Intro: Beautiful men. Period.
Trans-literally, bidanshi means “beautiful man,” but is there more to it than being beautiful? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” right? Can we really just arbitrarily label someone as bidanshi? Short answers: yes, and kind of yes. For the full answer, look no further than the next section!
“Bidanshi” as a term has been around probably almost as long as the term “bishounen,” but only recently has the term started gaining insane levels of popularity. Bidanshi, and its meaning-equivalent “biseinen,” are fully grown men who are also terribly attractive in an elegant or mature way, or a humorous way, or just about any way; except not by looking young and cute, but sometimes just being cute is okay. Well, that didn’t quite get it down. Let’s try this again, with examples!
There are two main criteria for bidanshi: (1) be an adult male, and (2) be attractive. The textbook example of a bidanshi would have to be 27-year-old Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. Sepiroth has been the pinnacle of husbando since he was CG animated in the original video game. An attractiveness that blossoms through mystery and angst, Sephiroth is a strong albeit tragic bidanshi. There are also outside-the-box bidanshi. Osomatsu-san grew up its characters, and these guys wow us with their eccentric humor and colorful personalities (Juushimatsu, anyone?). Of course, their attractiveness, grounded in insanely good voice acting, is based on their personalities, rather than the oozing physical attractiveness.
Recently, you can find bidanshi everywhere. Just this year, we have cornucopia of anime, featuring at least one or two bidanshi: 91 Days, Amaama to Inazuma, Arslan Senki, Bungou Stray Dogs, ClassicaLoid, Dimension W, Drifters, Fune wo Amu, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Joker Game, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri, Mob Psycho 100, Nanbaka, Shounen Maid, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Super Lovers, and Yuri!!! on Ice. That’s just for 2016! To help with the confusion you may be experiencing, let’s dive right into a trend that is getting close to its bubble-bursting moment that can explain bidanshi in all it’s glory.
Bungou Stray Dogs
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr. 2016 - TBA
Bungou Stray Dogs is a seinen anime, if not only for having a whole bunch of biseinen. (Honestly, it’s seinen because of its dark humor and obtuse allusions to literature, but that’s besides today’s point.) The new bidanshi poster boy is one of Bungou Stray Dog’s main characters, Dazai Osamu. Long and lean, and a manga beauty, Dazai also has a dark silly side, and a dark serious side! Not only is he a full grown 22-year-old man, but he also has a personality that seems to resonate better with people who have been run down by life at least a little, i.e. high school age and older. Dazai, of course, isn’t the only bidanshi of the bunch. You also get a zealous and serious “megane bidanshi” Kunikida Doppo. Nakahara Chuuya, on the other hand, has a more gender-fluid aesthetic paired with an honest and tough personality. Throw in an immature but competent Edogawa Ranpo, hell-bent on “making it rain money” F. Scott Fitzgerald, and creepy but endearing H. P. Lovecraft; and you have a full deck of bidanshi to play with.
The source manga was literally written with the premise of taking famous authors and drawing them as handsome men and women with supernatural abilities. That ends up being just a bunch of vaguely familiar, talented people who are also nice to look at. As for the bubble bursting issue, this concept is viral, including this season’s anime ClassicaLoid. The more interesting tangent would be into strategy video games, such as Love Heaven (mobile) and Bungou to Alchemist (web game, DMM Games), that draw famous authors, artists, and historical figures as attractive men and boys who fight battles for you. Swoon.
Bungou Stray Dogs Trailer
You said “bishounen.” I know bishounen. Bidanshi aren’t bishounen?
Bidanshi are not bishounen. Arguably, they can have similarities in why you would find them attractive, but they are mutually exclusive terms. Basically, if you’re a bidanshi, you’re not a bishounen, and vice versa. Why? It’s the age! Shounen means boy, and seinen means adult man. Just like real life, of course, people mature at different rates; and while Dazai might be a full-blown bidanshi at age 22, a certain figure skater might still be trying to shed his shounen-ness at age 23. Generally, though, high school students are not bidanshi, regardless of how old they look or act (I’m sorry, Abeno Haruitsuki). On top of life experience, there are also aesthetic differences. Although changing as time goes on, bishounen usually will have a more gender-neutral type of appeal, whereas the bidanshi label doesn’t have as much restrictions on physical appearance. Muscular? Feminine? Muscular and feminine? Kind of normal-looking but nice? Just plain hot? Yes, they can all be bidanshi. Hooray!
