It’s a sad truth that us Boys Love fans know well - there just isn’t enough yaoi and shounen-ai anime out there. Whether you’re looking for some sweet boy-on-boy romance or some hot-and-heavy hardcore man love, you won’t find many more than a hundred anime to choose from. When you think that over fifty anime series (not including OVAs and movies) are made every season, you realise just how small a number that is. So why do so few BL anime get made, when yaoi and shounen-ai manga and doujinshi are everywhere? In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the possible reasons. Let’s get started!
Naughty & Niche
The internet loves to complain about fujoshi taking over otaku culture. In fact, it’s hard to visit Japanese anime websites without seeing someone complaining about “gay” anime. This often doesn’t even mean Boys Love, but just anime that features close male characters - but we’ll save that rant for another time. It’s even got to the point where male Japanese otaku are complaining that fujoshi are taking over Akihabara, somewhere they consider “theirs.”
However, the reality is BL fans are still in the minority, making yaoi and shounen-ai anime a niche. Therefore, much like hentai anime, these shows are aired either late at night or early in the morning in Japan, making their television viewership very low. What does this mean? It means BL anime makes very little money from airing, and relies on Blu-ray and DVD sales. With less viewers than non-BL anime, these potential sales are also lower, meaning it’s not the most profitable investment.
BL Anime Creators? Where?
So why is it so important that anime makes enough sales? The fact is, making anime is an expensive business. I’m sure you’ve heard of how badly paid the actual animators are, but plenty of money is made in higher-up positions. It’s not just making the anime that’s expensive, either - airing it isn’t cheap. So unless you’ve got a lot of money in the bank, you’re not going to be able to invest in making BL anime. That’s most likely why Junjou Romantica, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, and Super Lovers are the only BL anime to have multiple seasons - they share publishing giant Kadokawa backing them.
Of course, it’s not just the money that’s the issue with creators. We also need to take into consideration the fact that misogyny is a thing, and most higher-ups in both publishing houses and animation companies are (most likely) straight men. Also, views towards homosexuality in Japan, while improving, aren’t exactly the most progressive. Which happens to make making anime about gay male characters a lot more difficult.
BL Merchandise? No Thank You
We’ve mentioned the importance of Blu-ray and DVD sales in the making of anime, but there’s another money-making factor in the industry - anime merchandise. This is a more accessible way to support series for most fans, as merch doesn’t carry quite as hefty a price tag as Blu-ray discs (unless you want a collection of figures of course). However, several things make creating and selling BL merchandise difficult, including the homophobia mentioned above.
On top of that, it’s well known that anime fans will buy anime merchandise aimed at men regardless of their gender. On the other hand, male otaku (unless they are fudanshi, and often even if they are fudanshi) are a whole lot less likely to buy merchandise aimed at women, especially if it’s got nakie dudes kissing on it. Saying that, making this kind of merch would be difficult in the first place due to censorship - not impossible, but difficult, especially without a large sum of yen in the bank (again, remember you can get Super Lovers body pillows).
Do We Really Need BL Anime?
Your answer to this is most likely, “of course!” but this question comes from the view of the anime industry as well as the fans. Most anime nowadays is made as a promotion for the source material, whether that be manga, light novels, games etc, and well, yaoi and shounen-ai manga sells just fine without this promotion. You know you can’t deny it - there’s plenty of amazing and bad BL manga alike out there, even from illegal online scanlations. There’s even more on shelves both physical and virtual in Japan - and I’m not even going to mention doujinshi.
Much like the merchandise issue, creators of anime know that fans of all genders will watch anime mostly aimed at male otaku, whereas the number of yaoi and shounen-ai anime viewers is far more limited. There’s also the power of fujoshi goggles, meaning that BL fans can satisfy their boy-on-boy needs with shows that don’t explicitly feature gay relationships, especially with sports anime such as Free!, Yowamushi Pedal, and Haikyuu!!. Basically, both the creators and some fans don’t feel as though they’re particularly missing out.
In conclusion, yes it’s sad that we don’t get more Boys Love anime, but there are reasons behind it. Can we as English-speaking fans do anything to support yaoi and shounen-ai anime creators? Sure. Buy every official translation of BL manga and anime out there and encourage others to. Show them there’s a bigger market out there than they thought. Other than that, it’s time to strap on those fujoshi goggles and keep rewatching your favourite shows until we eventually get more. Just be warned, it might be a long wait.