ALcon 2008: The Yaoi Panel

Yaoi Panels seem to be highly popular at conventions thesedays due to the topic matter and the huge draw and reaction it gets from people. Many go along because it is often a light hearted way of looking at a topic that is often scorned over while some are truly passionate about it. For those who are new to the term Yaoi and everything that gets associated with it in terms of the anime and manga culture, then here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Yaoi (やおい)[nb 1] is a popular term for fictional media that focuses on homosexual male relationships, yet is generally created by and for females. Originally referring to a specific type of dōjinshi parody of mainstream anime and manga works, yaoi came to be used as a generic term for female-oriented manga, anime, novels and dōjinshi featuring homosexual male relationships

I don’t remember there being a Yaoi Panel at ALcon 2007 however there was one this year so we decided to pay a visit to see what the fuss was all about.

Not many people knew what to expect from this because for us, it was our first time attending such a panel so we went in with an open mind. From the outset though the tone was clearly presented – The Panel was not set up to have a serious debate about one’s sexuality, how it is perceived to the media, public and social groups, but to to be light hearted and open about male homosexual relationships and how it is shown in anime and manga.

After all this is an anime and manga convention at heart and many Yaoi fans that I know of and have met are generally only fans due to the fantasy relationships that exist between the young males rather than the real hardcore physical side of it. In fact, if you mention hardcore Yaoi to the majority of anime fans, they will either laugh and giggle about how they would like to see their favourite anime/manga/videogame male characters together or you would get a joking look away as they don’t want to see two males together in such a way. Speaking personally I wouldn’t want to see two males together naked, however others would greet it with open arms and my attitude to it all has always been – To each their own.

Entering the Yaoi Panel we were seating near the back of a very full room of which consisted of mainly males. Now forgive me for stating the obvious (Yaoi is after all about male relationships with one another) but the huge majority of anime fans that I have met during my time as a fan, which was since 1989 or so, I have only met one male fan that enjoys Yaoi. Out of interest though for those reading this, if you like Yaoi, are you male or female? It would be interesting actually to see how the demograph pans out.

Alas going back to the Panel, the anime ‘Ikoku Irokoi Romantan’ was screened with next to no backstory spoken about it to the suspecting public that wanted to see what the fuss was about. After doing some research we manage to find out this much about the anime:

Ranmaru the young leader of the Omi group was forced to marry Karou daughter of another group. The story starts on their honey moon aboard a ship bound to Italy. Neither party are happy with the marriage it seems. In fact Ranmaru ends up getting kicked out of their room on their first night as a wedded couple. Al (Alberto) an Italian man aboard the ship takes an odd interest in Ranmaru, the story revolves around ‘their’ relationship.

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Look into my eyes… You will see… What you mean to meeeee…

As the anime progressed the atmosphere lit up and was electric! Everyone in the room whooped and cheered as more flesh was shown and advances between each other were made. The key though to this title in particular was that it didn’t take itself seriously about the subject matter, for example as they looked into each other’s eyes the screen would gain a light blur filter with love hearts glistening in the background. Much like any other typical upbeat anime that involves romance to be fair.

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Memorable highlights for people were scenes of comedy from the way the lead male’s kimono started flapping in the air to reveal his white Y-Fronts, to the way he got out of bed in the morning as his kimono opened up in dramatic fashion to reveal his nipple.

The art in the show was very well presented as these days many shows that have fanservice (gratuitous showing of underwear, cleavage, skin etc)  tend to have the better artwork and character designs. Apart from having beautiful art, the animation was above average and conveyed the emotion and mood well to the viewer.

After watching one episode discussion began between the panel and the audience with a brief explanation of common words and terms that exist within the Yaoi genre.

Semmei – The dominative male in the relationship
Uke – Submissive male in the relationship
Shota – Young Boys

A brief history of Yaoi was also presented, like how it started out because of doujin (basically an amateur/fan based manga using existing known characters from a series) before growing into it’s own. The first Yaoi Magazine to be released was in 1978 titled “June”. Also explained was the fundamental differences between Shounen-Ai and Yaoi. Shounen-Ai being completely innocent and purely about the relationships between the characters whilst Yaoi is far from innocent and concentrates more on the physical side of lust. A small nod as well to those who write yaoi fan fiction was given from the panel – Apparently the Semmei’s name should always come before the Uke’s. It just seems to be the given rule.

After this discussion it then moved into the next showing, which was ‘Junjou Romantica’

What started as a need for tutoring for a college entrance exam somehow ended up leading Misaki to being romanced by a suave older man who happens to be his big bother’s best friend.

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The direction and tone of this series was different from Ikoku Irokoi Romantan and it was pretty evident as to who played the role of Semmei (dominant) and Uke (suppresive). Following the general sterotype, the Semmei was older and was drawn in a more adult, appealing manner whilst the Uke was the opposite, being younger and cuter.

The general consensus was that due to the more serious tone and edgy nature of this title, it did not get the same amount of reaction and cheer from the people attending the panel. There was though a particular scene though in this anime that made everyone groan and look away. I shall save such details though as this website isn’t strictly 18+!

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It was later explained that this was one of the biggest yaoi series’ to come across to date and due to the storyline where Misaki gets tutored by his older brother’s best friend opens up a whole can of worms for potential storylines and triangles that often exist in a genre where things like incest is all but possible.

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As soon as the episode finished the panel had something set up to make things end on a high. They devised an interactive vote where everyone had to pick their favourite pairing between some famous characters!

The characters, options for pairings and winners are shown below, with the winners in Bold.

Edgeworth <3 Gumshoe/ Phoenix Wright/ Apollo Justice
Ash Ketchum <3 Gary Oak/ Professor Oak/ Brock/ Lickactongue
Squall Leonhart <3 Irvine/ Zell/ Seymour
Jack Sparrow <3 Jack Skellington/ Will Turner/ Kermit
Naruto <3 Sasuke/ Gai/ Kakashi
Vampire Lestat <3 Hellsing/ Gary Oldman’s Dracula/ Angel
Light Yagami <3 Lelouch/ Ryuuk/ His Dad
Mr. Fantastic <3 Luffy/ Mr. Invincible/ Wolverine
Ichigo Kurosagi <3 Heero Yui/ Tamaki – Ouran/ Cloud Strife
Harry Potter <3 Vivi/ Laharl/ Keroberos

Many laughs, jokes and comments were made during the voting periods as people started to make some very odd pairings for the fun of it and for many, they enjoyed this part of the panel the most because of how bizarre and funny some of the pairings were.

As the fun and games died down the final show was put on ‘Sensitive Porongraphy’ which unfortunately we cannot review this as we had to make our leave. There is however a description we found off the internet which describes the title:

Apparently there is little plot here and the story revolves around graphic homosexual sex. Based on the manga of the same name by Ashika Sakura. It has one episode, which is made up of two separate parts.

In all we found the whole panel rather entertaining because of the way it was presented and how the emphasis was on just having fun and embracing Yaoi rather than denying it and making it in-accessable to the masses. The final panel entertainment with the pairings illustrated this and everyone took it with great humour, with many wishing for it to return and being more open minded about attending more panels like it at other conventions. All of which cannot be a bad thing.

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