As probably all of you know, “Boys' Love” is the term used to categorize works which focus on male/male relationships, targeted for women. BL is an umbrella term which can refer to yaoi and shounen-ai, as well; not only that, the term BL involves all kinds of media, from manga to drama CDs. If it's true that yaoi or shounen-ai manga can be encapsulated in this term, it's even true that there are some differences among these three manga genres. In fact, while yaoi focuses a lot on the sexual part of a male/male relationship, with smut and spicy scenes, and shounen-ai skips that part altogether, we can safely affirm that in the middle, there's the BL genre, which focuses on both sides. As we tried to do this differentiation, for this ranking we tried to pick those manga artists who managed to create stories with solid plots, without neglecting the boy-on-boy parts. We chose golden mangaka who have been in the BL landscape for a long time now, and other mangaka who are rising stars we wish to see shining for a long time from here on. So, if you're a fan of this genre, stick with us until the end to discover 10 amazing BL mangaka!
10. Kanna Kii
Let's get this ranking started with Kanna Kii, a real talent who opened her own path with an amazing story called Umibe no Étranger, which gained so much popularity that she really needed to continue in a sequel called Harukaze no Étranger, still ongoing. Kanna Kii's peculiarity is her art style, to begin with: her drawings are literally singular, not something one would expect from a BL manga. Her trait is soft and delicate, almost like the illustrations of children's storybooks, and the atmosphere is dreamy.
As for her stories, Kanna Kii breaks a lot of cliches, and presents an LGBT family, or setting. She is able to depict all the hardships of a gay couple, with the same soft touch she uses with her drawings. The family situations she depicts are somewhat realistic, and the love story is very emotional in several respects. Kanna Kii's characters are very “human”: they are full of fears, often depressed, burdened by the situations, yet a message of love and hope pops out constantly. We really wish to keep reading Kanna Kii's manga, as she is a rising star of the BL genre.
9. Ayano Yamane
Let's keep going with a golden mangaka such as Ayano Yamane, who's been on the BL scenes for a long time now. In fact, she began her career in 1995 with some BL doujinshi, and step by step she built her own path. We really needed to mention this amazing manga artist, as she is one of the most popular in Japan, and not without reasons. Ayano Yamane's art style is a feast for the eye: one can easily recognize her trait, as she draws beautiful characters, with realistic and well-proportioned bodies, and elaborated backgrounds, full of details.
Although in Ayano Yamane's most popular series (Finder Series) it is exactly sex which triggers the love story between two men, we can assert that her stories have always a well-researched plot, and nothing is left to chance. We mean to say that Ayano Yamane's sex scenes are very graphic, but they're balanced by the constant struggles her characters have to go through. In her stories, her characters are always madly in love with their counterparts, so much so that they become daring in order to protect, or save the other, even putting their lives at stake. We really love a BL mangaka like Ayano Yamane, and hope to see even more of her stories!
8. Hinako Takanaga
Let's go on with another golden BL mangaka who is famous for her funny stories and almost always lighthearted atmospheres. This prolific mangaka started out in 1996, approaching shounen-ai genre and immediately proving to be one of a kind! Hinako Takanaga's art style is neat and clear, full of details and very enjoyable.
As for Hinako Takanaga's stories, they're full of humor, and – obviously – of love. Her characters are always split in two parts: those who have it easy, and those who have to struggle. Usually the pattern follows the scheme of a Cat & Mouse game full of comedy parts, absurd gags and strange events. Hinako Takanaga's spicy scenes are good, but she doesn't focus too much on them, in fact one can't find exaggeratedly graphic sex scenes. As we enjoy BL manga with a lighthearted atmosphere, we really needed to mention an amazing mangaka such as Hinako Takanaga!
7. Asumiko Nakamura
If we mentioned Hinako Takanaga and her funny BL manga, now we really need to mention an equally prolific mangaka, who is – for themes and topics covered – on the opposite side. Asumiko Nakamura is a popular golden mangaka who tried every manga genre, managing to create unforgettable rare gems, and gaining a special place in her readers' hearts. Let's talk about her art style: Asumiko Nakamura's trait is definitely recognizable. It is stylized, and original, we would say it looks almost grotesque, and initially difficult to get used to. The backgrounds lack details, so one can focus only on the characters. It's a pretty art style, unique and absolutely suitable for the themes she touches.
Asumiko Nakamura's BL stories are tragically wonderful. She depicts situations where her characters have to struggle a lot, and go through countless hardships. Sadly, Asumiko Nakamura is not exactly a fan of happy endings, so in her stories there's a lingering feeling of loss, or imminent tragedy. All in all, however, her stories are amazingly good right because they're full of emotions and make the readers embark on a ship of overflowing feels. We needed to mention Asumiko Nakamura, as her art style is original exactly like the dark themes she deals with: she is one of a kind.
6. Miyuki Abe
Let's go on with Miyuki Abe, a talented mangaka who has been active since 1993 and can boast a large collection of BL and shoujo long-term series. Miyuki Abe is a mangaka who goes slow with her works, but keeps going, and the results are always masterful. If we focus on her BL stories – which represents the majority of her works – we can notice how her art style is absolutely beautiful, and completely unexpected for BL series. It's like reading a sparkly shoujo manga, full of glitter and roses background, with prince-like characters and full of details.
