What does Yaoi Mean?

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You stumble across the anime genre “Yaoi” and don’t know what the term means? We’ll tell you what it means and how to use it.

What Yaoi Means: Yamanashi ochinashi iminashi (without (narrative) climax, without punchline, without sense)

The abbreviation “yaoi” stands for the Japanese expression “yamashi ochinashi iminashi”, which translates as “without (narrative) climax, without punchline, without sense”. The term refers to a manga and anime genre in which the homoerotic relationship between male protagonists is the main focus. The genre is also associated with the English term “Boys’ Love”, abbreviated as “BL”, and “Shounen-ai” (not to be confused with Shounen).

Typically, “yaoi” as a subcategory of the shoujo genre is created by women and is aimed at an overly female audience. The counterpart directed at a male audience is referred to as “gay manga” or “bara.”

Origin of Yaoi

The term “yaoi” was coined in the 1970s by Yasuko Sakata and Akiko Hatsu. Initially, the term was a self-deprecating term used by the artist:s and referred to early “yaoi” works that typically focused on sexual and erotic representation. The development of the plot and characters was more of a secondary concern.

The “yaoi” genre as a contemporary Japanese homoerotic romance manga developed out of shoujo manga as a subgenre in the early 1970s. The “Group of 24”, active from 1969, including Keiko Takemiya and Moto Hagio, created works such as “In The Sunroom” (1970), which depicted male homosexuality and brought a wave of new themes and diversity. The creation of magazines like “June” in 1978 reflected the popularity of the new genre.

Romantic-oriented “shounen-ai” evolved into new stories such as the realistic manga “Banana Fish” after the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to professional “shounen-ai” and “yaoi” works, “dojinshi” versions, non-professional self-publishers who published manga in the genre, quickly became popular. To this day, secondary works are widely available as “yaoi.”

An increasing proportion of shoujo mangas began to incorporate “yaoi” elements into their plots in the 1990s. With the publication of these in North America, the “yaoi” genre spread outside of Asia after the turn of the millennium. The new opportunities such as streaming and ONA increase the international supply and at the same time show the great popularity of the genre.

Shōnen Ai / Shounen-ai

A subcategory of the “yaoi” genre is “Shōnen Ai” or “Shounen-ai”, which literally means “boy love”. Here, the focus is on a romantic rather than an explicitly erotic portrayal of love relationships. However, the term is often used synonymously with “yaoi” and “boys’ love.”

Historically, the term “shounen-ai” was associated with ephelbophilia and pederasty, but this changed with the development of the new genre in the 1970s. In the shoujo context, the term described romance between “beautiful boys.” Early “shounen-ai” works were inspired by European literature, writings by Taruho Inagaki, and the Bildungsroman.

Examples of Yaoi

Here are a few examples of the “yaoi” genre:

  • Banana Fish
  • Yuri!!! On Ice
  • Given
  • Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi
  • Dakaichi – My Number 1

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Team AWSMONE
Team AWSMONE
The author AWSMONE, who works for Scrollbytes Organisation, has been vetted and has the necessary know-how or education to be able to write about any entertainment topics. Learn more on our about page.

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