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What is the Meaning of the Word Yaoi: Understanding What is Yaoi

  • Oct.13.2021
  • 4min
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Yaoi Genre

If you’ve just come across the term “yaoi” in reference to the category of anime and manga, you might be wondering what it means. What is yaoi, and what does yaoi mean in anime? Depending on whether you came across the term while reading some or if you simply heard the name yaoi through the grapevine you might already have an idea of what it is.

What Is Yaoi?

Yaoi, simply put, is a genre of anime and manga that centers around male relationships. Yaoi is not exclusively, but commonly, sexually explicit anime stories or depictions of male on male love. There are many different types of yaoi. There is also a detailed history of how yaoi came to be. Why is yaoi so popular? Read this article to find out more about why people enjoy watching yaoi anime and reading yaoi manga. 

Yaoi Genre

Yaoi History

Yaoi is often interchanged with “boys love” and an anime or manga that has themes of male romance could be put under the category of boys love and yaoi. It is a kind of anime and manga that is often targeted towards female audiences.

While yaoi can be described as a genre of anime and manga that is centered around male on male love, the definition of the word yaoi itself is a little more complex. The literal meaning of yaoi is an acronym of no peak, no fall, no meaning. The reason this acronym grew in popularity as something synonymous with the boy’s love definition can be understood with a bit more information about the history of yaoi. 

Yaoi History

Is Yaoi Hentai

Yaoi started out as fan fiction that took strong male relationships in popular manga and anime stories and converted them to something a little richer with sexual tension. It is common that very close “bromance” type relationships are featured in anime series and popular manga.

Once fanfiction started to grow in popularity, readers of popular manga and fans of popular anime started to write fan fiction that depicted those stories with more sexual and romantic undertones. Today’s yaoi is often very sexually explicit, but at the time that yaoi started, stories were more romantic and suggestive. The storylines of the first yaoi creations were often lacking due to the purpose of the yaoi being more focused on romance than any actual plot.

This is why yaoi is an acronym for “no peak, no fall, no meaning”, just like many romance novels and pornography, the storyline can often leave much to be desired. 

Is Yaoi Hentai?

Yaoi Terms

Sometimes people mix up sexually charged or romantic anime and manga with hentai. What is the difference? It’s pretty easy to understand if you follow one simple rule. If you can see the sex explicitly happening, it’s hentai. If you can’t see any sex, it’s just anime or manga with sexual undertones. Many yaoi stories are not pornographic, especially at the beginning of the genre’s popularity. While you can certainly still find yaoi that leans more towards the romantic side and less towards the pornographic, many yaoi stories and depictions have become quite intensely sexually explicit. 

Yaoi Terms

JUNE manga yaoi

The term “yaoi” was coined in the late 1970s after the emergence of popular manga fan fictions. Yaoi specifically refers to stories that depict sexually-charged references to popular pre-existing manga. Shounen-ai is a term that refers to manga depicting homosexual relationships. It was a term that predated “yaoi” and it was more often used to reference romantic or intimate relationships between beautiful men, relationships that never quite ventured into the sexual realm.

There were many popular shounen-ai manga stories in a famous magazine called JUNE. JUNE manga is now a term that references the specific stories in this magazine that are dedicated to loving between men.  BL, or “Boy’s Love” is a genre that encompasses all manga and anime that revolves around the love between boys. 

Yaoi Culture

Yaoi Culture

There are plenty of magazines and online forums that revolve around yaoi stories and yaoi info. If you are interested in learning more about yaoi, you could visit some of these sites and subreddits to see if anything speaks to you. Be warned that there are some things about yaoi that might turn people off. Yaoi is often set in a functional world that is entirely made up of male characters.

yaoi mean

There are often few if not zero total female characters in yaoi stories. Yaoi has also gotten progressively more sexually explicit over the years, and can often depict things that are taboo and potentially problematic, such as incestual behavior and sexual assault/rape. These are all things to be wary of if you’re looking to get into yaoi for the first time.

Yaoi is a part of anime and manga that is not widely accepted in all cultures because of these intense themes and depictions. The genre is more or less understood and accepted in the USA and Japan, but in many other countries is seen as quite taboo. 

In Summation

What is Yaoi

To summarize this article, yaoi is a genre of anime and manga that is essentially sexually charged fanfiction of other popular anime and manga that has a storyline involving a relationship between two men. Yaoi was coined in the late 1970s with the rise in stories of love between male characters in manga that was somewhere between the lines of romantic and platonic.

Yaoi is often very sexually graphic and can be considered hentai when the sexual activities between characters are depicted visually in the story. If you want to read or watch yaoi there are plenty of sites and magazines that are full of yaoi content, and plenty of people in the yaoi community to discuss with!

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