Is “Ossan’s Love” and “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” Dominating Z Generation’s Popularity? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Is “Ossan’s Love” and “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” Dominating Z Generation’s Popularity?

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Generation Z accepts diversity as a natural part of their individuality

Once popular only among certain demographics, “BL” (Boys’ Love) has seen broader appeal with the success of media mix works like the “Ossan’s Love” series (TV Asahi), “Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!” (TV Tokyo), and the “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” series (TV Tokyo). As a result, “BL” in the broad sense has penetrated into the general population. It’s even heard that now it’s considered equivalent to genres like boys’ manga, girls’ manga, and manga targeted at women.

Especially among younger generations like Generation Z, there seems to be no clear boundary between these genres. But what exactly are the ways in which they enjoy these works?

(From the official website of “Ossan Zurubu Love: Returns,” which has also been remade overseas and has created a worldwide boom.)

I spoke with Suzuki, a bookstore employee at the comprehensive e-book store “BookLive,” who reads around 2,000 manga annually, about the forefront of BL manga.


“Recently, many people enjoy BL manga as an extension of shoujo manga, manga for women, and romance manga.


In shoujo manga, popular themes include overprotective relationships and sweet, lovey-dovey stories, and similar trends can be seen in popular BL manga.

In both genres, a popular theme is the tsundere dynamic, where both parties like each other but have trouble expressing it. This is similar to the dere-dere and overprotective themes in shoujo manga and works like ‘Ossan’s Love’ fall into this category. The idea of spoiling the one you love endlessly is widely accepted,” Suzuki says.


Suzuki analyzes that younger generations naturally accept diversity, such as LGBTQ+ representation, as one aspect of individuality.


“For example, BL works from the ’90s often depicted situations where one party forcefully dominated the other, especially in the roles of ‘seme’ and ‘uke’. However, in recent years, these unequal power dynamics have decreased, and relationships are depicted as more equal. Relationships between men are now viewed similarly to heterosexual relationships, and it seems that being male is no longer a barrier,” says Suzuki.


Additionally, Suzuki notes a shift towards more one-on-one relationships.


“Back in the day, there were many romance manga where there was a third party involved between the male hero and the female lead, creating a love triangle or rivalry, which added excitement. But nowadays, that kind of rivalry doesn’t appear as frequently.


There’s been a trend toward stories that focus on the main couple from the beginning, without introducing significant rivals. It’s becoming more common to see that being in a relationship doesn’t mark the end; instead, it’s seen as just the beginning. This shift reflects the changing societal norms; it’s now understood that being in a relationship isn’t all rosy, and what’s more important is how they navigate life together and build deeper human connections.


There’s a growing demand to explore the complexities of relationships beyond just getting together,” Suzuki explains.


There have also been changes in the characterization of the characters.

“Not limited to BL, but stereotypical characters are decreasing, and characters emphasizing empathy are prevalent. 


Rather than extraordinary charismatic characters, there are many protagonists in BL who are like everyday people, appear strong but carry inner struggles or lack confidence in themselves, and are striving to overcome them.”


“Cherry Magic!” brought a revolution to BL.

By the way, “Cherry Magic!” brought a revolution to BL. In fact, comparing before and after “Cherry Magic!”, in the rankings of female users under 25 on BookLive, the proportion of shonen manga and shojo manga that ranked high decreased around the years 2020 to 2021, and instead, female-oriented manga and BL manga started to rank higher.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demographic of female manga readers who traditionally favored female-oriented manga increased among e-book users. Additionally, with the ‘Cherry Magic!’ boom, the number of light BL fans surged.

In 2019, BL manga rarely made it into the top 10 rankings for female users under 25, but by 2021, titles like ‘Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu.’ (by Sakurabi Hashigo) ranked ninth, significantly increasing its share.”

This is Nat Natasitt (left) and Max Conters, who starred in the BL drama “Cutie Pie,” which originated in Thailand and became a global hit. In March, a fan meeting was held in Japan as well. The photo is from a press conference in Korea (PHOTO: Aflo).

