History of Bishōnen (美少年 - Beautiful Youth/Pretty Boy) in context with Japanese Culture



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Blog Posts:
Björn Andrésen the inspiration for “Bishōnen” Boys in Mangas and Anime.



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The Most Beautiful Boy in the World - Official Trailer

The Most Beautiful Boy In The World - The Face behind Japanese manga

"The Most Beautiful Boy In The World," Bjorn Andresen looks back 50 years later.

Why Anime Men Look So Feminine | The Story Of Bjorn Anderson "Most Beautiful Boy In The World"

Comments from Youtube
  • In K-Dramas the male protagonist is usually very feminine as well, extremely noticeable when next to other male characters.
  • they are feminine from a biological point of view. Testosterone causes faces to be wider, jaws to be heavier, more prominent brows, larger muscles, larger and more protruding genitalia, etc. And men have much higher testosterone levels than women in the vast majority of cases.. These are biological characteristics which show up in every cultural and ethnic group of humans, so the world over, people have similar views of what looks feminine and what looks masculine.
  • It is true that in some cultures, usually among the upper class in very civilized cultures, various feminine traits become valued in men, even in ancient Greece and among western European aristocracies where small genitalia and delicate hands and facial features were considered beautiful on young men. But whatever the fashion of the day may be, feminine features remain feminine features. It's a question of biology, not the whims of fashion.
  • I find androgyny so attractive in men and women. But especially in men, I think a man being comfortable in leaning into more ‘feminine’ traits or styles is just very appealing.
  • Please note than even before Bjorn Anderson, Japan has something that's called 'wakashu'. This is what I found : "Four hundred years ago in Japan, male youths, called wakashu, were the objects of sexual desire for women and men. Creating a third gender, wakashu looked different from both women and adult men and played distinct social and sexual roles." There is a wikipedia article about it.
  • One of the things about some bishonen characters is that they look white and pure but are often manipulative, cunning or pure calculated evil (Griffith, Ryo devilman crybaby). flipping the white=good guy black=bad guy thing on It's head. It's a great anime trope.
  • I'm from Asia, and although I'm not an East Asian, I can still kinda explain the reason why these "bishounen" men are often drawn with white, porcelain skin. First, in feudalism times, a farmer who had to work hard outside will have dark skin while the nobles, who could sit inside all day, will have lighter skin. This led to classism based on skin tones, and we're still affected by it. Second, it is also the effects of colonization from Western countries, plus Japan's homogeneity. As long as you're a foreigner, you can experience racism no matter your race, but POCs still suffer the most.
  • Can you talk about the appeal of “tomboys” and why many people are attracted to women with masculine traits?
  • You didn't touch the last part "while retaining masculine traits" I think that the great appeal these characters have is in the combination of the feminine and the masculine which makes them feel more complete, like the yin is not divorced from the yang in them
  • I feel horrible for Bjorn Andresen, he was exploited throughout his childhood and teen years, my heart broke watching a documentary on his life 'The Most Beautiful Boy in the World' Also a small correction, his surname is Andresen, not Anderson

SHUDŌ | Animation Short Film 2015 - GOBELINS

Num Rokz
the samurai practice of shudo was actually almost perfectly depicted in this animation. the younger one was taken in by the older samurai as an apprentice, that is what 'shudo' is (just google it). they may have sexual relations until the young apprentice, usually 10-17 (depending on the era...before the bakufu was overthrown, young samurai were required to come of age at 13-15 because a lot of men died during the war and no one is allowed to marry until they come of age...so being 13 and married wasn't so unusual then in japan...), comes of age while the older person teaches him warrior etiquette and techniques. the relationship is beyond apprenticeship as the two parties actually swear their lives to each other, not necessarily as married couples but as 'homies' that have each others' backs (pun not intended). they may help each other out in times of need or, in much extreme situations, carrying out a vendetta, no questions asked. it's not necessarily love, but the emotional bond and the devotion between the master (nenja) and the apprentice (wakashu) can be so strong that it just might be. the promise between them initially is to be loyal to their male partners, but they are free to have female wives once the wakashu comes of age. so there you have it. shudo in two minutes. the only reason i can find for them being in this situation is that the master that one of them serves has ordered them to kill the other. it's the only explanation. homosexuality wasn't exactly taboo in japan until the meiji restoration, when feudal lords are annoyed that samurai actually honor their shudo pledges more than the lords they serve. so...yeah. sorry to burst the bubble for some people thinking the samurai tradition was very 'masculine'. examples of shudo in this era are chirrut imwe (donnie yen) and baze malbus (jiang wen) and cassian andor (diego luna) and K-2 (alan tudyk) in star wars: rogue one.

Shudo: Male-Male Love in Japan (the Way of Youths)


It makes sense that sleeping with other men is less dangerous, since there will never be any unwanted pregnancies
The Shogunate

This is a concept that needs to get more well known. It seems like many people are afraid to link homosexuality to the Samurai they look up to, but honestly the concept is much more complex than they realize. As you say towards the end of the video, it wasn't that many samurai were homosexual, it was more that their concept of sexuality was somewhat non existent/did not exist in the way we think of it today (or from a more western standpoint). I think the closest modern equivalent would be to say that many Samurai were bisexual or pansexual for that matter.
Right, the problem with categorizing them as homosexual or bisexual is that it implies identity, e.g. "he is a bisexual person." They didn't self-identify by the kind of sex they had. They probably saw it similar to someone who likes watching basketball. You could call him a "basketball fan," but watching basketball is probably not core to his character, and it's subject to change.
I actually had several Korean male acquaintances in my life that told me that same point of view still exists today in Korea. They said that a lot of young guys in their 20s fool around and have sex with their male friends (both participants are of the same age, not older-younger like in this video) but then after completing their military service (which every man is required to do by the time he's 30 years of age), they are expected to come home and "settle down" with a woman and have a family. It was quite a big shock to me because then I asked "doesn't that mean they're just gay and getting married to women because being gay is not acceptable in their society?" but they said that it's not seen as being gay, it's just letting off steam and getting sexual pleasure with other men while you're young whereas having a real romantic relationships with men is frowned upon. And especially after the man grows up (after 30) it's seen as really weird if you're still attracted or wanting sex with other men instead of women.

Life of a Wakashu, Japan’s Third Gender (Male-Male Romance in Edo Japan)#


So basically Japan said, “you can do gay things, but you’re not allowed to like it.”
Polina Sabina
As a BL manga reader, I understand now why there is this kind of sick cliché where the bottom accepts or "falls in love" with the top because of compassion "oh, poor top, he was so in love with me that he tried to rape me and I even got mad at him. Next time I'll apologize"
Jacinta Schneider
What's kinda fascinating is that young men and boys in Greece had almost the exact same role with the same rules and implications, like the younger one is the "bottom" and how the older man was a mentor for the young boy. Its fascinating how different cultures evolved to have the same ideas and practices often independently from one another.
Tristan Neal
"Male-on-male sex did happen, but it was mostly between men and boys" Literally works for basically anywhere in the world throughout history
Yukio Kinyua
It’s incredibly weird how all of what we consider to be inappropriate and taboo wasn’t seen that way at all for many centuries around the world.

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