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In the late 1970s going into the 1980s, women and girls in the dōjinshi (fan fiction) markets of Japan started to produce sexualized parodies of popular shōnen (boy's) anime and manga stories in which the male characters were recast as gay lovers.By the end of the 1970s, magazines devoted to the nascent genre started to appear, and in the 1990s the term boys' love or BL would be invented and would become the dominant term used for the genre in Japan.The genre currently known as Boy's Love, BL, or yaoi derives from two sources.
Yaoi works, culture, and fandom have also been studied and discussed by scholars and journalists worldwide.Yaoi and BL stories cover a diverse range of genres such as high school love comedy, period drama, science 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.Characteristics of shōnen-ai include exoticism, often taking place in Europe, Jeffrey Angles particularly notes Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas (1974) and Keiko Takemiya's Kaze to Ki no Uta (1976–1984) as being groundbreaking, noting their portrayal of intense friendship between males, including jealousy and desire.
The word was originally used to describe an author's distinctive style, for example, the styles of Yukio Mishima and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki.
This archetypal pairing is referenced more often in older yaoi volumes – in modern yaoi, this pairing is often seen as already encompassed by seme and uke or simply unnecessary to address.