Yesterday, Deb Aoki posted a transcript of a panel from this year’s New York Anime Festival, Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers, featuring Erica Friedman (Okazu/ALC Publishing), Leyla Aker (Viz Media), Alex Wooflson (Yaoi911), librarian Scott Robins, and Christopher Butcher (Comics212), moderated by author/super-librarian Robin Brenner. It was the most compelling and informative panel I attended all weekend, and the only negative thing I can say about it was that I wish it had been scheduled for two hours instead of one.
One of the things I found most surprising during the panel, was how willing its panelists were to recommend yaoi and yuri manga to GBLTQ readers here in the west. Though I can’t speak much to the yuri question (not too surprisingly, I guess, since Erica’s recommendations make it pretty clear that most of the best yuri has yet to be translated into English), I’ve been a guilt-ridden BL fan for several years now, enjoying more than a few books within the genre while cringing at its frequent elements of misogyny and a level of fetishization that sometimes even reads as homophobia. But while the panelists made it clear that they wouldn’t recommend every BL series (as Chris Butcher said, “I recommend comics, but i don’t recommend shitty comics.”), it was clear that they felt that representation, even representation without identity, was too important and too rare to scoff at.
At one point in the panel, Robin, who had conducted quite a bit of research for an upcoming publication, said, “One of my favorite responses that I got from the survey was from a young gay man who said he liked reading yaoi because it made him think that one day he’d get a cute boyfriend too.” It’s pretty hard to argue with that.
Panelists also made it clear that cultural differences could not be ignored, that there were reasons behind the way that BL and yuri are presented as they are in Japan, and that we can’t expect those things to change anytime soon. Still, as a reader, I found myself wishing–wishing that the kind of stories I’d like to see might one day come to be. I love romance, don’t get me wrong. I want romance. But my favorite kind of romance is also so much more. I want action, adventure, mystery, fantasy, or even just really good epic soap-opera. Thing is, these kinds of stories already exist, and some of them even appear to be same-sex love stories of one sort or another. They just don’t quite go there, at least not yet.
So finally, I get to my point. :)
For this week’s 3 Things, I’d like to talk about three same-sex love stories I wish would actually go and BE LOVE STORIES.
1. Banana Fish | Akimi Yoshida | Viz Media – Listed just last week as one of my three favorite “classic” shojo series, it’s too late for 1980s manga Banana Fish to become the love story it might have been, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging in the dream. Though the series doesn’t necessarily shy away from discussion of homosexuality, the close, tender relationship between its two male leads remains chaste and ambiguous to the end.
Yoshida attempts to clarify things a bit in her later side-story Garden of Light (“But they did love each other…maybe the way lovers do”) and her Angel Eyes art book is not terribly shy about it either. But what kind of story might she have written if she’d been comfortable enough (or allowed) to turn Banana Fish‘s generous subtext into actual text? I’d have liked to read that story. I’d have liked to read that a lot.
2. Wild Adapter | Kazuya Minekura | Tokyopop – “But wait!” you protest. “Wild Adapter is BL! It’s published in a BL magazine!” Sure, that’s true, I’d respond, and certainly there’s more overt sexuality in WA than in something like Banana Fish, but six volumes in, I still haven’t seen it. I’m not talking about sex, either. I’m talking about any kind of genuine acknowledgement of the apparently romantic relationship between its two leads.
Obviously this series is still running (and there may truths already revealed in the Japanese chapters that haven’t yet made it over), and its presence in a BL magazine does give one hope. But from what we’ve seen in English so far, Wild Adapter is still a love story that refuses to admit it’s a love story.
So bring it on, Minekura. I’m dying to see it.
3. NANA | Ai Yazawa | Viz Media – Now, most of us who love this series have long reconciled with the fact that we’re never going to see its two title characters finally shake off the screwed-up men in their lives and really shack up together (and at this point, frankly, we’re just hoping against hope we’ll see it finished at all). Still, there’s a corner of every NANA fan’s heart that wishes it might be so. Don’t get me wrong–I adore some of those screwed-up men. But Nana/Nana is the ultimate ‘ship that will never be, leaving us to subsist only on a few voiced fantasies and some super-romantic narration.
“The hand that I was holding then… was the only one I wanted to hold… that night… and forever.”
I mean, come on. *Sigh*
So, time to open up the floor! Readers, what are your favorite love stories in disguise? Respond in comments or in your own blog!