My Top Ten: Historical Yaoi Manga by Zehavit Lamasu

I am compiling this list with a ridiculous level of reservation. Most historical fiction reviews I see tend to ponder and dwell on historical accuracy and I admit , quite bluntly, that this is NOT why I read historical novels. Hell, it isn’t why I read ANY fiction – full stop!

I read stories set in the past because I want to remove myself from the present and be transported to “the olden days” for a short time. I am addicted to escapism so I shun accuracy like the plague. Speaking of plague, if it appears in a novel I like it to be a device for character building, adventure setting, angst infusion. A narrative obstacle rather than an accurate account of the time. I have history books for that and I read them on times when I am curious about the reality of those time.

Fiction REMOVES me from reality, personal preference but a rather strong trend with me. I swallow stupid romance novels by the buckets and not ashamed to admit it.

And this is how I came to yaoi. I am worried that I would have to justify myself. My fantasies, my indulgences, my *gasp* FETISHES. I don’t want to do that and I rather not get drawn into defending the genre. It is what it is. Riddled with faults, vastly misunderstood and in my opinion, utterly brilliant because it is nothing more than what it is. It doesn’t TRY to be high literature.

I am not going to divide it into definitions and sub genres and I am going to CHEAT. I added some titles that aren’t labelled YAOI but they feature gay romance as central or part of the plot.

1) Avalon Eien no Ai no Shima (Avalon – Island of Eternal Love)(2 volumes) Akai Toreno

Akai Toreno is largely unpopular with western yaoi fans. Her Semes are too beefy, her Ukes too effeminate. She overdoes the angst factor and her sex scenes can be uncomfortably brutal. She also very rooted in the narrative aspect of the story rather than the smut. I confess that everything about her work appeals to me despite and maybe due to its faults. In this case the angst is well placed. A romance between an SS officer and his Jewish butler in Nazi Germany can hardly be a cheerful easy going affair.

This has been swiftly written off by people who never read the manga as fetishist. I fail to see how since Aloise is forced into his position in the SS having the life of his childhood friend (David – a boy from the Jewish serving family in his family’s estate) dangled as a threat before his eyes. He doesn’t spend too much panel time in uniform and is the UKE.

The premise of their affair (and this is quite an intricate relationship and story) is that Aloise feels responsible for the death of David entire family and as a sacrifice he offers himself to nightly humiliating series of brutal sexual encounters in which David takes out his frustrations upon his body.

It is a love-hate relationship, soaking in more angst than the law should permit and when the love finally creeps up gently into their encounters – it jerks the tears and dishes out some melodrama that is probably a lot to swallow for some fans.

It is perfect for me. It also hits a personal note. Similar story in my family’s past… without the gay angle XD It wins top spot without contest.

2) Gerrard and Jacques (2 volumes) Fumi Yoshinaga (mention lovers in the night)

This is one that a lot of fans will point to as the hight of historical yaoi. Rightfully so. It is witty, smart, sexy and romantic in all the right places. The art is very different. There is none of the big sparkling eyes, the lush hair and the willowy grace of the majority of yaoi out there. Once you get used to the style, though , it is just as highly detailed and eye-candy as the best. (the image is from LOVERS IN THE NIGHT though… same time period and I liked how you spotted the anachronistic glasses which illustrate the Yaoi Rule of “Historically correct? FEH! It looks good! It goes on the bishie bridge of his nose!”)

At the cusp of the French Revolution Jacques is a sold into prostitution as a child. Gerard, a successful novelist (we later learn he writes Lesbian smut for a living) hires his favors for the night at the brothel were he is forced to work. The child arrogance intrigues him and after he does what a gentleman does with a young boy at a house of disrepute, he buys his freedom… just to see if young Jacques wouldn’t be back whoring soon enough.

Of course he doesn’t. Few years later, teenage Jacques finds employment at Gerrard house, where he finds the novelist bed filled with young male whores and his own loins behaving completely against his will… dragging him in the direction of the same bed.

The story of THIS love affair stretches throughout the turbulent times as Jacques grows from boy to man and the two banter and bicker and have lots of lovely-lovely filthy sex. Laced with humor which just adds to the eroticism of the tale and a typical Fumi Yoshinaga clever dialog – this one is NOT typical to the genre. It is highly recommended and – JOY – available in English.

you already know how the anachronisms creep it… switch the historical accuracy goggles off – in my opinion it is worth ignoring them for this bit of fun. (anything by Fumi Yoshinaga is gold, even when not historical and even when not gay – try ANTIQUE BAKERY – it is … just… *swoons*).

