by Adam Lowe
When I set out to discover the most famous gay manga or anime in the UK, I was disturbed to discover there actually aren’t any. This is because most gay-themed anime has not been legally released in the UK, although some of them have been released in the US.
Gay manga anthologies, however, are released with lascivious regularity in Japan. These comics include gay reimaginings of Interview with the Vampire (which was already pretty gay) and The Phantom Menace. Even more numerous are ‘slash fiction’ pieces, so named for their ‘Kirk/Spock’ or ‘Xander/Spike’ relations. Ironically, the majority of these queer romances are written by and for women, and are often portrayed as gentle, loving affairs with equality between both participants. Although Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy, in The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, argues that Japanese producers might be intentionally downplaying the gay audience to make such erotica more acceptable.
Not all gay manga is kisses and roses, however. Zetsuai (1992), My Sexual Harassment (1994) and Legend of the Blue Wolves (1996) feature stories where young, virginal males are seduced by strong, rakish older men. Fake (1996) tried to normalise the gay manga phenomenon by introducing gay characters to traditional genre films (in this case, the cop movie).
Lesbian manga also exists, but is less popular. One notable exception is Arabian Nights, where Aladdin’s daughter disguises herself as a man for a marriage of convenience to a princess, only to find her new wife more than a little pleased at the arrangement.
There is also much homoeroticism in mainstream anime and manga. Pretty young boys in emotionally charged and vulnerable situations are common to franchises such as The Heroic Legend of Arslān. Furthermore, Dragon Ball and Evangelion use female voice actors for male characters, providing an unexpected lesbian fanbase.
So it seems, far from being melodramatic animation with excessive sex and violence, anime can be melodramatic gay romances with excessive sex and violence. There really is something out there for everyone!