US yaoi fans must be familiar with The Yaoi Army. They are a group of manga artists led by writer Seru. During Anime Expo 2018, QooApp – otaku from far east Asian countries such as Japan and Taiwan – had the chance to learn from Seru about what’s happening in the US yaoi world.
We surely did learn a lot from him, we hope our conversation could help you as well!
▍What prompted you to create your own manga?
It was mainly just for fun back in 2015. Writing was a way for me to de-stress and unwind from my day job. Mind you, this was my first time writing creatively. I didn’t take any writing classes or had done any prior writing besides school work, so my first work was not the best. I gave it a go anyway because I had nothing to lose.
To see if my work was any good, I uploaded it on Wattpad, a social media platform where you could upload and read amateur literary works. To my surprise, people actually liked my first story, and I kept going and improved as a writer from then on.
My works were confined in light novel format, and I had this wild idea to turn my work into a manga. I luckily found an artist to work for me in the beginning of 2016, and the rest was history.
▍What are the barriers for BL manga to survive in the US?
The main barrier of foreign BL manga or webcomic in the US is catering to the taste and sensibilities of the Western market such as cultural differences and specific nuisances we have. These barriers fade when the readers can somehow relate to the story or sympathize with the characters. Also, for the sexy scenes, the western market prefers them to be uncensored but due to foreign laws about censorship, we get them censored and we are not really thrilled about that.
Source: The Yaoi Army
▍In places like Japan and China, BL manga fanbase is made up of a large number of females and a few males. Is this similar in the US?
Our fanbase are mainly female so there is that similarity. However, a lot of gay males play a large role by being the top spenders on our platform.
▍When it comes to BL manga, do the US audience have any specific taste?
Yes, they do. Cultural relativism plays a major role. They need stories they can relate to.
▍Gay men in real life may behave differently from those we see in BL manga, where two lovers are usually portrayed as being “top, active, passionate”and “bottom, shy, passive” respectively. Do you think these manga help promote LGBT culture in real life ?
This may be true in the past, but the new wave of BL manga and webcomic being created today are changing the BL industry for the better. More couples and stories are being represented in a more realistic way. It’s not all rainbow and roses when it comes to love and relationship as represented before in old BL works. Gay people do encounter hardships and pressures from society, family and other external factors. Also, gay men don’t have the typical female-male gender roles. They are both equal and have a say when it comes to their relationship.
Creators of today know about these false representations of the past, so they aim to create something new, fresh and real.
Source: The Yaoi Army’ Twitter
Then again, there is the other side of the coin. Old archetypes, tropes and BL cliché are still being created because the market still wants those type of stories. We, The Yaoi Army, fall in this category because we still love creating old dynamics and clichés but with my own unique touch to it.
▍We have heard some gay people are offended by fujoshi who refer to BL manga and ask them “do you actually do this/that…?”. What should fujoshi do in case they are curious about gay men real life?
That’s a generalization, and it does happen but not a lot. In our current political and cultural landscape, anyone can be offended by pretty much anything. All I can say is, have respect for one another. What others do in the bedroom is their business, and you should only mind yours.
Lastly, BL manga and webcomic are works of fiction and shouldn’t be used as a reliable source of real life knowledge. I suggest reading works of non-fiction by gay men, if they are truly curious about it.
▍Do you want to promote the realistic kind of boy’s love in your future works?
My works are usually out-of-this world and over-the-top. When I write these stories, I find ways to escape reality because real life is mundane and sad. I want to create fun, unrealistic stories to entertain others and make them laugh. As for my future works, I would be open to it but not at this time. I just love creating quirky and fun stories.
Source: The Yaoi Army’s Twitter
▍Last but not least, any tips you have for BL manga creators who want to succeed in the industry?
The western market is oversaturated with BL mangas and webcomics due to its exponential popularity. You need to come up with something unique and original in order for you to stand out. Read a lot of books. Watch a lot of movies and shows. Experience life. Develop a voice. These will give you a lot of material and inspiration to truly create something uniquely yours.