This piece by Nakamura Asumiko, is probably one that will be misunderstood--and therefore ignored or put down--by many people who read it.
"Boys Love" is not as much an actual story, as it is a comment on society and the hardships of same-sex love. In just a handful of pages--glimpses of a romance, accompanied by sparse and vague dialogue--these two nameless boys tell the universal tale of countless people who happen to love someone of the same sex. A short little tale with a huge innate meaning.
I find it very hard to decide by which factors I should rate it. But I guess I'll go
by the importance of the message + the artistic qualities in terms of construction and art.
If read as a story, it could be perceived as rather pointless--just an impersonal and shallow look at two boys falling in love, having an emo conversation. Just an excuse for some fine art and fanservice. But I think that the mangaka thought much bigger than that when drawing this work. She doesn't sell cheap.
At first, the title fooled me. Even though I'm a big fan of Nakamura, I'd put off this one, since the title felt "meh" to me. However, when I was checking for works I might have missed by my favourite mangakas, I looked it up. I couldn't really believe that it would be as stupid as it sounded since I value her stories highly. And it wasn't.
I guess Nakamura Asumiko doesn't really need to be introduced to fans of BL. She's one of the brightest stars in the genre--with good reason. Even if she works with a great array of genres, she's probably best known for her BL stories, of which many are already classics.
What I find extraordinary about her, is her impressive versatility. She can do everything from sweet shounen-ai to disturbingly dark, mature stories--and master both. In "J no Subete" she told the intricate life story of "J", a tale that spanned over decades, dealing with heavy themes and serious issues. In "Double Mints" she went all out and dug out the darkest and most twisted sides of the characters and their screwed up love. "Doukyuusei", its sequels and other stories orbiting around the characters from it, are sweet enough to make your teeth hurt--but even in those, there are underlying themes of serious nature. Destructive relationships (Koma's past), morals vs. feelings regarding love between teacher and student, questioning why--or why NOT to--come out to loved ones, etc.
Her anchor to reality is always there, no matter how cute some of her stories get. A reality that isn't all that rosy for LGBTQ people. In "Boys Love", Nakamura uses her art and storytelling for social critique. "Why is one love acceptable and not the other?"
It's already there in the title, "Boys Love". The very epitome for describing what kind of story it is, blatantly telling you; this is boy on boy romance. But when put into the context of social commentary, the title gets a different substance.
The boys have no names, we know nothing about them, we don't NEED to know anything except two emotions; Love--and fear.
Comics are about pictures meeting words, taking the best of two worlds and merging them to create another dimension to storytelling. The art is usually the foundation since, well, it's comics. (And I won't dwell on that bit--Nakamura is an amazing artist and brought a whole new feeling to the BL genre with her exquisite and unique style.) Too much dialogue can feel tedious--but on the other hand--too little can make things confusing. This little one-shot was confusing at first, I had to read the piece twice and think about it a bit before I could put words on my feelings when reading it.
The--seemingly detached--dialogue and the visuals co-exist while they still tell separate tales. The pictures, by flashback, tell a story of love--while the words, a voice-over, tell of angst and guilt. At first, I wasn't quite sure of what I thought about the concept, since the repetitive and narrow dialogue kind of distracted attention from the art--but in the end, I liked it. It enhances the contrast between heart and logic, what couldn't be stopped but always will have a shadow lurking behind it. The words that were slightly annoying--instead became sort of like a mantra. A desperate attempt to convince each other, convince themselves. Although unable to resist--always hesitating.
One wishes that all love should be like those visuals, that the dialogue wouldn't be necessary. No one should have to constantly be aware of the huge negative impact that their love will bring. In a straight romance, that dialogue wouldn't be there. It would only be the pictures. For someone gay, that dialogue will never disappear, it will always be there, no matter how sweet the pictures are.
The world desperately needs a change, and it's not only the general public that needs to reflect on their part of the problem. Far too many BL-fans prefer to live in the fantasy, avoiding the "sad ones", without ever giving thought to the real-life people that these stories are really about. The truth is that being LGBTQ in most of the world is completely unacceptable, often criminal, and can get you socially--or literally--lynched, jailed or even executed. We might think that Japan is modern in all aspects--but definitely not in this matter.
Being gay in Japan means you can't get married nor even have a registered partnership. You can't adopt children (as a couple). Your relationships are not acknowledged by law no matter if you've been together for 50 years--so you have no rights to social security/insurance/inheritance/etc related to spouses/partners. Your citizen rights may in some aspects be trampled on without repercussion for the other party (for example, businesses such as hotels/restaurants etc, may refuse you service if they so wish, your employer can fire you, your landlord can kick you out etc.) You will be socially shunned and often lose your job, family, and friends.
In my opinion; if we swoon over BL, we should also take part of the responsibility to make a change--if so only by stating our opinions loud and clear and try to make others see it, too. So, have YOU?