Shounen ai

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Synonyms: Boys' Love, m/m, BL
See also: yaoi, slash, shoujo ai
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Shounen-ai (boys' love) is a Japanese term for stories containing m/m couples. Usage in Japanese may differ from usage in other languages. In English, it is most often used in manga and anime fandoms to refer to m/m fanworks.

When speaking of manga, the Japanese term refers to a type of shoujo manga with m/m themes common in the 1970s that is no longer published.

Usage Outside of Japan

Outside of Japan, 'shounen-ai' is often used as the softcore counterpart to yaoi. In some contexts it may also be used in place of 'yaoi' or both may be used. It is commonly applied to fanfiction, particularly fanfiction of anime and manga series, but may also be used for manga, anime, professional writing, or other forms of m/m romance with a female audience.

Usage in Japan

In Japan, shounen ai is the precursor to contemporary BL. The term refers to manga from the 1970s by artists such as Moto Hagio, Keiko Takemiya, and other members of the Year 24 Group. While these stories happened to be fairly softcore by modern standards, this is mainly a reflection of the style of the time; 'shounen ai' does not specifically mean 'softcore'. These stories ran in shoujo magazines, therefore shounen ai was a subset of shoujo. (This may not be true of later m/m manga.) The term is still valid when discussing this period and works from it, but does not apply to modern works, including those of the original shounen ai mangaka, many of whom are still publishing.

Shounen Ai Works

Examples of influential shounen ai manga include:

  • November Gymnasium by Moto Hagio (1971)
  • Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio (1974)[1]
  • Kaze to Ki no Uta by Keiko Takemiya (1976)


  1. ^ An interview with Moto Hagio, Archived version conducted by Matt Thorn; originally published in The Comics Journal #269 July/August 2005; Accessed on Thorn's website on November 10, 2009.