Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Yaoi: Graphic Graphic Novels

No, I didn't make a mistake when I used the g-word twice in the title of this blog post. Check out this article (warning: lots of g-word content) in the Village Voice about Yaoi (mostly pronounced Yow-ee, I think) a boy-on-boy genre of erotic manga originating in Japan that more and more teen and even pre-teen girls in North America are consuming:
English-language manga is one of the fastest growing segments of the American publishing industry. Sales of that category amounted to about $175 million in North America last year, around triple the sales in 2002 ... National chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are scrambling to find more shelf space for these hot-ticket items, and are installing benches and couches at which readers can lounge. In that context, yaoi is the success story within the success story ...

Yaoi's success with its target audience has surprised even comic industry insiders. "When it was first presented to us, we were very skeptical," says Joshua Hayes, associate director of sales and marketing for Diamond Book Distributors of Maryland, the largest U.S. distributor of graphic novels. "Even though everyone told us that it was going to be sold to female consumers of a certain age level, we just couldn't believe that was true. I was looking at the first volume, untranslated, and thinking, 'There's no way; surely this would sell to a homosexual audience.'"
Apparently Yaoi novels have more sexualized content and art, while a genre called Shounen Ai focuses more on romance, but both are about boy-on-boy love and read mostly by girls. I want to find out more about these young female readers who are passionate, devoted consumers of Yaoi and/or Shounen Ai. Do they share a lot in common culturally (i.e., white, middle-class, non-conforming, etc) or is it difficult to define a Yaoi-fan archetype? Do their parents know they're reading these novels? And are libraries buying them? Teen girls have long been lured by bosom-heaving romance paperbacks, but this development in pop chick lit (no bosoms involved) seems like uncharted territory to me.

3 comments:

Jordan Marks said...

It's not just teens and pre-teens buying yaoi. The con that the Village Voice article was talking about is strictly 18+.

Anyway, the folks over at http://yaoiresearch.com/ are asking some of the same questions you are.

There is actually a long running western tradition of m/m stories that appeal to women. The most well known part of this is the phenomenon known as 'slash fiction'. Slash really crosses age groups in my experiance, so I don't think that liking m/m themes is age specific.

Mitali Perkins said...

The burgeoning part of the market for this product seems to be in the teen/pre-teen sector, but thanks for the link ... that's an interesting website ...

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a fan of boy's love for about a year. I really don't like the hardcore stuff, I just like the softer type. The reason I enjoy BL is because most love stories feature a heroine that is dumb, annoying and weak and I don't feel pressure from reading guy/guy romance stories and its a new take on things. Also, to let most of the people know, BL is NOT a part of gay fiction, yaoi is subgenre of shojo or josei manga/anime and marketed for young women. I do think that most titles do offend gays. The fans are really diverse and it can be hard to tell wether a person is a fan or not. When most people look at me, I just look like an everday older teen. My parents have no idea that I like boy's love. If they find out, they will probably not punish me that harsh because most of the BL that I watch or read is not explicit and I am almost an adult. I also watch or read non BL titles.

Well, that is all I have to say. Bye.