If you are looking for spicy BL stories in Miyuki Abe, you better give up. In fact, her peculiarity is how she focuses and sticks to the plot, deepening it, and fully analizing all the characters; the boy-on-boy actions come unexpectedly, but they're not satisfying if you are looking for graphic scenes. There's one thing we can guarantee with Miyuki Abe, though: she is very good at making the readers stick to the pages, as she is a talented storyteller. The rest is up to the above-mentioned art style; Miyuki Abe deserves a place among the best BL mangaka!
5. Yuki Shimizu
Yuki Shimizu is yet another golden BL mangaka who started her career around 1996, and didn't stray too much from the BL path she chose in the beginning. Exactly like Miyuki Abe, Yuki Shimizu is a mangaka who really focuses on the plots and the characters' in-depth analysis. As for the art style, we can consider it as a bit “angular”, with distinct strokes and the right amount of details in the background.
Yuki Shimizu's BL manga are full of complicated characters who usually harbor feelings toward someone who initially doesn't like them back. Aside for the typical pattern where the characters have to struggle, there are obviously some funny gags to keep everything on the right balance; this alternation of ups and downs make Yuki Shimizu's BL series enjoyable from the beginning, to the end. It goes without saying: they're full of boy-on-boy scenes, too, but they're not perceived as perverted; on the contrary, they're full of love, to make the readers' hearts melt.
4. Kamome Hamada
Here we are with one of today's rising stars, Kamome Hamada. This talented mangaka started only about three years ago, and made her masterpiece with her first story. From that moment onward, she kept creating amazingly good stories, and we are sure she will for the years to come. Kamome Hamada's art style is simple, but very effective: her trait is neat, clear and the backgrounds are detailed. We could say that it's easily recognizable, as it is very peculiar.
Kamome Hamada's characters are all overly cute, and she is a fan of happy endings, and sweet displays of affection. Usually, her characters don't struggle because of love, as they are easily loved back by their interests, but because of external factors that really put a strain on the couples. As for the spicy scenes, they aren't so graphics, but they're completely enjoyable. With Kamome Hamada's BL stories we guarantee a lot of love, and a lot of laughs. We wish to read more from this talented rising star!
3. Kei Ichikawa
Let's head toward the end of this ranking with Kei Ichikawa. This skilled mangaka started out in 2008 with some doujinshi, and slowly but surely managed to become very popular in the BL universe. We can consider her art style as very simple and elegant, maybe a bit lacking in details but still amazingly good.
As for her BL stories, Kei Ichikawa is a master at describing the main protagonists and their relationship: she creates a very strong background, and make the two protagonists interact, while their feelings slowly grow, and step by step they realize what kind of feelings they are. Basically, Kei Ichikawa is not focused on the skin ship between the two characters; she arrives there when the right time comes. In the BL landscape, she is one of the most prolific rising star so far; we really thought she deserved a mention.
2. Shoko Hidaka
Shoko Hidaka is a skilled manga artist who proved to be a master with BL genre, even though lately she tested herself with the josei genre, as well. Her BL stories are considered heartwarming, touching, and wonderfully developed. Shoko Hidaka's art style may seem simple, but actually it is very accurate: the characters' proportions are perfect, with boyish faces and a little exaggeration in their features, but all in all very natural.
Her stories are all slow-paced. In Shoko Hidaka's BL, the relationship between the two protagonists builds up slowly, almost like it could happen in real life. Usually, her characters are scarred by a difficult past and have problems with human interactions, but they gradually grow up thanks to love and affection they feel toward the other party. What's more, there are always huge obstacles, and a lot of hardships that they have to face, but fear not: Shoko Hidaka loves happy endings, and so she gives her readers very sweet moments. As for the boy-on-boy action, sex scenes are very sweet and enjoyable, but not very graphic. We really had to mention such an amazing mangaka, as she is one of the queens of the BL genre!
1. Haruko Kumota
Let's end this ranking with a veteran who gained a special place in the readers' hearts. If we think of BL manga as stories with a solid plot, with the right amount of comedy, touching moments, and spicy ones, Haruko Kumota is peerless. Let's talk about her art style: it is a feast for the eyes, as it supports the story line very well; it is not excessive, but not even simple, and we can say that her trait is tender and soft, exactly like her stories.
Haruko Kumota is a skilled storyteller, and her stories goes by leaving the readers craving for more, and more. She can create witty situations, which can be very near to real life; not only that, the relationship between the two male protagonists is full of those hardships that gay couples frequently have to deal with, and there are deep themes touched in a very light way, able to pull at the readers' heartstrings.
As for the spicy scenes, Haruko Kumota proves to be amazingly good, as they are hot and very graphic, but at the same time extremely sweet and tender. Exactly like her characters, who are very “human”, with a lot of flaws and tantrum, and overly cute: absolutely relatable and lovable. What can we add? Haruko Kumota is the undisputed queen when it comes to wonderful BL stories, and that's why we wanted to give her our first position!
These are the BL mangaka we decided to mention in this ranking, and so far, they are the most loved by the fandom. We mentioned some veterans, and some rising stars, but all of them share the passion that they manage to convey via their amazing stories, and wonderful art styles. It proved to be a hard task to choose, but having only ten positions, we had to. Hoping you enjoyed the ride, and found this list useful somehow, we really wish you let us know what you think in the comments below! See you next time!