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The Complicated Role of Race in Boys’ Love Stories

It’s generally agreed that the origins of the BL (boy’s love) subgenre of manga can be traced back to the influential Year 24 Group, a loosely classified group of female shoujo mangaka who were said to have revolutionized the shoujo scene. It’s also generally agreed that the two “canonical” works of BL made by members of this group are Takemiya Keiko’s Song of Wind and Trees and Hagio Moto’s Heart of Thomas. BL is a twisty, self-contradictory genre almost by definition—the entire premise is essentially “male homosexuality for girls”—with a lot to unpack, and these early works only double down on the complexity by the ways in which they racialize their protagonists.