Ladies, we need to talk.
We already know that fellas won’t understand Boys Love. It’s already hard enough for us to wrap our heads around the idea that there are double standards surrounding sex and sexuality, deeply rooted in engendering modern society into a (supposedly) indisputable binary. We as the male part of the species have done wrong. That’s why you felt the need to separate an entire genre of romance just for you, one that the boys could not possibly touch out of fear that other guys would think they were gay if they liked it. But, like any other complicated matter this crazy world has to offer, BL is not just for you.
Well, if I’m going to be accused of being a sexist male stereotype anyway, I might as well do it justice. Whenever I pick up a BL series or a shōjo series where the main idea is to ogle super flamboyant guys, I always get awkward stares from men and women alike. It’s like we’re all engineered to think that males and females are supposed to behave and enjoy certain things, and anything deviating from the norm is just unspeakable! But you already knew that. Why the hell am I telling you this?
Well, this anime is about the fandom behind this romantic sub-genre. And whether you like it or not, we are present as fans, too. We would totally rally up our numbers so that you would take us seriously… but let’s be honest: we care more about our Boy Meets Boy ships than to take any action!
The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Fudanshi Kōkō Seikatsu) is about your plain old, black haired, anime-slender, high school boy, Ryō Sakaguchi. He goes to a co-ed school, and the series is basically just him and his friends having wacky conversations. Pretty much all the same kind of stuff you would get from any other anime of this kind, except for one thing! (Do I really have to say this? The title’s already given it away!)
Ryō is a fudanshi. That doesn’t mean he’s gay. That doesn’t mean he’s a girly-man. He just likes to read BL. He’s around the bookstore, browsing through some male-on-male slash fiction, minding his own business.
BUTT! If you want to qualify him as a hunky uke for your fantasies, that’s fine by me.
I honestly have nothing to say about the plot of this series. Since this short series is situational, the events chronicle separate instances in Ryō and his friends’ life that could have happened at any time in his high school life.
I would comment on the exclusive moments when boys are doing obviously BL-esque things, but surprisingly, they never happen.
Sure, there are hints at it. Maybe even the occasional tease or sparkly fantasies or something, but there aren’t any kissy-face moments, let alone meat-slapping, if you know what I mean. In fact, dare I say, the entire series is suitable for a general audience. So does that make this series bland and uninteresting? Maybe. But since I have a reputation of making simple shows more complicated in my reviews, I will go ahead and make the claim that this series is actually very radical for the BL community!
Okay, that probably means absolutely nothing, coming from a guy who only dabbles in BL for the sake of curiosity. But after coming across several moments in Ryō’s struggle as the stereotypical fudanshi, I can’t help but agree that he’s actually stirring up some trouble for BL makers and fans!
Case in point: the purest form of BL is fairly simple: you get one guy, and another guy, and make them have a steamy relationship. They don’t have to be gay. They don’t have to be original. They don’t even have to be the only two present!
But based on the handful of BL titles I have come across, the environment has always been exclusively male. In other words, there are no girls around! It’s a woman’s fantasy of what guys do when they’re not around, I guess.
And that’s where Ryō’s BL preference comes in.
Who dictated this idea that BL had to be in a separate fantasy world? What if the pleasure of seeing boys love was in a real-world scenario, where girls were also around? And not only are they around, but they have plenty of sex appeal to woo the guys, yet the guys still go for each other!?
This is where the Boys Love fan community intersects with the greater LGBTQ community. While I don’t have a great deal of references, BL is very progressive in terms of making a product by women, for women, and putting men in awkward situations while they’re at it. However, the purest sense of what BL entails is but a fetish, right? It’s analytically no different from when a guy frowns upon gays but is totally down for watching GL. Similarly, it is possible for a girl who enjoys BL to frown upon lesbians. Is it a double standard? Maybe.
Well it’s a good thing that BL isn’t as “pure” as the analytic will make it out to be. Sure, a lot of the titles in this genre may be slash fiction, but if I’ve learned anything from BL and at least one class I’ve taken in feminist philosophy, BL can be used as an example of replacing the arrogant perception with the loving perception.
Like any other guy, I thought that BL was made to be satirical, which ultimately put totally masculine male icons into awkward sexual situations with other men. At least from the start, that may very well have been the case. But what makes these romances different from a standard romance is how the male’s love for his partner plays out. Where we might see a man be overly demanding toward his partner in attempts to take control of his desires (arrogant perception), the guys in BL seem more comical and over-the-top about their advances, while still acknowledging that each other exists (loving perception). You wouldn’t see this kind of behavior in a serious drama, where the situation might seem more antagonistic. On the contrary, situations in BL in general seem more… playful.
Ryō is an example of a guy who likes this sort of thing, and for what it’s worth, he’s totally okay with it! I think the best example of this is his long-standing friendship with Rumi Nishihara.
While it is tempting to ship these two BL lovers, I actually don’t. Ryō and Rumi make a stronger pair as friends because of their love for BL. In fact, the anime has been very adamant in maintaining their friendship and never pushing the idea that they could be an item. Every time someone like Toshiaki Nakamura might hint at it, the two prove in the next scene that their comical hostility toward each other would make any romance near impossible!
The engagements that these two have are entirely playful and not at all serious. If you want to make the case that they seem like an item, they seem like one of those old couples who have been together for way too long, at best. But the interactions I see between them feel more like two best friends, getting super excited about the genre they love so much. They can have a loving perception for each other, acknowledging the thoughts and feelings for the other person without conditions like “what’s in it for me?” It’s possible that they are drawn to BL because what it offers has their perception of romance in mind: one where two guys have romantic encounters for no reason other than it’s fun!
But aside from far-reaching theories about gender and sexuality (yes, I realize BL can’t all be designed how I describe it), the fact remains that Ryō is just another high school boy, trying to fit in to this crazy world, and loves BL. And does it really matter that he likes a sub-genre of romance made (historically) for women? I don’t think so.
Ryō is a really cool guy with a passion for something that most guys wouldn’t even give the time of day. That’s admirable. And to be honest, I find that a lot of girls actually don’t have a problem with discovering that one of their guy friends is a fudanshi. But whether you are a boy or girl, anyone can love BL. After all, when it comes to a hobby or genre we love…
So if you were ever curious about the lives of BL fans, especially of the boy kind, and sprinkle it with a lot of humor (what did you think I was going to say, perv), check out The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi!