top 10 (oops, 25) yaoi manga, part 1 of 5

top 10 yaoi – the best boys’ love manga

Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou

Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou

… is what I’d like to say. It’s what I was going for, but that’s not how it turned out.

I mean, really, how can a hopeless fujoshi actually reduce the best of yaoi to 10 titles? I am defeated. Utterly.

However, if you’re wondering what the breadth of yaoi looks like and what you might or might not enjoy, I hope the list that I was able to put together will give you some new stories to devour.

Dive into these 25 manga, and meet 21 skilled mangaka, each with her own unique flavor. I hope you will find some to your taste.

a starter set: 21 great mangaka &  25 great yaoi

Finder by Yamane Ayano

Finder by Yamane Ayano

What do these yaoi have in common?

  1. Many of them were recommended to me when I first started reading.
  2. I have read them repeatedly.
  3. Almost all are multi-volume series, delivering the most interesting plots and characters.
  4. The ukes in these stories rarely look or act like shoujo heroines with extra boy parts tacked on, so it’s clear that you aren’t just reading superficially disguised shoujo.
  5. About two thirds of these stories feature adult protagonists; while I like schoolboy stories, I tend to find older couples even more interesting.
  6. And, there’s a lot of sex, from very sweet and gentle consensual to “holy hell, what did he just do to that guy?” noncon.

Note: If what you’re looking for is pure shounen-ai (romance without sex), then Seven Days (which will appear at the very end) may be the only one on the list for you; pretty much everybody else is gettin’ it on one way or another.

Unfortunately, I am completely at a loss as to how to put these mangaka and their boys in order, so, despite the numbering, there’s no real order here.


on this page…

…you’ll find the first five manga and moods:

  1. Haru o Daite Ita by Nitta Youka
  2. Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano
  3. Finder by Yamane Ayano
  4. Love Mode by Shimizu Yuki
  5. Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou

Already read all of these? Skip to the next page: top 10 (oops, 25) yaoi manga, part 2 of 5


Oh, and in case you’re wondering why each entry begins with “mood”, you’ll find the answer at choosing what to read.

Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano

Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano

Enough foreplay. Let’s list!


1. Haru o Daite Ita (Haru o Daiteita) (1997) – Nitta Youka

Haru o Daiteita by Nitta Youko

Haru o Daiteita by Nitta Youka

 

Mood:

  1. I’m looking for an adult story, where both men are masculine (mostly), they’re trying to live their lives and build their careers.
  2. Having the entertainment industry as a setting sounds like fun.
  3. Sexually graphic, steamy sex scenes that are generally consensual sounds about right.
  4. If there are any switch couples in the mix, that’d be even better.
  5. I’d like something substantial, as many volumes as possible, so I can really sink my teeth into the story, but I don’t want to have to wait forever for the guys to get together; I just don’t have that patience today.
  6. I might like to read the manga, watch the anime (OVA), or listen to a drama CD; I haven’t decided.

Story: Two men who have been successful rivals in the heterosexual AV (adult video) world get a chance to jump ship to mainstream acting. It’s a hard transition to make, especially when your first acting gig requires that you portray a sexually active gay man and get caught up in a storm of speculation about whether you’re in a real relationship with the other male lead. From there, 16 volumes trace the evolution of these two men’s intertwined relationship and careers.

My experience: Everything works — the sex, the romance, the humor, the drama…I will admit, the first time I tried to read this series, it took me awhile to get into it, partly because the early scans and translations made it pretty challenging (buy the published version!). And yet, now it’s one of my absolute favorites.

Haru o Daiteita by Nitta Youko

Haru o Daiteita by Nitta Youko

Mangaka: Nitta-sensei gives good story, doesn’t rely too heavily on cliches, and gets drama from the characters and their situations, not artificial noncon and violence. One thing that has always struck me is how she’s remarkably forgiving of the antagonists in the story; she makes me (grudgingly) forgive the characters I’d be inclined to write off. And her art becomes more beautiful over the course of the series.

