A Quick Guide to BL


Thrilling fans everywhere since 1976.

That 1976 date is, admittedly, an approximation, and applies only to actual BL publications/anime as opposed to manga or shows which happen to contain elements of BL but are not in and of themselves BL (for example, Natsu e no Tobira was published in 1975 and has a brief passage about a homosexual character, but that is not the main focus of the story). And, yes, I am using the term ‘BL’ carte-blanche instead of distinguishing between yaoi and BL.

Anyway, I was inspired by this post, which reminded me once again of how scant the amount of good animated BL is. I was also inspired by it because I must admit I disagree with a lot of the recommendations (but, hey, to each their own), and due to some exclusions that saimaisama admits to having because of lack of personal exposure to those titles.

I’ll be splitting this into two categories – anime and manga – although there is some overlap between the two. Today we’ll hit up anime – I was originally going to have both, but then I remembered that there’s a LOT of good BL manga out there, so I’m going to hold off and avoid making this post a TL;DR affair.


Title: Kaze to Ki no Uta

Year: 1987

Rating: 15+

Brief Summary: Serge Battour is the son of a Roma lady and a French aristocrat. He recalls his life at the prestigious Laconblade Academy, which he attended as a youth, and, specifically, the tumultuous relationship he had with his room-mate, the tortured and conflicted Gilbert Cocteau.

Comments: Ah, the holy grail of BL! Kaze to Ki no Uta is the classic BL show, a must-see for any fan, if only because of its place historically (the face that launched a thousand ships, so to speak). However, the manga is better, which should only be expected when you compact 17 volumes into an hour of animation. Even so, this is a solid adaptation, although those looking for some hardcore yaoi-loving are going to be disappointed, as the OVA doesn’t have the same level of content as the manga, something which shouldn’t be surprising considering the year this was released.

Warnings: pedophilia, incest, sexual abuse, suicide (it’s a happy story, can’t you tell?)


Title: Zetsuai 1989/Bronze

Year: 1992/1994

Rating: 12+

Brief Summary: Kouji Nanjou is a young rock star who is falling apart behind the scenes, having reached a point where he no longer has interest in life. One evening he passes out while stumbling home from a night of partying, and is discovered by Takuto Izumi, a young soccer player. Takuto takes Kouji home, concerned about the other man, and helps him regain his health. For his part, Kouji becomes obsessed with Takuto, and begins to force his way into his life.

Comments: Technically two OVA’s, but they come from the same storyline, just at different points. Based on a manga series, also has a light novel adaptation. I haven’t read either the manga or light novel, so I can’t comment on them. However, the OVA’s are classics within the BL/yaoi fandom, and warrant a viewing based on that fact. I enjoyed them personally, but I’ll warn you that they’re pretty ridiculous, honestly – if I had to describe it, I’d say that the story would fit comfortably within a soap opera. It’s pretty tame as far as sensual content goes, though.

Warnings: self mutilation

Fun Fact: This originally started as a Captain Tsubasa doujinshi, hilariously enough.


Title: Legend of the Blue Wolves


Rating: 18+

Brief Summary: Jonathon Tiberius is a pilot who has been assigned to help protect Earth from an alien threat. When he arrives at his new stationing, he meets his room-mate, Leonard Schnteinberg. The two become friends, and slowly their relationship begins to blossom into love. Unfortunately, Jonathon has also caught the attention of their cruel commanding officer, who isn’t terribly interested in the word ‘no’.

Comments: This isn’t exactly BL – its actually legit gay anime, by which I mean, it’s intended for gay guys – y’know, those folks that BL is allegedly about? There’s certainly a lot of unpleasant stuff going on here, but Leonard and Jonathon’s developing relationship is wonderfully portrayed, and much more realistic than the run-of-the-mill stuff you’ll see.

Warnings: rape


Title: Haro wo Daiteita: Fuyu no Semi

Year: 1996

Rating: 18+

Brief Summary: Kusaka Touma and Akizuki Keiichirou are two young men living in the waning days of feudal Japan. Both are avidly interested in the West, although Kusaka, hailing from the Choshu clan, finds himself at odds with his family over his interest. The two become friends through their shared interest, and fall in love. But the tempest of political strife howls around them, and it seems that they, too, will find themselves drawn into the mess.

