Boys' Love

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Synonyms: BL, Danmei
See also: Yaoi, Shounen Ai, Girls' Love, Joseimuke
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Boys' Love (in English, often abbreviated BL, written as BL or ボーイズラブ in Japanese) is the manga and anime genre of fictional male homosexual romance, created for a female audience. It is sometimes used interchangeably with yaoi and shounen ai in English (but not in Japanese).

The term is also used to describe a growing number of live action dramas coming primarily from Asia. These stories are gaining an international following, especially in countries where male / male romance stories are not being produced.

On PixivEncyclopedia and by some fans, BL is used as a label to describe pairings by gender.

International Usage

While fannish drift occurs and complicates matters, internationally there are still usage differences in regards to BL and its related genres, yaoi and shounen ai.

China has its own native variety of BL known as Danmei (耽美). The terms "Danmei" or "Chinese BL" tend to be used interchangeably in English. In China, Danmei is known as a subculture, as homosexuality is generally frowned upon in the country. Danmei is the most popular genre on Jinjiang Literature City, a influential web novel site targeted towards women in China. Danmei webnovels are often adapted into other media, such as audio dramas, Manhua, Donghua, and live-action television dramas. However, after 2016, the tv dramas were censored to the point of being considered a different genre, dangai. Adaptations in other media tend to be censored as well, depending on the rules for each medium. Meanwhile, some Danmei webnovels contain sex scenes, though censorship of webnovels has also increased in recent years.
While German fandom and publisher usage is a wild mix, shonen ai/shounen ai is still the term generally used for the BL genre, with yaoi (especially for sexually explicit works) and Boys Love in second and third place. [1]
the contemporary catch-all term, used by both publishers and fans, which has replaced shonen ai, for both professional works and fanworks.[2] In Japan, yaoi is the sexually explicit, amateur subset of BL. (The word may also be used disparagingly to refer to PWP content and a lack of artistic merit.)
The pleasurable imaginative activity of 'slashing' or pairing-up existing male characters is known among Taiwanese fans as peidui ('matching couples').[3]
United States
Both American fans and publishers commonly refer to the genre of BL as Yaoi. [4][5][6]


Adding to the confusion is the fact that preferred terms in Japanese have shifted over time, particularly as styles changed.[7]

  • BL/Boys' Love - This is the current preferred term. It covers many types of media besides manga.
  • Yaoi - This once referred to poor-quality doujinshi, but now is sometimes used to refer to PWP stories or PWP elements in stories, both professional and amateur.
  • June - This is both the name of a well-known BL manga magazine and an obsolete term for BL.
  • Tanbi - This term referred to the elaborate style of stories common in June Magazine in the 1980s. Tanbi is no longer produced.
  • Shounen Ai - This referred to the original m/m manga from the 1970s. They were much more softcore than contemporary BL, but in Japanese, 'shounen ai' was never used as the softcore alternative to 'yaoi'.


Manga that target a gay male demographic are known as 'bara'. The art style emphasises 'masculine' traits, such as large muscles and hairy bodies.

Notable BL Works

A number of BL works have significant fan followings. Here is a list of some popular works and adaptations.

cmedia works



Academic Commentary

Other Commentary


  1. ^ cf. usage on, home to a large part of German manga and anime fandom, and the homepages and genre listings of the three biggest German manga publishers: TokyoPop ('romance' or 'drama', but, unofficially, still 'Shonen Ai' cf. company blog post date Sept. 12th 2008 [Dead link], EMA (Shounen Ai)[1] [Dead link], and Carlsen Manga (Boys Love)[2] [Dead link]. All pages:
  2. ^ February 16th 2003. Aestheticism. Definitions From Japan: BL, Yaoi, June, Archived version
  3. ^ Girls who love boys' love: Japanese homoerotic manga as trans-national Taiwan culture
  4. ^ "The term yaoi is used interchangeably with boys’ love in English; I don’t expect the practice to stop, especially since it’s been well-embedded in the U.S. by manga publishers." July 17th 2008. Dru Pagliassoti. Boy's Love vs Yaoi: An Essay on Terminology, Archived version
  5. ^ Fannish: cf. also Yaoi-Con [3], the biggest United States BL-themed fan convention.
  6. ^ Publishers: While manga publisher Tokyopop has abandoned an explicit genre label and groups its BL/Yaoi manga under 'romance' or 'drama' (cf. TokyoPop Website, state Oct. 8th 2008, the BL-only publisher Yaoi Press upholds this usage.
  7. ^'s definition list
  8. ^ Rolling Stone India, The Whole World is Talking About ‘KinnPorsche’; Here’s Why. [4]
  9. ^ Newsfounded, Toshihisa Hagiwara and Yusei Yagi’s first impressions are “beautiful” and appear at the “Galaxy Award” awards ceremony | ORICON NEWS [5]
  10. ^ Wikipedia, TharnType [6]