Kono BL ga Yabai Cover

2016 was quite surreal as seemingly impossible things just got real. From the deaths of our cultural heroes to the figure skating anime we never realised we actually needed, 2016 was exceptionally cray. 2016’s BL titles were no exception. 
The 2017 list of BL’s “dangerous” titles, as selected by Japanese BL readers and critics for Kono BL ga Yabai, represents an audience’s thirst for something different, exciting, if not, a bit “dangerous.” This is more apparent in 2017 than in previous years as readers and critics chose stories that were definitely “yabai”. 

“Yabai” BL 

Of the many years I’ve featured the Kono BL ga Yabai list, it has never occurred to me to describe the word yabai. This list’s mainstream contemporary, Kono Manga ga Sugoi (These Manga are Amazing), is quite straightforward in describing what their list is about — awesome manga. But BL, well, whatever do they mean by yabai
Early Japanese lessons have taught me to use yabai when describing something dangerous or uncool. Eating fugu? Yabai. Fanny packs? Yabai. This sounds quite simple yet as I engaged in conversations with my Japanese friends, yabai became increasingly complex. A stormy day? Yabai. Milky Way’s giant parfaits? Yabai. Kichiku megane? Yabai. All of a sudden, yabai becomes the adjective from something bad that it’s good. Commonly used by young people, the word sometimes highlights the pleasure of enjoying something “bad”. It’s a sharp interjection like OMG or even cray. It also captures the tongue-in-cheek humour of fujoshi who know all too well that most folks would see their well-loved BL titles as dangerous, if not, yabai. Kono BL ga Yabai embraces this new meaning of yabai where boys love titles are so bad they are crazy good. For their 2017 list, it’s become increasingly apparent that BL readers in Japan take pleasure in many “yabai” titles. 
  Kono BL ga Yabai 2017 Chil-Chil BL Awards 2016
1 Yuutsu na Asa (Blue Morning) by Hidaka Shouko  Saezuru Tori wa Habatakanai by Yoneda Kou
2 Yarichin Bicchibu by Ogeretsu Tanaca Ten Count by Takarai Rihito 
3 Color Recipe by Harada  Escape Journey by Ogeretsu Tanaca
4 Chin — Jien by Monzen Yayohi Renai rubi wo tadashii furikata by Ogeretsu Tanaka 
5 Escape Journey by Ogeretsu Tanaca Hana wa saku ka by Hidaka Shouko| 
6 Jackass! by Scarlet Beriko Yondaime / Ooyamato Tatsuyuki by Scarlet Beriko | 10Dance by Inoue Satou
7 VOID by Zariya Ranmaru Koisuru Intelligence by Tange Michi 
8 Hidamari ga Kikoeru by Fumino Yuki Mothers Spirit by Enzou
9 Ten Count by Takarai Rihito Dakaretai Otoko Ichii ni Odosareteimasu by Sakurabi Hashigo
10 ROMEO by Watanabe Ajia Yoru to Asa by Harada
11 Kikoeru by Hashimoto Aoi Owaranai fukou ni tsuite no hanashi by Ogawa Chise
12 Mothers Spirit by Enzou Nemuri Otoko to Koi Otoko
13 Iberiko to Buta Koi no Dorei by SHOOWA Yuutsu na Asa by Hidaka Shouko
14 Inu mo Kuwanai by Psychedelico  Yajirushi by Harada
15 Caste Heaven by Ogawa Chise Yokosu Inu, Mekuru Yoru by Nobara Aiko
16 Motomete Yamanai by Masao Sangatsu Kaori no Keishou by Nakamura Asumiko
17 Issho tsuzukerarenai shigoto by Yamada Yugi Sabita Yoru de mo Koi wa Sasayaku by Ogeretsu Tanaca
18 MODS by Natsume Kazuki Caste Heaven by Ogawa Chise
19 Mou Ichido, Nando Demo by Aniya Yuiji Inu to Kaketsuki by Unohana
20 Yuki no Shita no Qualia by Kii Kanna  Yamada to Shounen by Mita Ori

Just like every year, Kono BL ga Yabai also compiled readers’ and critics selection of best characters! 

Best Seme: Kurose Riku, Ten Count
Best Uke: Katsuragi Tomoyuki, Yuutsu no Asa (Blue Morning)
Best Megane: Kijima Rio, Pornographer
Best Oyaji: Okuzono Shuji, Inu mo Kuwanai
Best Hetare: Kusakabe Atsumu, Caste Heaven
Best Tsundere: Tatsumi Souichi, Koisuru Boukun (The Tyrant Falls in Love)
Best Sadist: Kurose Riku, Ten Count
Best Masochist: Nagai Tarou, Utsukushii Yasai

I noted last year that BL readers in Japan have been increasingly interested in stories that test readers’ comfort zones. The days of heartwarming sweet romances take a backstep for stories that challenge fujoshi’s notions of boys love. 

