Over here in Japan, there’s quite a strong separation between male anime/manga otaku, and female otaku. Generally speaking male otaku here are into cute girls, and female otaku are into pretty boys. People looking from outside the fandoms often imagine that they have a lot in common, but actually the difference between liking cute girls and liking pretty boys, is something of an impassable chasm.
There are of course exceptions to this, which is a category I’ve realised that I fall into. In my case I’m a guy who’s into cute girls, and also really likes pretty boys! *:.｡☆..｡.(´∀`人)
In Japan, girls who are into pretty boys (and ship them) are labelled, fujoshi (腐女子, literally “rotten girl”). So in the same vein, guys who are into pretty boys are called fudanshi (腐男子), replacing the woman (女) character, with man (男).
As this appears to be a reasonably rare phenomenon, I thought I’d talk a little bit about how I’ve come to appreciate beautiful boys, as a straight guy.
1. I Can Identify With Them
The first real bishounen (beautiful boy) series I saw was the anime adaptation of the visual novel Amnesia (quite different to the horror game, I can assure you).
My first thought was “Oh damn, these guys are edgy!” Because I mean, seriously, who wears clothes like that? (I actually want their wardrobe so much it physically hurts) (ノД`)ノ
But as I watched more of it I realised that I could identify with these characters far better than with what we, in the west, consider to be good, male role-models. We tend to idolise sporty, muscular, traditionally masculine looking guys, with short hair and simple clothes.
But that wasn’t me, I didn’t like sports, I was so skinny a strong wind could break me in half, and I wanted longer, exciting hair (although now it’s short again). So it was great not only seeing characters like that, but characters like that who were designed to be cool. They weren’t some “weirdo” being laughed at in a TV show for being different, they were the protagonists.
Not long after that I stated to get really into Japanese fashion and got a proper hair cut!
2. The Character Designs Are Amazing
As much as I like cute girls, I have to confess that I think characters from pretty boy series often have more interesting designs. More interesting might not be quite the right phrasing, but bishounen character designs do tend to be very detailed (and again, fantastic hair).
Recently I’ve been really into the online game Toukenranbu, which features anthropomorphised Japanese swords as pretty boys, and I can really get behind the amount of detail that goes into the character designs.
As someone who’s into fashion and cosplay as well, these kind of designs make for some really interesting outfits and inspiration! Obviously it’s hard to look as beautiful as them in real life, but we can try! ヾ(´Д｀)ﾉ
3. Gender isn’t the Most Important Thing in a Series/Prejudice is Hard to Overcome
I had some trouble phrasing this point, but basically, gender is not what makes a character or series good, there’s so much more to it than that.
I often find that I don’t enjoy bishounen works because of the pretty boys, but rather because I really like the characters’ personalities, or because the story is very well written.
I always like to use Yuri!!! on Ice to demonstrate this point, as I’ve never seen my guy friends get so excited about a gay romance before. It’s often not the content itself that audiences have a real aversion to, but rather the way it’s written and portrayed, along with their own preconceived expectations and assumptions.
My friends genuinely didn’t know what they were getting into with Yuri!!! on Ice, they had only heard that it had great animation, and was very popular online. They basically had no reason not to watch it, so they did… and they loved it. On the other hand, if I’d introduced it to them as a “gay ice skating anime”, I’m not sure how they’d have felt. Maybe they’d have surprised me, who knows?
To put it simply, I think a lot of guys have an aversion to pretty boys (and BL) because they just expect it to not be interesting to them. As someone who went in blind myself, I never had this issue, but often I see it with male otaku who won’t touch anything lacking cute girls.
That just about covers everything for me really. I’m sure if you meet other guys that are into pretty boy series, they might have some other good reasons to give you.
Regarding the last point about the importance of good characterisation and story writing, one series that helped me get into the more adult, BL side of things was The Subway Dog, which just went up on Renta! recently. So if you fancy something slow-burning and more mature, I really recommend checking it out!
If there are any other guys out there reading this who’re into BL or pretty boys, I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Until next time～! ｳﾞｧ───ヾ(´ｰ｀)ﾉ───ｲ