Intersections: GloBLisation and Hybridisation: Publishers' Strategies for Bringing Boys' Love to the United States

Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 20, April 2009

GloBLisation and Hybridisation:
Publishers' Strategies for Bringing Boys' Love to the United States[1]

Dru Pagliassotti

  1. Research on globalisation addresses the transnational political and economic power relations that affect the movement of cultural products between regions and the ways in which these products are appropriated and inscribed by various receivers.[2] Although many popular discussions of globalisation focus on the one-way flow of Western cultural products into other nations, in fact the flow has never been unidirectional. For example, in 2002, Douglas McGray coined the term 'gross national cool' to describe the widespread success of Japan's pop-culture exports to other countries,[3] the same year that Koichi Iwabuchi published a book analysing the transnational movement of Japanese popular culture through Asia.[4]
  2. One of the Japanese cultural exports that has gained immense popularity in the United States is manga, or the Japanese graphic novel; in 2007, U.S. manga sales reached $210 million.[5] Manga's success as a global commodity may be related to its cultural 'odourlessness.' Koichi Iwabuchi argued that while some global commodities retain negatively valenced references to their country of origin, such as the association of McDonalds with the United States, others, while still being associated with their country of origin, are culturally odourless—for example, Japanese comics and cartoons do not necessarily call to mind 'a particular culture or country.'[6] Naturally, cultural products are more easily perceived to be familiar within regions that share cultural similarities with the point of origin; however, while the very act of reading 'unflopped'[7] Japanese manga, and their stories' many references to Japanese dress, habits, and culture, may make manga less easily received within Anglo-European countries, manga's characters can be interpreted as representing a variety of ethnicities, depending on the reader's cultural biases and aesthetic expectations.[8] Furthermore, adaptations of the manga may be made to render them more suitable for a specific cultural marketplace.
  3. A globalised product requires 'adaptation to local parameters of tastes and styles' and may involve a level of coproduction between corporations to share risk and attempt to maximise profit.[9] An example of this adaptation, or hybridisation, occurred in the popular U.S. version of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which featured American-looking actors, increased focus on the female team members, and an Americanised version of teen life.[10] Similarly, the Pokémon anime series was cut and repackaged for the U.S. market by removing or altering Japanese signs and references to Japanese life and culture and by altering or eliminating violent or sexualised content.[11] By contrast, the Sailor Moon anime series was less popular in the U.S., according to Anne Allison, because it was insufficiently hybridised—the producers left in too many culturally specific references to Japanese life and failed to adapt the series in a way that would satisfactorily address American gender expectations for a female superhero.[12] In other words, strategies of hybridisation successfully rendered the Power Rangers and Pokémon culturally odourless but left Sailor Moon too 'Japanese' to be easily assimilated and appreciated by young U.S. viewers.
  4. Although manga may be in large part culturally odourless, they, too, are subject to hybridisation as they move into the global marketplace. For example, manga as a whole are differently imported, marketed and received in the United States compared to Japan—U.S. publishers' decisions to avoid certain themes or to adapt certain content inevitably affects the way manga are presented and understood in the United States. In addition, 'manga' as a style has been hybridised by non-Japanese artists and writers who create their own manga but incorporate slightly different artistic styles or thematic expectations—which is perhaps the completion of a circle, since Japan itself has been described as a hybrid nation[13] and contemporary Japanese manga are themselves a hybridisation of Japanese and Western artistic techniques.[14]
  5. One type of manga that has found success in the United States is called boys' love (BL), a genre of women's manga that revolves around stories of male homoerotic romance.[15] For the most part, boys' love is written and illustrated by women for women, with an assumption of a heterosexual readership. BL has enjoyed widespread popularity across Asia and is now replicating that popularity in Anglo-European countries, as well.
  6. Boys' love's popularity in the U.S. may be attributable to several factors. First, it is essentially a form of romance, and romance has proved to be universally popular and accessible over thousands of years of mythmaking and storytelling. Readers can choose stories that best suit their preferences, from stories that go little further than hand-holding to stories that detail explicit sexual acts, in a variety of settings, from the fantastic to the horrific to the contemporary or commonplace. Second, boys' love taps into a pre-existing Western readership for slash, a form of fanfiction dedicated to male/male homoerotic relationships. While boys' love and slash differ in several significant ways,[16] their similarities have led to a crossover in readership. Third, boys' love has been characterised by some fans as 'better than romance' by sidestepping gender-based identification and stereotyping—a topic that has been discussed elsewhere.[17] Yet, while BL is transnationally popular, it is still a relatively new and unusual genre within the United States. Publishers have faced particular challenges associated with boys' love that make it an interesting example of the ways in which a globalised cultural commodity may emerge as a hybridisation within a particular region.
  7. This paper describes the strategies of avoidance, adaptation and coproduction that have been pursued by publishers to bring Japanese boys' love manga successfully and profitably into the United States.[18] In particular, U.S. publishers' adaptation strategies have either attempted to avoid licensing material with potentially offensive content or to adapt that material by eliminating or changing potentially offensive images or words. In one case, a coproduction strategy was followed to exert greater control over the content from its development. In addition, some publishers have concentrated on producing and distributing non-Japanese boys' love manga, which is characterised here as a more specific type of cultural hybrid combining Western comic styles and expectations with Japanese manga styles and boys' love conventions.
  8. All of this, driven by actual or perceived market necessity or opportunity, changes the BL genre as it localises it to a particular regional market. This change, a form of hybridisation, occurs on both the largest level of genre understanding and reception and on the individual levels of material production, as the manga read in the United States may differ in textual meaning and imagery from those originally published in Japan, even granted the necessary adaptations of translation. Thus, BL is truly gloBL; that is, a globally popular, hybridised commodity that is actively being changed and developed as it is appropriated and adapted by consumers across a transnational marketplace.

