When a couple of Japanese BL scholars went down to Manila, I spent a good week with them – interviewing local female artists and getting to know BL fans in Manila. During down time, they had a chance to ask me, “What kind of BL do you read?” And as with everything that involves my feels, it was hard to say a proper answer and went on to say the names of the authors I love: Yamashita Tomoko, Nakamura Asumiko, Kumota Haruko, etc. As I go down the list, they were completely unfamiliar with the names until I said “Est Em” and one of them interjects, saying, “Ah! So you like New Wave works!”
“Eh? New Wave?”
“Yes. New Wave.”
Back then, I had no idea if they meant some 80s music movement but I silently nod until months later, upon reviewing for this MMF and the Fujoshi Bible, I’ve been reminded of the term New Wave. It seems this New Wave is sweeping the future of BL.
If I were a good translator, I’d translate the article because it really had a great way of easing readers on how to distinguish what makes a New Wave artist. If I may, I’d like to go through the same process here, drafting two artists who are a part of this movement.
Take a look at this cover of Happy End Apartment by Est Em as well as this cover of Dokyuusei by Nakamura Asumiko. Judging by the cover alone, can you say that these titles are BL?
It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Could it be? Maybe? You’re not quite sure.
Now take a look at the covers of Sekaiichi Hatsukoi by Nakamura Shungiku, Super Lovers by Abe Miyuki, and Haru wo Daiteita by Youko Nitta. Can you tell the difference?
Nakamura S., Nitta, and Abe’s covers are your typical BL covers. And you can find countless of covers similar to theirs, as if there’s a given formula on what makes a hit. The picture of the seme and uke together in each other’s arms is an absolute giveaway. There’s some flourish or floral element to it as well.
However, that cannot be said with the Est Em and Aniya Yuiji covers. And this extends towards their art which the critics attune to a more European appeal like Bande Desinee. I would imagine that this is a little more true for Basso and Est Em but quite unfair for the rest of the movement.
I will agree that their sense of aesthetics is unusual for BL. Gone are the obvious floral flourishes and here comes a cleaner, if not, modern aesthetic for BL. The flourishes can be found in other things such as the details in Nakamura A. eyes or in Est Em’s precise twist of a matador’s hips. Their art draws you to their characters for a very good reason.
Rooting emotions in reality
The critics were quite straightforward in saying that the New Wave of BL was not the kind that would lay out who the seme and the uke right away. Nor was it the kind of BL where there characters immediately just get at it. In fact, they go as far as saying that the New Wave of BL is the kind that breaks our expectations and fantasies in BL.
In New Wave stories, the authors draw us towards their characters, exposing to us their emotions in hopes that we can connect to them and be affected by their troubles. No longer are we passive observers of couples falling in love but given how New Wave stories are written, readers are now engaged with the characters. This lies in the authors’ efforts in making their characters emotions more real. Suddenly, issues of homosexuality, gender dysphoria, even the social nuances and repercussions of homosexual love becomes apparent. Somehow, we see people we know through these characters. The fujoshi fantasy suddenly becomes close to home.
And there’s something quite fascinating with that except… haven’t we read this before? This type of story telling can be seen in the likes of early BL writers like Ima Ichiko and Yoshinaga Fumi. So what’s so “New Wave” about this? Are the critics just taking back their youth!?!
A BL Movement
Well it’s a New Wave because according to the critics, these authors came in like a tidal wave and swept the industry with their works making their style more distinct and apparent for readers. The difference with the likes of Yoshinaga Fumi was that they were alone and was probably a gem in a sea of BL. Not that these New Wave authors aren’t gems but with their coming as a group sometime 2003-2006, they were definitely a force to be reckoned with.
They cited anthologies like Opera, Mellow&Mellow, and BGM as pivotal in housing these New Wave artists, giving them free reign on their craft and artistry. I would imagine that in this day, Citron, Gateau, OnBlue and Craft also follow along the lines of these anthologies. They also mentioned that the internet was also crucial in discovering these talents who would fiddle with digital methods to experiment with their craft. In ways, these artists were online personalities who have websites housing their art works and it made scouting them a lot easier.
I find that particularly interesting because these women were quite ‘old’ when they entered the industry. Most manga artists, particularly in shoujo manga, tend to be scouted before they even turn twenty. And yet here are women, riped with age as they came in their 20s, writing stories of people they’ve seen and met in their travels here and abroad.
As such, their style and their stories have an appeal that stretches beyond the pages of BL. The critics were passionate in saying that their style merits the attention of avante garde manga magazines like Ikki but I’ve seen their works even go as far as josei magazines like Itan and Rakuen Les Paradis
What’s for sure is that this movement is changing the face of BL, opening its audiences to stories rich in humanity with a style that is both fresh and modern to its readers. Critics even mention that these New Wave authors are facing the “new dawn” of BL and they even said manga but… I won’t go as far as that.
