#801MMF Spotlight: BL’s New Wave

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.

Avant Garde

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.

From Yamashita Tomoko's Strobe Scope

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

Kusama Sakae: The Bed of my Dear King, The Match Seller

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


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6 thoughts on “#801MMF Spotlight: BL’s New Wave”

  • Oh this was very informative and gave me a good reason to check certain artists.

    But as you said just because these are published in the same magazine that doesn’t mean that some aren’t less lgbt-friendly or problematic in general; for example I saw the rape tag in many of the artists’ works in Baka updates and I know myself that Kumota Haruko is quite transphobic. She might use crossdressing as theme, but it’s more like paraphilia than recognition of trans* people.

  • I love finding articles such as this because they can accurately and eloquently explain what it is I like about something when I have trouble finding the words myself. I think what stands out the most to me is that “breaking of expectations,” because I’ve gotten so tired of a lot of the usual BL tropes that are being used over and over again. I got into this genre because it was so different and surprising, and I want to keep being surprised in the years to come. 🙂

    If I may add more English release info to your list of recs?

    Hideyoshico’s Udagawa-cho de Mattete has not been licensed by DMP, but her Ringo ni Hachimitsu and Kare wa Barairo no Jinsei have been (http://www.digitalmanga.com/blog/2988/the-weekly-digital-round-up-less-digital-more-fanime).

    Aniya Yuiji’s Men of Tattoos is currently available in print and digital from DMP (https://www.emanga.com/detail?itemid=497, and this one I loved so much I cried).

    Kumota Haruko has two titles available digitally from DMP (https://www.emanga.com/search?authorid=464).

    Yoneda Kou’s Doushitemo Furetakunai (No Touching at All) is available digitally from DMP, but the print version is OOP (https://www.emanga.com/detail?itemid=361). Her NightS has been licensed for print and digital by SuBLime (https://www.sublimemanga.com/news/247).

  • This article was really really interesting to me! I’ve never heard of the “New Wave” term, but i do know i have a preference for those.

    Probably is also their art (i mean before reading it that’s what catches my attention) cause you can feel a different atmosphere than, um let’s call it usual BL.

    I like more the kind of stories from “New Wave” BL but i still respect and enjoy other BL not from this movement, i totally understand and yes people should read all the kinds of BL that are out there! An interesting thing though is i have friends that aren’t really into BL, and i have heard how other friends made them read some stories (an example i can remember now is Love Mode by Shimizu Yuki) and they didn’t like at all and actually were a bit surprised/scared of it and after that preferred not to read any other again. When i read Love Mode i was already into the BL world so i actually thought it was an interesting story and i’ve read Shimizu Yuki’s works before, anyway the thing is i told my friend “Ok look i’m going to recommend you one, and believe it doesn’t have explicit content or anything like that” so sent her a link to Hideyoshico’s “Kanemochi-kun to Binbou-kun”. Next day she told she have finished reading it and it was really funny and somehow cute and that if there was more of the story.

    So with her and other people i know i’ve realized that girls (or even boys) that aren’t into BL because, you know, the usual picture they have of this genre and they try to avoid it a little actually get interested when i show them or talk about a “New Wave” BL. I guess as a way to introduce to our world a new wave could work! (mischievous laugh) but then i’m sure i can show more of the others bl to some girls and they will still love it ~

  • Thanx for another great article! I had not heard the term New Wave until you mentioned it in a response to one of my posts a while back. I never thought to separate these creators with anything as definitive as a title, but I did recognize a feeling that was both nostalgic and at the same time wholly unfamiliar when partaking in their offerings.

    I judge manga by the cover often, practically 95% of the time. and for many of the mangaka you mentioned, their cleaner compositions really appeal to my aesthetic. The fact that I don’t know what to expect and cannot easily gauge my eventual satisfaction really excites me. I have about a 98% accuracy rate in judging covers according to my personal tastes, so when I encounter these more modern, less indicative arrangements, I already feel challenged and intrigued. However, without knowing before hand, I tend to run into more things that are less impressive than I’d like, but still interesting in their own way.

    While I have my preferences as well as bridges I will never cross, I think it’s rather shortsighted for anyone to consider one brand of expression to have lesser or more merits than another. Whether I like it or not, it, being whatever you please, has an audience–otherwise it wouldn’t have been published–and that audience as well as the works they gather for has the right not to be dismissed just because someone else’s scope of satisfaction isn’t wide enough to include them. By the same token, those with precise preferences are free to frolic with blinders on.

    I share your sentiments, particularly for new recruits: read everything! It’s the best way to get to know the genre and to better understand, nurture, and expand what attracted you to it.

    Also, Nobara (Wild Rose) was released by DMG this time last year.

    Thanx again!

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