As much as anime is known for its compelling stories and dynamic characters, it's also known for its problematic elements as well, such as oversexualized characters or overbearing fanservice, among many others. The niche subgenres of anime are not free from these issues either, and the boys love subgenre comes with its own share of problematic tropes and stereotypes.
As time has progressed, there has been increasing demand for greater representation in all forms of media, including anime. The LGBTQ+ community in particular has been pushing for more visibility in the media they consume. Although gay anime, also known as boys love or yaoi, has been around for decades, many of the shows in the subgenre do more harm than good for the queer community.
Characters in yaoi anime are often a part of highly toxic relationships, sometimes engaging in predatory behavior with characters much younger than them. These shows reinforce the stereotype that queer men are dangerous sexual predators. It's easy to see why there are so many criticisms of the boys love genre as a whole and why positive queer representation is so sought after. Many anime fans, both in the LGBTQ+ community and outside of it, want to see shows that display healthy and supportive relationships between men. Anime streaming sites like Funimation help to fulfill that need.
Yuri!!! On Ice
There are many sports anime that flirt with the line between close male teammates and homoerotic affection. Yuri!!! On Ice pushes way past that line. The main character, Yuuri Katsuki, is a rookie ice skater who manages to impress his idol Victor Nikiforov, a world-renown ice skater who has recently retired. Victor decides to take Yuuri under his wing and help him become a world-class skater. Victor's lessons don't just help Yuuri get better at skating, but also teach him how to connect with his sensual side. In turn, Yuuri's love of the sport reignites Victor's own passion for skating.
Victor and Yuuri are never afraid to be intimate with one another. Emotional embraces and steamy caresses fill the show. The two ice skaters also aren't shy about telling each other how they feel. Victor and Yuuri can't seem to go more than one episode without delivering some kind of impassioned speech about their love or dedication for one another. Yuri!!! On Ice is a perfect mix of high-intensity sports and deep male romance.
Stranger by the Shore
This anime film on Funimation displays a more realistic and slow-paced romance. The story follows Mio and Shun as they struggle with their sexual identities and their feelings for one another. Shun has been shunned by his family after they discovered his sexual orientation. Mio and Shun grow closer, but Mio has to move the city and leave Shun behind. After three years apart, Mio moves back and reveals his feelings for Shun.
Although the film is rather short, Stranger by the Shore still manages to tackle complicated issues of sexual identity and struggles with family acceptance. Even though Shun is in love with Mio, his guilt over his feelings prevents the two from developing their relationship. Stranger by the Shore creates a visually stunning slow burn that manages to break all of the problematic tropes that plague the boys love genre.
Heaven's Official Blessing
Funimation is also bringing Chinese animation to the forefront with certain donghua they're streaming, such as Heaven's Official Blessing. It's significant that one of the first donghua to reach an international audience is a boys love series. Heaven's Official Blessing is an interesting blend of mythology and romance. Xie Lian is an ancient prince who has been kicked out of heaven and meets Hua Cheng, a demon king. Despite being on opposite sides, the two characters have a strong connection to one another.
Heaven's Official Blessing has a very star-crossed lovers feel to it. Hua Cheng disregards the differences in their status and is solely focused on Xie Lian. His love and dedication to Xie Lian is inspiring, and the lengths to which Hua Cheng is willing to go in order to protect the person he loves speaks volumes about the intense romance that this series creates.