  9. Japanese boys' love manga—most commonly known in the United States as yaoi—broke into the U.S. mass market in early 2003 with TokyoPop's release of the popular 'older-teen' rated BL series Fake and Gravitation in English. BL's spread through the U.S. proceeded rapidly over the next three years, with a number of publishers either dedicated solely to BL or adding BL titles to their line-up joining the industry. However, in 2007, the same year Publisher's Weekly declared that boys' love was no longer niche,[20] the industry began showing signs of strain. While several new publishers entered the BL market, others stopped publishing or cancelled titles.
  10. Halfway through 2008, industry observers wondered if the boys' love market was in trouble. On the growth side, a new original English-language (OEL) yaoi magazine and a new yaoi convention were started, and more companies ventured into the BL field. By contrast, closures, silences, layoffs, and cutbacks struck other BL publishers. Industry observers speculated that the BL market had been glutted with more titles than consumer demand could support.[21]
  11. Starting in February 2008, I issued an invitation to take a 27-question survey to ten publishers. At the time, the major active U.S. BL publishers were Better with Boys, which publishes Yaoi Magazine; Tokyopop's BLU; Boysenberry; Deux; Juné and its sister company 801 Media, both of which are owned by Digital Manga, Inc.; Kitty Media's BoyBoy; and Yaoi Press. Invitations were also sent to Be Beautiful and DramaQueen, both of which had stopped publishing but had not closed. The invitations were sent by post and, when possible, also by email. The survey was created using Zoomerang Pro and offered online at MangaResearch.Com. Publishers could request that responses be kept anonymous when the data was reported and could skip any question. A copy of the full survey can be found in Appendix 1.
  12. TokyoPop/BLU (twenty-two boys' love titles), Juné 801 Media (about 160 boys' love titles between the two), Yaoi Press (thirty-six boys' love titles), and Better with Boys (over twenty-five single-authored boys' love titles and multicontributor Yaoi Magazine) responded to the survey. Answers for Juné and 801 Media were provided by the same DMP representative, so they are counted as one company in this paper. Some responses have been left unattributed in this paper to obscure the identity of publishers requesting anonymity.
  13. Boys' love is not, at first glance, a likely market for a U.S. publisher to embrace. Depictions of male/male eroticism and sex in boys' love manga can cause consternation in a culture like the United States', which still popularly associates comics with children, especially boys,[22] and tends to avoid overt sexual content in its comics mainstream. However, boys' love has enjoyed a widespread fan base in the United States, with manga and anime fans demanding panels and even separate conventions dedicated to boys' love. This pre-existing fan base influenced publishers' decisions to enter the BL marketplace.
  14. The larger publishers who responded to this survey had all been involved in the manga market before adding boys' love titles to their offerings. They reported that their observations of BL's commercial success elsewhere—either in Japan or, for newer companies, in the U.S. —was their primary reason for venturing into boys' love publishing. In these cases, although some employees within the publishing houses may have had a personal interest in boys' love, the primary corporate concern was commercial, and publishers approached the genre from a corporate point of view.
  15. The smaller publishers who responded to the survey, on the other hand, cited personal interest in boys' love as their primary reason for entering the industry. Although certainly commercial interests played some role in their decision, these publishers approached the genre from a fan's or consumer's point of view. Yet although their reasons for entering the boys' love marketplace differed, publishers all shared, to a large extent, similar concerns.
  16. David Morley and Kevin Robins described the 'global-local' nexus as the 'relation between globalising and particularising dynamics in the strategy of the global corporation.'[23] Although the U.S.-based boys' love publishers in this survey may not be global corporations in the sense that they have production and sales offices in a variety of nations, to the extent that they are licensing and translating works from a variety of international sources for a transnational English-speaking market, they are engaged in the production and distribution of boys' love (or manga in general) as a globalised commodity.
  17. Yet this is not a globalised commodity that remains the same from Japan to the United States; on the contrary, the boys' love genre is re-localised by U.S. publishers to reflect the 'distinctive identities and interests of local and regional communities,'[24] in this case, a combination of the Anglophone boys' love fandom community and the larger Anglophone, Western community within which the corporations must produce, market, and sell their works. That is, when choosing which manga to license and translate, U.S. boys' love publishers must take into account not only fan demand but also the social mores and laws of any country in which they hope to sell their material. Thus, publishers act as cultural gatekeepers, deciding which products will reach the U.S. marketplace and, to some extent, shaping U.S. consumers' understanding of the genre.[25] In other words, U.S. publishers' decisions re-create the boys' love genre in the United States not as the original, so-called 'authentic' genre that developed in Japan, but rather as a hybrid, particularised, localised genre that reflects local laws and social taboos and local fans' demands and preferences. Publishers avoid certain material and adapt other material.

    Strategies of avoidance
  18. Although one might assume that U.S. publishers would only license the safest and most generic forms of BL manga, publishers have been willing to take risks in the types of content they license. Table 1 shows the potentially controversial subjects publishers report having published or planning to publish in the near future:

    Table 1. Controversial depictions

    Underage drinking and drug use
    Explicitly drawn/described sexual acts between men
    Sadistic sex (S&M or B&D)
    Nonconsensual sex
    Sex between male relatives who are not brothers, parents or sons
    Sex between stepbrothers
    Sex between half brothers
    Sex between full brothers
    Sex with or between teenaged partners from 13-17
    Sex with or between partners 12 or under
    Sex with an animal or quasi-animal, such as a shapeshifter
    Sex with an inhuman entity, such as a demon, angel, goblin, etc.
    Teacher/student relationships (write-in response**)
    *One publisher simply reported, 'there shouldn't be any difference.'
    **In retrospect, this should have been offered in the survey, as it's not an unusual pairing in BL.

    Yet even given the potentially offensive content publishers have decided to include, certain types of content are generally agreed to present more risks than rewards in the U.S. marketplace.
  19. Several of the controversial depictions listed involve incest. Incest storylines are not uncommon in Japanese erotic manga; Timothy Perper and Martha Cornog wrote about one such series, 'the plots have no relationship to the realities of incest, but present an amused and sardonic vision of the foibles and powers of sexual desire…No one can keep their hands off each other in these stories.'[26] However, the surveyed U.S. publishers agreed that stories including sex between closely related relatives were best avoided in the United States, where such depictions are less common, especially in comic books. One publisher reported that it would not print work depicting sex between half- or full brothers, and two publishers reported that they would not print works depicting father/son sex.
  20. Yet because U.S. publishers' desire to please fans while still avoiding controversy must be balanced, incest is not entirely avoided. For example, DramaQueen's licensed Brother depicted graphic sex between stepbrothers, and Yaoi Press owner Yamila Abraham's blog reported that fan interest in incest storylines was one reason she decided to include the uncle/nephew incest in Dark Prince, despite having been 'scared' to publish it.[27] In a separate communication with the author, Better with Boys publisher Sarah Payne said, 'I'll write it, I'll publish it…but it needs to have a reason.' Both Payne and Abraham noted that incest in boys' love appeals to some readers because it is clearly presented as a romantic fantasy, not a representation of real-world incest. Payne pointed to V.C. Andrews' bestselling Dollanganger novels, beginning with Flowers in the Attic, as an example of romanticised consensual incest in popular fiction. Incest in boys' love, its fans argue, operates in the same way. This question over the extent to which fictional images are received as fantasy or reality is at the core of many media effects discussions, especially the controversy over virtual child pornography. Child pornography laws and taboos pose another challenge for BL publishers.
  21. Shota is a Japanese term colloquially used to describe manga depicting male children or childlike characters engaging in sex with each other or male adults[28] —a form of virtual child pornography. Virtual child pornography is illegal in Australia and Canada, although to date it has been protected in the United States.[29] However, U.S. publishers still baulk from licensing it. One publisher noted, 'while not illegal in the U.S., it offends our company's sense of decency. We have gotten many fan requests for stories that deal with shota, but we won't publish them or anything close that gives us creepy vibes.' Another said, 'shota is a definite no.'
  22. As shown in Table 1, no survey respondent was interested in publishing manga depicting sex with or between partners twelve years old or under, although one reported publishing a short story or novel in which a character's backstory revealed his being forced into non-consensual sex as a young boy.
  23. A similar situation occurs in Be Beautiful's[30] publication of Midaresomenishi: A Legend of Samurai Love, by popular manga artist Kazuma Kodaka. In Midaresomenishi, the samurai Shirou is controlled by a bandit leader when Shirou's little brother Fujimaru is held hostage; over the course of the manga, Fujimaru is raped by several adults. Be Beautiful's disclaimer noted that all characters having sex were nineteen or older —although Fujimaru appears much younger than that[31] —and the publisher followed a strategy of adaptation (discussed below) to reduce the effect of the most troubling panel. Moreover, the story depicts Fujimaru's abuse as violent and unromanticised, which differentiates it from the more typically consensual sex depicted in shota. Avoiding any clear indication of character age is another strategy artists or publishers may employ. Yaoi Press reported that in its series Cain, the street urchin Vanqisher is characterised as being young but the story never states his age.

