BL News Site Chill-Chill Surveys Readers' Interest in Yuri
posted on by Kim Morrissy
Boys-Love (BL) news website Chill-Chill published the results of a survey it carried out in July among 1,048 readers regarding their interest in the yuri sub-genre. 41% of respondents, or 430 people, said that they read yuri. Among those who read yuri, 83%, or 358 people, said that they read it less frequently than BL. Only 17%, or 72 people, said that they read yuri as often or more often than BL.
Chill-Chill noted that a 41% crossover readership was a higher percentage than they expected, even if BL was the main interest. In addition, the survey found that 249 people, the largest proportion of yuri reader respondents, found titles through searching for it themselves because they like female characters. Only 141 people found titles through advertisements, 77 people said they mistakenly bought yuri thinking it was shojo manga, and 41 people said it was recommended to them.
Chill-Chill listed several of the comments by those who responded that they like the female characters, translated as follows:
- "I like reading yuri because the women who appear in them are close to the type of women whom I admire and want to be like."
- "I've always liked female characters, so I like shipping women together."
- "A world with only cute girls in it would be awesome."
- "Watching cute girls flirt with each other is a sight for sore eyes."
In addition, when asked what kind of yuri works they preferred, 349 people, the largest proportion of respondents, said that they liked works with a heavy emphasis on romance. "Regardless of gender, I love stories where someone is drawn to another person through a strong bond, and they are drawn to each other while influencing each other. Yuri is no exception," wrote one comment.
"There aren't many yuri works that include explicit sexual content, so there are a lot of works where you can enjoy the story or a pure, innocent romance," wrote another comment.
On the other hand, some respondents wrote that they were drawn to the murkier emotions held particularly by women in love, with one respondent saying, "I like seeing strong obsessions and feelings such as jealousy and envy. BL has those elements too, but comparatively speaking it's easier for women to hold those emotions, so there's a feeling of reality to it that I enjoy reading." Another respondent wrote: "[I like] the interactions and the depictions of the inner hearts of characters who may seem cute and lovely at first glance, but have another, murkier side to them. It's different from BL."
Chill-Chill highlighted several more common themes among the answers. One of them was the ease in which readers can relate to the characters in yuri. For some female readers, it's simply because they find it easier to relate to female characters. For others, it's because they themselves are women who feel romantic attraction towards women. Chill-Chill quoted several responses below:
- "I'm also attracted to girls, so I admire yuri and wish I could experience a love like that."
- "I also like girls, and I've also had a girlfriend, so I think positively about love between girls."
- "There was a girl I liked at the all-girls school I attended, so when I read yuri works, I can relate to them and feel envious. It's fun."
The article also addresses the blurring of boundaries between BL and yuri, and the creation of the "yuri BL" genre. Historically, the BL genre has referred to stories of romantic love between men, regarded separately from works written by gay men (although the article notes that this distinction is starting to get challenged in recent years). On the other hand, the definition of "love" in yuri works is vaguer, because it can refer to friendship or the liminal space between friendship and romance, and the genre is occupied by men, straight women, and women who are attracted to women without any need for strict delineation.
Given that BL is fundamentally about male characters and yuri is about female characters, the term "Yuri BL" might seem contradictory at first glance. In 2017, a "Yuri BL" anthology was published, with many of the stories focusing on the relationship between two "bottom" characters, featuring elements and aesthetics that are normally associated with yuri manga.
According to Chill-Chill's survey, 38% of readers who also consume yuri works (or 165 people overall) read yuri BL. Those who read yuri BL pointed to the biological differences between men and woman as a point of interest in the burgeoning genre, because when it comes to sex there's the question of who will perform the insertion. Readers also commented that it was appealing to see male characters take on feminine personality traits. The male characters often seem more cute in this way. On the other hand, those who don't read yuri BL noted that they preferred regular BL and think that the two genres have separate appeal.
"What I want from BL isn't the cuteness of girl-on-girl relationships but the tension around who will mount the other as the 'dominant' (seme) character," wrote one comment.
Others wrote about their concerns about "Yuri BL" as a classification. "Strictly speaking, [Yuri BL] is not actually yuri (girl-on-girl relationships)," one reader commented. "Also, no matter how you look at it, expressing the relationship between two men as 'yuri' is a puzzling feeling. To begin with, calling it the relationship between two bottom characters (uke) means that it's predicated on the question of who will do the insertion, and so even if there are depictions of the characters using toys for the insertion, it's not a relationship of 'two bottom characters' anymore at the point when the insertion is depicted."
The author of the article noted that equating "woman" with "bottom character" does seem concerning from a feminist perspective, and wrote that this seems like an interesting angle to cover in a future survey.
As a further exploration of the "Yuri BL" genre, Chill-Chill plans to spotlight the perspectives of BL fans who don't read yuri in a future article.
The article was written in response to a column written for the recently published BL Textbook by Akiko Hori and Naoko Mori. The book covers a broad range of topics such as the history of BL, how gay men read BL, feminist critique of BL and pornography, queer readings of works that are not classified as BL, the relationship between yuri and BL, and overseas fandom. It was published by Yuhikaku Publishing on July 20.