And kanji with manga
Friday, September 29, 2017

Shounen-ai

In English, shounen-ai is a genre of gay fiction. Any manga or anime focused on the romantic relationship of guy with another guy falls in this genre. In Japanese, the word means "pedophilia" instead.

Its lesbian counterpart is shoujo-ai.

Genre

The shounen-ai genre is defined by having a focus on gay romance, and that's pretty much all there's to it.

If the focus is on guys kissing, flirting, and obscenely hand-holding, that's shounen-ai. It doesn't matter if it's a drama or a comedy.

vs. Yaoi

In English, the difference between shounen-ai and yaoi is that yaoi is a pornographic genre, while shoujo-ai is not.

If it's gay hentai 変態, it's yaoi, if it's not, it's shounen-ai.

In Japanese, yaoi やおい referred to gay fiction that lacked plot and focused on sex.

In Japanese

In Japanese, shounen-ai means something very different from what it means in English.

  • shounen
    少年
    Young boy. (general meaning.)
    An underage person. (as a legal term.)
  • aI

    Love.
  • shounen-ai
    少年愛
    Boy love. Love toward boys. Pedophilia.
  • shounen-ai-sha
    少年愛者
    Someone with shounen-ai. A boy lover. A pedophile.

In Japan, there also existed a genre of gay fiction called shounen-ai, which were shoujo manga, that is, whose target demographic were adolescent girls.(ja.wikipedia.org)

  • Sunroom ni te サンルームにて, published in 1970 on Bessatsu Shoujo Comic 別冊少女コミック, is said to be the first shoujo manga featuring a gay kiss.

Gay fiction tends to be associated with a female audience, specially the niche audience called the fujoshi 腐女子, "rotten girls," who ship guys with other guys.

Konoe Subaru 近衛スバル and Sakamachi Kinjirou 坂町近次郎 looking at each other romantically, as fantasized by a fujoshi 腐女子.
Left: Konoe Subaru 近衛スバル
Right: Sakamachi Kinjirou 坂町近次郎
Anime: Mayo Chiki! まよチキ! (Episode 2)
  • Context: a fujoshi fantasizing.

Nowadays, gay fiction in general, both shounen-ai and yaoi, is called BL in Japanese, which stands for "Boys' Love."

Sometimes, a series that's categorized as shounen-ai in English is instead categorized in Japanese as "bromance," katakanized buromansu ブロマンス, e.g. Loveless.

References

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