3) Romance (3 volumes) Moka Azumni

Not one for the plot. This is complete eye-candy. Antwan a beautiful man in stunning clothes who never ties his lush hair and escapes marriage is pursued by an artist who asks to paint his portrait and ends up teaching him the art of man loving. Throw in a cousin who also expresses a romantic interest in him and you have thousands of excuses to show off beautiful men in hundreds of 18th century frilly attire… and take them out of it just as frequently.

Moka Azumi story telling never caught me but her art style and attention to detail takes my breath away. I find myself leafing through her books as one would do with an art book, pausing to take in favorite panels and shamelessly drooling over how pretty it all is.

Anachronistically speaking – there is probably enough to make a historian explode. I don’t think the mangaka cares… I certainly don’t. ^^;;

4) Song of the winds and trees (13 volumes) Keiko Takemiya

This would not be considered yaoi but it is the mostly undisputed work that sprung the genre of Boys Love. about to be born when slowly other mangakas picked up their pens and ventured into far more gratuitous Keiko Takamiya was a Shoujo mangaka who got very bored with her genre. So when it came a time to write a historical tragic love story … she simply changed the girl into a boy and the concept of Uke and Seme was territory (not always explicitly sexual but still a lot less plot based than this).

19th century tale set mostly in an exclusive boarding school. The very promiscuous Gilbert a student with a bad reputation for wildness, Serge a kind hearted fellow pupil offers him his friendship and receives a lot more in return. Not just a reluctant romance and eventual sex but also the full brunt of Gilbert twisted past.

Very angst ridden, very poetically written, very tear jerking. The style of drawing lies firmly in the 1970s and the characters look even younger than they really are (which is 14) so you have to switch off the political correctness here. There are no sex scenes as such but we are told they happen and we see the aftermath quite often. Scenes of child abuse can be a hard pill to swallow. This one is story all the way through.

5) Seifuku … (1 volume) Akai Toreno

A very early Toreno. I tend to favor these. Set in Roman times. The Seme is a Roman general who brings home a Celtic prisoner of war as spoils of war. The prisoner happen to look just like his mother which opensbrings up a big can of worms as he finds himself attracted to him and faced with the shadows of the past.

The romance is violent to begin with , filled with tears and carries the characteristic “invisible penis” style… all typical Akai Toreno.

We travel from Ancient Britain to Rome to the Holy land. The Uke goes from Chief son to Slave to Whore. All of this in one volume. Cheaply pushes all of my fangirlish buttons. Pulp Romance if I ever came across one – but it works for me… no surprise there XD.

6) The lily and the rose – Dany & Dany

The only GloBL title on my list. I love Dany & Dany. I know the plot is predictable and old but I am forever a sucker for a story that sets a priest against a decadent dandy. Good excuse to play with pretty 18th century and angst. Can a fangirl ask for more? YES SHE CAN! I am not going to – I am quite happy with this.

7) Ludwig II – Higuri Yuu

I am cheating again. This is shoujo. The famous love story between the king and his stable boy. Beautifully handled and apparently actually RESEARCHED!!! I can’t back up the claim but Yuu Higuri fills this 3 volume manga with all the political intrigue and manipulations at the time.

I spotted one huge anachronism (I got this after visiting Ludwig II castles), the king never grows fat and he is a lot less… ahem… eccentric than he was in real life.

Still – this is a proper historical manga (which might not be up to accuracy standards with western historical novel but it makes the effort at least) and the plot follows history. Lots of dialogs and story. Sex scenes are subtle, the love story is central and heart breaking. It plays the romance of the time for all its worth.

8)Wild Rock – Kazusa Takashima

Ah! The stone age as it never was! Two stories of utter fluff and eye candy. Uke is very feminine and young looking. Seme is all muscle and manliness. They wear very little when they wear it at all. Let me try and remember the plot – I am still trying to peak under than loin-cloth!

The uke is made to dress as a girl in order to seduce the handsome son of rival clan for this or that reason. They fall in love and live happily ever after. There is another story that reveals the steamy past of their fathers.

Unlikely to the extreme… but who is going to be able to prove that… who is even going to TRY! WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO???

9) Stolen heart – Maki Kanamaru (writer) and Yukine Honami (illustrator)

It is a simple and pleasant enough Regency story. A spoiled young nobleman hops from party to orgy until he is utterly bored. In comes a mysterious highwayman who brings back the fire into his desire. It isn’t the most surprising theme. The only interesting twist here is that both sides are far from innocent and willing participants in all the bed exploits. It is a shame that for this story there isn’t more explicit depiction of these.

This is the longest of three stories in the book. The other two are not historical. This is quite typical since historical BL romance is far more common in novel form… but that would have to wait for another top 10…

10)Temptation – Maeda Momiji

I am not a big fan of short story anthologies but this one captured my attention. Small installment of old frilly themes. Dandy nobleman and his devout love interest, pirates and noblemen. A nice frolic in fangirl fetishes which I enjoyed very much. A first from Maeda Momiji. I only ever saw illustrations for novels or teaser images in anthologies. These tend to be one-of pictures with no story attached so I was pleased to see her try her hand in manga.

