Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guest Post: GLBT Manga

Today we welcome Ninefly from Story on a Page to the GLBT Reading blog! She's here to talk about GLBT Manga, as a resource for this month's mini-challenge. Thanks Ninefly!

I'm sure many people have by now heard of the term "manga" or Japanese "comics". Series like Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece are the most popular, both in Japan and overseas. What many people may not be familiar with is the GIGANTIC (and flaunted) market for GLBTQ manga, made up of a combination of original series and pastiche/fan comics drawn for a particular pairing in an otherwise non-GLBTQ series (ex. Sasuke/Naruto). As a seasoned fan (lol) of such works, I would like to take the chance to introduce a variety of artists I've personally loved reading from. I will link to online reading sites for those who want to try things out first, as well as purchasing links so you can support the artists.

Manga are a little different from American comics in a few ways: they are mostly grayscale, feature rather intricate art, and are read from right to left. Manga are usually written and drawn by the same person, such that collaborations like Death Note are somewhat rare occurrences. Manga also feature a crapload more dialogue than the comics I've read before, maybe because Japanese characters are smaller/ more compact.
Now, a few terms to define; I won't elaborate on these terms much, but feel free to wiki them for details:
- manga = comic
- mangaka = comic artist
- doujinshi = fan comic
- yaoi / shonen-ai = boys love/gay romance
- yuri / shojo-ai = girls love/lesbian romance
Of course, I should also point out that manga feature prominently Japanese characters with Japanese customs, formalities, and complexions. Most good scanlators (fan scan-translators) offer "translator notes" for those less knowledgeable in the culture, but I'm not sure how official English publishers deal with the cultural differences.

Original GLBTQ works have their own publishers in magazines like ZeroSum (for younger audiences) and Biblio (for a more adult audience). In North America, noticeable GLBTQ manga publishers include DMP (Digital Manga Publishing), DramaQueen, and TokyoPop's BLU imprint (more here).
There are conventions every year in Japan where "doujinshi" (or fan comics) gather to sell their self-published works, and these fan comics are so overwhelmingly full of GLBTQ content, that the two have become semi-synonymous. I'm not familiar with doujinshi redistribution in North America since the doujinshi artists are technically working with copyrighted material, but members-only forums like AarinFantasy have a wide collection of "free" English fan-translated doujinshi (careful not to sell or redistribute on public forums though since it's not entirely legit).

And finally, recommendations! I will list them with the proper warnings whenever possible, as a lot of them can be a bit smutty lol

I would like to point out that the majority of GLBTQ material is made up of gay themes, and written mostly by women. That may lend to the fact that a lot of the men in these series are rather feminine, but I've tried to include a few series with androgynous and masculine men as well.

mangaka: Sumomo Yumeka
specialty: gorgeous art, slice-of-life, fluffy, young adult

♥ Same Cell Organism - the love story between two high school friends, Nakagawa and Yokota, who try to sort out their feelings as graduation draws near. Also includes: The Letter in the Attic, To Make an Angel and We Selfish Two. (warnings: just kissing)
read online or buy at Amazon
♥ The Day I Became a Butterfly - the fluffy romance between two isolated teens, Uka who is suffering from disease, and Mimi a boy who claims to hear people's deaths. Also contains: You at the End, Tokyo Alien Ulala and Planet Yours. Blue Cat is an arguably lesbian story, and there are some hetero couples too. (warnings: mild sexual themes)
read online or buy at Amazon

mangaka: Shiho Sugiura
specialty: humor, fantasy, ensemble characters, intricate plot, young adult

♥ Silver Diamond - Rakan, an orphan with great affinity with plants, meets Chigusa, a mysterious warrior who falls wounded and unconscious in his garden; with shamelessness and borderline stalker-puppy behaviour, the man convinces Rakan to come with him to save his dying world (warnings: just kissing)
read online or buy at Amazon (vol1)
♥ The Ice-Cold Demon's Tale - an orphan boy with a fatal disease, Ishuca, meets the fearsome demon Blood in the cave where he had gone to die; Blood, waiting centuries for the person who can weep the purest tear, slowly falls in love with the fearless and gentle Ishuca (warnings: mild sexual themes)
read online (no English publisher yet)

mangaka: Saika Kunieda
specialty: humor, slice of life, social angst, adult

♥ Future Lovers - science teacher Kenta has just been dumped by his wife-to-be when he gets into a drunken one-night-stand with a beautiful man; the next morning, he finds out the man is Akira, the new art teacher at his school; smut, angst, and a heartwarming romance ensue (warnings: sexual themes)
⇒ vol 1: read online or buy at Amazon
⇒ vol 2: read online or buy at Amazon

mangaka: Kaori Yuki
specialty: gothic art, dark/craziness, tragedy, adult

♥ Boys Next Door - Adrian is a hallucinating serial killer, Lawrence is a prostitute for his brother's club, their love is twisted and heartwrenching (warnings: violence and sex)
read online or buy at Amazon
♥ Cain Saga+Godchild - the young Earl Cain is looking for answers to his family's dark past, and aided by his most trusted butler Riff, he takes on solving the most brutal and twisted crimes of London; Cain and Riff never kiss or have sex, but their love for each other is never questioned, even to the bittersweet end (warnings: violence and sexual themes)
⇒ Cain Saga: read online or buy at Amazon (vol1)
⇒ Godchild: read online or buy at Amazon (vol1)

For more yaoi series to read online, check out this link.

