Boys Love used to be a dirty little secret fujoshi and fudanshi enjoyed in the dark recesses of their bedrooms—and I will admit that there was a time when I wouldn’t dare admit that I liked anything even remotely related to the genre. But, times have changed and BL media isn’t the taboo it once was—hell I remember the days of watching BL OVAs on YouTube and reading poorly rendered manga scans on questionable sites. But, now BL media is readily available with series like Dakaichi and Given getting full anime series and publishers like Juné and SuBLime licensing entire series for English speaking audiences. And, a lot of that has to do with the gradual shift from the smut heavy boys love stories to more wholesome romance stories.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of boys love series that glorify sex, but more and more series are striving to tell more realistic romances. This de-sexualization of boys love media makes them more accessible to folks outside of the target demographic. Even, as a seasoned fujoshi, I welcome this change, because it opens up the genre to more varied stories and proves that relationships between men are more than the stuff of rampant fangirl fantasies. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite wholesome boys love manga series to add to your reading list!
Art & Story: Asumiko Nakamura
Doukyusei, known as Classmates in English, is a Japanese shounen-ai manga series written and illustrated by Asumiko Nakamura. The series follows the relationship between students Rihito Sajō and Hikaru Kusakabe, who meet while attending an all-boys high school. It follows the pair as they come to an understanding about their feelings for one another while navigating the ups and downs of growing up. This is one of my favorite boys love series, because it perfectly captures the awkwardness of first love—from the first kiss to everything in between—Doukyusei takes us through the highs and lows of falling in love for the first time.
The series consists of two volumes—Doukyusei and Sotsugyousei—which follow the couple through their final two years of high school. A sequel series, O.B. ran for two volumes following the boys after high school and into their college years.
Check Out My Review: Fangirl Moment: Doukyusei
Art & Story: Kei Ichikawa
Blue Sky Complex is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kei Ichikawa. As of this writing the series has not been licensed in English. Blue Sky Complex follows the relationship between Narasaki—a studious high schooler, who is roped into tutoring Terashima, his school’s resident delinquent. Two very different boy, brought together by chance, soon discover that they have much more in common than anyone realized. This is another series that takes it’s time building up the relationship between the main pair—showing the natural progression of their relationship—from strangers to friends and beyond. Blue Sky Complex does have sex, but rather than just being smut for the sake of smut, the physical intimacy is written to be a natural next step in their relationship… and it doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty steamy~
Art & Story: Ngozi Ukazu
Check Please! is a LGBT webcomic series written and illustrated by Ngozi Ukazu. The webcomic follows vlogger and figure-turned-ice hockey skater Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he deals with hockey culture in college, as well as his identity as a gay man. I love this series so much, honestly it more than DESERVES all the praise it gets and it has the receipts to prove it—having already won several awards and critical acclaim. At the start of the series, Bitty is a closeted freshmen just starting out on his college journey—on top of that he has been accepted into his school’s hockey team! Equal parts heartwarming and hilarious, Check Please! is a must read if your looking for something wholesome to dive into!
The series is complete both online and in print. Both volume 1, Check Please! and volume 2, Check Please! Sticks and Scones available for purchase.
Art & Story: Yuki Fumino
I Hear the Sunspot, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yuki Fumino. The series focuses on the relationship between a hearing impaired college student and his cheerful and outspoken classmate. Kohei is a hearing-impaired college student who is used to being misunderstood by his peers due to his disability, to the point that he’s resigned himself to a life of loneliness. But, when he meets the outgoing and friendly Taichi, Kohei finds his quiet life of solitude is no longer enough to satisfy him. After sharing their lunch together, the pair strike up an instant friendship that slowly develops into something more.
The series is currently licensed in English by One Piece Books, with the first four volumes—I Hear the Sunspot, I Hear the Sunspot: Theory of Happiness, and I Hear the Sunspot: Limit 1 & 2 available in print.