Purchasing: I rejoiced when they began releasing Haru o Daiteita in English again — for just a little more than the price of a single volume of most hard copy manga, you can buy the first four volumes of this series as a pair of ebooks (hard copies are also available). Hopefully more will be released in the coming years.The English edition of the manga has been re-released by SuBLime under the title Embracing Love. You can find the anime in the Videos section of Aarinfantasy’s forum (you must be a member to watch videos on the site; it’s free).

hop back up to the manga list


2-3. Crimson Spell  (2004) ~  Finder [aka Loveprize in Viewfinder] (2001) – Yamane Ayano

2. Crimson Spell

Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano

Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano

 

Mood:

  1. Take me to a world of magic and adventure, with princes, mages, and genuinely evil bad guys lurking in the wings.
  2. I want painfully beautiful art, a long, complex quest-oriented storyline, and lots and lots of hot, graphic sex, pretty much from the get go.
  3. I’m okay with some noncon and a bit of rough play, as long as it isn’t too intense, and I wouldn’t mind a kink or two.
  4. I’m okay with a story that’s ongoing, as long as there are already a number of volumes for me to munch on.
  5. Today, I think I might read a manga or listen to a drama CD.

Story: A kingdom’s prince is demon-cursed by a magic crimson sword and has to seek out a mage to help him break the curse. The mage he finds agrees to help, for a price. As you might imagine, the curse isn’t so easily broken, thus the quest begins. Next up, a magical, flying thing-that-looks-a-little-like-a-rabbit-but-isn’t, demons, and the occasional horse that, quite frankly, looks part-demon. Oh, and lots and lots of sex. Did I mention that already?

My experience: Despite all that this and Finder (below) have in common, in comparison to Finder, I experience Crimson Spell’s atmosphere as much sweeter and more lighthearted. Please do note: “in comparison to Finder”. The pacing and plotting work well, the side characters are fun, and who doesn’t love a story where dragons pop up every now and then?

Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano

Crimson Spell by Yamane Ayano

Mangaka: Yamane-sensei’s art is stunning; her characters are absolutely seductively delectable. Over time, I have stopped licking the pages (because they don’t actually taste that good), but the urge is still there. Considering how persistent she is at finding excuses for sex scenes, she’s surprisingly good at still developing a story.

Purchasing: Crimson Spell is currently being re-released in English by SuBLime, with Volume 5 due out in August 2014; it’s one of the series I’m buying (in case you’re wondering, yeah, I’m gonna be saying that a lot on this list, because many of these are good enough to have been licensed in English and good enough to buy).

hop back up to the manga list

3. Finder   [aka Loveprize in Viewfinder]

Finder by Yamane Ayano

Finder by Yamane Ayano

 

Mood:

  1. I want something dark, gritty and intense.
  2. Today, noncon, even lots of noncon is okay.
  3. But I’d still like the possibility that the main characters might fall in love and that things might genuinely work out for them. Maybe. Someday. But pile on the major obstacles.
  4. A beautiful Yakuza or some other kind of underworld kingpin sounds perfect; set him up with someone who’s the opposite of perfect for him, and let’s sit back and see if they come together or destroy each other. Or something like that.
  5. Manga, pseudo-anime (animix – where you’re mostly looking at mostly static pictures but the mouths and such are moving), or drama CD’s are all possibilities today.

Story: Takaba Akihito, a young, doesn’t-know-fear freelance photographer/journalist, wants to make it big. He’s pursuing a story on political corruption, but his photos draw the attention (and ire) of Asami Ryuichi, a high ranking bad guy in a business suit. Will Asami’s “punishment” of Akihito lead to something more? And how deeply will Akihito become involved in Asami’s rivalry with a Hong Kong syndicate and his other underworld business?

My experience: This story is entertainingly dark and intense; it was one of my first experiences of yaoi, and, well, it definitely prepared me for what was to come. How much of the sex here is noncon? Um, well, in the first few volumes, pretty much 100%, and very graphically so. Now that we’re heading towards volume 8 (still ongoing), that number’s gone down dramatically, but “sweet” is a scarce adjective for describing Finder. It is, however, a thrilling ride. I find myself wondering if Yamane-sensei will be able to continue to build interesting plot arcs as she tries to bring these two together; I am not terribly optimistic, but I keep my fingers crossed. Fortunately, Finder is really twisted-romance-and-sex driven, so weak plot doesn’t hold it back too much (I’m still a fan of plot, though). The Finder extras chapters provide some appreciated (if a bit predictable) comic relief, and some of the other one-shots (separate plots and characters) work pretty well, even though in general I’m not a big fan of one-shots.

Mangaka: (first, see above) In one of her author’s commentary pages, Yamane-sensei gives a great explanation of the fact that Finder came to be because she was invited to contribute a story to an S&M special edition of a magazine. While it’s true that the rest of the series is noncon-heavy, that first chapter could still mislead you into thinking Finder’s going to be something it’s not. She also says she hopes these two get a sweet, happy ending eventually (frankly, it’s hard to envision how she’ll pull that off, but I’m hoping, too).