Purchases by those under 25 and males have increased 2.3 times in three years!

Additionally, while the majority of BL manga buyers are female, there’s data showing a 230% increase in males under 25 purchasing BL manga on BookLive from 2019 to 2022. This growth coincides with the time when “Cherry Magic!” was being purchased.

One characteristic of BL manga is their often excessively long titles. Why is this?

“In regular works, spoilers are heavily disliked, but in BL, it’s the opposite. Many readers are concerned about the genre and setting, such as whether it’s sweet or more dominant-submissive, and they want to know who plays the aggressor and who the receiver.”

BL fans, even in their personal relationships or with inanimate objects, utilize their imagination to envision the roles of “seme” and “uke” (aggressor and receiver), and they often passionately discuss this with their fellow BL enthusiasts. Despite this, why the need to understand the roles from the outset?

“Many BL fans have strong preferences about who should play the seme and uke roles, so they hope that the characters they imagine will match their expectations as they read. If it doesn’t align with their perspective or preferences, they might not enjoy the story as much.

In that regard, with e-books, there are synopsis texts available, and BookLive offers tagging features where readers can easily find works based on their preferences, such as specifying who plays the uke and who plays the seme.”

In fact, when you search on BookLive, you’ll find a wide variety of tags for BL manga, such as “sweet,” “classmates,” “office worker,” “black-haired seme,” “student,” “dog-like seme,” “suit,” “handsome seme,” “younger seme,” “arrogant seme,” “earnest seme,” “wimpy seme,” “tsundere uke,” “delinquent uke,” “seductive uke,” and many more.

For example, “dog-like characters are classic and typically portrayed as the uke,” and the tags for “Cherry Magic!” include “handsome seme,” “sweet,” and “suit.”

“The more dedicated fans have strong preferences, and even within popular genres, there are distinctions like ‘glasses-wearing seme’ and ‘glasses-wearing uke.’

Looking at each tag, as of February 2024, among the BL works available on BookLive, there are about 850 titles tagged as ‘glasses-wearing seme’ and approximately 2050 titles tagged as ‘glasses-wearing uke.’

Interestingly, even with the same attribute like ‘glasses,’ it seems that there’s higher demand for characters who wear glasses as uke compared to seme.”

To find works that match your preferences, searching for keywords related to tags on the site is one way. Additionally, if you find a particular work interesting, you can follow the tags attached to it to discover similar works.

If you happen to read a work that was interesting and you want to read more “megane-uke” (glasses receiving) “If I happen to read something interesting with a glasses-wearing uke, and I want to read more of that type, it’s just a matter of following that tag,” said one fan.

By the way, there’s an interesting episode that demonstrates how important tags are to the fanbase enjoying BL on e-books.

“We create and assign tags based on our own research, but sometimes we receive inquiries pointing out discrepancies. 

For example, someone might say, ‘It was tagged as tsundere uke, but they’re not really tsundere.’ Even if there’s a discrepancy, most users probably just accept it without reaching out, so it indicates a strong level of preference. 

When we receive such feedback, we verify it and make corrections or add additional tags if necessary.”



As a “Human drama”

Furthermore, the popularity trends of BL manga have been evolving with the times.

“Originally, BL manga was popular for its aesthetic beauty, but with the success of the anime adaptation of ‘Junjou Romantica’ by Nakamura Shungiku in 2008, the trend shifted towards cute ukes and cool but slightly comical semes becoming popular. Comical styles have gained popularity as a result.

Simultaneously, in terms of art style, characters with more masculine, muscular features have become more popular than delicate and slender bishonen characters.

For instance, the currently popular BL manga ‘How to Deal with the Omega Next Door Being Scary’ by Nikuya Ken features a strong-looking male as the uke, which I believe appeals to the gap moe.”

Additionally, as exemplified by works like ‘What Did You Eat Yesterday?’, there has been an increase in acceptance of BL narratives as human dramas, even among those not specifically seeking BL content. According to Suzuki-san, this shift in perception has been a contributing factor to the expanding BL fanbase in recent years.

