Shonen Ai

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Example of a single image with Shōnen-Ai motif

Shōnen Ai ( Japanese. 少年 愛 , dt. "Boy love") is a Japanese name for anime and manga , which is common in western countries , which deals with love relationships between young men. In Japan, the term was replaced by the term Boys' Love , which is also used synonymously outside of Japan for Shōnen Ai or the related genre Yaoi . The first work of the genre was Moto Hagios Manga Tōma no Shinzō , which appeared in 1973 in Japan. The first magazine devoted solely to the genre was June , whose name also became synonymous with the genre in Japan. Since 2000, several titles in the genre have been published in German.

Conceptual content and delimitation

With Shōnen Ai, emotions and the development of the relationship are in the foreground, there are no explicit erotic representations. The protagonists usually correspond to the ideal of the bishon . Works with homoerotic stories by male protagonists with more explicit or pornographic sexual content and a focus on sex are assigned to the genre Yaoi . In Japan Shōnen Ai was replaced by the pseudo-English term Boys' Love ( ボ ー イ ズ ラ ブ , bōizu rabu ), BL for short , in order to avoid associations with pederasty and pedophilia . This term, as well as June , derived from the title of a magazine , refer to any story about homosexual men, no matter how explicit the erotic depictions are or what the focus of the plot is.

However, the definition and delimitation of the genre is not clearly clear even outside of Japan. It can also stand for any homoerotic anime and manga with male protagonists and thus include Yaoi, or just refer to the early works of the 1970s and 1980s that are set in exotic, often historical, European locations.

target group

The main target group is not homosexual men, but girls and women. Likewise, almost all authors in the genre are female mangaka .

Theories as to the reasons for which Shōnen-Ai stories appeal to female readers and artists, often assume that female readers are shy of erotic depictions of men and women. The Japanese researcher Megumi Yoshinaka came to the conclusion that "the adolescent girls are extremely picky." The boys and men would rather disgust them; in Shōnen Ai, however, they would find idealized, partly asexual characters, "flawless beautiful boys" . Other theories suggest that the genre gives women readers the opportunity to fantasize about the opposite sex without having to compete with a female character. In addition, consideration of the male characters as “girls in disguise”, like Takarazuka actresses, is taken into account. The story offers the opportunity to reflect on your own homosexual feelings. The representation of hopeless love and the suffering of beautiful men are also used as explanations. The German Jacqueline Berndt thinks that the love between two male protagonists satisfies the reader's longing for a soulmate counterpart. According to this, gay love is an expression of the longing for a twin sister with whom one can (idealized) share one's inner being.

Despite the portrayal of homosexual relationships, not all works and artists of the genre have a positive view of homosexuality. Particularly early works show in their stories an unhappy, unrealizable love and can also be interpreted as an expression of an aversion to real homosexuality. Accordingly, the genre is not necessarily used for social or political messages, but primarily for erotic fantasies.

Selected Works

Individual evidence

  1. a b c German Film Institute - DIF / German Film Museum & Museum for Applied ArtsBKL (ed.): Ga-netchû! Das Manga Anime Syndrom , p. 268. Henschel Verlag, 2008.
  2. a b ga-netchû! , Pp. 158-165.
  3. ga-netchû! , P. 150 and P. 155 footnote 12
  4. a b c Paul Gravett: Manga - Sixty Years of Japanese Comics p. 80. Egmont Manga and Anime, 2004.
  5. James Welker: Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: 'Boys' Love 'as Girls' Love in Shôjo Manga in Journal of Women in Culture and Society vol. 31, no. 3. p. 842. 2006.
    Kazuko Suzuki: Pornography or Therapy? Japanese Girls Creating the Yaoi Phenomenon in Sherrie Inness, ed., Millennium Girls: Today's Girls Around the World p. 250. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. ISBN 0-8476-9136-5 , ISBN 0-8476-9137-3 .
  6. Jacqueline Berndt: Manga phenomenon . Quintessenz Verlag, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-86124-289-3


  • Björn-Ole Kamm: Benefits and gratuities with Boys' Love Manga. Fujoshi or depraved girls in Japan and Germany . Publishing house Dr. Kovac, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-8300-4941-8 ( Introduction [PDF; 400 kB ; accessed on January 5, 2017]).
  • Antonia Levi, Mark McHarry, Dru Pagliassotti: Boys' Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre . McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0-7864-4195-2 .
  • Mark McLelland, Kazumi Nagaike, Katsuhiko Suganuma et al .: Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan . University Press Of Mississippi, 2015. ISBN 1628461195 .

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