Tag Archives: AIDS

Manga Studies #3: On BL manga research in Japanese by Jessica Bauwens-Sugimoto

As with the larger field of manga studies, the earliest attempts at theorizing what we now call Boys’ Love (hereafter BL) manga were made by Japanese critics and authors in the 1980s when the genre itself surfaced. Academic BL studies, however, had to wait until the 2000s, with some key works published after 2005, and these are the main focus of this article.

The first analyses of the roots of BL manga were written by Nakajima Azusa.[1] She traced the genre back to shōnen’ai manga (boy love)[2], stories about romantic and sexual love between boys that were serialized in shōjo [girls] manga magazines.[3] While shōnen’ai has become a popular loanword within non-Japanese manga fandom, in Japan, the most widespread term — not just for graphic narratives, but also novels, audio-dramas, and games — is BL, which overwhelmingly tends to signify the commercially published variant of this cross-media genre as distinct from the fandom-based, and often more sexually explicit yaoi variant. The shōnen’ai stories of the 1970s were revolutionary as they replaced the conventional girl protagonists of shōjo manga with boys, and they appealed to female fans in a way which went beyond the act of reading. In her early essays, Nakajima dissected not only BL narratives as such but also fans’ motivations for consuming and creating them. However, her psychoanalytical focus was often interpreted as fans of the genre being unable to cope with societal gender roles, to the extent of being, at best, escapist, and at worst, pathological. Nakajima herself was an author and editor of BL literature (which is often accompanied by single-image manga-style illustrations), and she played a seminal role in June (1978–2012), the first magazine dedicated to BL manga and fiction.[4] It goes without saying that her creative involvement in the formation of the genre shaped also her stance as a critic.

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Posted by on 2014/07/29 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies


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‘From now on everything is just going to get worse’ by Rikke Platz Cortsen

‘From now on everything is just going to get worse’ [1]

This is the message that the unsuspecting infant receives from its caretaker right at the threshold of life in Sara Granér’s one panel drawing from the book Det är bara lite AIDS [It is only a little bit of AIDS]. The book is a collection of mostly one panel gags which use a combination of expressive line, vivid colours and absurdist dialogue to point to the problematic relationship subjects often share with authorities, society and each other. As the title suggests it offers surprising statements concerning illness and uses these to circumvent the idea of the hospital as a place of care and comfort. Usually, the birth of a child is an event of joy and celebration, and it is assumed that the child has a long and hopefully healthy life ahead of it. But the depressing forecast from the nurse deflates this happy note and underlines the potentially distorted power balance in any discourse between doctor and patient. From the moment we enter society at birth, what the authority says holds the potential to determine our fate indiscriminately; we are born into the power structures inherent in our society.

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