So, what recommendations would Suzuki-san offer for beginners entering the BL genre?

“Beginners might find it easier to start with media-adapted works. These are popular for a reason—they’re easy to read and the characters are often more readily accepted. Some popular titles may include intimate scenes, which might initially be daunting for newcomers. However, I believe that media-adapted works tend to present such scenes in a way that is more accessible for beginners.”

Below are Suzuki’s BL manga recommendations. They may open new doors for those who are into BL dramas in the broad sense of the word.

■”Excuse me for sucking your blood at night.”


One day, Minoru Saya, a businessman, suddenly becomes a vampire. Unable to suck human blood, he resorts to sucking the blood of cats to survive his hunger. However, on his way home after drinking with Yamadera, his junior colleague at work, Saya unintentionally sucks his blood when Yamadera falls asleep on the station platform. Can Saya turn back into a human? What is the true form of Yamadera’s pet dog?

Recommended points

A vampire fantasy BL story with a black-hearted junior aggressor and an older man who is a lovey-dovey receiver. The expression of Saya who is swept away by the bloodsucking desire will move you emotionally. It is also recommended to enjoy it as a fantasy.

The “NYU BOY” is a story about a young boy who is a host on a business trip.


Kei, a traveling host of a sex esthetic salon specializing in women, is visited by a male student, Naruse. Naruse has a desire to be treated by straight boys as if he loves a girl.

Recommended points

A traveling host x a gay man in love. Although the story deals with delicate sexual themes, it has a perfect sense of balance between comedy and seriousness. What is normal love? It is a work that will make you feel happy while making your heart clench.

25:00 in Akasaka


Yuki Shirasaki, a rookie actor, is to co-star in a homosexual drama with Asami Hayama, a very popular actor who is his senior at university. Unable to grasp the feeling of playing a gay character, Shirasaki goes to a gay bar to try being hugged by a man. There, he is somehow caught by Hayama, who asks him to be his partner. They decide to make friends for the sake of the play.

Recommended points

A BL story about a popular actor and a rookie actor in the entertainment industry. The detailed psychological portrayal of the characters will pierce your heart, and is recommended for BL beginners as well.

A bird of prey does not flap its wings.


Yashiro is a dominant, perverted, and lecherous young head of the Sincerity Association and the president of Sincerity Kogyo. Yashiro is good at making money and never shows his true feelings, but Riki Domeki comes to him as his valet and bouncer. Yashiro has decided not to touch his subordinate, but for some reason, he is attracted to Hyakumeki.

Recommended points

A chivalrous BL with a straight guy on the offensive and a beautiful girl on the receiving end, the highlight is the changing master-servant relationship between Yashiro, who lives with a dark heart and self-contradictions, and Domeki, who is stuck in a past trauma.

Color Recipe.”


Since Fukusuke joined the hair salon where Shokichi works, the two of them have been clashing with each other, but something eerie has been happening around Shokichi. Fukusuke, who has an extraordinary attachment to Shokichi, uses various means to get his hands on Shokichi, but his behavior escalates in order to monopolize Shokichi even more.

Recommended points

This is a black-hearted offensive and tsundere receiving Meriva* BL, a BL story with a spadery, doting love. The unexpected twist is amazing. The unexpected turn of events accelerates Fukusuke’s insanity, and the disturbing atmosphere in the work is more than a little harrowing, it’s tingling. If you like “Meriva,” you must not miss this BL work.

Meriva is an abbreviation for “Merry Bad End”. In a story, it refers to an ending that is happy for the protagonist, but not so for those around him or her, and to a story with such an ending.

  • Interview and text by Wakako Tago

    Born in 1973. After working for a publishing company and an advertising production company, became a freelance writer. In addition to interviewing actors for weekly and monthly magazines, she writes columns on drama for various media. His major publications include "All the Important Things Are Taught by Morning Drama" (Ota Publishing Co., Ltd.).

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