Manga: Celebrate Yaoi Day With Something Hot And Sweet

August 1 is "Yaoi Day," the informal holiday observed by lovers of yaoi manga. Whether you're a diehard yaoi fan or simply y-curious, it's a great excuse to check out some boys-love (BL) manga—and you might even find some bargains or win some free manga on Twitter.

What makes today yaoi day? It's a pun, sort of: "Ya" is one of the pronunciations of the Japanese character (kanji) for 8, 0 is read like the letter "o," and 1 is shortened from "ichi" to the letter "i." So, 8/01=yaoi!

Digital Manga (which has an imprint called 801) is celebrating with a sale at their website and a trivia contest on Twitter, and they already have some books marked down on their Yaoi Club site. If you don't want to wait for physical books to arrive by mail, check out their online manga site, eManga. You can also find Digital books on the Kindle and the Nook.

Digital is the largest publisher of yaoi manga in the U.S., and they have three imprints: Juné, DokiDoki, and 801. Each one has a different flavor: June books tend to be romantic, DokiDoki describes itself as "The Gateway from Shojo to Yaoi," and the 801 line is the most explicit. Digital recently launched a new intiative, the Digital Manga Guild, which aims to publish a lot of manga digitally in a short time by outsourcing translation, editing, and lettering to small groups of freelancers.

Digital now stands alone in the field, as many of the other American publishers of BL—Tokyopop (Blu), CPM (BeBeautiful), Deux, and Go! Comi—have gone out of business. Fans were a-Twitter with the news a few weeks ago that Viz is hiring a yaoi editor, but at the moment they don't publish any BL at all. But there are a few small publishers worth checking out:

DramaQueen is known for the high quality of their books, in terms of both source material and production values. The company has had some financial problems in the past but seems to have stabilized, although they are only publishing a handful of new books each year.

Yaoi Press publishes "global yaoi," or yaoi by non-Japanese creators. They also have a website, Everything Yaoi, that is exactly what it says: A storefront that carries a wide range of yaoi manga.

Animate is a Japanese company that publishes yaoi on the Kindle—most of it is in English, but they also publish some books in Japanese.

Netcomics is a publisher of Korean comics (manhwa) whose line includes some yaoi titles; they publish on the web first and then do print editions of some of their books.

A quick lesson for those new to the genre: Yaoi manga are simply love stories in which the protagonists are two men—but written by women, for women. Often (but not always), one partner is more aggressive or dominant (the seme) and one is meeker or more submissive (the uke). The genre began as parodies of shonen manga that were published as fan-made comics (doujinshi) and evolved into a niche of its own. The Yaoi Review has a list of yaoi manga that are good for new readers—and a list of those to avoid. About.com has some yaoi recommendations as well.

For those who want to know more—newbies and veterans alike—I recommend this old but very interesting analysis of yaoi manga by Jason Thompson, and the lengthy comment thread that follows. Also worth a look: Melinda Beasi's essay on what she looks for in yaoi manga. Or go straight to the source and check out the websites of yaoi creators Ayano Yamane and Youka Nitta. It's all good on Yaoi Day.

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