I enjoy looking at manly men with muscular man muscles. But, does that mean I have homosexual preferences? Some may think so, but I enjoy it because I appreciate the human form. Also, I just enjoy writing alliterations.
Fictional works about human sexuality are difficult to come across, but it seems even more of a challenge to find one in the manga industry. True, there is the entire subgenre of homoerotic romance series, but they are generally romantic stories between people of the same sex and not an exploration of human sexuality as a whole. While I’m sure some minor magazine titles from major publishers, such as Monthly Morning or Evening from Kodanasha, have published a few over the years, it wouldn’t surprise me if those works found themselves in limited publication. However over the years, I have been able to find a small handful of manga series that look at certain aspects of human sexuality, such as Japanese women’s sexual liberation in Sekirara Kanojo. But, no series I’ve read seems to explore homosexuality as well as Akihito Yoshitomi’s two volume series Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ (Blue Drop ~天使の僕ら~). With so much ire directed towards the homosexual community, though most of that ill will seems to be dying down, it makes talking about this series rather difficult. But, we can’t deny there are people who have homosexual preferences. Thus, when this series examined the broad range of sexual preferences of the different characters, we also saw how they dealt with sexual desire and romantic inclinations in general.
I want to make it explicitly clear I don’t intend to push any sort of agenda for or against homosexuality in this article. While I have my opinions on the ongoing debate over the civil rights of homosexual individuals, they are rather irrelevant to the discussion about how Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ used the subject to present an interesting story. Of course, I will touch upon the subject very briefly; however, it will only be in regards to the larger picture of the narrative of the series. Thus, I encourage readers to continue through this article even if you may find the discussion outside of your comfort zone.
For as long as I can remember, there has been a certain amount of acrimony directed towards those who have homosexual preferences. The perception that permeates the media has changed over the years, though, and I find the treatment of homosexuals is similar to the portrayal of minorities, particularly those of African decent, during the early years of television in the United States. So, while we have seen a slight growth in the number of homosexual characters in multiple media outlets, it’s still outrageously small. However, with the success of films such as Brokeback Mountain or TV shows such as Will & Grace, the foppish and fake homosexual personality types has gradually been phased out and we are beginning to see homosexual characters who represent a range of personalities. Thus, as with African Americans or Asian Americans, homosexuals are starting to be taken seriously, at least in certain circles. Yet within the manga industry, I feel there hasn’t been as much progress in the depiction of homosexuals, let alone a series being published that takes a serious look at homosexuality.
While I am aware of the homoerotic subgenre of romance, commonly referred to as BL, or “boy’s love,” in Japan, what little of the genre I’ve seen is more or less like any other romance series I’ve read. Consequently, there is very little in terms of a discussion of homosexuality and how people with those preferences approach romance. Honestly, I kind of wish there was more of this type of content, as it’s most likely the best way to normalize the idea that some people have homosexual preferences—much as how the idea of mixed race couples became normalized in the United States. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean there can never be a discussion of sexual preferences, sexual urges, and romantic inclinations in fictional material. As it stands, Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ is one of the only examples of a manga series I’ve read where this discussion occurred.
To truly understand what I’m a talking about, we have to examine the narrative of the series first. It essentially boils down to two different plot points. The first surrounds a mystery involving the protagonists, Shota Yanami, and his friend, Kenzo Sugiyama, and Kenzo’s transformation into a woman—I don’t mean as a transsexual, but actually having the physiology of a woman. Subsequently, Kenzo propositions Shota to have sex. This first plot point was rather straightforward and was one that should just be accepted as it is. The second plot point, though, dealt with how the Arume, an alien race, had disrupted how humans perceive sexuality. Simply put, the Arume are a humanoid race comprised only of females and they had conquered the earth. Therefore, as the new overlords of the earth, they had taken a liking to earth women and thus manipulated them into enjoying homosexual acts.
