There are a lot of BL manga to choose from on shelves now and that’s a great thing. But why haven’t the anime seasons kept up with a steady stream of BL anime? Outside of The Night Beyond the Tricornered Window, Sasaki and Miyano, and Heaven’s Official Blessing (a Chinese donghua) last year, both of which are drastically different offerings, BL fans didn’t have much to look out for. I mean, I guess a Given dub is a step in the right direction. But overall, it’s a shame, given the importance of seeing queer romances onscreen, especially now. So, here are my seven picks for BL manga that would make great BL anime – if studios finally started giving the subject the love it deserves. With my own thoughts and a quick synopsis below.
Publisher: VIZ Media (Currently available on the Shonen Jump App)
Volumes Currently in English: 8 (complete)
Blue Flag was the easiest manga to add to the BL anime wishlist. At 8 volumes, this series is a bit sadder than others on the list, if only because of the real friendship dynamics that go into coming out, the prejudice of those around you, and even a character who denies themselves their affection to save a friendship. A high school love-square, Blue Flag has a lot of miscommunication, but this shonen-ai also has a lot of growth. Not just when emotions begin to awaken between our leads, but also in its finale which time jumps to the future. For those with a Given-shaped hole in their watchlist, Blue Flag would be a sure win for BL anime.
“Love is already hard enough, but it becomes an unnavigable maze for unassuming high school student Taichi Ichinose and his shy classmate Futaba Kuze when they begin to fall for each other after their same-sex best friends have already fallen for them.”
Blue Sky Complex
Publisher: Futekiya (digital only)
Mangaka: Ichikawa Kei
Volumes Currently in English: 7 (on-going)
Starting in high school, Blue Sky Complex follows one relationship over the course of its development. From awkward teens from opposite ends of the social spectrum, to college students just trying to find a way to make their relationship work when past choices emerge to cause present drama. A story that would for sure get more than just one season, Blue Sky Complex is full of depth, love, and complicated growth as the two teens turn into men and are they with each other through it all.
“Narasaki always wished he had a quiet space to study in, so it should be a blessing in disguise that he gets roped into helping at the library reception desk, right? It doesn’t seem like such a great place when the other guy there happens to be a well-known troublemaker…but could this very unlikely duo find something even more unlikely in each other?”
Toritan Birds of a Feather
Publisher: SuBLime Manga
Mangaka: Kotetsuko Yamamoto
Volumes: 2 (complete)
Yes, it’s an age gap, but hear me out. What if a private eye who solves people’s problems with his uncanny ability to talk to birds and a high school senior who can put his consciousness into a crow bond? I mean of course, it happens in crow from, but still. A wholesome story about connecting to people while feeling different, Toritan is one of the few age gaps I’ve fallen for recently, given how it broaches the subject itself. Funny, interesting, and just the right bit of fanciful, this is one I’d love to see become a BL anime.
“Inusaki, a detective and unwitting jack-of-all-trades for his neighborhood, has the ability to communicate with birds…and hates it. Yet when he runs into a crow that knows his name, he can’t help but befriend him, naming him “Kuro.” Later, when Inusaki seems to hear Kuro’s voice, he finds only the landlord’s son. Why do they sound so similar, and why can’t Inusaki stop blushing whenever Kuro the crow crosses his mind?!”
Publisher: SuBLime Manga
Mangaka: Yuu Minaduki
Volumes: One-Shot (Plus a sequel)
A little something for a more adult crowd, Sayonara Game and its sequel Change World, would make great BL anime adaptations, though they’re more fit for the Blue Lynx feature film treatment that Stranger by the Shore got. An acceptable age gap romance, the two leads go from friends to lovers over the course of the two volumes and deal with deep insecurities along the way. Fromer teammates, watching these two bridge the gap between them and learn how each other needs to be loved, was one of the most moving stories of last year.
“A high school crush gets a second chance when fate brings two former teammates together again. Arimura enlists the help of Yosuke—a younger baseball club teammate from his high school days—to tutor his little sister. Yosuke has always been rather brusque around Arimura, but to the older man’s surprise, he discovers Yosuke actually looks up to him. But could Yosuke’s admiration be masking something more?”
Publisher: SuBLime Manga
Mangaka: Ranmaru Zariya
Volumes: 3 (on-going)
In Coyote, werewolves are hunted by the mafia and two of them, of course, fall in love. Action, fantasy, and a star-crossed romance set the stage for one of my favorite titles from SuBLime Manga. With a solid human versus werewolf storyline in addition to its more mature moments of intimacy, I would sacrifice many anime just to see this one come to life.
“Coyote, a werewolf who has lived his entire life hiding his true identity, has unknowingly fallen for Marleen, the successor to a werewolf-hunting mafia family. Upon finding out Marleen’s true identity, Coyote rejects him, feeling hopeless and betrayed. But Marleen is intent on seeing him again and enters the werewolves’ territory alone to look for him. Coyote, wavering between his intense feelings for Marleen and his loyalty to the pack that raised him, wants to trust Marleen—but how can he when it could mean the very death of his kind?”
Dekoboko Sugar Days
Mangaka: Atsuko Yusen
Volumes: One-Shot (plus a sequel)
Childhood friends turned high school crush, Dekoboko Sugar Days is what happens when you have a great friend group who all know see the romance even if you don’t. Opposites attract the rough and tough Yuujirou has to get over this short-guy insecurities and realize his affection for the kind cinnamon roll Rui. The two of them are just awkward and young in a way that focuses on high school fumbling of romance. More about overcoming personal limitations than societal ones (though that’s key in the sequel one-shot), this is a sweet one to see adapted into a BL anime.
“Yuujirou Matsukaze has been close friends with Rui Hanamine since the two of them were children. Back then, Yuujirou was the one who stood up for and took care of his adorable, soft-hearted friend. But as it turns out, Yuujirou’s childhood dreams end up growing a little too big to handle — or, rather, too tall! At over six feet in height, the cheerful and happy-go-lucky Rui towers over his would-be protector… and still has no idea Yuujirou’s had a crush on him since they were kids!”
The Vampire and His Pleasant Companions
Publisher: Yen Press
Mangaka: Narise Konohara and Marimo Ragawa
Volumes: 4 (on-going)
A vampire himbo and a mortician tsundere collide in a slow-burning romance that doesn’t know its a romance until about the end of volume 2. With Fantasy and some horror, this romance is one that hits that 90s bi-shonen aesthetic and more. While some of the dialogues is slightly outdated in regards to discussing sexuality, there is still quite a bit of growth and path to understanding what each person needs emotionally and romantically that makes this odd-couple adorable in the best ways.
“Since becoming a vampire, Albert’s life has fallen into an unchanging cycle-day to night, bat to vampire, USA to…Japan? After a mishap at a meat-processing plant in Nebraska, bat-Al is flash-frozen alongside his midday snack and shipped to a foreign land! Explaining to police how he really ended up wandering naked is out of the question, not to mention he doesn’t know a word of Japanese! Al will have to rely on the kindness (?) of his new companions if he’s going to get by in Tokyo-that is, if he can convince them he’s the bat!”
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.