Last week, a reader commented to express concern that my work with DMP’s Digital Manga Guild for Inside the DMG might result in a bias towards their releases when reviewing for BL Bookrack. Whereas I feel that I’ve taken steps to avoid bias or misrepresentation (all earnings are going to the CBLDF as stated since the beginning, and I’ve been completely up front about my participation), it’s certainly up to each reader to choose how she (or he) wants to interpret my reviews, based on that disclosure.
But even if I feel absolutely comfortable that I’m critiquing DMP and/or DMG releases with a fair mind (and I do) it would be incorrect to say that I have no biases when it comes to BL. I most certainly do have biases, and they’re pretty freaking obvious in all of my reviews. It’s just that they’re more about content than whose logo is on the spine.
Like most fans of romance (BL or otherwise) I have very specific tastes, some of which may make or break a title with me. I’ve outlined my deal breakers pretty thoroughly in the past, so I won’t repeat it all now. In a way, it’s these biases/tastes that, in part, make my reviews (or anyone’s) valuable. Since there is no truly objective way to evaluate or talk about fiction, it’s our individual backgrounds and tastes that make multiple reviews of the same book worthwhile. Readers who share my general tastes (for instance), especially my most specific peculiarities, will have that in mind as they read my reviews—and this goes for readers who don’t share them as well. Both our similarities and differences with other people help to guide us to what we’ll most identify with or enjoy.
So, to take this conversation in a positive direction, I thought I’d take a moment to list the BL titles I’ve read over the past few years that have best conformed to my specific tastes since I began reviewing BL manga and manhwa. These are titles that have my biases written all over them. They are, quite simply, my favorites. Take that as you will!
Wild Adapter (Kazuya Minekura, Tokyopop)
Ichigenme… The The First Class is Civil Law (Fumi Yoshinaga, 801 Media)
The Moon and the Sandals (Fumi Yoshinaga, Juné)
Future Lovers (Saika Kunieda, Deux Press)
U Don’t Know Me (Rakun, Netcomics)
Red Blinds the Foolish (est em, Deux Press)
Age Called Blue (est em, Netcomics)
One Thousand and One Nights (Jeon JinSeok & Han SeungHee, Yen Press)
Totally Captivated (Hajin Yoo, Netcomics)
Roureville (E. Hae, Netcomics)
Color (Eiki Eiki & Taishi Zaou, DokiDoki)
Kiss Blue (Keiko Kinoshita, Juné)
Seven Days (Rihito Takarai & Venio Tachiban, Juné)
A Liar in Love (Kiyo Ueda, Juné)
Only Serious About You (Kai Asou, Juné)
You & Tonight (Keiko Kinoshita, Digital Manga Guild)
About Love (Narise Konohara, Juné)
My Darling Kitten Hair (Haruko Kumota, JManga/Libre Publishing)
Looking at this list, I’d identify my tastes as these: I like long, plotty series or quiet/ideosyncratic character studies much more than anything that falls in-between. I like Fumi Yoshinaga, Keiko Kinoshita, and est em. I like Korean BL (man do I like Korean BL—somebody please license more!). I don’t really care if the stories have sex, but I definitely want romance and/or intense emotional intimacy. I like emotional messiness and complication. I care more about the development of a relationship than I do its consummation. I don’t require realism, except when it comes to emotional truth (The Way to Heaven really almost made this list). I like (though can’t always get) stories where at least one character actually identifies as gay. Other books that (inexplicably) came very close to making this list include Deeply Loving a Maniac (801 Media) and Oku-san’s Daily Fantasies (SuBLime).
If you share my biases, I recommend you check out these titles. And I promise you let you know when I find more, no matter who has published them.
And now I put it to you: Readers, what are your BL biases? What makes a story work (or not) for you and what titles have most closely fit the bill?
Disclosure: MJ is currently under contract with Digital Manga Publishing’s Digital Manga Guild, as necessitated for her ongoing report Inside the DMG. Any compensation earned by MJin her role as an editor with the DMG will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Juné, 801 Media, DokiDoki and Digital Manga Guild are all imprints produced by Digital Manga Publishing.