Bidanshi and bishounen are different, but luckily, in the English-speaking community, we often use the term “bishie” to describe bishounen. This level of vagueness is useful in extending the term to bidanshi as well. Have no fear, and keep on using “bishie” like there’s no tomorrow.
This doesn’t mean, however, that a bishounen can’t grow up into a bidanshi. Even the popularity of bidanshi is because anime fans, who grew up on anime, are now adults. Likewise, what they find moe grew up too. Just in the aforementioned Bungou Stray Dogs, we have Nakajima Atsushi (age 18) and Akutagawa Ryunosuke (age 20), who are both in the midst of transitions from bishounen into wonderful, wonderful bidanshi, as coming-of-age is a part of their individual storylines. Sometimes, bishounen don’t become bidanshi. They can completely fall out of their bishounen image, like in the extreme case of Akane Tsutsui in Handa-kun. Sometimes, however, a totally normal shounen can become a bidanshi.
Yuri!!! on Ice
- Episodes: TBA
- Aired: Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2016
While we’re on the subject of bidanshi vs. bishounen, let’s solidify this argument with an example. In the (newly-classified-as-BL) figure skating sports anime Yuri!!! on Ice, Victor Nikiforov (age 27) is definitely a bidanshi, but Yuri Plisetsky (age 15) is a grumpy bishounen, who is trying desperately to become a “prima donna” before puberty sets in. Victor, notably lacks naivety, unlike the main protagonist Yuri Katsuki (age 23) and the younger Russian Yuri. Victor is often seen as playboy and generous with fanservice. Even though he has a carefree immature side, he’s still a mentoring figure to both Yuris.
Yuri Katsuki, though, is a prime example of a normal person transitioning into a bidanshi. Plisetsky sees Katsuki as his rival, as they share a first name and also seek Victor’s guidance. Yet, what Katsuki lacks in experience he makes up for with maturity. Katsuki doesn’t go along with Plisetsky’s antics, so he’s not much of a shounen. Without going too much into a Britney “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” narrative, Yuri Katsuki’s naïve nature is appealing, although not quite “bishounen” level. Katsuki is a “normal” guy, but he shows very strong bidanshi vibes when he gets on the ice. Bidanshi-in-the-making? We think so. Correction: we know so.
Yuri!!! on ICE Trailer
Okay, how can I get one (or become one)?
This is the unfortunate fate of being moe for 2D characters. It’s hard to get one or become one if you’re a real life being. The real life, 3D counterpart of “bidanshi” is “ikemen,” which also describes a hot guy, usually a “pretty boy,” but without the negative connotation the English term can have. Sometimes, bidanshi are refered to as “ikemen” inside an anime, but can you call a real-life ikemen “bidanshi”? No, well, you can, but it’s not common. “Ikemen” is by far more common. Also, ikemen and bidanshi have slightly different connotations as well, mostly because ikemen are real people, and bidanshi are fictional ideals. It is possible you can get an ikemen or become an ikemen, if that’s any consolation.
If however, you’re dead-set on getting bidanshi, collecting them is always fun! The aforementioned Love Heaven and Bungou to Alchemist, and the recently adapted-into-anime Touken Ranbu (web, DMM Games) are chock full of bidanshi that you can collect in your bidanshi/bishounen Pokedex. If you want something more personal, there are otome games with a plethora of bidanshi for your choosing. We recommend Mystic Messenger (Jumin Han, anyone?). As for becoming a bidanshi, there’s always cosplay!
Outro: Beautiful men. Period.
With a lot of bidanshi anime popping up and being awesome, you may find yourself being drawn to these bishie characters. Now, you can say with confidence that you’re all about the bidanshi. They’re hot as hell with a hint of experience and/or maturity. Seriously, who could ask for more?
Which bidanshi are catching your eye this season?