in the sentence right before it “There’s two audiences here: people who want the translation as literal as possible, and people looking for good reads in English (no matter if originally in English or in translation from Japanese or in translation from another language).”

                    Meanwhile, if publishers and some fans want to keep labeling a genre with lots of men loving men as if it’s all about romantic fantasies about boys, go right ahead since you have free speech. I and other people like me, who know how some bigots IRL talk about men who love men and women who love women as if they all lust after boys and girls, will still not turn too amnesiac to be reminded of that bigotry and stereotyping upon seeing the genre labeled that way…

                    • Linda, you also make a truly bizarre leap here, suggesting that the fact that publishers use the established Japanese term for a genre indicates that they “don’t know enough English to edit well, and the books are poorly edited instead of also books for readers who prefer well-edited books.”

                      I fail to see what using the established name for a genre has to do with translations of manga. Do you feel that publishers and fans who label manga with terms like “shoujo” and “shounen” are also incompetent with English? Never mind that the term you’re going on about is English to begin with?

                      I’m sorry that you don’t like the term “BL.” But really, I can’t help you here. American fans of the genre (including quite a number of gay men, I must add) apparently have not risen up in protest, demanding it be changed. If you’d like to, go ahead, but ranting in the comments of my blog is not going to get you very far. I suggest contacting publishers with your concerns.

                    • “I fail to see what using the established name for a genre has to do with translations of manga.”

                      Using a name for something in language X that comes from language X to begin with has everything to do with translating into language X. :)

                      For another example, when Haruki Murakami wrote the novel which he released in 1987 he named it after the Beatles song “Norwegian Wood” (which the Beatles originally named in English). The Japanese translation of “Norwegian wood” is _ノルウェイの森_, so that’s what his Japanese publishers labeled it. In 2000, when Vintage International and Jay Rubin translated this novel into English, they labeled it _Norwegian Wood_ because they’re competent in English, instead of being as literal as possible and rendering _ノルウェイの森_ as _Noruwei no mori_. :)

                      “Do you feel that publishers and fans who label manga with terms like ‘shoujo’ and ‘shounen’ are also incompetent with English?”

                      Not at all. “Shojo” and “shonen” didn’t already have other meanings in English, therefore when the publishers began to use them they started from scratch and were the first to give those labels any meaning in English. :D Those are transliterations of Japanese terms, not sloppy and reminiscent-of-bigoted-stereotyping usage of originally-in-English terms.

                      “Never mind that the term you’re going on about is English to begin with?”

                      *Exactly.* Of course it’s in English to begin with. “Boy’s love” and “boys love” have implied romance about boys in English to begin with, since long before Japanese cartoonists put that label on their romances about men to sell them to Japanese readers who don’t know enough English to get the for-boys-themselves-and/or-for-men-who-want-boys connotations.

                      “American fans of the genre (including quite a number of gay men, I must add) apparently have not risen up in protest, demanding it be changed.”

                      No surprise there. Of course the fans wouldn’t rise up in protest. When someone doesn’t like the label, he or she wouldn’t become a fan to begin with. ;) He or she would just be willing to try other stories, even willing to try romantic stories in other genres, but not BL specifically…and then be complained about by the fans (such as the complaint at http://mangabookshelf.com/blog/2011/06/29/soapbox-womens-manga/#comment-51637 ).

                      As for “(including quite a number of gay men, I must add),”

                      (1) I never said *no* gay men lusted after boys. *Some* actually do (at the expense of boys when they can get the real thing instead of settling for fiction, and the same way some straight men lust after girls), it’s not bigoted of the rest of us to acknowledge that they do, it just looks bigoted (whether done by someone literate in English and looking bigoted on purpose or done by someone subliterate in English and accidentally looking bigoted) to talk about gay men and their romances as if the vast majority of gay men lust after boys too.