    Figure 1. The character Vanquisher. Image from Cain, Vol. 2. Copyright © 2008 Yaoi Press LLC. Artwork by Le Peruggine.

  24. Observance of social taboos is not the only reason for publishers to avoid publishing depictions of underage sex, of course. As long as virtual child pornography remains illegal in other Anglophone countries, U.S.-based publishers who hope to attract consumers living outside the United States are not likely to spend the time and money needed to license and translate material that would be impossible to sell in their largest secondary markets. Demands of profitability may be as important a consideration as individual or corporate morality.
  25. Yet, as is the case with incest, some licensed titles do include romantic or sexual tension between underage and adult characters. For example, Loveless, licensed in the U.S. by TokyoPop, has been labelled shota or shota-like by some readers because twenty-year-old Soubi Agatsuma kisses, touches, and declares his love for twelve-year-old catboy Ritsuka Aoyagi.In the BL volume Wagamana Kitchen, licensed by Juné, a flashback panel shows a youth of indeterminate age bathing a child, accompanied by the words: 'When Takashi was little…we would take baths together…Now I'm convinced that…The reason things turned out this way is because of how I was back then' (ellipses in original). In neither case, however, do the relationships between adult and child include intercourse, which may be why they are deemed acceptable, even though sexual tension between adults and children is rarely addressed in non-manga comics within the United States.
  26. It is possible that suggesting underage sexuality or sexual awareness is more acceptable to U.S. readers when it is in manga rather than Western-style comics. U.S. boys' love artist Tina Anderson argued that Western readers can enjoy shota because the characters are drawn in manga's exaggerated, unrealistic style, so that the children are obviously fantasies. However, she added,

      many creators and fans who like Japanese Shotakon [I include myself in these ranks] have a real issue with underage males depicted in erotic art, drawn in a pointedly western style. Why? Because 'Western shota'…is just too real.[32]

  27. The youthful appearance of characters in manga poses another intercultural challenge to marketing BL in the U.S. For example, TokyoPop has received high fan demand for Gravitation Remix, a self-published comic (doujinshi) by the mangaka of the popular Gravitation series that contains graphic sex scenes between the male characters. However, 'they involve very underage-looking characters and incest, and they're very explicit,' the publisher reported. Reader perception affects marketplace reception, and U.S. readers may perceive characters in manga in ways that Japanese readers do not (see, for example, Endnote 8).
  28. Other types of sexual acts may also strike publishers as risky to depict in the U.S. marketplace. For example, TokyoPop reported in the survey that although it had initially been reluctant to publish the fan-requested UnderGrand Hotel title, which contains 'prison sex—some very violent,' it reported it has since made an offer for the title.
  29. Although BL publishers are careful about the material they choose to license, several of the surveyed publishers reported receiving complaints about the content of their BL publications. The DMP representative for Juné and 801 Media reported that the company has sometimes received messages from concerned parents; the company responds to them by explaining the age rating and warning labels on each volume and describing its distinctive labelling. It also makes recommendations for titles appropriate for the child's age. The representative added,

      Ultimately, it is up to the individual retailers who sell our books to consumers to ensure that 13-year-olds aren't buying Mature or Adult rated books. We are very open and honest about the content of our books. But there is only so much that we can do as the publisher. Honestly, there is a lot of shojo manga out there that is more explicit than the majority of the yaoi we publish. So, complaints aren't limited to just yaoi manga. We get complaints about boobs and fan service[33] in our mainstream books.

  30. Consumers are not the only potential complainants. TokyoPop noted, 'We've never had any content complaints from consumers, but retailers have expressed concern over student/teacher material.' As will be seen in the next section, the opinions of distributors and retailers are taken seriously when it comes to marketing BL manga.
  31. U.S. boys' love publishers, then, act as cultural gatekeepers, choosing to license only those BL manga that avoid the strongest Western taboos and that, therefore, are most likely to be commercial successes both in the United States and in other English-speaking countries. Publishers consider not only legal issues but also their personal preferences and perceptions of readers' preferences. In doing so, they contribute to the overall hybridisation of the boys' love genre as a global commodity; that is, the genre itself is a commodity that crosses national and cultural boundaries but takes different forms as it is adapted to the demands and preferences of different local communities.
  32. Further hybridisation of boys' love can occur at the individual issue level as specific words or images are altered from the original for a regional audience. The decision to adapt, rather than simply avoid, a manga is a more potentially controversial strategy for publishers to pursue.

    Strategies of adaptation
  33. That cultural products must be adapted from local market to local market is not a new observation, and of course translation demands adaptation. In the case of manga, personal names, culture-specific references, dialects, and slang are all subject to change during translation.[34] But images may also be adapted; for example, the level of nudity and sexual content acceptable in Japan has been particularly problematic for U.S. manga publishers. Publishers such as DC Comics,[35] Del Rey Manga,[36] and Viz[37] have edited or announced an intention to edit content for sexual or other imagery[38] and faced protests from prospective readers as a result. This protest has, on occasion, changed the publishers' minds.
  34. Yet despite the potential for controversy, if fans demand a potentially problematic work and the work's likelihood of commercial success seems high, publishers may choose to license and adapt it, anyway.

    Table 2. Adaptations that the surveyed publishers report having made to boys' love manga they have published in the U.S.