Finder by Yamane Ayano

Finder by Yamane Ayano

 

Purchasing: Published in English by Juné. At this point, if you want a decent experience following the characters and stories, you’ll have to buy the published version, because Juné has done a good job with their C&D (cease & desist) orders, so now the really experienced scanlation teams won’t touch this series with a twenty-foot pole. If you do end up wanting to buy the series, keep in mind that Volumes 1-7 may or may not be in print when you go looking for them. I have a few of them on my shelves (but have had trouble getting my hands on others). You will find the anime/animix in the Videos section of the Aarinfantasy forum.

hop back up to the manga list


4. Love Mode  (1995) – Shimizu Yuki

Love Mode by Shimizu Yuki

Love Mode by Shimizu Yuki

Mood:

  1. I’d like to read a classic; I’m even okay with it if I have to put up with 90’s art, old (i.e. – lower quality) scans, and early scanlation efforts.
  2. A slice of life is fine, maybe something revolving around a somewhat shady business, like a male escort club.
  3. Something that bounces back and forth between dark and sweet.
  4. I don’t want to stick with just one couple, and a mix of younger and more grown up characters is okay.
  5. Bring on the long, long story, where I can settle in with the characters and setting and enjoy.
  6. I’ll probably read manga, but a drama CD might be okay, too.

Story: Love Mode is a completed 11-volume series that follows a number of couples with (various kinds of) ties to a male escort club, Blue Boy, and its manager, Aoi Reiji. Over the course of numerous story arcs, Shimizu-sensei manages includes a diverse collection of plots, so you won’t get bored or feel stuck in a rut.

My experience: I have to admit, I dislike the first couple; the way the relationship starts off is not appealing, and the uke is a complete tsundere; those characters tend to get under my skin. However, I adore the other couples in the series, and when I reread, I often just skip the first story arc (although I suppose you should try reading it once and see if it’s for you). The art isn’t, frankly, my favorite.The mid-90’s style is ugly to my eyes. Even so, this story is a classic, classic yaoi, there are only a few instances of noncon (it’s actually more about relationships than sex), and despite some tense drama and occasional violence, the overall flavor is sweet. If you’re going to fujoshi (or fudanshi) your life (yes, I believe in turning nouns into verbs, just for kicks), you can’t not read this at some point.

Love Mode by Shimizu Yuki

Love Mode by Shimizu Yuki

Mangaka: Shimizu Yuki – Aside from Love Mode and her other major work, Ze, I honestly don’t have a strong attachment to Shimizu Yuki. If you haven’t see it before, the art in Love Mode will show you what the 1990’s style looked like, although her drawing does become somewhat more attractive over time.

Purchasing – You’re about ten years too late. Totally out of print. While the scanlation is so, so much better than nothing, I would jump at the chance to read a professional translation and printing; there’s quite a bit of room for improvement. Maybe there’ll be a reprint. Someday

hop back up to the manga list


5. Doushitemo Furetakunai (2008)– Yoneda Kou

Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou

Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou

 

Mood:

  1. Bring on the salarymen! Today, it’s cubicles and well-developed characters for me.
  2. A bit of hot consensual sex would be great, even if it isn’t too graphic, but I’d prefer it in the context of the struggles of building an unlikely relationship.
  3. I don’t need a saga; a couple of volumes-worth of stories is enough for today.
  4. Manga or drama CD is fine, and I’d be really curious what might happen if they have plans to turn it into a live action movie.

Story: New employee, Shima, who’s somewhere on the shy and antisocial side, is trying to get used to Togawa, a crass but easygoing, goodhearted boss who has the bad habit of coming to work with a hangover. While Shima is gay, Togawa is straight, and his budding interest scares the hell out of Shima (who has, of course, been hurt before).

My experience: This is, perhaps, the best salaryman romance of all. It somehow manages to be both subtle and dramatic. Togawa’s straightforward personality is irresistible, and Onoda, a side character, also brings color and humor to his scenes. Yoneda-sensei mixes in just enough angst to give the story depth, while never taking it over the edge. I have it in English, on drama CD, and even in Japanese (part of my promise to my future self to be able to read it someday). Impressively sexy considering it’s such a mildly graphic story.

Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou

Doushitemo Furetakunai by Yoneda Kou


Mangaka: Yoneda Kou builds two convincing, conflicted characters who struggle with the “I’m gay, but you’re straight” trope in a way that doesn’t feel cliche. There’s a hint of darkness to the story, which is part of Yoneda-sensei’s trademark style and makes their fumbling toward a relationship much more poignant. I am completely in love with her art, which is somehow grounded yet elegant; her characters are genuinely attractive without being prettified.

Purchasing: Doushitemo Furetakunai’s original volume, following the first couple, was released in English by Juné (under the title No Touching at All) but is currently out of print; it is still available as an ebook, though. The 2nd couple’s story, alternatively titled as Soredemo Yasashii Koi wo Suru, was released as doujinshi and is only available in scanlation, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see collected into a volume and translated into English in the future; it’s just that popular.  

hop back up to the manga list


Coming up —  more mangaka and their stories for more yaoi moods:

Hope to see you there!

Finder by Yamane Ayano

Finder by Yamane Ayano

17 thoughts on “top 10 (oops, 25) yaoi manga, part 1 of 5

  1. I really like Yoneda Kou’s works. It’s cute but there’s always that tinge of darkness that really pulls at me. Her more darker mangas are even more amazing to read.

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    • Yes. She’s amazing, and her ability to balance the dark and the romantic is really brilliant — she neither gets too dark nor too sappy. A total Goldilocks mangaka who gets it just right. I’m looking forward to seeing where Saezuru Tori wa Habatakanai ends up heading — I’m thrilled that it’s turning into a multi-volume story, because Yashiro has always been fascinating, and I just want to see more and more of him.

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  2. Pingback: top 10 (oops, 25) yaoi manga, part 2 | the joy of yaoi

  3. I obsess over each and every one of Yoneda Kou’s pieces like I get payed for it.
    Honestly, she’s probably my absolute favourite mangaka ever (along with Hiro Mashima). Her stories are the ideal to me — dark, reserved, clever, in-depth, character-centric, adorable… It’s all there!

    I think I’ve read everything she’s published. All of her doujinshis (the Crows one is something magical, goodness me. You can easily find it on online readers by browsing for it), as well as her ‘official’ works, all multiple times.

    I just don’t have the words. *cries a river and drowns in it*

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a tendency to skip dj’s unless I’ve read the parent story (I feel like I’m missing out on so much if I just read them without the background), but I long ago ran out of scanlated Yoneda Kou, so I think it’s time for me to dive into the dj’s. Have you seen the Crows Zero movie or read other Crows Zero manga (to get the framework), or does it really stand on its own?

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      • I’m usually the same, actually, but Yoneda Kou is the only exception to that rule for me. Probably nothing could keep me from reading as much of her work as I can…

        But considering I’m usually pedantic about knowing every detail of the cannon source material, the doujinshis were no problem for me. I read her Crows do with no prior knowledge (I didn’t even know about the manga or films) and I had no problem understanding what was going on. The context is very easy to get a grasp if, in my opinion. And I actually watched the film after reading the dj because I loved it that much! So I guess you could say I did it backwards.

        I’d highly recommend the dj. I adore it with all my heart.

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    • So, I did go back and read her Crows Zero dj. I tried to watch the movie first, but I completely failed — I’ve read Beelzebub and watched the anime so many times, that I couldn’t take the movie seriously at all. I gave up after about 30 minutes of snickering.

      However, I did enjoy the dj (and at least at that point I had the basic background for it). I didn’t like it quite as much as Don’t Stay Gold, but it was still really good. Nice sexual tension, and I did wonder along the way how the uke/seme roles were going to fall. I like it when mangaka don’t make that too obvious.

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  4. The Finder series was one of the very first BL stories I ever read, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Fei Long (I found his back story arc first which gives you a whole different take on his character if you read that before you read the previous chapters.) because of this. Now I can’s hardly wait to check out some of these others I have not read yet!

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  5. Yes. I think many of us start with Finder, Junjou Romantica, and/or Koisuru Boukun. They are among the most famous and have animes, so folks are likely to run into them first. Yes. I find Fei Long beautiful and a bit sad. I would love to take him home and comfort him. If only he weren’t, you know, part of the underworld and fictional. Otherwise, I’d be there.
    I hope you will find some others here that are to your taste!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Top 10 (oops, 25) yaoi manga, part 3 | the joy of yaoi

  7. Pingback: top 10 (oops, 25) yaoi manga, part 4 | the joy of yaoi

  8. Pingback: yaoi: top 10 reversi couple manga (and a gender rant) | the joy of yaoi

  9. Pingback: top 10 yaoi manga: the best gentle schoolboy stories | the joy of yaoi

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