The Top 10 Gay Manga

Alan Scott and Northstar weren’t the first. Gay relationships have been part of manga for a long while, and I’ve we’ve put together the Top 10 Gay Manga.

 

Gravitation by Maki Murakami

Gravitation is certainly a staple of yaoi (male/male love) manga. It began in the mid 90s and continued until the early 2000s. It’s spawned a pretty epic anime and even people who don’t habitually gay manga seem to really adore this series. It’s about an aspiring singer named Shuichi Shindou and his band Bad Luck, which he is trying to vault into fame.  One day, Shuichi is working hard on some lyrics for a song and they blow into the path of a brooding, tall stranger – who immediately dismisses the lyrics that Shuichi has worked so hard on as utter garbage. Our protaganist is deeply hurt, but he is intrigued by the stranger… and that eventually leads to love.

This is a pretty ADD manga. It is VERY classically anime: Explosive nosebleeds, unexplainable random appearances of monsters, lots of hyper yelling, strange tangents, etc. But it has enough of a storyline to keep you riveted even through all of the silliness. It’s a light hearted read with the subtext of a really great love story underneath.

 


Loveless by Yun Koga

Loveless mostly has Yaoi subtexts (as in very few overtly yaoi scenes in it), and has a riveting and fascinating overlay. It is the story of catboys and catgirls: except they lose their “neko” (cat) features upon losing their virginity (thus this manga has a strong reflection on sexuality in society as well). It focuses on the life of the 12 year old catboy protagonist, who is looking into his brother’s mysterious death. He discovers that his brother was murdered by a secretive organization called “Seven Moons”, and is suddenly sucked into a seedy underground rife with battles, honor challenges, and magic.

It’s worth a read if you’re into really unique storylines. Loveless is certainly one of the most interesting manga I have read in a long time.

 

Strawberry Panic! by Sakurako Kimino and Chitose Maki

Strawberry Panic! is a collection of whimsical short stories involving lesbian (or Yuri) relationships between middle school and high school aged girls. The stories are mainly stand alone (with some correlation between characters) and revolve around 12 different girls at different times. They all attend the same boarding schools. It is a lighthearted and “slice of life” manga, a look into the intricate relationships of schoolgirls. And the art is adorable!

 

Kashimashi by Satoru Akahari

Some argue that Kashimashi isn’t a true Yuri manga. Why? Because initially the main character is a boy, but he is changed into a girl when a spaceship lands on top of him and he is healed back to life. Personally, I still count it – which is why it’s still on this list!

This story has two awesome things: all girl love triangles in a Japanese highschool setting and an alien who has come to earth to observe human relationships like some sort of more intelligent and sophisticated Invader Zim. It is rife with angsty teenager feelings, detached commentary on romance and affection from the alien character, tangled social webs, and kawaii (cute) art. I seriously love this manga.

 

Revolutionary Girl Utena by Chiho Saito

While on the surface Utena looks like a typical magical girl manga, it goes so much deeper than that. It’s based around the main character: a tomboyish girl named Utena who wants to be a prince (she dresses and behaves like one). She becomes the white knight for a classmate named Anthy who is in an abusive relationship, challenging Anthy’s abuser to a duel.

Revolutionary Girl Utena has some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen, surreal undertones of magic, a LOT of yuri subtext and intense romantic awkwardness.

 

Challengers by Hinako Takanaga

This might be a pretty hardcore statement, but: I think Challengers is my favorite yaoi manga. It is light hearted, adorable, silly, but sometimes very intense. The story of a college student and a Japanese businessman who are falling in love without realizing it, their meddling friends, their strange living arrangements, the humorous situations they get themselves into it. It also addresses homophobia with one of the main character’s brothers, and has some of the most lively and sweetly awkward dialogue I have ever read. Challengers just makes me happy – it’s a great love story and is entirely relate able no matter what sexual orientation you identify with.

 

Red Blinds the Foolish by est em

A brooding, dark, angsty manga about the love between a bullfighter and a butcher. Prepare yourself for sex and ever ratcheting angst, with rich, beautiful artwork and historical accuracies.

 

 Antique Bakery by Fumi Yashinaga

When I was trying to think of manga to include on this list, I literally started giggling when I thought of Antique Bakery. Yes, it’s that cute and cheerful. It’s the story of four men who work in a bakery and the stories revolve around their every day lives and struggles as they keep the bakery running, work with customers, and deal with entangled romantic webs.

 

Maka-Maka by Torajiro Kishi

I would describe Maka-Maka as a very honest manga, as it involves a very real storyline – two women who do not communicate well verbally, but express their intense feelings for one another through sex. A lot of sex. Especially in public places. I wouldn’t necessarily call Maka-Maka pornographic as it tackles sex and sexuality in a very tasteful, poignant way, but it is not to be read by people who think naked ladies all up on one another are icky (but really, who thinks that?)

 

Cantarella by You Higuri

Cantarella is a richly historical manga set during the Renaissance. It has a lot of religious overtones (deals with the devil, aspirations to be Pope, etc) which is interestingly contrasted to the fact that it is a yaoi manga. This entire comic is incredibly dark, beautiful illustrated, and worth reading if you’re a fan of genuinely honest historical comics (it has nods to a lot of real historical figures!)