    # of Publishers
    Added disclaimer declaring that all characters engaged in sex are 18 or older
    Changed the original cover, either eliminating it entirely or reproducing it inside and using a less controversial or explicit image for the cover
    Eliminated an illustration
    Altered the accepted translation of certain words or situations

  35. For example, in 2004, fans protested when Be Beautiful eliminated several frames in Kizuna Vol. 1 that depicted elementary schoolboy Kai kissing young-adult yakuza soldier Masa on the lips. Although Be Beautiful did not respond to this survey, it seems reasonable to speculate that concern over the age taboo prompted the change, especially since Kai and Masa become lovers as adults much later in the series. Be Beautiful made a more subtle alteration in Midaresomenishi: A Legend of Samurai Love, by placing a dialog balloon over the torso of young Fujimaru, who is being assaulted by three adult men in the frame; this adaptation did not seem to raise protest (see Endnote 31).
  36. Not surprisingly, given the earlier discussion of avoidance strategies, a number of the adaptations publishers reported that they made for the U.S. market involve the images or ages of young characters. For example, Yaoi Press reported reprinting one of its boys' love graphic novels with a story replaced because the youth of some of its characters could be considered objectionable, and in another story it removed an illustration showing a very young boy climbing out of a bathtub. TokyoPop reported that in a few of its early books it left out references to a young character's age when brought up in casual conversations, although it did not change age references when age was more explicitly specified in the text.
  37. Cover art has occasionally posed another problem for publishers; sometimes the original Japanese cover is too explicit for U.S. distributors and retailers, but covers are an important selling point for a volume, especially if it has been shrink-wrapped (see below). DMP/Juné reported that the original title of one of its publications, A.N.A.L., concerned retailers:

      so we had to change the name to All Nippon Airlines: Paradise at 3,000 Feetand we altered the cover to remove the ANAL from the wing of the plane…However, we printed the real 'ANAL' cover in all its glory and made it available to consumers. They could either pick it up from us at a convention or send us 3 stamps and we would mail it to them.

    Sharp-eyed readers could still discern the acronym on the cover, as the first letter of each word in the airline's name was emphasised. The choice to change the cover but be open to consumers about the reason behind the change and give a chance to obtain the original seemed to satisfy readers.
  38. Similarly, TokyoPop changed the original cover of Man's Best Friend by 'switching an image of a man in a bikini with a pistol over his crotch for the interior colour page, which was a safer choice for a cover. The original cover was reproduced inside.' Again, this decision was not kept secret; at a publisher's panel at Yaoi-Con, the TokyoPop representative spoke openly about the choice, to the groans and laughter of attendees.

    Figures 2 and 3. A new cover for Man's Best Friend was created for the U.S. market from internal art found in the original Japanese edition; the original image from the Japanese cover was reproduced inside the English-language volume. Images courtesy of TokyoPop. INU MO ARUKEBA FALLIN LOVE © KAZUSA TAKASHIMA 2004. Originally published in Japan in 2004. English translation rights arranged with Libre Publishing Co., Ltd.
  39. However, not all adaptations originate with U.S. publishers or involve sexual contexts. TokyoPop reported that 'Biblos/Libre (the original Japanese publisher) actually suggested/requested that we remove a swastika from a character dressed up as a Nazi soldier, since they've encountered problems with that in the past in reference to licensors'.[39] Better with Boys reported, 'we recently published a mini-manga featuring a stripper wearing a cat suit where, originally, this stripper was an anthropomorphic cat boy; but the artist compromised, still including the cat aspect but leaving the character as fully human.' BWB's owner Payne explained that she did not want to offend any Western readers who might associate cat-boys with bestiality.
  40. Another adaptive strategy that BL publishers may pursue is to restrict readers' access to manga containing explicit images. Shrink-wrapping volumes that contain especially violent or sexual images is a standard procedure in the United States to prevent children from seeing potentially offensive material. Although many U.S. stores have set aside special shelves for adult magazines or erotic novels, few have set aside shelves for adult manga. As a result, shrink-wrapping acts as a compromise that encourages retailers to place adult-themed manga or novels alongside children's material rather than isolate it in a less accessible or desirable part of the store. Boys' love titles were among the first manga to be shrink-wrapped in the major U.S. bookstore chains, although more have followed suit as publishers increase the number of violent or heterosexually explicit titles they offer.
  41. While less controversial an 'adaptation' than actually altering text or images, shrink-wrapping still changes the way in which boys' love is received in the U.S.; it visibly signifies[40] that the contents are socially unacceptable in some way, lending the genre an illicit connotation that may not be present for boys' love in Japan.
  42. Similarly, Yaoi Magazine specifies on its website that it mails 'each magazine in a plain envelope marked simply as Y.M./BWBP on the return address label.' This plain-cover strategy functions much like shrink-wrapping, inasmuch as it suggests to the consumer that boys' love may be potentially embarrassing to receive in the post; perhaps something to be hidden from postal workers, housemates, or coworkers.
  43. Both shrink-wrapping and mailing under a plain cover are marketing decisions that, while perhaps necessary for the successful distribution of the material, alter the local meaning of the boys' love genre by changing its method of reception in the U.S. from its method of reception in Japan. Adult-rated boys' love material is designated by such strategies as being different, as being potentially dangerous or indecent, and the consumer who takes the shrink-wrapped volume to the cash register or receives the plain envelope in the mail is more likely to do so with an awareness of engaging in a marginalised, perhaps socially stigmatised, act.
  44. The focus of this paper has been on BL manga; however, several of the surveyed publishers have started licensing BL novels, as well, and Yaoi Magazine combines original manga and short stories. In general, although BL is best known in the U.S. in the form of manga, several publishers have started licensing BL novels, and Yaoi Magazine combines manga and short stories. In general, the same avoidance and adaptation strategies that have been applied to BL manga are being applied to BL novels. Two publishers pointed out in the survey that there should not be any difference between acceptable versus unacceptable content in manga vs. novels, but one added that prose is treated more leniently under U.S. law: 'When you add pictures, you start getting into the issue of whether or not something can be classified as pornography or literature. All written works are considered works of literary merit and therefore not pornography.'[41] Another publisher noted that it would include underage sex in a story, if relevant to the plot, whereas it would not publish it in manga. TokyoPop wrote, 'I guess in theory, the novels could be more explicit, but I think we actually erred on the side of being more conservative, since it's a little more unusual to shrink-wrap and put a rating on a prose book.' Nevertheless, the boys' love novel S Vol. 1 from Juné was found shrink-wrapped in Borders due to its sexually explicit interior illustrations. Table 1 indicates some of the differences between what has been published in BL manga and BL novels.

