Wednesday, June 10, 2009

fanboy memoirs - part 2

(first part here)

That one wonderful site was "No Bishounen Allowed", or NBA for short. It's, without a shadow of doubt, part of my top5 list of "Best Websites The Internet Ever Had" (I'd say it's the runner up - top site being one of which I'll speak of in a later post). Rockear, the host, is a fellow gay nerd and one of the kindest people in the world. Back in the ancient year of 2003, he would scan his own, very modest (to today's standards) collection of Japanese drawn smut and share it with a then small community of ravenous gay nerds. Did I say he's one of the nicest people in the world? Because he is.

I daresay, though, that the crucial turning point can be found in 2004. Early this year, Rockear posted news of a very special Japanese magazine that focused on drawn gay porn. Later on, he showed us some stories from this special book. Why special? You could tell simply by looking at its name: Kinniku Otoko (筋肉男), or "Muscle Men". It was a serial anthology that featured a bunch of short manga stories with a common focus - manly men. Some plots were romantic, other had a BDSM twist (especially Gengoroh Tagame's stuff), but each and every of them involved manly men doing naughty things with other manly men. Yes, Kinniku Otoko was everything I was looking for. And for that marvelous discovery, I have only Rockear to thank. Is it clear by know why he's so nice?

I think Kinniku Otoko vol.6 or 7 were just released when I found out about it through Rockear's site. And we, the small community of gay nerds, vigorously followed every release with fanfarre. My favourite artists back then were Masanori (remember him, from the old post? He did some covers and some stories for KO!) and Takeshi Matsu, both of them still active to this very day. Matsu's work is featured in almost every Japanese gay magazine; Masanori isn't nearly as prolific - he updates his site very seldom and hasn't had anything published in a magazine since around 2005-2006. It's a time I'll never forget: Mens Love, as it is know now (back in the day, everything gay in manga form was still called BL, or Boys Love), was still in its early steps and all but undiscovered in the West, so each new story we got our hands on was a tremendous achievement. I remember I was one of the first people to get his hands on Takeshi Matsu's first compilation, Itsuka wa Kuma Goroshi (いつかは熊殺し, or Kill the Bear Someday), and my scans of Baito Yamemasu (バイト辞めます, or Quitting This Part-Time Job) are still around if you look hard enough. :)

Besides Rockear himself, to whom I would talk a lot, I became acquainted with several of his suppliers - other people who, like me, were also interested in Kinniku Otoko, bought the books, scanned them and send them to Rockear so he would put them up at the No Bishounen Allowed. This way I met Gub Smyth, Zombot and others - fellow fans and good friends. But sadly, after all these long years I've lost contact with most of them. I miss these guys - but unfortunately most of us old timers aren't nearly as active these days. I guess we grew up.

Still in 2004, Rockear introduced me to 4chan, which wound up being a major part of my life for several years. Why? Well, our fandom didn't have a place to hang out besides NBA. NBA was a distribution site, mostly; we didn't really talk in there. It happened that 4chan had (and still has) a yaoi board, /y/, which was meant to be the place in 4chan where fangirls would post their feminine yaoi artwork and gloat over their faaaabulous men and all. But Mens Love was still technically yaoi - there wasn't as strong a split as there is today. So we basically expropriated 4chan's yaoi board from its original occupants. Ah, the clashes we had back in the days! (*nostalgia*) We would post our muscular, hairy, bearded men, polluting their beeeautiful board. They would get angry and start complaining. We would defend our point of view... basically, flamewars were rampant. And a rich source of amusement! I was a major troll, under the alias I still use today: Red (people hated me, heh!). And our sense of community and awareness would only be fostered by these arguments. Fighting our common enemy - yaoi fangirls - was as fun as it gets for a gay nerd. Especially in an anonymous board.

But around 2005, Rockear closed his site due to threatening emails from supposed Japanese publishers, and Kinniku Otoko had its last volume published, Kinniku Otoko Pride. It was canceled after 12 volumes. Did this mean everything was over?

Far from it! We already had /y/ as our meeting place, and KO was merely the avant-garde publication that set the trend - several new anthologies were released, and, even if they didn't last as long, they were enough to fill our cravings. Artists that drew gay manga were already all over the internet, and 4chan's Japanese older sister, Futaba, opened its own board focused on manly gay men - it was called "bara", or ばら. We had found a name to call what we liked and, for once and all, distinguish ourselves from yaoi: we were bara fans. I never liked this name (I consider it a 2chanism, since nobody in Japan except that Futaba board would refer to what we liked as "bara" - I prefer Mens Love), but we were already established.

(more to come in the third and final post in this series - I promise it'll be considerably shorter!)

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