They say you can’t teach an old dog new homoerotic literature.

The other day, I heard about a new online English-language manga service called MangaPlaza. Run by NTT Solmare, it’s a part of a growing movement by manga publishers to help curb the rapidly growing problem of piracy in the medium. That’s a great idea and all, but something near the end of their ad caught me a little by surprise.

What struck me about it was the mention of a wide selection of Boys’ Love (BL) and the adult-oriented evolution of josei manga marketed towards women called Teens’ Love (TL), two relatively new genres to the mainstream scene. Prominent promotion of BL these days is not so shocking, and even major bookstores in Japan have entire sections dedicated to it. But it’s always interesting to see how far its come, now that it’s being boasted in services aimed at Western audiences.

BL as an established genre was still in its infancy ages ago when I started writing for this website, so in a way it kind of feels like we both grew up together. And yet, I’ve never actually read any of it – perhaps unsurprisingly, since as a 42-year-old father of two who considers Predator 2 the apex of cinema, I’m probably not its target demographic. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little curious. I have to figure that there’s probably some aspect that’s universally good about it that makes it so widely popular. And since MangaPlaza was offering a one-week free trial, it seemed like a good risk-free opportunity to finally expose myself to some of these works.

▼ There’s certainly no shortage of it on the website

Images: © Kou Yoneda/Taiyohtosho Co., Ltd., © Shiki Natsuo/Solmare Publishing, ©Kotetsuko Yamamoto/Taiyohtosho Co., Ltd., © Junko/Taiyohtosho Co., Ltd., © Kou Yoneda/Taiyohtosho Co., Ltd., © MODU9/Houbunsha

First, I read Seven Days by Venio Tachibana and Rihito Takara. It’s the story of two high school students Shino and Seryou who are both a hit with the ladies and members of the school archery team. Seryou has an idiosyncratic pattern of dating the first person to ask him out for exactly one week, all the while making them the center of his attention but then dumping them abruptly if he doesn’t fall in love. After hearing about this, Shino on a whim asks him out without realizing how seriously he took this system. Considering this is a BL title, you can probably see where it goes from there.

Perhaps it was beginner’s luck, but I was kind of digging this one. It had an interesting premise and didn’t really dwell on the whole Boys’ Love aspect, rather it was treated more as an incidental part of the story and it ended up coming across as more believable as a result. It was also well written and was paced really nicely so that you could read through chapters quickly while still getting a good grasp of what was going on with the characters.

Next, I read I Wish You Happiness by Nomo Marino, which follows Kai and Daichi, two employees of a book store. Daichi suddenly asked Kai out one day and was shocked when he not only accepted but immediately planted a big kiss on him. However, Daichi was warned by another co-worker that Kai has some issues that make it difficult for him to enter a serious relationship. Can he get to the bottom of it before ending up as just another one of Kai’s exes?

This one didn’t impress me as much, unfortunately. That being said, I only read the first chapter, and there is a chance it could get more interesting as we learn more about what’s up with Kai. It seems like it might get pretty heavy if the title is any indication, so it might turn out good further along. However, I probably wouldn’t recommend this as a first-time title since it seems to require more of a time investment to get into.

▼ Speaking of time investments, Obey Me is an exclusive title on MangaPlaza based on the hit dating sim app. The game has an interesting twist in that the player can be either male or female, making the manga a potential BL-TL fluid series.

Image: © 2019 NTT Solmare Corporation. All rights reserved./© SubaruNitou/MAG Garden

Finally, I tried out Kiss Blue by Keiko Kinoshita. This one’s about two friends, Noda and Tomosaka, who, through their own individual series of doomed relationships, gradually become more than friends.

I had an even harder time getting into this one as well. Even before I could get a sense of the characters everyone seemed to be cheating on each other, grabbing each other’s butts, and all sorts of stuff. The timeline seemed to jump around a lot as well, making the whole story kind of hard to follow. Similar to I Wish You Happiness, I felt like this was putting the Boys’ Love before the story, which might appeal to hardcore fans, but didn’t really do anything for me.

On the whole, one out of three isn’t bad, especially since I doubt any of these writers had someone like me in mind while making these stories. Really though, getting into Boys’ Love seems just like getting into any other genre and has just the same potential to be good or bad. As long as it’s a compelling story it doesn’t really matter what the setting and characters are…unless it’s Danny Glover fighting homicidal aliens, because that’s just a sure-fire winning formula any way you cut it.

Speaking of homicidal aliens, it’s also important to note that MangaPlaza has all the major manga genres too, and around 2,000 titles on offer as well, such as Attack on Titan, Cells at Work, and Tokyo Revengers. They’re available as single purchases or through tiered subscriptions, and a lucky 301 people who sign up can get a US$10 Amazon gift certificate.

Images: © Tsuragamachi Ushitora/ WWWave, © Ken Wakui/Kodansha Ltd., © Hajime Isayama/Kodansha Ltd., © Hiro Mashima/Kodansha Ltd., © 2010 Yu Kinutani © Shirow Masamune・Production I.G / KODANSHA, © Akane Shimizu/Kodansha Ltd.

So there’s something for everyone there, and if you do feel like taking the plunge into BL, I’d recommend Seven Days hands down. After all, Boys’ Love is here. It’s queer. Why not get used to it?

Source: MangaPlaza
Top image: ©Nekotataishi/Kouko Tomono, ©Nagata Ayumi/Shodensha Publishing Co.Ltd., ©misumi/Solmare Publishing, Tokyo Revengers © Ken Wakui/Kodansha Ltd., That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slim © Fuse, Taiki Kawakami/Kodansha Ltd.
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