Reading my earlier post about Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi, you might notice I have more than a few problems with yaoi in general. But as I said there, I do love it so, and read it near constantly; it’s just I only look for the good stuff anymore. Granted, what I consider ‘good’ apparently is pretty far from the mainstream, in that none of it is likely to ever be animated (insert gratuitous cursing here). But here I’ve put together some of what I consider to be good.
This one is fun for a few reasons. First, and you will notice this is a recurring theme here, there is no noticeably feminine, submissive uke. Just looking at them, you wouldn’t even be able to tell which is which. Though it does suffer from Misunderstanding Syndrome, that is thankfully brief. That it continues past the Relationship Upgrade Coitus also is a plus.
Memory of the Future/Where the Wind Goes
While the relationship roles (hate those things) are a bit more clear-cut here, the characters are interesting and unconventional enough to more than make up for that. But even more than that, especially in the second volume/sequel, is when we leave behind the “are we going to be a couple” phase, and enter a more domestic phase. Domesticity is one of my favorite things to see in yaoi, so expect it to crop up again.
This one goes a step beyond and begins with our protagonists already in a relationship. Bonus: they are both working adults. Oh, and there are characters who identify as gay outside of the main couple. Again we come across that domesticity I so love, and though there is an Ex-Boyfriend chapter, it is relatively unique in execution.
Rinjin wo Aisou
This one takes us back to high school, but the characters are endearing enough to make up for that. Also there is no rape, or anything too overly dramatic a la Seikai-Ichi. And it has a sense of humor, which helps. Kazuhito trying to research sex is just priceless.
Another one in high school, but this one is something special, let me tell you. There aren’t any stereotypes here (or rape, hooray), and there is actual character growth when all is said and done. What I like specifically about this one, though, is how the main characters actually go on dates. This is surprisingly rare in what is ostensibly a romantic genre, but a lot of other titles are too busy with sex to bother with these sorts of trivialities. In the end, though, this one is still what I’d classify as a Fairy-Tale type story, but there’s no reason those can’t be good every now and then.
In fact, it’s that same fairy-tale quality that attracted me to the genre in the first place, and also what keeps me reading it. But there’s no reason a fairy-tale needs to be all sunshine and rainbows, nor is it impossible for them to be realistic. In some respects, at least. I find a number of titles use “well, it’s just a fairy-tale sort of thing” as an excuse to get out of writing actual characters, or to keep from straying from conventions. But that’s not what happens here; they may get their happily ever after, but they sure as hell have to work for it.
Mankai Darling. This would be on the main list except recently a second volume was released that has not been fully scanlated to my knowledge. This one is very sweet, and once again we have those working adult characters.
Just around the Corner. This one is decidedly more bittersweet than the others on the list, and the reason it’s all the way down here is because, in my opinion of course, the ending did a disservice to the rest of the story. One might call this a deconstruction of your standard student-teacher yaoi story. There’s some good stuff in here, but, again, the ending is a bit of a cop out.