This list turned out to be more problematic than I thought.

To begin with – there is a lot less of it out there than I realized. I compiled a large folder of historical yaoi images through the years of collecting but it is a rather misleading collection (although very beautiful).

To begin with – most of the images are from NOVELS. Then there is the separate genre set in alternative universe in which the setting is historical but it allows mangakas with more conscience to shrug of anachronisms with the excuse : “it isn’t REALLY our history” (think LIONS OF AL RASSAN in Western terms). This is before we even touch upon all the Fantasy stories (in manga form as well) who set magical tales in magical lands where characters get to dress in historical gear for the sheer heck of it. This is before we even start stepping into Gothic vampire territory… it is as overdone in Japan as it is over here and I am no fan of vampire romps whether it comes from here or over seas.

The last problem is that the vast majority of the images I have come from magazines and anthologies. In the good cases these are attached to one shot short stories and SOMETIMES those end up stuffed at the end of a takubon as page filler but not always. The problem is that a lot of these are just cover or insert commissions from illustrators and there is no story attached to any of them.

And when I threw myself happily into this I suddenly found myself having to select from… well… not very much. Since I felt I had to at least LIKE what I listed I bunched it up with some shoujo and had a good go at it.

This is the muddled result.

19 Responses

  1. ((((Zehavit))))! This is a fantastic list. Gerard & Jacques and Wild Rock are my faves, but I see a couple here that I really need to go check out. Starting with Romance! :)

  2. Fabulous post, Lamasu, sweetie. Thank you so much and I will definitely to splashing er.. out on a few of these…
    :)

  3. These are fantastic – the art – oh wow. My daughter reads – um – would it be manga? And the art in them is baffling and slightly disturbing, but these look a lot more accessible.

    Thanks for the list!

    *eyes Amazon account*

  4. There’s also Toma No Shinzou by Moto Hagio, which came before Kaze to Ki no Uta. It takes place in a 19th century German boarding school this time, and while fairly angst-ridden, it doesn’t reach the supreme levels that Takemiya reaches in Kaze to Ki no Uta.

    I love both manga, but I’m fonder of Toma because of the restraint and refinement of Hagio’s narrative. Kaze left me crying and traumatized for days. Really.

  5. Additional warning for Kaze. There’s a lot of sexual and physical abuse and rape going on. I had to make note of that and warn everybody when I owned a Kaze website once upon a time. Neither Kaze nor Toma are in print anymore, too, which is a bummer.

  6. There is a lot of sexual violence but it is not explicit image wise. Compared to Akai Toreno who (despite not drawing penises) is visually very hard to confront during her numerous rape scenes. The violence is also, in my opinion, very well place as a plot device. It illustrates how one of the central character grew up to be the mess he is… I can’t off hand think of a more disturbed character in my manga collection ^^;;

    Thanks for the reference to Hagio Moto. I stand corrected. It has a much smaller impact than Kaze to Ki no Uta even though it came 5 years before. I guess at one volume and a lot less eye candy it was just ignored as time passed. I like the idea of it being more reserved though – Kaze to Ki no Uta can only be taken in small installments – the angst is sometimes CRUSHING!

    I will definately try and find a copy – it seem to be utterly gone from all shops even in second hand copy. I got my 10 volume Bunko edition of Kaze
    to Ki no Uta in a Japanese bookshop 4 years ago- I believe it is still published (re-published) and considered somewhat a classic.

  7. essayel – Hi ^_^

    Yes – that would be manga. It has its own aesthetic which some people find strange when they first come across it – very different to western character depiction in comics.

    Some of the above are more disturbing than others. Some are very sexually violent and others are no more than regency romances … minus the heaving bossom mind you – but there are certainly other parts that are heaving ^^;;.

  8. Erastes – Hahah! It arrived at last … I do hope that members of this lovely place will forgive me for my atrocious lack of regard to the English tongue… you know me – I can’t even use the excuse it isn’t my first language because I spell bad in Hebrew as well ;_; (spell checker is my best friend and I ignore it as well ¬_¬).

    Believe it or not this list is ALREADY out of date with CORSAIR manga out (Not quite historical but… PIRATES!) and the first proper historical yaoi novel series Flesh & Blood (one of my favorites) about to be publish in English as we type :D

  9. Anne ^_^

    Romance is very much worth chasing. It comes in three volumes of breath taking eye-candy – so much regency attire can make a girl expire from over-pretty … and the men… *swoons*!

    The third volume only contain ONE story in the regency romp but it feature the two central characters with NEW CLOTHES (but mostly naked…)

    It has not been translated to English as far as I know but you won’t be buying it for story or dialog anyway. Plot has never been Moka Azumi’s strongest point… but … who cares ^_^.