                      (2) Meanwhile I’ve also met some people IRL who neither fit bigoted stereotypes about their people nor have enough language skills and/or social skills to understand that those bigots are insulting them with their stereotyping. Sad but true. :/

                      “but ranting in the comments of my blog”

                      Hey, you started it in the comments of your blog by complaining in the comments of your blog at http://mangabookshelf.com/blog/2011/06/29/soapbox-womens-manga/#comment-51637 about people who aren’t interested in a genre called “boy’s love”:

                      “‘BL falls into the trap in an unfortunate way – it is stigmatized in a very different way than straight ero/hentai/ecchi material is.’

                      “Yes, yes, YES. If someone’s willing to try romantic stories in other genres, but not BL specifically… well, that tells me something, doesn’t it? Romance is romance.”

                      All I did here was reply to this exact comment about what exactly the “something” that “someone’s willing to try romantic stories in other genres, but not BL specifically” actually “tells.” ;D

                      I figured it was more polite to reply *here* than to mention it somewhere else behind your back. :D Then when you expressed confusion about what I meant, I didn’t rant at all. I merely clarified it to make it easier for you to understand instead of leaving you still having your problem with “someone [who's] willing to try romantic stories in other genres, but not BL specifically.” :D

                • Linda. Yes. Given that we’ve already clarified that BL as a genre has nothing to do with being about boys as an age group, I do, in fact, still have a problem with the fact that someone might refuse to read or at least consider a recommended series because it was labeled “BL,” if they say they’d try a similarly recommended series that was not. And even *if* that person can’t understand (despite repeated clarification) that BL romance is not necessarily about boys (and *never* about young boys–you’ll have to look to shotacon for that), and in fact contains many, many stories about adult characters, since most of the romance manga published in English is shoujo and shounen romance (genres that are, in fact, specifically about/for girls and boys) if they’re willing to try those but not BL, I have a problem with that too.

                  I really don’t care where you mention this post (or its comments) so do whatever you want.

                  • “And even *if* that person can’t understand (despite repeated clarification) that BL romance is not necessarily about boys (and *never* about young boys–you’ll have to look to shotacon for that)…”

                    Right on! I wasn’t talking about boys in the first place either so yes, we agree on that.

                    In my earlier statement “*Some* actually do (at the expense of boys when they can get the real thing instead of settling for fiction, and the same way some straight men lust after girls)” I didn’t mean just young boys and girls…and that’s already obvious to anyone who read that sentence and understands that when adults lust after older boys and girls it’s still *at the expense* of boys and girls when these adults can get the real thing instead of settling for fiction (hence the complaints from altar boys about being raped by clergy, from preteen wives about being raped by husbands, etc.).

                    “…and in fact contains many, many stories about adult characters, since most of the romance manga published in English is shoujo and shounen romance (genres that are, in fact, specifically about/for girls and boys) if they’re willing to try those but not BL, I have a problem with that too.”

                    Then, once one does understand that BL romance is not necessarily about boys, one either

                    (a) understands that the publishers didn’t get the English connotations of the English words in the “Boys Love” label they picked to market these books to English speakers, and now has a substantial reason instead of a superficial reason for suspecting that the editing *inside* the books from those publishers won’t be much better, and meanwhile still has *other* publishers from which to choose hours and hours of recreational reading

                    or

                    (b) isn’t literate enough in English himself or herself to understand the connotations of the labeling (hey, ESL students can’t all be fully literate in English immediately)

                    Neither of us has a problem with (b). I don’t have a problem with (a) and given that you’re blogging on a Bookshelf site, surely you don’t have a problem with people who enjoy reading books preferring to read books from book producers that don’t screw up their language so obviously to books from publishers that do?

                    • given that you’re blogging on a Bookshelf site, surely you don’t have a problem with people who enjoy reading books preferring to read books from book producers that don’t screw up their language so obviously to books from publishers that do?

                      I don’t. But I don’t agree with you that simply using the same name for a genre that everyone else uses already constitutes screwing up the English language. I have read beautifully translated BL series (written by the likes of Fumi Yoshinaga, Saiki Kunieda, Kazuya Minekura, and est em–whose work has been translated in English by people like Matt Thorn, for heaven’s sake!) from most of the publishers who adapt BL in this country. Referring to the genre by its most commonly-used name has not in any way compromised the translations of those works. Viz is now hiring a BL editor to (presumably) begin curating a line of BL manga for their company. By doing this, they haven’t suddenly become horrible publisher either.