    Strategies of hybridisation
  45. Boys' love can be characterised as a hybridised genre to the extent that it has been adapted from one cultural context to another in very specific, locally contextualised ways. Decisions to avoid publishing certain types of boys' love mean that the genre as a whole is understood and received differently from one market to another, and decisions to adapt the text or images of particular volumes also serves to turn those volumes into hybridised publications, changed to suit the demands of a particular locale. To that extent, both the avoidance and the adaptation strategies described above may be considered strategies of hybridisation.
  46. However, there is another significant method by which boys' love is being hybridised, and that is the genre's appropriation and reinterpretation by non-Japanese artists who re-produce it in a form that combines different cultural styles and understandings. Boys' love artist and writer Tina Anderson coined the term 'GloBL' to encourage an understanding of boys' love beyond the genre's Japanese roots. GloBL is an especially useful term to use when considering boys' love manga as a hybrid artistic and narrative form.
  47. The term 'hybrid' is weighted with theoretical implications and value judgments.[42] A hybrid medium, ritual, or commodity can be seen as a site for the preservation or re-establishment of cultural identity or as a homogenised cultural pastiche facilitating globalised economics. In the latter sense, 'hybridity, then, is not just amenable to globalization. It is the cultural logic of globalization.'[43] Because manga's adoption and emulation by artists outside of Japan is more a result of cultural appreciation than cultural resistance, it is this second understanding of hybridity, as pastiche, that seems most relevant when considering GloBL. Yet this is not to suggest any cultural privileging of the 'hybrid' over the 'authentic'; U.S. publishers, for example, have found it challenging to gain acceptance for original English-language (OEL) manga, as many readers prefer to read 'authentic' Japanese manga in translation.
  48. Two of the publishers participating in this survey specialise in non-Japanese BL—Yaoi Press and Better with Boys. In addition, DMP, Juné's parent company, publishes a hybridised form of manga that it calls Japanese Original English-Language manga, or JOEL.
  49. JOEL is similar in most respects to traditional Japanese-language BL. The central difference, Juné explained, is that in JOEL, 'the manga are created by our company for an American audience, but we still use Japanese artists.' This is the sort of cultural co-production described by Kraidy as a corporate strategy for reducing the risk, and maximising the potential profit, of a globalised product.[44] The JOEL strategy gives Juné the advantage of owning an artist's work and exerting control over its content and direction, which is important when planning a marketing campaign. Otherwise, surprises can occur. For example, Juné described in the survey one of its experiences with a licensed title still being created in Japan:

      [Our Kingdom] started off as a book rated Young Adult. But by volume 5 we had to change the age rating to Mature. Now we are crossing our fingers that the remaining volumes don't get too out of control! With our own material, we can determine the age rating up front and make sure the story stays there.

  50. Juné's strategy of commissioning original BL manga directly from a Japanese artist reduces its production and marketing risks; however, while it is an example of crossnational coproduction, JOEL is only a hybrid in the broadest sense of the term; there are relatively few marks of multiculturalism to be perceived within the text. Henry Jenkins described similar products as a result of corporate hybridity—'a corporate strategy, one that comes from a position of strength rather than vulnerability or marginality, one that seeks to control rather than contain transcultural consumption.'[45] JOEL retains the 'authenticity' of Japanese BL manga but is made specifically for a U.S.-based market.
  51. Original manga created by Western or Western-trained artists, on the other hand, tend to combine manga's artistic style with Western expectations of layout and storyline to create a more immediately identifiable cultural pastiche. Abraham of Yaoi Press said that Western manga uses more text in dialog boxes and offers detailed panels that leave less empty space on the page. Japanese manga are intended to be read very quickly, whereas in Western manga, 'we attempt to utilize each page fully both through the art and the story to give the reader 60 to 90 minutes worth of reading for each 152-page graphic novel,' Abraham said. 'Although the OEL graphic novel is beholden to the manga style (placing greater importance on the beauty of the characters, relying more on screentones than inks for shading, as well as other subtle differences) the pages flow and read differently.'

    Anderson noted that another difference between Japanese and Western boys' love manga can be found in sex scenes. She observed that Western BL artists are more likely to explicitly portray the sex act and genitals and to avoid the Japanese 'seme X uke' convention[46] (the seme is more or less a dominant 'top' and the uke a passive 'bottom'; this convention can be manipulated to provide character motivation and humour). Similarly, Payne, of Better with Boys, said that in her original English-language BL fiction she tries to avoid the Japanese cliché of a sexually reluctant uke and prefers to write about characters who accept and enjoy being gay.[47]

    Figure 4. Western manga combines Western and Japanese artistic and layout conventions to create a hybridised work, as seen in this panel from Winter Demon, Vol. 3. Copyright © 2008 Yaoi Press LLC. Artwork by Le Peruggine.

  52. The attempt by some artists to mesh manga with non-Japanese graphic styles and story conventions has raised sociologically familiar arguments over authenticity versus hybridisation, with some readers refusing to purchase anything other than 'authentic' Japanese manga. 'Some people don't believe manga is 'manga' unless it's made in Japan,' noted one publisher responding to the survey. Reporting that its greatest challenge up until mid-2006 was winning over fans to non-Japanese BL manga, Yaoi Press has based its publication strategy on seeking out well-known boys' love artists outside of Japan, such as the Spanish art studio Kôsen, Italian artist team Dany & Dany, French artist M.A. Sambre, Indonesian artist Rhea Silvan, and Brazilian artist Amelia Woo. Better with Boys reported that finding high-quality local artists and writers for its Yaoi Magazine has been a challenge because the original English-language BL community is still growing.
  53. Critics of hybridisation point to the political implications of the appropriation of one culture's traditions, styles, or resources by another, often characterising hybridisation as a commercial co-option that elides the political or economic inequalities between two cultures.[48] Japan is, however, not a developing nation. It has engaged in an exchange of popular culture with Western countries for decades, recently enjoying a unique level of cultural 'cool'[49] and a strengthening currency that has made it one of the foremost international powers. Thus, it seems difficult to argue that GloBL exploits political or economic inequity, valorising its hybridity and rendering the original Japanese creators of BL manga invisible. Certainly, GloBL publishers have an economic interest in appropriating and selling boys' love manga that is created outside of Japan; boys' love is a commodity within the culture industry that has been and is being assimilated and adapted by other cultures often—although not always[50]—within a capitalist framework. However, at the same time it must be recognised that smaller BL publishers in the United States, at least those interviewed here, were primarily inspired to make a business out of GloBL because they were fans of the genre. William W. Kelly noted that 'fans are the most aggressive appropriators and the most brazen producers among consumers,'[51] and locally-developed BL is part of fan culture; a participative and appreciative gesture toward the genre. As its artists and publishers enter the commercial world of production and distribution, they become examples of what Jenkins calls 'grassroots convergence,' or the bottom-up movement in which consumers affect and even join an industry that was once dominated by larger media corporations.[52] Power relations between Japanese ('authentic') BL and hybridised BL may be complicated by this fandom in a way hybridisation critics do not acknowledge; both fans and corporations appropriate and produce, but fans simultaneously love and acquire. The question may be which values take precedence, those of the fan or of the corporation, as commercial gloBL continues to develop.