So who’s who in the New Wave
Some of them are already foreign favorites like Est Em, Yoneda Kou, Nakamura Asumiko, Kusama Sakae, and Basso (Natsume Ono). There are lesser known artists among foreign fans like Yamashita Tomoko, Aniya Yuiji, Hideyoshico, Psyche Delico and Okadaya Tetsuzoh. There are others who are yet to be tapped in English but have made a fantastic mark in BL: Kumota Haruko, Bikke, Shoowa, Yamanaka Hiko, Ogawa Chise, Ishino Aya, Rihito Takarai, and Yamada Nichome. There may be more that I’m missing (I’m quite sure I am) but you can check the roster of Opera, Gateau, or Citron to see who else are writing there. Definitely these are authors whose works you shouldn’t miss.
But does the New Wave matter
Perhaps, in 2007, the artists of the New Wave left an impact unto these critics and were recognized as game changers in BL. They certainly challenged the genre to its boundaries with their stories and their anthologies such as Nakeru BL or Dame BL. If you haven’t heard, they’ve recently made contributions in really raunchy anthologies released by Libre.
But as they have made their mark, I find this ‘grouping’ to be unnecessary. Some might think that they should have been considered a revolution since they fought the ‘forces’ by laying their pretty avante garde art and fantastic stories that eventually revolutionized their readers and eventually genre. Suddenly, it’s all right to read about heartbreaks because there’s “romance” in someone’s misery. Suddenly, it’s fine if the characters never get laid to begin with because all we had to see was them finally recognizing that they’re attracted to each other.
To a degree, it’s fantastic how they have brought all these changes. But at the same time, it has caused a rift within the fans for some fujoshi I’ve met to say “I’m sick of that shit. I’m here for the nasties! Give me the nasties!”
Does that fan who want the nasties make her less “forward” in her tastes? Are these fujoshi less “cultured” than those who read the New Wave? Some people have insinuated even the lack of “finesse” these fans have because they can’t “get” these New Wave artists. It’s crazy, really. But yeah… that’s the sad case of fandom isn’t it?
I think the intention of the New Wave artist was not to separate themselves from the group to appear more “cultured” or “artistic.” . And they never really did until these critics lumped them together. Many of these artists, like Asumiko, Yamashita, Aniya, Hideyoshico, and many others, actively participate in magazines that deal with the nasties on a monthly basis. Dame BL is the result of their insanity and their willingness to go crazy with BL. Libre’s X-BL series of Erotoro 18, Pink Gold 2, and BL Bukkake series is telling how they can be as naughty as the other. Their efforts in writing outside of BL is more of a litany on how they want to earn money outside a very niche market.
Perhaps it’s best to say that BL’s New Wave is not a movement but rather an age or a period where a good number of artists exhibited courage and openness in their works. You can also call it the time when BL attempted to tackle more contemporary themes and art styles in their stories. Many artists, editors, and publishers took a risk and saw how fans warmly responded to things outside of their convention. They’ve opened new possibilities for the genre and they’ve encouraged others to do the same. They’ve given us something new to read and enjoy along with the other works that are already there. Rather than be excluded, they were welcomed in an industry that has challenged conventions of girl’s and women’s comics since day 1.
With so many changes in the genre alone over the past 40 years, one can wonder what BL’s face will look like after this New Wave. I’m quite sure it’ll be exciting. Even if that means I’ll possibly read something different from the usual.
Recommended Reading for the New Wave
I’m going to stick to titles I personally like and remember. If you ask me to write them all, it’ll be crazy. You can check my spotlights on Nakamura Asumiko, Yamashita Tomoko, Est Em, and Basso for their title list.
Here’s the rest of titles that I like from other “New Wave” artists. Do note that most of them are Japanese so… yeah. Some of them will be coming in English though so just you wait!
Hideyoshico: Udagawa-cho de Mattete [eventually with DMP] (JP) Postive-kun to Negative-kun, Kanemochi-kun to Binbougami-kun, Ringo to Hachimitsu, Kare wa Barairo no Jinsei
Aniya Yuiji: Men of Tattoos, Perfect Training, (JP) Me wo Tojite Sanbyou
Okadaya Tetsuzoh: Man of Tango [eventually with Sublime], (JP) Sen
Kumota Haruko: My Darling Kitten Hair, (JP) Nobara, Shinjuku Lucky Hole
Yoneda Kou: Doushitemo Furitakunai, NightS, (JP) Saezuru wa Tobanai
One of my favorite BL manga blogs, hazukashiikedo, periodically checks BL titles considered part of the New Wave group. She’s more abreast with new titles than I am so take a chance in reading her blog and see what’s brand new. Basically, anything you’re reading now could be New Wave. I personally can’t tell the difference so just read everything! XD