Comments: I’m fairly certain that this has the hottest sex scenes I’ve ever seen in anime – we’re talking explode your nose all over the keyboard hot. I never really liked Haru wo Daiteita (Embracing Love), but I really enjoyed this, probably due to the historical context. While it is ultimately about Kusaka and Akizuki’s relationship, it is also about Japan at a crossroads.

Warnings: explicit sex, some gore


Title: Junjou Romantica

Year: 2008/2009

Rating: 16+

Brief Summary: Misaki was raised by his brother after their parents died, and is now trying to get into college. A friend of his brother’s, Usami, helps tutor him. Usami is secretly in love with Misaki’s brother, and is devastated when he learns of marital plans. So, naturally, Misaki ends up moving in with him and they fall in love (allegedly). Two other story arcs concern a professor and his ex-wife’s younger brother, and a tsundere professor and a medical student. These different storylines have some overlap of side-characters.

Comments: Ugh. Here you have it, folks – the Strawberry Panic of BL anime. I’m not a big fan of this, but I have to admit it really is the only thing of its kind: TV BL anime that has sex scenes. I just wished we’d had more of the Terrorist storyline in the adaptation, since Misaki and Usami are obnoxious.

Warnings: sex sex sex, especially on the DVD version

Fun Fact: Ok, not a fun fact, but I find it amusing how one half of the three couples shown all look pissed off.


Title: Lesson XX

Year: 1995

Rating: 12+

Brief Summary: Shizuka and Sakura are two boys (!) who attend the same school and are friends. As the result of a joke, the two share a kiss under a starry sky, which leads to confusion on both their parts. Meanwhile, two of their female classmates both display interest in the two, leading to further emotional chaos.

Comments: Ok, I made that sound way more melodramatic than it is – this is just a sweet little story about two boys falling in love. There’s a tiny bit of angst along the way, but it’s fairly minimal and doesn’t interfere with the ability of the story to progress.

Warnings: no sex sex sex (unless you count a nude embrace with enough steam to embarrass the folks who worked on Gundam Seed)

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10 Responses to A Quick Guide to BL

  1. saimaisama says:

    I think I finally understand why Kaze to Ki no Uta felt extremely short to me … Wow, 17 volumes in one hour? No one wonder I was so dissatisfied!

    I also recently decided to watch Zetsuai and I honestly didn’t like it much. It was too melodramatic and angsty for me. The type of angst I “didn’t” like, at least. Well, actually, I just thought Kouji and Takuto were unbelievably stupid characters.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I liked Zetsuai 1989/Bronze in a sort of ‘haha, this is dumb’ sort of way, y’know, like a bad soap opera or bad sci-fi movie. I think its also worth watching just to help a person see the evolution of the genre over time. Supposedly the manga isn’t as ridiculous, but, like I said, I’ve never read it myself.

      If you want to read Kaze to Ki no Uta, you can find scanlations of it on Baka-Manga, although it only goes up through volume four at this point… I think someone scanlated it completely in the past, but I have no idea of where that could be found.

  2. Erin says:

    Lesson XX is one that I always recommend too. It’s not new and trendy, but it’s sweet and good.

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  4. issa-sa says:

    Lesson XX – how it lures the viewer with a presumably raunchy title, but instead serves up anything but (wait, there was a shower scene in the end, wasn’t there?) = brilliant? 9Worked for me at least =P)

  5. Veerle-chan says:

    so.. basically… I know zetsuai is kind of… not too great…
    but damn it… I cried XD…
    but it really sucks that the background music in bronze is a lot of ‘jingle bells’ XD. HELLOOO~! DRAMATIC SCENE…~~~~

  6. caiti says:

    so I kinda love Junjou romantica. Just sayin’

  7. barbara says:

    me encanta yaoi es emocionante natural y divertida es como ver la cara real de un hombre es un paso para en tenderlos un poco mejor

  8. Di-chan says:

    Love Junjou, know most of them. Why there’s no “Ai no kusabi”? The only (!) yaoi (and anime) when watchin’ it I cried

  9. fishface says:

    fuyu no semi in 1996? more like 2007.

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