This is not to say homosexuality was a choice in the series, but rather under certain conditions humans could only find sexual release with a partner of the same sex. Take the real-world example of Catholic clergymen. Though they take vows of celibacy, there have been numerous instances of priests who have sexually abused young boys. Does this mean those priests are somehow inherently gay? I don’t believe so. But, because they are still humans and therefore need sexual release, they find their release through homosexual acts.
Thus, when reading Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~, we not only saw an examination of homosexuality between men, but also between women and transsexuals. It’s prevalent in the first volume of the series when we saw two vastly different sections of the town Shota lived in. The first was an Arume-only district, which made it a women’s only district as well, and the second a men’s only district. What we saw in both districts was similar, but brought about by vastly different situations. Thus, when it became clear the Arume district was essentially a place where the Arume could prey on human women and girls to fulfill their sexual desires, we saw in turn how the men’s district was a response to the lack of available women. This forced us to ask how the people of this world perceived homosexuality.
For example, during the scenes that occurred in the Arume district, we discovered Shota’s female friend, Kotoko Natori, had romantic inclinations towards Shota. However, her multiple sexual encounters with an Arume made her prefer the company of women. So, despite her inclinations towards Shota, Kotoko found him sexually repulsive. Did this make her a homosexual? I’m not quite sure because she stated the Arume forced their sexual preferences on her, even though she clearly had heterosexual romantic preferences. A similar situation happened with Shota’s male friend, Shinichi Matsumura, in the men’s district. However with Shinichi, it seemed his interest in men was more or less a response to the lack of women interested in men being available rather than his outright being a homosexual. Could he have had homosexual tendencies before the particular chapter this was addressed in? Possibly, but I feel it’s very similar to the dynamic involving Catholic priests I mentioned above. This was why I found Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ so interesting: it forced readers to critically think about how we perceive sexuality as well as how the characters did.
Yet, it’s not just sexual preferences Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ made us evaluate. There were a few times in the series where the topic of sexual desire in relation to romance was mentioned. In fact, on the first page of the series we saw Kenzo, as a girl, ask Shota, “Will you have sex with me?” So we are clear, Shota didn’t know it was Kenzo at first, thus he had to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of copulating with a complete stranger. However, later in the same chapter we also saw how the characters ruminated on the question that while one can have sex without love, would it be as pleasurable as a loving couple having sex? It’s dubious Akihito Yoshitomi was trying to guilt readers into not having premarital sex; however, it was an interesting question as presented in the series. For example, if we look back on Kotoko and Shinichi, they engaged in a number of sexual acts with members of the same sex. But, what they truly wanted was both a romantic and sexual experience with their mutual friend, Shota. It’s not as though they weren’t enjoying themselves, far from it. However, we saw they wanted more than just a relationship born out of physical impulses.
Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ is one of the only manga series I’ve read that discussed all manner of sexuality. Perhaps it’s not the best series to take up the topic, but for an industry that is very slow to change and adopt new ideas, this made the series unique. Asking readers to examine their views on sexuality, romance, and our physical urges is no easy task, yet the series was able to do so in two well-conceived volumes. I’m sure some will find the subject of homosexuality appalling, but perhaps reading through this series will help those individuals recognize why they feel this way, other than being based on their preconceived notions. It might even encourage them to change their opinion on the subject. This is the power of literature and all other forms of media and even if we have to deal with one or two works we may not enjoy, we can still appreciate how these types of stories can challenge our perceptions of the world. However, if a discussion of human sexuality bores you, be rest assured the series was also filled with action. So, most likely you won’t find it to be tiresome. Of course, it’s a difficult series to find, but those who are inclined to seek it out will not be disappointed.
Title: Blue Drop ~Tenshi no Bokura~ (Blue Drop ~天使の僕ら~)
By: Akihito Yoshitomi
Under: Akita Shoten, Champion Red
Official Site: http://www.bestack.co.jp/bluedrop/
More Info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Drop