Blue Morning Vol. 7 by Hidaka Shoko

This year’s top pick was Yuuutsu na Asa (Blue Morning) by Hidaka Shoko, a story about the complex relationship between a butler and his young master as he comes of age during the Meiji era. Yuuutsu na Asa began as violent romance but its latest volume, the one that made it the most “dangerous” title of 2017, highlights a positive turn in their relationship. Tomoyuki and Akihito have been embroiled in family politics in the last few volumes and latest one somehow irons out their troubles. Their reunion in the last chapter appears hopeful, with sexy times that warms Tomoyuki’s austere face. The last few pages show the two men sharing a peaceful morning together, an antithesis of their harsh beginnings. While I know I should be rejoicing, it was personally a strange sight. Does this peaceful scene justify their cruel beginning? What exactly made this moment mildly satisfying? With much reflection, I realised that Hidaka Shoko’s intricately-woven emotional narrative made their strained romance convincing, if not, beautifully believable. Like a drug, I was hooked on Yuutsu no Asa‘s melodrama. It certainly merits its dangerous title although I think its contemporaries have gone to the deeper end. 
Yarichin Bitch, Ten Count, Void, Jackass, Caste Heaven, and Mou Ichido Nando Demo all represent the increasingly prominent eroticism in boys love manga. While the glowing dicks are unavoidable thanks to Japan’s censorship laws, the steaminess and the erotic detail of many of these scenes are just cray. Gone are the innocent and almost irresponsible days of women’s boys love depictions. Most of these works seem well-informed about the erotic pleasures of homosexual men thanks to various materials and discourses that educated these artists in the last few years. From lingering hands, nipping lips, and sexual poses ripped from pages of H-manga or scenes from the latest GAV, these BL titles make it more difficult for any girl to read BL on the train. And while many of us acknowledge BL as an erotic text, these works have made me consider BL’s pornographic potential. Yes. I know some of us joke that BL is porn, but the genre itself is quite tame compared to other BL-esque titles seen online and H-manga. These works walk that strange fine line that pushes the erotic boundaries of boys love. What is certain is the permanence of this new eroticism in boys love manga. I am both excited and worried about the changes this eroticism will bring to the genre. Excited because so far it’s been offering very interesting reads. Worried because while this eroticism is rooted in women’s creativity and sexual expression, its narratives and themes will definitely be misunderstood by many. Honestly, it’s an old conundrum but that’s what these “yabai” titles are all about. 
Of course, there are still a handful of titles that captures sweet, if not innocent, boys love. Hidamari ga Kikoeru, a boys love romance between a deaf student and his classmate, captures the importance of communication in a relationship. Kii Kanna’s Yuki no Shita no Qualia is an innocent exploration of sincerity between two university students. And then there are BL stalwart authors such as Yamada Yugi whose story prove timeless. 
Of the top 20, my favourites are Escape Journey by Ogeretsu Tanaka and Mou Ichido Nando De Mo by Aniya Yuuiji. Yes. I am fully aware that these two stories share a trope that I personally love — rekindled romances. Had it not been for Minori no Te, I would have chosen Mou Ichido Nando De Mo as one of my favourite reads last year. The idea of a lover patiently waiting for his partner to recover from his amnesia is just the kind of thing this DoM fujojo enjoys. Aniya Yuiji and I rarely see eye to eye, but for this work, she totally swept my heart. I also enjoyed Scarlet Beriko’s Jackass! which was an interesting play on leg fetish but I felt it lacked the emotional cohesion of Minori no Te. I also enjoyed Inu mo Kuwanai by Psychedelico because it had an oyaji stalker, but I felt that the story also lacked cohesion. 
Beyond the top 20, I’m quite pleased that a lot of readers also shared my favourite titles from last year. My precious Ohayou to Oyasumi to Sono Ato Ni (67) finally received some love from readers. The hot omegaverse title Pendulum (25) by Hasumi Hana also got some love! A new favourite author of mine,  Unohana, was also on the list with her work Hatsukoi wo Shousuru Houhou (48). My other favourite titles included in the list are Habuyama Hebiko’s Kyattsu! (22), Ishikawa Kei’s Blue Sky Complex (76), Yamada 2Choume’s Datte Maousama wa Kare ga Kirai, Kii Kanna‘s Harukaze no Etranze, Harada’s Posi (31), and Kusama Sakae’s Yagisan Yuubin (Lost Letters, 25). 
I’m quite surprised I read a number of these titles although honestly, I’m quite upset that Itoshi no Nekokke‘s final volume did not even rank in the top 100! The “final” volume of Kei and Mii’s arc was such a beautiful ending, and yet it wasn’t even there!?! Readers voted for Kano Shiuko’s PBB in the list, and all I can say is, “That series is still ALIVE!?! AND IT’S BETTER THAN ITOSHI NO NEKOKKE!?” Moments like these make me so curious as to why readers chose specific titles over others. So, expect me to read PBB with a vengeance because I just cannot accept that people chose that over Itoshi no Nekokke! 


