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The implicit assumption underlying yaoi stories is that the love between males is superior to ordinary forms of love than exist between males and females. This assumption may result from young Japanese females' beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, about their male-dominated society in which many women believe that once married romance will disappear, replaced by the duties of wife, mother, and housekeeper. In thousands of ways mere male friendships, and sometimes improbable or taboo relationships--say between brothers, are transformed into romantic relationships. This ideal romantic love is never thwarted by little things such as petty jealousies. This supposed superior love, although ostensibly between males, displays distinctly feminine qualities. The characters in yaoi parodies, for example, combine delicate almost feminine physical features with physical strength. Indeed most of the males are slender, physically beautiful, fragile, sensitive, and in many instances they appear androgynous. Before yaoi emerged, female fans associated with June magazine were enamored with tanbi which implies refined aesthetic taste and an obsession for beautiful things (Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, 2002). This obsession pervades boys' love narratives. Curiously, even in the case of rape or rough sex, a gentleness characterizes many yaoi stories.

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The eighties was a time when the dojinshi sold at comic markets shifted from mostly original stories and characters to parodies of popular manga and animated cartoon characters (Yonezawa, personal communication, August 17, 2000). In 2002 parodies still prevail and yaoi is the predominant parody genre. The yaoi parody may be traced to 1983 when the animated TV cartoon became enormously popular. Interestingly, the anime was based on a series from the weekly boy's magazine, . The story is about how a soccer team led by protagonist Captain Tsubasa competes with one strong team after another to finally win a tournament. Yaoi parodies of made an appearance in the winter 1985 COMICMARKET. In the stories, team members' I'd-die-for-you friendships are transformed into romances which represent M/M love considered superior to M/F love. By the summer of 1986, about 370 out of 3,900 groups exhibiting at the market created parodies of (Inokai, 2000b, p. 26). During the nineties Yaoi artists started looking to commercial manga and anime for a great variety of interesting characters for their parodies. But it is too simple an explanation to claim that the parodies are just about the characters. Rather than merely beginning with a favorite character, dojinshi artists sometimes first focus their attention on drafting a love story and only then do they appropriate characters to fit their narratives. There is an endless stream of male characters to either match with a story of M/M coupling the yaoi artist has devised--or the other possibility, an endless stream of characters to suggest new narratives of M/M or boys' love coupling (Kinsella, 1998, McLelland, 2000). Every male character from the popular media becomes fair game. For example, the 2002 comic markets in Taiwan featured Harry Potter dojinshi, and it takes little imagination to visualize the various possibilities for romantic relationships between Harry and Malfoy.2

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But this single thread explaining the origin of yaoi and boys' love is far too simple a story; M/M had pre-yaoi manifestations. Just as it has innumerable exponents today, it had other originators, both identifiable and unidentifiable--a paradigm case of Barthes' "the death of the author" (Barthes, 1977). Before M/M acquired the name yaoi, boys' love had made appearances in commercial manga. One of the most important appearances was the 1976 publication of Keiko Takemiya's sensational manga to (A Poem of Wind and Trees), the story of the beautiful young French boarding school student Gilbert Cocteau who is continually falling into bed with other boys. Takemiya (personal communication, 14 August, 2000) explained how she struggled to convince her editor at Syogakukan, one of Japan's big-three manga publishers, to print her story in the weekly girls' manga . Much to the publisher's surprise, the story was an instant success, it was serialized for many years, and introduced boys' love into the popular visual culture of adolescent girls. --which appeared in 1978 at roughly the same time that Sakata and her group coined the term yaoi--was the first commercial manga devoted entirely to M/M relationships. The erotic magazine for young women, which combines manga and short stories, within a few months evolved into the still popular (Sagawa, personal communication, June 6, 2002).1 A third type of M/M narrative termed "slash" which refers to love stories based on live media characters such as, say Kirk and Spock, about which there is a considerable body of literature (Bacon-Smith, 1992; Creed, 1990; Jardine, 1985; Jenkins, 1992; Kotani, 1994; Lamb & Veith, McLelland, 2000; 1986; Penley, 1991; Russ, 1985). Slash exists primarily as a literary form since, if the live actors are drawn in cartoon form, they become like manga or cartoon characters, that is to say, they become dojinshi yaoi.

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