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A Genealogy of Boys Love

A Genealogy of Boys Love

The Gaze of the Girl and the Bishōnen Body in the Prewar Images of Takabatake Kashō

A Genealogy of Boys Love
Boys Love Manga and Beyond
Barbara Hartley
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter discusses the prehistory of Boys Love (BL) by analyzing the works of Taisho period (1912–1925) artist, Takabatake Kashō. The period saw significant economic and technological growth that resulted in major advances in education. A vibrant literary culture developed, especially around popular monthly magazines aimed at differing readerships such as housewives, businessmen, and boys and girls. Kashō, one of Japan's best-known illustrators, presented boys as young, beautiful, and sometimes effeminate-looking male figures that project an air of homoeroticism due to also having made illustrations of older men. These male figures attracted interest among female readers. Noting that such images were featured in girls' magazines, such as Shōjo no tomo (Girls' friend), the chapter suggests that it was precisely the absence of women in the frame of these pictures—and hence their homoerotic charge—that attracted girl readers.

Keywords:   BL, Taisho period, Takabatake Kashō, literary culture, effeminate-looking male figures, homoeroticism, Shōjo no tomo

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