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Yaoi vs Bara Analysis

So you've got some opinions about Yaoi and Bara. Great! Let's dig into why these two genres of queer fiction attract different fans and what it says about tastes, culture, and representation.


This is a public discussion thanks to the /yaoi SubReddit. This discussion is used to inform others creating Yaoi/Bara content and hopes to help others join in on the chat. There is a difference between the two genres and creators should apply that to their research.


Yaoi vs Bara Analysis


What They Look Like


First, let's talk about how Yaoi and Bara look different. Yaoi usually focuses on skinnier, "prettier" guys and is often aimed at women. Bara, on the other hand, shows beefier, more "manly" dudes and is usually for gay men. But let's not put them in boxes; both genres show a range of body types and looks because people's tastes are diverse.


PorgPrince98 I honestly like both. I'm more into bara since there seems to be more chubby rep in those stories. (I'm chubby myself so it's nice to see other chubs getting some loving.)


mammon-ey Both but also depends! (Aren't they both same? Bara is just muscle-y yaoi)
Bara: I love big boys, as long as it's not overly muscle-y people with a small ass head. Like, they look so weird and make me uncomfortable. (I can't handle overly muscle-y people irl too lol)
Yaoi (non muscle-y yaoi): anything is fine as long as it's not shota (illegal type with a grown ass adult, that's not shota but pədophilia tbf) or overly feminized ukes! At that point I feel like I'm not reading yaoi lol

Story and Themes


Now, on to what these genres are actually about. Yaoi often goes heavy on the drama and love stories, while Bara is more likely to be straightforward about sex and adult themes. Some folks dig the high drama in Yaoi, and others are here for Bara's blunt take on queer life. Basically, whether you're looking for a tearjerker or something spicier, you've got options.

tearose11 Bara is different from Yaoi and some gay mangakas find the term Bara offensive, and just categorize their works under the word Gei.
Traditionally, Yaoi and Bara are two different genres, although there is an overlap in some works, especially in recent years.
Bara was used more by creators in the 1950(? I think it was then, I could be wrong)/1960s, as opposed to the rise of Yaoi in the 1970s. Primarily the target audience for Bara were homosexual men, while Yaoi was aimed at women.
If we go with the Non-Japanese definition of Bara in it's current interpretation, I prefer Yaoi as I'm not keen on overly hirsute men. I don't mind reading stories with different body types, but since it's just escapism for me, looking at more groomed, stereotypically handsome art of men is more to my taste.
ETA: The Bara movement was started by homosexual men and it usually focused on men's bodies, featuring strong, very much masculine attributes, often depicting stereotypes such as yakuza, sumo wrestlers, samurai etc. It isn't just fetishism, some works were autobiographical, many explored the underground culture of closeted gay & bisexual men which wasn't acceptable behavior by Japanese society at the time. I know we tend to associate it with the more visual aspects of fetish scenarios, but I think it's important to note that it's more nuanced & complex, and not just about sex to the people who created & consumed the content, and still do.
I think I should elaborate on my earlier statement that some gay mangakas, content creators etc. don't like to use the word Bara currently due to some of the negative connotations associated with the movement when it fell out of fashion in the 1980s. However, there are also many who have embraced the word & reclaimed it, as a response to the changing LGBTQA+ movement in Japan in recent years.
It still remains a separate genre from Yaoi, and is somewhat misused in Western fandoms as to what it entails.

Who's Reading and Why


Here's where things get personal. Some people are drawn to Bara because they see body types similar to their own, like "chubby" guys. Others like Yaoi but say they're open to any good story. This just shows that people's tastes can change and adapt to what's available in both genres.


Doobie_Howser_MD I prefer the art in standard yaoi, but I like the themes and dynamics better in bara comics. Bara just feels more realistic as a gay man, especially when you realize most yaoi are written by women and more bara by men.

Culture Stuff


Lastly, where these genres come from also plays a role. Bara has roots in gay culture, while Yaoi became popular as a sub-type of manga for women. But as these genres get more popular worldwide, they're borrowing from each other and changing to fit new audiences.


Choosing between Yaoi and Bara isn't just a simple pick between buff and slender, or drama and sex. It's more like a spectrum influenced by what you like to see, the kind of stories you're into, and even who you are. Both Yaoi and Bara offer different ways to explore queer stories and characters, making sure there's something for just about everyone.

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