    Marketing challenges
  54. The Anglophone West, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, has had its own strong tradition of female-authored male/male erotica since the 1970s in the form of the fanfiction subgenre called slash. However, while slash has tended to remain underground due to concerns over copyright infringement,[53] boys' love can be found on bookstore shelves, and explaining the genre to book distributors, retailers, and consumers poses a challenge for publishers. Several of the publishers noted that retailers and media have had a difficult time grasping that BL's primary audience is women, not gay men. 'Because the concept of heterosexual women enjoying romance/sexual relations between gay men is such a new one in our culture (as opposed to straight men enjoying lesbians), many traditional markets are closed,' one publisher wrote. 'Traditional heterosexual markets don't want us, and we are not targeting gay men.'
  55. Indeed, boys' love is popularly considered to be a women's genre, written by women for women.[54] TokyoPop's BLU reported that it makes no attempt to reach male or gay readers 'except for the deliberately non-girly overall branding.' However, the publisher added, it has been interviewed by The Advocate and other gay media and feels 'relatively well-received' in the gay blogging community. Better with Boys reported that it does not specifically target men or gays but expects to do so in the future.
  56. By contrast, Yaoi Press makes a deliberate effort to reach out to gay readers, contributing material to the Prism comic anthologies, mailing advanced reading copies to gay magazines and periodicals, and working as an active member of the Las Vegas GLBT Center. Owner Yamila Abraham reported in the Yaoi Press blog in July 2007 that

      At I'm seeing 25% to 30% of the orders placed by men. At the conventions there's around the same percentage of men buying the books at the booth. I've heard people say that 90-95% of people who buy yaoi are women. My experience shows 25-30% are men.[55]

    The problem, she continued, is figuring out how to market to the gay demographic, which does not necessarily form a large part of anime/manga convention attendance.
  57. In the survey, Yaoi Press argued that enjoying BL and supporting gay rights cannot be separated:

      Anti-gay sentiment sometimes comes through against yaoi under the pretense of someone saying they're against it because it's pornography. Very few will admit that the reason they won't sell BL, or allow the BL industry to exhibit at their conventions, is because the books depict homosexual romance. They know it's not politically correct to discriminate against gays, so they call it porn. Most yaoi titles published today do not have explicit sex scenes in them. If the story were about a man and a woman there would be no barriers. Yaoi can't separate itself from the same issues facing other gay media. It's in the best interest of the BL industry to support and include the gay community.

    It is interesting that this viewpoint comes from the most prominent commercial publisher of gloBL in the United States; if other publishers come to share Yaoi Press's views, it is possible that one hybridisation of boys' love might be to create or market it in a way more likely to attract male readers.[56]
  58. Another challenge BL publishers face is finding venues that accept advertising for 'adult' material. One BL publisher reported being denied denied advertising space by U.S. anime and manga publications, which tend to be targeted toward younger readers and are therefore reluctant to promote adult material in their pages. Several BL publishers reported doing most of their marketing online and at conventions, although some conventions have also protested the sale of 'adult material' to their attendees. Yaoi Press reported that it promotes its work at conventions and industry panels and also markets to adult book store and gay specialty shop distributors.

    BL's future in the U.S.
  59. By spring 2008, when the survey was sent out, it had become clear that boys' love was not enjoying the rapid expansion it had in previous years, and survey comments reflected that perception. 'The reason it's slowing down is because the market is flooded with junk,' wrote Better with Boys in the survey. 'The companies publishing every piece of 'boy love' they can …will fail eventually.' TokyoPop's representative agreed: 'There's a ton of material out there in Japan, but a lot of it is very generic and cookie-cutter, and so I am skeptical of how many US fans are really interested in it to the extent that it keeps growing the industry.'
  60. While the logic of globalised markets encourages content that costs the least to produce and appeals to the largest possible audience, as consumers grow more sophisticated and interested in a particular product, they begin to demand increased diversity and quality.[57] Although boys' love was, for several years, a rapidly expanding niche within the U.S. manga marketplace, its audience may now have become more discerning. If BL publishers themselves believe that much boys' love manga available in the United States is generic, then it seems likely that its consumer-fans share this view. Of course, it's also difficult to untangle the problems the manga industry faced in 2008 with the larger economic troubles facing the U.S. that year; the slowdown in BL sales noted in spring may have just been an early warning of the more widespread economic troubles to follow in 2008.
  61. However, working on the assumption that the problem was a glut in the BL market, surveyed publishers suggested several solutions. Boys' love publishers must find titles that are unique, TokyoPop wrote. Providing higher-quality works and paying special attention to the OEL and global marketplace is essential to success, Better with Boys added, noting that publishers must also be fans, because strangers to the genre will not know what appeals to its dedicated readers. Yaoi Press added that reaching new readers is an important part of BL's future because 'once a fan gets into yaoi they become a fan for life.'
  62. Despite the market slowdown, TokyoPop remained cautiously optimistic about its future:

      Unless the overall manga market expands drastically again, I don't see BL growing particularly quickly from here on out. Although I don't see any major backlash or industry crash, either. Slow and steady.

  63. The relatively recent and successful mass-market introduction of boys' love manga to the United States provides an unusual opportunity to track the cross-cultural commercial development, adaptation, and hybridisation of a globally popular—but locally new—genre through a nation. In this discussion, emphasis has been put on commercial publishers' strategies for introducing BL to the U.S., although equal attention could be paid to the ways in which U.S. fan and scanlation communities have worked to introduce and promote the genre. In particular, U.S. boys' love has been characterised as a specific example of the globalisation and hybridisation of a cultural commodity.
  64. U.S. manga publishers have been at the forefront of deciding how boys' love is presented in and to the U.S. mass market. These publishers act as cross-cultural gatekeepers, choosing material they believe will be popular and relatively noncontroversial to Western readers, distributors, and retailers. They also, at times, act as censors, modifying or adapting the original text or artwork to avoid criticism from distributors, retailers, or consumers. Finally, they act as cross-cultural ambassadors, explaining boys' love to distributors, retailers, and the media and introducing it to potential new readers, primarily at manga and anime conventions.
  65. Publishers of GloBL works are in a particularly interesting relationship with creators and consumers as they promote hybridised, locally developed manga that are still developing a unique identity as a cultural pastiche of styles and story expectations. Non-Japanese BL, still a relatively young arm of the gloBL industry, appears to be a form of grassroots convergence culture that is turning BL fans into producers and distributors on a global commercial stage.
  66. Although boys' love has enjoyed several years of strong growth in the United States, its initial burst of popularity may be starting to wane. It is possible that as U.S. readers understand the genre better and have a larger quantity of mass-market material to choose from, they are starting to exercise more consumer discretion. As a result, those U.S. boys' love publishing houses that have stayed afloat may find themselves forced to grapple further with cross-cultural demands and expectations as they seek to appeal to BL's increasingly sophisticated U.S. consumer-fans.