 

Are you a fan of yaoi or yuri manga? What are the best ones you have read? Let us know in the comments below!

 


Molly McIsaac has way more manga than she knows what to do with, which helps her out when she writes these top 10 articles. You can follow her rantings and odd stream of conciousness on her twitter.

 

Comments

  1. SageShini says:

    I actually bet there wouldn’t be any yuri on this list. Glad to see I was wrong. Pretty good list overall, though I’ll admit I’m one of the people who doesn’t personally agree with Kashimashi being a yuri series, I’m not going to argue with someone for including it.

  2. Minion Minion says:

    This is not a list I was expecting. Fun all the same though.

  3. BionicDave BionicDave says:

    Great article, Molly McIsaac! And totally helpful. I’m definitely going to get 2-3 titles off this list. I’ve only read a little yaoi but it really intrigues me on a variety of levels; getting a window into how the Japanese see gay relationships (at least in fiction) is fascinating. Anyway, thanks for your list and insights.

    • BionicDave BionicDave says:

      Btw, my contribution to this list would be ROMANTIC ILLUSIONS by Hiiro. Its unique twist is that its protagonist is a young gay guy with alternate personalities – two of which are in love with (and competing for) their host. Yup: a love triangle with one man! haha And then the real hijinks ensue when that host personality falls for someone else…

  4. MPOSullivan says:

    Good list! I’d definitely add Banana Fish to this list. It’s an incredibly important manga, and was a heavy influence on the shojo and yuri scene. It really is a singular work, as it’s one of the few yuri manga that abandons the visual language of the genre nearly entirely. It stars gay men, and has boy love, but it doesn’t have sparkles and dew drops everywhere, and no long, lithe, drawn out anatomy.

    Yay for shining the light on deserving comics!

  5. Interesting list, even though I really don’t *get* manga and am not interested in romance comics. But that’s my problem, I probably miss out on lots of fun stories.

    One sentence in this article made me think: ” it’s a great love story and is entirely relate able no matter what sexual orientation you identify with.”

    This probably has to do with me not being straight but while growing up being fed (close to) nothing but straight relationships in movies, tv and comics, but as long as the characters were likeable or interesting enough I could relate, of course. Does the “average straight reader/viewer” still feel “alienated” by seing non-straight couples in books and movies?

  6. thefig24 says:

    These are some great titles.Here are a couple others that I think definitely could have made the list:

    Aoi Hana by Takako Shimura
    Gunjou by NAKAMURA Ching
    Octave by AKIYAMA Haru

    I could go on, but I think these three would be the titles I’d recommend the most.

  7. kennyg kennyg says:

    I have the weirdest boner right now.

    But seriously, I see some Maka-Maka in my future.

  8. zattaric zattaric says:

    I’ve just dipped my toe in the manga pond and I think I might check out some of these titles. Red Blinds the Foolish intrigues me.

  9. zombiemoses zombiemoses says:

    even straight men can enjoy Loveless! i remember some yuri characters in it and its just a great love story

  10. zombiemoses zombiemoses says:

    also Utena is basically transgender so she/he wasn’t really gay

    • zombiemoses zombiemoses says:

      also more manga articles!

    • thefig24 says:

      was Utena transgendered? I never really saw it that way. Utena did want to be a prince, but I always believed that was about being symbolic of what a prince should be and not actually trying to be a guy. I’ve never really read the Utena manga, and only seen the anime so maybe this is a manga thing.

  11. I remember when I used to work at Borders and I had to keep the Manga section in check. There were always manga’s that were wrapped in plastic for some reason. So when a customer took it off on a book I flipped through it as I was putting it back.

    I think the words: “Good lord!” came to mind…

  12. jorel3459 jorel3459 says:

    Hey Molly, loved the article. I actually liked Antique Bakery and have seen the anime and the korean adaptation. Glad it was on the list. Also really liked Loveless. My question was: have you seen or heard of “Junjo Romantica”? I love the series and the author has done others but this series i really enjoy. JUst wondering if you ad read it and what your opinion was..Great Article btw. Love coming to the site and seeing the writers opinions on comics all around the world and on different genres.

  13. ComicfanLyle says:

    Ive never really been interested or ever got into Manga.What would be some good trades to start with?.

    • thefig24 says:

      depends on what you like. Shonen, Shoujo, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life, Fantasy. Manga is just about as diverse as any other media.

    • BionicDave BionicDave says:

      @Lyle: I’ve found that a good first step into manga is the DEATH NOTE miniseries, by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata. It’s not gay/yaoi manga (or even particularly sexual at all) but the premise is awesome, and the author then masterfully ratchets up the drama with each consecutive chapter/book. Memorable characters doing unusual things. I give it an A+!

    • thefig24 says:

      @BionicDave: and that’s sort of exactly what I’m talking about. You can give Death Note an A+, but in my eye, I’d give it a C-, with a pitiful secondary cast, completely unlikable main character, and enough Plot Armor to make Ichigo jealous.

      But that’s just my opinion, based around my own tastes, values and experiences. It really isn’t any more right or wrong than yours. That’s why I think it’s best if you let them choose a genre and let them go from there.