Tamekou's Deichuu no Hasu

Best Newcomer: TAMEKOU 

The best newcomer this year is an author whose works I have always been curious to read but never had the chance to do so because reading her works might put me in jail… at least in Australia. I am not kidding!! Tamekou’s been around as an illustrator and contributor to many BL anthologies and last year she finally released her debut work, Deichuu no Hasu. Now I don’t know what’s the story of that manga, but I’ve seen glimpses of her work in On Blue with Boku no Sex Star, a bit of Natsume-kun wa Nandemo Shitteru, and her anthology contributions. All I can say is Tamekou draws young, almost cherub-like, men in very crazy sexual situations. She’s in the same rank as Harada with a highly “shota” aesthetic. Her characters are not necessarily shota but should I find myself in front of a customs officer asking what exactly I’ve brought home, then I might find it difficult to explain Tamekou’s work. I sometimes feel criminal reading her works, but I understand its “cute” appeal. Hence, I’ll read her work from a distance and maybe when I’m out of this continent. 
Other newcomers listed were Marukido Maki with Pornographer, a story about an erotic novelist who employs a young man to assist him in writing his novels, Iimo’s Innocent, Michinoku Atami’s Iyayo iyayo mo kisu no uchi, and Nyannya’s Sweet Heart Trigger. Nyannya’s quite interesting as she’s Korean BL writer who began publishing her stories in Japan last year. I was telling a friend that Sweet Heart Trigger‘s a bit like a bad fanfic where it’s rough around the edges and is just too excited to get her characters to bang. Those familiar with BL aesthetics might find it slightly different but still enjoyable. 


Kono BL ga Yabai - Nakamura Asumiko


This year’s Kono BL ga Yabai also celebrated its 10th year anniversary! In celebration, they asked the no. 1 artists over the last ten years to draw a commemorative illustration for the list. Yuki Shimizu, Nakamura Asumiko, Koshino, Totem Pole, and Takarai Rihito drew cute illustrations featuring the characters from their winning titles. It’s amusing to note that Nakamura Asumiko won for four years for the Doukyuusei series. 
This section also listed the top ten titles enjoyed by fans in the last ten years. The list is quite interesting as it showcases the shifting interests of BL readers and critics in Japan. During the early years of the list, fans were highly focused on light-hearted romances and melodrama as they favoured artists such as Nakamura Asumiko, Kusama Sakae, and Yamashita Tomoko. This somehow changed in 2012 when BL fans chose Koshino’s romantic comedy Samejima-kun to Sasahara-kun. Since then, the list has featured a mixed bag of titles that were either batshit insane (ex. Est Em’s equus and Moto Haruhi’s Koketsu Dining), heart wrenching (ex. Takarai Rihito’s Seven Days and Hidaka Shouko’s Arashi no Ato), and downright romantic (ex. Yoneda Kou’s Soredemo Yasashii Koi wo Suru and Nakamura Asumiko’s Dokyuusei).
The editors also compiled a list of the best BL titles of all time!  
  1. The Doukyuusei Series by Nakamura Asumiko 
  2. Ze by Yuki Shimizu
  3. Yuuutsu na Asa (Blue Morning) by Hidaka Shouko 
  4. Doushitemo Furetakunai (No Touching at All) by Yoneda Kou 
  5. Love Mode by Yuki Shimizu
  6. New York New York by Ragawa Marimo 
  7. Mayonaka wo Kakeru Nukeru by Yorita Saemi 
  8. Seisoukun no Akari by Toribito Hiromi
  9. Kami-sama no Ude no Naka by Nekota Yonezou
  10. Sex Pistols (Love Pistols) by Kotobuki Tarako  
Looking at this list has also made me think about how many of these “yabai” titles have yet to be translated into English. Of the top titles in the last ten years, only Doukyuusei (Classmates via June), Samejimu-kun and Sasahara-kun (via June), and Ten Count (via Sublime) have been translated. While I’ve never felt that BL’s been uninteresting in the last ten years, I do understand the frustration of non-Japanese readers of reading the same thing over and over again. Even those who read scans also tend to read the same content as scan groups tend to favour their favourite artists. In a way, the Kono BL ga Yabai list is a reminder of BL’s growing diversity. Hopefully, this list helps publishers consider new blood. Perhaps this list might also convince you to try a new BL title. If you can read some Japanese, you can read them all at ebookjapan! 
For those who read some BL titles in the last year, did your favourite make the cut? What were your favourite titles last year? Do let me know in the comments below!