                      I also don’t agree that the term “boys’ love” is popularly considered a euphemism for pedophilia in English. Indeed, I have never heard the term used at all except to describe BL manga. If the word “man” was included (as in man/boy love) I would feel differently, as this is definitely a term used by pedophiles, but I have never heard of “boys’ love” being associated with that at all. In fact, if you google “boys’ love” the top results are for a Japanese movie about two men in love and the wikipedia entry for “yaoi” (aka “boys’ love”). You have been the first person ever to conflate the term “boys’ love” with pedophilia in the history of comments to this website, and we have written regularly on the topic for years. If there is a large percentage of the population who derives this connotation from the term “boys’ love” (if they have ever even heard the term at all) they are remarkably silent on the subject.

                      I find it a bit hilarious that I’ve spent so much energy defending the term “boys’ love” here to you, when I have no personal attachment to the term at all. I don’t care at all what the genre is called. But as long as “boys’ love” or “BL” is the prevailing choice amongst creators, publishers, and fans, I’m going to continue to use that term here so that people will know what on earth I’m talking about. The term is inoffensive to me, but not important. What’s important to me is the content of the individual books, and that is what we talk about here. That’s our job at Manga Bookshelf.

                      Also (and I’m editing this comment to add this) I admit I’m really bristling at the notion that enjoying a romantic story implies that one is lusting after its protagonists. I enjoy romance very much, and I read many variations of romance as a genre, but that’s because I enjoy romance as a fantasy, not because I have romantic/sexual fantasies involving characters in those romances. It’s a bit bizarre to me that you would assume that’s why people read them. I may identify heavily with a character or think a character is drawn in a sexy way, but I read romance because it’s emotionally affecting. And it’s emotionally affecting any time it is well-written, pretty much regardless of the gender or age of its characters. The same goes for fiction that is not genre romance but contains romance. If I enjoy Gilbert Blythe’s obvious pre-teen crush on Anne Shirley because it’s charming and true to life, does that make me a pedophile? I don’t think this is what you mean to imply at all (obviously), but I’m surprised that you’re making assumptions like that about genre romance that features younger characters (or otherwise). I tend to enjoy romance about adults because I find I identify more with the characters, but if it’s well written (like, say, Kimi ni Todoke for shoujo or Color for BL) I will certainly enjoy and recommend it. And on the topic of BL, it actually has a large lesbian fan base in the US as well. Certainly you don’t think they are lusting after the series’ male characters? Obviously nobody is required to like teen romance stories, and plenty of people don’t, for various reasons, but the assumptions you’re making about those who do (male or female) are fairly problematic for me.

                    • “But I don’t agree with you that simply using the same name for a genre that everyone else uses already constitutes screwing up the English language.”

                      It’s actually not a name that *everyone* already uses. I’ve seen plenty of romance about gay men released by publishers that *don’t* describe it as Boys Love. For one example, see the Romentics imprint of Palari. For another example, see the Harper Perennial imprint of HarperCollins which releases a wide variety of books including some about gay men and the gay men they love like the upcoming short story collection Quarantine by Rahul Mehta, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series with an ensemble cast including adult gay male couples. Then of course there’s E. Lynn Harris’s stuff from Doubleday, Anchor, and Random House. Likewise, not all *fans* call romance about gay men Boys Love either: http://www.amazon.com/Favorite-Gay-Romance-Novels/lm/R34DIYH0NZVNF1 , http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/gay-romance . What Did You Eat Yesterday? is totally in this genre even though it’s not in the same format and wasn’t first written in the same language as Quarantine, Tales of the City, etc.

                      When a misleading English label shows up on a *book* (no biggie when it shows up on another product, but on a product largely *made* *of* *words*?), it does show that *someone* screwed up the English:

                      To a potential new reader, someone who’s just looking for a good read and shouldn’t have to do homework on a book’s background before deciding whether to pick it up or leave it on the shelf, it looks like the publisher screwed up the English.