  10. It’s my fault, I should have posted it at the time, but my PC was really struggling – the broadband has opened doors to me in terms of graphics.

    Perhaps you can do another one in a few months time, favourite pirates or favourite regencies or something.

  11. I would love to cover some of the novels… the ones I managed to read or at least found details summaries to. There is a richer wealth in that corner of yaoi and as I said – one series is just about to make it into the English market – HUZZAH! :D:D:D

    And broadband raises one’s quality of life considerably… if I had to go back in time it would be only to 5 years ago … when BT got Broadband to Glastonbury ^^;;

  12. I guess Shin Mizukami and Fusanosuke Inariya are too much pseudo history to qualify here? Still, these are my favorites as “historical” yaoi goes. (And I don’t think they are much less accurate than Wild Rock, lol)

    If 20th century history is allowed, let me also suggest From Eroica With Love ;-) I admit I haven’t read more than the first stories though… But it’s situated in the time of Cold War, and is really hilarious, too.

  13. Thank you for sharing!
    Your review was colourful, fun and useful. I easily and quickly related to you with your stream-of-consciousness style of writing. I think, if we ever met for coffee, we would have a squealing good conversation that would be fangirl-ethusiasm and thought-provoking depth combined to delicious flavour!
    “I am addicted to escapism so I shun accuracy like the plague.” Totally. I love that quote.
    I chuckled when you described all the componets that would cause most readers to reject Avalon Eien no Ai no Shima and then ended your thought with, “I confess that everything about her work appeals to me.”
    Fetishes are awesome. BL and yaoi genre IS unapologetic; never trying to defend itself. (My respect is earned!) A few mangakas explore the darker aspects of humanity along with the ‘acceptable’ aspects. These works are usually brilliant. “Read(ing) the manga as a fetishist” is much more fun and allows us to enter that ‘escapism’ zone.
    Question: I have been looking for Song of the Wind and Trees manga for ages! I see that it is only scanlated up to part of Vol 4 (Out of 10 or 13? On mangaupdates.com it reports 10.) by Obsession. How did you find the rest or was it not in English?
    I’ve read half of the books you’ve listed here and I concur on all acounts!
    YOU have pushed all my fangirlish buttons with this list! I’m going to go check out the ones I have not read. Thanks again!
    MM

  14. Hi MightyMaeve :)

    Glad this list is hitting the fangirl buttons – this is what I was hoping it would do … I always think that the main reason yaoi receives a cold reception from a lot of gay fiction readers is that they take it far more seriously than it takes itself. I love it for the eye candy and … well… the lightness of being which as great author once said before – can be unbearable … sometimes ^_^.

    Kaze to Ki no Uta has fallen off the cliff with the scanlators. I attacked it with my dictionaries at hand and every scrap of summary and fragmentary translation I could find. My Japanese is appalling but it serves me enough to read dialogs and patch together some of the text. The better the book the more effort I will put into reading it and BOY did this one was worth the effort.

    I still nurse a hope that it would be picked up by an English publisher because it is a gem and actually quite opposed to anything I said in this comment – not at all a light reading, although the art is deceptively sweet in that 1970s starry eyed manga style.

    Oh and the original run of the manga was 13 volume although there were many editions including a 3 volume hard cover one. Currently there is a bunko version in 10 volumes with some extra stories. It is great but all the colour pictures are taken out… I have that one and as a result had to chase all the artbooks to enjoy the art… worth every penny if you are a fan of that style ^_^

  15. Thanks for the quick reply!
    In my searches, I noticed the two by Akai Toreno -that look like ones I’d really (x100!) enjoy reading- have no scanlation teams or English publishers attached to them. Ludwig II is also unscanlated/liscensed. *Weeping in frustration.*
    Ah, to live in a city where I could take Japanese lessons (I know next-to-nothing) instead of the Canadian small town of conservatism that I do live in.
    Thanks for the extra details on Kaze to Ki no Uta!
    MM

  16. Please you have to tell me where you read “Avalon Eien no Ai no Shima (Avalon – Island of Eternal Love)(2 volumes) Akai Toreno” from! I’ve been serching for it everywhere and found out that it hasn’t even been translated by any Scanlators yet! I almost had a heart attack when I found out! So please you have to tell me where I can get it for free. All the other manga’s that you’ve mentioned are on youtube, but Avalon hasn’t even been translated yet! So where are you reading it from? Please I need to read it so bad! Of all the manga’s in your list, that had the best stofy line…

  17. I know this post is old, but PLEASE, if anyone knows where to find a translated copy of “Avalon Eien no Ai no Shima,” let us know!!!!

  18. where do you find these mangas????

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,986 other followers

%d bloggers like this: