The Best (Healthy) BL Manga That Deserve an Anime

Manga sales have reached never-before-seen heights in recent years, to the point that an avid reader is better off pre-ordering the next copy of that big shonen series than hoping to happen upon it in the local bookstore. Every genre of manga, including more niche ones like Boys' Love, is spiking in popularity. Big-name publishers like Viz Media have picked up a few BL manga, while others like Seven Seas and SuBLime have cornered the market on LGBTQ+ content.

BL is a niche genre for a reason, though. While some avoid it because they don't want to read about gay relationships, others boycott it because of how commonly it portrays predatory, abusive, and often non-consensual relationships. That said, finding good manga that breaks this mold can be like finding diamonds in a dumpster. CBR has covered healthy relationships in BL anime recently, but there are just as many mangas that break the standard. Here is some BL manga that shows complex, but balanced relationships deserving of a spotlight.

Restart After Coming Back Home

Restart After Coming Back Home Truck

Just released in English this month by Seven Seas, this BL tells the story of two men in their mid-20's falling in love in a small town. Mitsuomi Kozuka took off for Tokyo in high school but had to come crawling back after he got fired from his job. While he was gone, his elderly neighbors adopted Yamato Kumai, who seems to be the town's new golden boy. As two of the only young men left in the country town, they're pushed to become friends and wind up together often.

Even though this manga is only seven chapters long, their relationship is a slow burn. This volume covers the first year of their friendship-turned-romance and then jumps two years for the epilogue. Along the way, they both have struggles to overcome. Mitsuomi now wants to take on the family business after previously rejecting it, while Yamato grapples with his past and the fear that it's left him unable to love. With each other's support, they face these issues and form a special bond along the way.

My Summer of You

My Summer of You Bridge

After discovering that they share a love of movies, Chiharu Saeki and Wataru Toda become unlikely friends. Chiharu is tall, handsome, and has a large social circle, while Wataru is an average high schooler. One evening, Chiharu confesses his love for Wataru, but he doesn't ask for his feelings to be returned or to start a relationship. All he wants is to continue spending time with Wataru over their summer vacation, visiting the locations where an award-winning movie was filmed.

What's most refreshing about My Summer of You is how well Chiharu and Wataru talk to each other, when they decide to. Chiharu's surprisingly open about how he feels about Wataru, who is in turn open with how strange it is for him. He never expected another boy to love him, and it does change their relationship, but Wataru accepts it. Chiharu's confession even leads Wataru to consider his own feelings and realize he might have been in love all along. They do hide things from each other and have things they'd rather not talk about, but it comes out when they're pushed in the right way.

That Blue Sky Feeling

That Blue Sky Feeling Cover

When Dai Noshiro transfers to a new high school, he quickly notices the class outcast, Kou Sanada. This mysterious boy is almost always alone, sits out of gym class and their classmates prefer to leave him that way. Dai tries to include Kou but meets resistance from him and their classmates. It's not long before Dai learns why - there's a rumor that Kou is gay. Dai confronts him about it and Kou admits that the rumor is true.

Like writer Okura's current work I Think Our Son is Gay, That Blue Sky Feeling explores the social problems that come with being gay in a heteronormative world. Dai has a lot to unlearn as he gets closer to Kou, from perceptions about what is "normal" to his own queerness that he's been ignoring. All the while, Kou struggles to allow other people into his life, afraid that they won't like the version of him that lies beyond his carefully constructed walls. These boys go on journeys of acceptance, of both themselves and each other, and fall in love along the way.

Koimonogatari: Love Stories

Koimonogatari Yuuji Yamato

When Yuiji Hasegawa overhears classmate Yamato Yoshinaga telling a friend that he's gay, Yuiji can't help but look at everything Yamato does differently. He doesn't want to associate with Yamato but is pushed to when they both join a study group. As they spend time together, Yuiji realizes that Yamato isn't lesser because of his sexuality. He likes Yamato, as a person, and wants to be by his side. He's learned about the struggles of being gay by watching Yamato and just wants his new friend to be happy. As of the two volumes published by TOKYOPOP, they are not an official couple but they show signs of attraction.

As the world expands, Koimonogatari delves into serious topics, like homophobia and being outed, on a deeper level than most BL. Every character has a different perspective, from the ones in the LGBTQ+ community to the ones who are openly hateful. It feels like creator Tohru Tagura truly understands the struggles of being gay because of how nuanced the story can get. That said, it is a mature series that can be upsetting.

New art for the Bleach 20th anniversary exhibit.
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