March 31, 2024

Boys' Love

Wow, this video takes me back. I stumbled across the "first wave" of BL fiction after spending a lot of time reading classic gay literature in the mid- to late-90s. And I'm so happy to see my two much-adored classic BL manga being touched on as examples in this video: Kaze to Ki no Uta (Song of the Wind and Trees) by Keiko Takemiya and Toma No Shinzou (The Heart of Thomas) by Moto Hagio.  

My heart's broken again!

God, those days... I got so hung up on the genre (at least on those two manga series) that I spent so much money digging around Yahoo Japan's auction pages and connecting with someone in Japan for help in bidding for me. I wired them money for all the art books I could find as well as the actual series in its original form for Takemiya's work. And I'm now the proud owner of out-of-print copies of the original Flower edition of Kaze to Ki no Uta and its art books. I ain't letting those out of my sight. I also got the original soundtrack for the anime adaptation after I saw the anime.

For Toma no Shinzou, I bagged a single-volume TRANSLATED copy of the series, and I'm dying. 

Kaze to Ki no Uta by Keiko Takemiya
I didn't get into any of the later (more explicit) books, especially those mentioned in the video that came out in the 90s with the non-con content. Even as a fan of BL, the fetishization of rape in yaoi is a massive no-no for me*. My fascination for BL had nothing to do with the exploration of my own sexuality and so on like how it was with other readers, but it was the long, florid, melodramatic romance that's set in (why, of course!) European boarding schools that floated my boat. Takemiya's sprawling epic (as I call it) goes all out in melodrama and angst. Hagio's work is shorter and more subdued by classic BL standards, and I love it just as much. 

Back then as well, I was the only one who posted fanfic for Kaze to Ki no Uta over at I've already taken them down when I deleted my account, but those were heady days. I never wrote fanfic for Toma No Shinzou, though, since I discovered Hagio's work at the tail end of my fanfic days, and I was beginning to work on original material. 

Toma no Shinzou by Moto Hagio
One thing I do want to say about both seminal works is I'm seething with jealousy over the basic plots (not necessarily the details) as well as the mere title of Kaze to Ki no Uta. To have it translated as The Song of the Wind and Trees was a massive gut-punch because it's a perfect fit for the love story between Serge and Gilbert. It doesn't help that it's a tragedy as well (yes, one of my initial dips into the "bury your gays" pool, which I swore to myself I'll never do in my own fiction -- though there's an off-screen death in The Glass Minstrel that serves as a jumping-off point for the plot, and I'll NEVER do that again, either), so the title's even more heartbreaking. 

Hell, just about all classic BL was a tragedy, I think, or maybe a majority of the manga published in that genre. But I never got to explore that with other titles since my attention had fully shifted to original work, and I'd begun entertaining ideas of publication by then. And while I haven't really sat down and considered it in full, I suspect it was this initial exposure to classic BL that started me on the path toward same-sex romances in boarding schools, particularly same-sex romances involving younger characters in their late teens or early twenties. 

It's the coming-of-age thing, I think, that draws me in. I've always been a sucker for that theme, and you can tell from what I've published. At any rate, this was a nice little trip down memory lane. 

* just to be clear, there's some non-con / sexual abuse, bullying, and even torture in the two series I talked about, but they were always depicted as brutal and damaging, not at all fetishized 

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