So, I had a few things I wanted to look at in particular by putting together that dumb BL game list, mostly looking at where trends in the genre seemed to start and die out. None of this is anything approaching a scientific analysis of trends and (as I described up at the top of the list post) this data has some flaws to begin with, but here’s one of the things I noticed:
The rise of 男性向け-style BL
Games in this category: Hadaka Shitsuji, No, Thank You!!!, Kanojo wo Netotta Yarichin Otoko Mesu Ochisaseru Made, Room No. 9, Fukushuu Teikoku, Nonke Ippatsu Tabehoudai, The Salvation of Patient S
I don’t really know what else to call this. I haven’t seen JP fujoshi or developers coin a specific term for it either (it could very well exist and I just don’t know about it), so I’m just going to go with 男性向け-style BL because that feels like the easiest way to describe it (I apologize for using JP terms like this, I just can’t think of a nice way to phrase it in English because I’m dumb: 男性向け means for a male audience, in the case of eroge a 男性向け game would be one for a straight, male audience). Games in this style are characterized by their similarity in presentation/attitude to eroge targeted at straight men. All the ones we have so far that I’d put in this category also feature exclusively seme protagonists, though I would not say that would be a firm requirement (although I doubt we’ll see any of the brands producing games in this style breaking with this convention).
Anyway general characteristics for this “sub-genre”: seme protag, stronger focus on sexual content (and not being shy about it), more explicit sexual scenes (in terms of descriptions/art, also often going further on the fetishy side of things than regular BL usually does), older and/or more masculine character designs, frequently more comedic in tone, light on the romance, frank nukige-style titles are also a common feature (Hadaka Shitsuji, Kanojo wo Netotta Yarichin Otoko Mesu Ochisaseru Made, Nonke Ippatsu Tabehoudai). Generally, I think games in this style are really obvious at a glance, their advertising often looks a lot more like what you’d see for a nukige aimed at straight men and the character designs tend to lean more into that zone between traditional BL aesthetic and the more geikomi (idk how the fuck people write this in an English context) aesthetic. You also see a lot more prominent male creative staff involved in these titles like Togo Mito and Kei Mizuryu (and possibly Amemiya???). Don’t let my choice of terminology confuse you though, these are still games primarily marketed toward women and classified as 女性向け.
If I were to break the sub-genre down further, I’d say you could split it between games targeted at women and gay men, and games targeted at “straight” men (YariMesu is literally described this way in its advertising and it is definitely in the same style as a similarly framed sub-set of homoerotic manga/doujinshi that’s been developing in recent years). That said, I’m not sure splitting those hairs is really relevant considering we have one title that fits the label at the moment. I should also note that this whole 男性向け-style BL/geikomi-crossover BL thing has been a growing sub-genre/style in BL manga and doujinshi in recent years as well.
While there have always been gay (“bara”) style titles existing alongside BL games, as far as I understand it they have always existed in their own little niche without a lot of crossover with the 女性向け market (please take this assessment with a grain of salt since I’ve only been even vaguely paying attention to BL games for––if we’re being generous––about the last 5-10 years and most of the more significant “bara” style titles are from before then). Hunks Workshop (2004) is probably the most prominent title in this category at least in the 女性向け market, and it’s honestly basically never mentioned! While I don’t think it had a huge impact on the BL game market at the time, it almost certainly was a big influence on Togo Mito who would go on to create the title which I believe is likely (at least partly) responsible for the trend, Hadaka Shitsuji.
For a bit of background on Hadaka, it was originally announced all the way back in 2009 (2008 if you count from when Togo Mito released the concept book for the game) as a completely doujin title, no voice acting even. If we look at the timeline, we can see that 2009 was a pretty low point for BL games, a lot of major developers had gone defunct and the number of games released that year was down to the single digits for the first time in almost a decade. Hadaka was advertised prominently (well, maybe that’s a bit of a deceptive phrasing, but Togo Mito had a running feature in B’s Log and frequent spots in Cool-B) in B’s Log and Cool-B for years while it was in development. In the intervening years during development the game manages to pick up enough steam to get it a publisher and a professional voice cast, including veteran Kazuhiko Inoue and is ultimately released in 2011. It’s hard to gauge exactly how well the game performed since we don’t have sales data for this kind of thing, but given it’s cult status and the mere fact that it earned enough to produce a fandisk and a fancy combined edition later, I think it’s safe to say the game was at least mildly successful.
So, that brings us to 2011 when, late that year, ClockUp sister brand, parade, is established and their first title, No, Thank You!!! is announced in the early stages of development. Backtracking a bit though, according to staff interviews, the idea of some of ClockUp’s staff making a BL game came up as early as 2009 (perhaps 2009 was just a fateful year!). At Anime Expo Hamashima mentioned that euphoria‘s success was what earned her approval from ClockUp’s president to pursue the idea. With that in mind, it’s unlikely that any success Hadaka may or may not have had could have had much if any impact on ClockUp’s decision to enter the BL market, but I do think it had at least some effect in terms of making the market a little more open to something like No, Thank You!!! and attracting a slightly less typical BL game crowd. NTY!!! was eventually released a whole year later than planned in 2013 and by all accounts was quite a success (but how much of a success exactly I couldn’t say because I have no numbers except for the US release).
Anyway, after that we got the Hadaka fandisk, Room No. 9, Mizutama (a bit more of an edge case), and YariMesu with The Salvation of Patient S, Fukushuu Teikoku, and Nonke Ippatsu Tabehoudai in production––accounting for a whopping 50% of the (announced) BL games in development right now. I think it’s pretty fair to call it a trend. I’ve also noticed a lot more comments in staff interviews for upcoming titles (Fukushuu Teikoku in particular comes to mind) with producers being surprised that the female audience is more open to overtly and unabashedly sexual content.Whether Hadaka and NTY!!! are directly responsible for making it happen is probably debatable, but that makes the most sense to me. Admittedly, I think greater trends in BL manga and the earlier influence of N+C were also probably both contributing elements, but I think I’ll save the N+C talk for another post.
Question: could 俺の下であがけ also be considered a prototype for this subgenre? Have not actually played but have heard it compared to Hadaka Shitsuji in terms of content.
That’s actually a really good question. 俺の下であがけ has been on my backlog forever, but since I haven’t actually gotten around to it yet it’s hard to give an assessment. It definitely seems plausible from what I know of the game though.
I played 俺の下であがけ years ago so my memory is a bit hazy, but it certainly seems like maybe a partial reach toward this category? I think overall it still has kind of a romantic focus that’s a bit more orthodox – despite the extortion angle all the ‘good’ endings are pretty standard happily ever after things, while the ‘bad’ endings are BDSM style affairs. The protagonist is definitely more in line with the seme leads in some of the games discussed here.
On an aesthetic level, though, it always seemed very clearly 女性向け. I don’t think I ever had the feeling, like with Hunks Workshop or No, Thank You!, that I wasn’t sure whether the game was targeting women or men.