As I've said before, there's a very small market for lesbian themes compared to the gay themes, but I've found a few series here.

mangaka: Miyabi Fujieda

♥ The Caged Miko and the Whimsical Witch - Letty the witch casually frees Tsumugi the miko/priestess from a spell binding her to her temple, but she doesn't expect Tsumugi to want her to "take responsibility" (warnings: just kissing)
read online (no English publisher yet)

mangaka: Milk Morinaga

♥ Girl Friends - after the shy and bookish Mari is approached by popular Akko, they become best friends; but as they grow closer, Mari's feelings are becoming less than platonic (warnings: mild sexual themes)
read online (no English publisher yet)

For more yuri series to read online, check out this link.

There are quite a few gender-bending doujinshi (where one male character from an official series is turned into a girl, or vice versa), but less original series. These are the ones I've tried before:

mangaka: Mikiyo Tsuda

♥ The Day of Revolution - when Kei finds out that he is actually a girl, she "restarts" her life with a new identity as Megumi; but when her male friends find out, despite her trying to hide it, they all decide to start hitting on her! (warnings: just kissing)
read online or buy at Amazon (vol1)

mangaka: Setona Mizushiro

♥ After School Nightmare - Mashiro has been keeping a secret: he's neither fully male nor fully female; when his school enforces a new policy that mandates students to participate in "shared nightmare" therapy, Mashiro's secret is in danger of getting out, even as two classmates, a boy and a girl, start to show interest in him (warnings: sexual themes, craziness)
read online or buy at Amazon (vol1)

A note of warning for those who want to search for their own series: a lot of adult GLBTQ manga/doujinshi is rather smutty and borders on pr0n, so please heed any warnings you see. Usually you can judge the smut level by the covers though lol. Fell free to email me at ninefly(at)gmail(dot)com if you would like more specific recommendations =)


Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

lol, Kaori Yuki and Sumomo Yumeka pimp! Yay~ (I'm not sure how I feel about Count Cain 'counting' as GLBT manga though?)

Hmm, I'm not sure I agree with you about the 'lesser market' for yuri. I mean, yes it's true for U.S. and Canadian markets in terms of lesser yuri manga imports, but I think yuri manga and all its conventions goes way back to Tezuka's time... I'm pretty sure the market is pretty large and vibrant over in Japan. (Can't say this with 100% surety, but I suspect it's true) And no mention of Utena in Yuri section?! That's classic GL, or at least classic gender bender (though different from the gender bender stuff a la Hana-Kimi from nowadays...). Or the modern ones that are pretty big name and available to the US audience, like Strawberry Panic, etc. For a Yuri devoted site that provides access to Yuri manga (as oppose to scanlations) both in English and Japanese, there's always Yuricon.

The thing with the gender bender genre, as fun as it is, is that they're usually used either for laughs or they're kinda the temporary situation a girl ends up in until she lands 'the guy'. (I'm thinking the Hana-Kimi types that are so prevalent). Rarely do they ever address bisexuality or even transgenderism... Though not to say there's none. Just, you have to go looking for them, and certainly I don't recall any licensed manga imports to the U.S. market in the recent times...

And of course, to complicate things, there's the whole Bara (sp??) genre that's supposed to be gay manga geared towards men who are gay, and how yaoi is female-orientated etc etc, but I won't pretend I know much about the Bara genre enough to distinguish between the two so yeahhhhhh.

Andrea said...

Great post! Very informative.

mee said...

Ninefly's post and Ah Yuan's comment is SO informative! I grew up with manga so I read hundreds of them (thousands?), but I'm not familiar much with the GLBTQ genre (mostly because of unavailability). Might try one you recommended above if you can read it online! I knew about yaoi and yuri, but Bara genre? I just heard of it.

Talking about gender-bender, though many manga may not be categorized to be in such genre, but gender-bender characters are quite prevalent in many manga and Japanese games, or just character whose gender is "confusing" to reader (on purpose by the author I think). Perhaps it is due to the fact that Asian guys could look/act quite feminine :).

One manga that I suddenly remembered about in this genre is Ranma 1/2!

ninefly said...

@ ah yuan
I was debating about Cain and Wild Adapter too, but I personally categorized them both as "love" in my head...maybe I should stick to the ones with actual sexual relationships? dunno...
oh right! completely forgot Utena! you should do a guest post on yuri manga since you probably know more than I do orz
yeah, I'm wary of genderbender like Princess Princess where it's mostly humor...and I wasn't sure if I should include Ranma 1/2...
I've read about the bara genre, but I personally cannot recommend anything since I haven't tried any either...and plus most scanlations are of yaoi, which is the decidedly larger market english-wise as well
but anyways, if you can think of anything else, post it here, I'm sure I haven't thought of all the good series XD;

Anonymous said...

That was a really helpful post, thanks! I'm rpetty new to graphic novels and have never even tried manga (yet), so I appreciated the way you laid out the details so clearly.