    [1] Author has standardised the spelling, grammar, and punctuation of survey responses.

    [2] Marwan Kraidy, Hybridity, or the Cultural Logic of Globalization, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2005.

    [3] Douglas McGray, 'Japan's gross national cool,' in Foreign Policy, May/June 2002, pp. 44–54.

    [4] Koichi Iwabuchi, Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002.

    [5] 'Graphic novels hit $375 million, plus comics = $705 million,' in (April 18, 2008), online:, site accessed 27 June 2008.

    [6] Iwabuchi, Globalization, 2002, pp. 27–28.

    [7] 'Unflopped' is the term used for manga that retain the original Japanese right-to-left page orientation; to 'flop' manga is to reverse the page order to facilitate English left-to-right reading patterns. U.S. publishers have, for the most part, left manga unflopped.

    [8] See Terry Kawashima, 'Seeing faces, making races: challenging visual tropes of racial difference,' in Meridians, vol. 3, no. 1 (2002):161–90, for a discussion of reading racial representations in manga.

    [9] Kraidy, Hybridity, p. 101.

    [10] Anne Allison, 'Sailor Moon: Japanese superheroes for global girls,' in Japan Pop! Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture, ed. Timothy J. Craig, Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2000, pp. 259–78, p. 264.

    [11] Hirofumi Katsuno and Jeffrey Maret, 'Localizing the Pok é mon TV Series for the American Market,' in Pikachu's Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon, ed. Joseph Tobin, Durham: Duke University Press, 2004, pp. 80–107.

    [12] Allison, 'Sailor Moon,' p. 265, pp. 274–275.

    [13] Iwabuchi, Globalization, 2002.

    [14] Frederik Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1983.

    [15] The terms boys' love, yaoi, shōnen-ai, June, and the like have slightly different meanings; this article will use 'boys' love' to encompass all of these terms. For historical background, see Fusami Ōgi, 'Gender insubordination in Japanese comics (Manga) for girls,' in Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books, ed. John A. Lent, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001, pp. 171–86; Akiko Mizoguchi, 'Male-male romance by and for women in Japan: a history and the subgenres of yaoi fictions,' in U.S.-Japan Women's Journal, vol. 25 (2003):49–75; or Mark J. McLelland, 'The love between "beautiful boys" in Japanese women's comics,' in Journal of Gender Studies, vol. 9, no. 1 (March 2000)13–25.

    [16] Slash is a form of fan-based storytelling, usually text-based, that uses characters created by somebody else in movies, television shows, or popular novels and puts them in romantic or sexual situations; see Sonia K. Katyal, 'Performance, property, and the slashing of gender in fan fiction,' in American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law, vol. 14, no. 3 (2006):461–518 for information on the copyright issues surrounding fanfiction. BL manga, on the other hand, consist of original stories or authorised adaptations of characters in novels or television shows —its 'slash' equivalent is found in fan-written doujinshi, or self-published comics, that are based on existing manga or anime series.

    [17] For more information, see Midori Matsui, 'Little girls were little boys: displaced femininity in the representation of homosexuality in Japanese girls' comics,' in Feminism and the Politics of Difference, ed. Sneja Gunew and Anna Yeatman, Boulder: Westview Press, 1993, pp. 177–96; Tomoko Aoyama, 'Male homosexuality as treated by Japanese women writers,' in The Japanese Trajectory: Modernization and Beyond, ed. Gavin McCormack and Yoshio Sugimoto, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 186–204; or Mark McLelland, 'Why are Japanese girls' comics full of boys bonking?' in Refractory, vol. 10 (2006), online:, site accessed 2 January 2009.

    [18] Although much, if not most, of the boys' love from Japan and Korea currently available in English may exist as scanlations—unlicensed scanned and translated copies of manga made available to readers through direct download, IRC, or peer-to-peer file sharing—this analysis will concentrate on the adaptation, marketing, and distribution of licensed and translated Japanese, and/or non-Japanese, boys' love in the United States. Scanlators have played an important role in building BL fandom in the U.S., but it is the commercial publishers who bear the burden of introducing and legitimising boys' love to the broader U.S. mainstream.

    [19] For a detailed timeline of boys' love's introduction to and spread through the United States, see Dru Pagliassotti, 'Yaoi timeline: spread through U.S.,' 2 June 2008, online:, site accessed 1 November 2008.

    [20] Ed Chavez, 'Yaoi-Con and BL, no longer "niche",' in Publisher's Weekly (Oct. 30, 2007), online:, site accessed 9 June 2008.

    [21] 'Iris Print Wilts: BL publisher shuts down,' in (June 17, 2008), online:, site accessed 18 June 2008.

    [22] Matthew Pustz, Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.

    [23] David Morley & Kevin Robins, Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries, New York: Routledge, 1995, p. 117.

    [24] Morley & Robins, Spaces of Identity, p. 18.

    [25] Of course, consumer-fans have other options for obtaining boys' love manga, such as ordering it from different countries, buying untranslated manga from Japanese-language bookstores within the U.S., or obtaining unlicensed translations through fan networks.

    [26] Timothy Perper & Martha Cornog, 'Eroticism for the masses: Japanese manga comics and their assimilation into the U.S.,' in Sexuality & Culture, vol. 6, no. 1 (Winter 2002):3–126, p. 23, italics in original.

    [27] Yamila Abraham, 'Incest in yaoi,' in Yaoi Press blog (Dec. 6, 2007), online:, retrieved 9 June 2008.

    [28] Shōtarō was the name of a young male in the manga series Tetsujin 28-go, and thus the term shotacon reportedly —the author has yet to locate authoritative confirmation —derives from the character's name to characterise a 'Shōtarō complex', or an appreciation for the cuteness/sexual appeal of young boys, paralleling the use of lolicon for 'Lolita complex', or an appreciation for the cuteness/sexual appeal of young girls. Shota or shotacon is used generally to refer to manga or anime depicting sexual acts between young boys or between adults and young boys.

    [29] See Mark McLelland, 'The world of yaoi: the internet, censorship and the global "boy's love" fandom,' in The Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 23 (2005):61–77. Indeed, given the broad scope of Australia's anti-child abuse publication legislation, numerous discussions took place between the organisers of the original Japanese Transnational Fandoms event and later with the editors of Intersections about what kind of images could be used in both the presentations and the resulting papers. Several images freely available on the commercial BL circuit in the US that were originally proposed to support the argument of this paper were declined by the editors out of concern that they may have violated Australian legislation. Australian legislation forbids even characters who may 'appear to be' under the age of 16 to be placed in a sexual context, thus rendering illegal even publications that clearly state the age of the characters to be over 18 but given the manner in which they are drawn may suggest a younger age to readers not familiar with manga's stylistic conventions.