                      To someone who’s read that a label’s copied from the original Japanese authors, it looks like these authors screwed up the English (and perhaps should have used their perfectly fluent Japanese instead in labeling their genre in Japan, the same way other Japanese authors used Japanese in labeling their genres josei and shôjo in Japan and the same way some South Korean authors used Korean instead of English or Japanese in labeling their genre soonjung in South Korea).

                      To someone who’s read that some other readers insist on *keeping* a misleading-to-most-native-English-speakers label even though English is their own native language too, it looks like *those* readers screwed up the English trying to be *fans of Japan* instead of simply people looking for good reads.

                      Meanwhile, translators of comics and other books from French, Swedish, etc. into English don’t cater exclusively to fans of France, fans of Sweden, etc. They label their books with sensible English, not misleading English cobbled together by someone who struggled with ESL in France or Sweden. They translate the books almost entirely into English (give or take a few loan words already part of English and a few more in a glossary). For example, even if a native speaker of English is *not* a fan of Sweden, Knopf still considers her or him part of the potential audience for Reg Keeland’s English translations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Keeland did not leave in too much Swedish and sloppy ESL in them for her or him to read and understand the books. :)

                      “It’s a bit bizarre to me that you would assume that’s why people read them.”

                      I’m assuming that when people read them at least they’re not downright turned *off* by romantic fantasy about the characters…

                    • “Boys’ Love” is the term most commonly used to label Japanese homo-romantic and/or homoerotic comics for women (a very important distinction, as there is an entirely different genre of Japanese comics written for gay men and the two really don’t ever cross), which is actually a very different thing than gay romance novels, comics, etc., created in the US and Europe. BL has a specific history and specific (often not all that terrific, in my view) tropes of its very own, and to conflate BL with western romance of any kind is misleading. Some western fans get into BL manga by way of things like slash fanfiction, but even those are very different things, and it would be incorrect to use the term “Boys’ Love” to describe anything other than BL comics from Japan (or those that were specifically influenced by BL comics from Japan). Though many gay comics fans, including men, read Japanese BL here in the west, most will say that they turned to BL manga out of desperation for any representation of queer characters in comics at all, but with the caveat that most BL does not (and likely never will) contain actual gay themes. The idea of actually being gay and what that means for people is generally ignored in BL manga. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, actually, which is why I so vocally appreciate the smattering of BL that actually attempts to address its characters’ sexuality with any kind of seriousness or even at all, but this is certainly not the norm.

                      Though BL manga has this in common with some western homoerotic romance, the differences are still too great for them to fall into the same genre, even roughly. The cultural divide here is very large. BL, as a genre, is extremely specific to its country of origin. People do not necessarily have to be “fans of Japan” to get into BL manga, but it definitely helps to have some understanding of Japanese culture before the fact, whether that understanding was obtained through manga or other avenues. I would never recommend BL manga (with perhaps a few exceptions) to someone looking generally for gay romantic fiction. They just aren’t the same thing.

                      Furthermore, I do not consider stories about gay characters (or containing gay characters) to be BL unless the romance between those characters is the center of the story. After all, a story containing heterosexual characters (aka almost ALL stories in any genre) is not automatically categorized as romance, even if there is some element of romance involved, unless the romance is actually the point of the story, so why would a story about gay characters necessarily be genre romance? What Did You Eat Yesterday? for instance, I suspect is emphatically not romance or BL, and I make that call without even having read it (since it is not yet translated) but just because I know it ran in Morning, which is a seinen magazine. No BL manga (or bara manga, for that matter–the above-mentioned genre for gay men) is going to appear in Morning. The characters may be gay, but I very much doubt it’s genre romance. Yoshinaga pushes boundaries whenever she can, but they aren’t going to publish BL in Morning. (By-the-by, Antique Bakery isn’t BL either.)

                      That’s not to say that “romance” has to contain hearts and flowers (or sex, for that matter), or that BL as a genre is necessarily narrow. Wild Adapter, for instance, can be rightfully labeled BL. It ran in a BL magazine, the relationship between its two main protagonists is absolutely the point of the story, and that relationship is subtly romanticized. Yet the story itself contains almost no elements of standard “romance” and the real nature of the characters’ relationship is deliberately ambiguous throughout. Stories like that are what keep someone like me interested in the genre, which, at its worst (like most genres) can be maddeningly shallow and even offensive.

