It spans a wide range of media, including mangaanimedrama CDsnovels, games, and fan production. Boys love and its abbreviation BL are the generic terms for this kind of media in Japan and have, in recent years, become more commonly used in English as well.
However, yaoi remains more generally prevalent in English. A defining characteristic of yaoi is the practice of pairing characters in relationships according to the roles of semethe sexual top or active pursuer, and ukethe sexual bottom or passive pursuant. Common themes in yaoi include forbidden relationships, depictions of non-consensual sex, tragedy, and humor.
Yaoi and BL stories cover a diverse range of genres such as high school love comedy, period dramascience fiction and fantasy, detective fiction and include sub-genres such as omegaverse and shotacon. Yaoi finds its origins in both fan culture and commercial publishing.
From the s to s, other terms such as tanbi and June emerged to refer to specific developments in the genre. In the early s, however, these Japanese drama gay were largely eclipsed with the commercialization of male-male homoerotic media under the label of boys love. Yaoi currently has a Japanese drama gay global presence.
Yaoi works are available across the continents in various languages both through international licensing and distribution and through circulation by fans. Yaoi works, culture, and fandom have also been studied and discussed by scholars and journalists worldwide.
The genre currently known as Boy's LoveBLor yaoi derives from two sources. Yaoi can also be used by Western fans as a label for anime or manga-based slash fiction. The origin of shonen-ai is thought to come through two pathways.
Mizoguchi traces the tales back to the tanbi romances of Mori Mari. Akiko Mizoguchi describes its application to male-male stories as "misleading", but notes "it was the most commonly used term in the early s. The two participants in a yaoi relationship and to a lesser extent in yuri  are often referred to as seme "top" and uke "bottom". These terms originated in martial arts: Aleardo Zanghellini suggests that the martial arts terms have special significance to a Japanese audience, as an archetype of the gay male relationship in Japan includes same-sex love between samurai and their companions.
Zanghellini suggests that the samurai archetype is responsible for "the 'hierarchical' structure and age difference" of some relationships portrayed in yaoi and boys' love.
The seme is generally older and taller,  with a Japanese drama gay chin, shorter hair, smaller eyes, and a more stereotypically masculine, and "macho"  demeanour than the uke. The seme usually pursues the ukewho often has softer, androgynous, feminine features with bigger eyes and a smaller build, and is often physically weaker than the seme.
Although not the same, a yaoi construct similar to seme and uke is the concept of tachi and neko. This archetypal pairing is referenced more often in older yaoi volumes - Japanese drama gay modern yaoi, this pairing is often seen as already encompassed by seme and uke or simply unnecessary to address. The tachi partner is conceptualized as the member of the relationship who pursues the more passive partner, the latter of whom is referred to as the neko. Seme and uke is similar but not identical to tachi and neko because the former refers primarily to sexual roles, whereas the latter describes personality.
Anal sex is a prevalent theme Japanese drama gay yaoi, as nearly all stories feature it in some way. The storyline where an uke is reluctant to have anal sex with a seme is considered to Japanese drama gay similar to the reader's reluctance to Japanese drama gay sexual contact with someone for the first time.
Though these tropes are common in yaoi, not all works adhere to them. Although sometimes conflated with yaoi by Western commentators, gay men's manga or Japanese drama gay comi, also called Men's Love ML in English and bara in Japan, caters to a gay male audience rather than a female one and tends to be produced primarily by gay and bisexual male artists such as Gengoroh Tagame and serialized in gay men's magazines.
Bara does not aim to Japanese drama gay the heteronormative gender roles between the masculine seme and feminine uke types prominent in yaoi that is generally for a female audience.