Check Out My Review: I Hear the Sunspot BL Manga Review
Art & Story: Nishida Higashi
Yasashii Anata, is a Japanese yaoi manga series written and illustrated by Nishida Higashi. As of this writing the series has not been licensed in English. Hot-headed yakuza Harumoto meets his ‘Mona Lisa’, Mizuta, one night at a jazz bar. A chance encounter with the man of his dreams gives him hope that even someone like him could achieve his happily ever after. But, unbeknownst to him, Mizuta has a secret of his own… Yakuza and wholesome are two two words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence, and then there’s Yasashii Anata out here subverting expectations! This is a love story between two career criminals and it has enough sugary sweetness to rival most shoujo romances!
Art & Story: Yoshinaga Fumi
What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a Japanese slice of life manga series written and illustrated by Yoshinaga Fumi. A hard-working middle-aged gay couple in Tokyo come to enjoy the finer moments of life through food. After long days at work, either in the law firm or the hair salon, Shiro and Kenji will always have down time together by the dinner table, where they can discuss their troubles, hash out their feelings and enjoy delicately prepared home cooked meals! What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a stand out among boys love series, because it treats the relationship between Shiro and Kenji like an actual relationship. Focusing on the everyday moments between a middle aged couple—from managing household expenses to work and everything in between. This series offers an intimate look at Shiro and Kenji’s lives, while also showcasing more than a few culinary marvels, courtesy of master chef Shiro.
The series is currently licensed in English by Vertical (now under Kodansha USA), with the first 14 volumes available in print.
Check Out My Review: What Did You Eat Yesterday? – Volume 1 Manga Review
Art & Story: Alice Oseman
Heartstopper is a webcomic series written and illustrated by Alice Oseman. Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…? The main characters Nick and Charlie first appeared in Oseman’s YA novel Solitare, which follows Charlie’s older sister Victoria—Heartstopper takes us through the early stages of their relationship as they balance love, friendship, and growing up.
Check Out My Review: Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman – Graphic Novel Review
Art & Story: Kamome Hanada
Tatoeba Konna Koi no Hanashi is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kamome Hanada. As of this writing, this series is not licensed in English. Based on the real life romance between a heterosexual man and a gay man, Tatoeba Konna Koi no Hanashi follows Akira a gay man who runs a successful cooking blog. One day, someone named Nanjou leaves a comment on his blog, “Is your skill at cooking good because you’re gay?” That single comment sparks a friendship between two men that gradually develops into an unlikely love story that is too extraordinary to be true… but it is! Short and sweet, Tatoeba Konna Koi no Hanashi offers an honest and touching look at the relationship between two men in search of their happily ever after.
Art & Story: Mita Ori
Our Dining Table is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Mita Ori. Eating around other people is a struggle for salaryman Yutaka, despite his talent for cooking. All that changes when he meets Minoru and Tane―two brothers, many years apart in age―who ask him to teach them how to make his delicious food! It’s not long before Yutaka finds himself falling hard for the meals they share together―and falling in love! This is such a sweet heartwarming story that will have you tearing up a bit, Our Dining Table is a series that’ll leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling in your chest.
Art & Story: Kii Kanna
Umibe no Étranger , known as The Stranger by the Beach in English, is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Kii Kanna. The first volume was followed up by the ongoing sequel series Harukaze no Étranger which continues the story of the main couple. The series follows Shun an aspiring gay novelist living in Okinawa, one day, while taking a break from his latest novel he spies a lone figure on the beach. Curious, he approaches the young man—a newly orphaned high school student named Mio—and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. But, all things must come to an end and Mio has to return to the mainland, but before he leaves he promises to come back—three years later he returns and declares his love for Shun?! The relationship between the two leads is just so cute and I likethat it is Mio and not Shun (the established gay character) that is the person pushing for a romantic relationship—it’s a nice twist on the story—and it adds more depth to their relationship.
Check Out My Review: Fangirl Moment: Umibe no Étranger
There is so much more to the boys love genre than just sex, there are some truly amazing stories out there—all you have to do is look. So, whether your a seasoned fujoshi/fudanshi or someone looking for a boys love series to cut your teeth on—check out any of the titles above and loose yourself in a wholesome romance.
As always, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so definitely share some of your favorite boys love series down in the comments section below!
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