    [30] Be Beautiful did not respond to this survey; its publications are described here based only on the author's own observation and analysis.

    [31] The publisher's disclaimer in Midaresomenishi's inside back cover states that 'All characters depicted in sexual conduct or in the nude are aged 19 years or older.' However, Fujimaru appears much younger than nineteen at the beginning of the manga. Moreover, as the story begins, his crown is bald but his forelock intact, implying that he is still a child who has not yet gone through the genpuku ceremony that would have marked his coming of age and permitted him to shave off his forelocks; that ceremony would surely have been observed by the time he was nineteen, and possibly even as early as twelve. Thus, it's possible Fujimaru is older than twelve in the story, but it's extremely unlikely that he's nineteen. The story never specifies his age.

    The tendency of U.S. BL manga publishers to put age-related disclaimers on their boys' love volumes is understood by readers to be little more than a polite fiction, as evidenced by numerous stories involving high-school students that the disclaimers would have readers believe are eighteen years or older. Disclaimers about character age have become less common in more recently published works.

    [32] Tina Anderson, 'That Shotakon article!' in GGY-Meta: Guns, Guys, & Yaoi blog (n.d.), online:, site accessed 9 June 2008.

    [33] Fan service refers to gratuitous content—often erotically or sexually oriented, but sometimes just 'cute,' as in the case of dressing characters up in costumes—that has been added to a manga or anime to appeal to fans but does nothing to further the plot.

    [34] Peter Howell, 'Strategy and style in English and French translations of Japanese comic books,' in Edinburgh Working Papers in Applied Linguistics, no. 11 (2001):59 –66.

    [35] Calvin Reid, 'Fans ticked over manga censorship,' in Publisher's Weekly (May 9, 2005), online:, site accessed 29 October 2008.

    [36] 'Negima to not be censored,' in Anime News Network (February 27, 2004), online:, site accessed 29 October 2008.

    [37] 'Viz edits Fullmetal Alchemist,' in Anime News Network (September 11, 2006), online:, site accessed 29 October 2008.

    [39] See Heike Elisabeth Jüngst, 'Japanese comics in Germany,' in Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, vol. 12, no. 2 (2004):83–105 for another discussion of the cross-cultural problematic of swastikas in manga.

    [40] The ratings usually found on the back of manga published in the U.S. that designate it as appropriate for particular age groups is another form of visible marking, but because these ratings aren't as noticeable, they aren't as significant an 'adaptation.' A casual observer wouldn't know, from watching someone holding a volume of unwrapped manga, what its rating was, whereas a shrink-wrapped volume is far more likely to be perceived as containing adult content. An exception would occur if a store shrink-wraps all of its manga to prevent casual browsing; this isn't standard practice in the major U.S. bookstore chains, but it sometimes occurs in smaller, privately owned bookstores or comic book shops.

    [41] Written works could, in theory, be deemed obscene by a U.S. court, using the three-pronged test established in the 1973 case Miller v. California—the work must (1) in the judgment of the average person, applying contemporary community standards, appeal to prurient interest, (2) depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law, and (3) lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. In practice, it's been extremely difficult under U.S. law to argue that written text alone is obscene. Since Miller v. California and up to November 2008 (as this is written), the U.S. Federal Government had never won an obscenity conviction based on a work that was entirely based on written text.

    [42] See, for example, discussions in John Hutnyk, 'Hybridity,' in Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, no. 1 (January 2005):79–102, and Kraidy, Hybridity.

    [43] Kraidy, Hybridity, p. 148.

    [44] Kraidy, Hybridity.

    [45] Henry Jenkins, Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, New York: New York University Press, 2006, p. 167.

    [46] Tina Anderson, 'The Western BL sex scene!' in GGY-Meta: Guns, Guys, & Yaoi blog (n.d.), online:, site accessed 9 June 2008.

    [47] Sarah Payne, personal communication, 19 June 2008. By contrast, Andrea Wood summarises some of the narrative and interpretive difficulties in assigning BL characters a rigid sexual identity such as 'gay' or 'straight' in '"Straight" women, queer texts: boy-love manga and the rise of a global counterpublic,' in Women's Studies Quarterly, vol. 34, nos 1/2 (Spring 2006):394–414.

    [48] John Hutynk, 'Hybridity saves? Authenticity and/or the critique of appropriation,' in Amerasia Journal, vol. 25, no. 3 (1999/2000):39–58.

    [49] McGray, 'Japan's gross national cool.'

    [50] Fans are eager consumers, but they do not always consume within a commercial context; freely offered scanlations and fan art, stories, comics, and videos circumvent the capitalist market and, in some cases, undermine it, as when fans decide not to buy a licensed work because they already own it in an unauthorised form.

    [51] William W. Kelly, 'Introduction: locating the fans,' in Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan, New York: State University of New York Press, 2004, pp. 1–16.

    [52] This is also evident in the influence fans have had over U.S. boys' love publishers in choosing which titles to license by answering publishers' surveys and responding to publishers' queries on forums and at manga conventions.

    [53] See Sonia K. Katyal, 'Performance, property, and the slashing of gender in fan fiction,' in Journal of Gender, Social Policy, and the Law, vol. 14 (2006):463–518, for an analysis of fanfiction, slash, and copyright law in the United States.

    [54] However, an earlier survey by the author suggests that about 10 per cent of Western boys' love readership is male, most self-reporting as gay or bisexual; see Dru Pagliassotti, 'Reading boys' love in the West,' in Participations, vol. 5, no. 2 (2008), online:, date accessed 2 January 2009.

    [55] Yamila Abraham, 'SDCC / Rambles / Gay Men and Yaoi,' in Yaoi Press blog (July 24, 2007), online:, site accessed 9 June 2008.

    [56] In the U.S., another artist/publisher who is already doing this is Alex Woolfson of Yaoi 911. He notes that he's not necessarily creating his boys' love works only for other gay men; see 'Why this gay man is creating yaoi,' in Yaoi 911 (August 20, 2006), online:, site accessed 1 November 2008.

    Although it seems most likely that it would be hybridised BL manga that would end up targeting male readers, if for no other reason than because BL is so much more entrenched as a woman's genre in Japan, Tina Anderson argued that the Japanese genre bara, written by and for gay men, is in its contemporary form similar to BL and attracting gay male fans of BL. See Anderson's article 'That damn bara article!,' n.d., online:, site accessed 1 November 2008.

    [57] Tyler Cowen, Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World's Cultures, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002, pp. 102–127.

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