                      I’m assuming that when people read them at least they’re not downright turned *off* by romantic fantasy about the characters…

                      Again, though, you’re assuming that “romantic fantasy” about the characters is the same thing as feeling lust for them or objectifying them as sex objects. I love stories about people falling in (or out of) love. It’s an awesome emotional roller-coaster I’ll probably never be tired of reading about, and the more complex and difficult it is, the better. That does not mean that I am in love with the characters or that I want to have sex with them (or anyone like them). I do not need to insert myself into someone else’s romance (and certainly not into their sex life) in order to find it emotionally affecting. Even if I feel kindred to one of the characters in some way, I am not actually inserting myself in their place. I find it creepy that you’re making this kind of assumption about anyone. And your not-so-subtle suggestion that a reader not forcefully rejecting stories that might depict teens in a romantic/sexual context is somehow suspect is just as offensive. Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Y Tu Mamá También doesn’t make someone an ephebophile and neither does reading The Moon and the Sandals or Fruits Basket.

                    • “It was only a couple of months ago, for instance, that a local commenter at Manga Bookshelf — someone essentially in my community — let me know that she considered an interest in romance comics featuring teen characters to be tantamount to pedophilia.”

                      If you were talking about this thread over at http://cbldf.org/homepage/voicing-an-opinion-manga-bookshelfs-melinda-beasi-talks-canada-customs-case/ , that’s not what I said and you’re too literate in English to not realize it (no matter little some other manga fans in Japan know English and no matter how much some Japan supremacists want to tell native English speakers what to think about words in our native language). ;)

                      “Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Y Tu Mamá También doesn’t make someone an ephebophile and neither does reading The Moon and the Sandals or Fruits Basket.”

                      *If* Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or the English translation of Y Tu Mamá También were given labels *by their makers* in *English* that used *English words* which *already had connotations of ephebophilia* in *English* then *potential* audience members who are *fluent and literate* in *English* would have a good reason to guess that *these products so labeled by their makers would have something to do with ephebophilia*. Since IRL they are *not* so labelled, then of course nobody has a reason to get the impression that they’re for ephebophile audiences.

                      Besides, and I agree with you on this, of course the label “Boys Love” doesn’t imply in English that the product makes someone lust after boys! The interests comes *first,* the choice of purchase comes *after*. The label “Boys Love” simply implies in English that the product is about boys (and, when put together with shrink-wrapped packaging, the label+packaging implies that the product is that it’s explicit about boys) and therefore a product for potential customers who are *already* interested in boys those ways. Remember, when you say “boy” in English to your basic average native speaker of English (instead of a native speaker of English who would prefer to be a native speaker of Japanese with an ESL 101 grasp of English), the first impression this audience member of yours gets is *not* “adult man”.

                      I’m not proud of being unable to read other languages that English, I am jealous of bilingual people (and happy for them), I do enjoy reading many books originally written in other languages – *and* none of that makes me ashamed of English being my native language. I can *both* enjoy reading some manga in translation *and* read English without pretending to be an ESL student. What if “the manga community” would want me to choose one or the other? *If* that was the case; *then* I’d choose my self-respect over my fandom, stay unashamed of being a native speaker of English, keep reading books in English including some comic books translated from Japanese, and be happily *outside* “the manga community” instead of acting like a Japanese wannabe in order to gain membership to “the manga community.”

                    • “simply using the same name for a genre that *everyone else uses already* constitutes screwing up the English language.”

                      NOT everyone else already has a gut reaction of “this has nothing to do with boys, it’s about men!” when seeing the label “Boy’s Love.” NOT everyone knows all the same stuff you know and doesn’t know all the same stuff you don’t know. MANY people who read a lot and enjoy books, including *potential* new customers of manga translated into English, are NOT as immersed in Japanese pop culture as you are.

  14. Great post. Makes me wish I was still following Manga Bookshelf regularly (this funny little thing called ‘life’ has been distracting me).



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