Japanese gay comics grow in popularity around Asia

Yaoi, a genre of Japanese drawings which emerged in the late 1970s and centres on homoerotic relationships between two males, is gaining traction in Thailand, inspiring spin-offs which rake in billions of baht each year, a seminar was told on Monday.

Yot Kornherun, the managing director of Star Hunter Entertainment, behind the homoerotic series Boys' Love, or Y Series, told a seminar titled "Next step of the Y Series in the Thai entertainment industry" at Chulalongkorn University that the genre's influence and popularity was rapidly growing, both in Thailand and the region.

"It is inspired by yaoi manga [Japanese cartoon series], which are popular among female readers who fantasise about relationships between their idol and a man, as they don't want to see other females get near their heartthrob," he said.

"The storyline follows the traditional plot where a dominant character takes on a guardian role to a more submissive character, much like a male-female couple."

Last year, more than 20 of such dramas were made in Thailand. The series' popularity is steadily growing in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China.

He said Y Series was created to fulfill the audience's fantasy, most of whom are women who derive pleasure from male-male intimacy. Over 70% of the audience prefers to watch simple and moderate content for a "feel good experience", he added.

Mr Yot said his company had faced resistance over the years but its productions had now been aired via various channels.

"The business will thrive as long as there are women who don't succeed in love, because they can identify themselves with these characters," he said.

Asked to what extent the comics can break societal norms by depicting the complexities of LGBTQ relationships, he said it was possible, but difficult for now as the series was only watched by a small subset of society.

"The audience of Y Series enjoys [same-sex] relations but still believe in male and female gender identities. If you don't, you may not like its content," he said.

Wittavat Sungsakijha, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Communication Arts, said filmmakers were not actively campaigning for LGBTQ issues. "However, they sometimes explore issues, such as parental disapproval of same-sex couples," he said.

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