There sure is a lot of queerbaiting in anime. Well there sure are a lot of accusations of queerbaiting in anime. I’m a little slow on the uptake when in comes to implied romance but I swear at least some of it is all in the viewers heads. I mean Kuroko no Basuke fans went crazy with the shipping and the doujin, seeing gay couples everywhere in the story and it almost made the author quit. I’m pretty sure *if* anything was actually there,it was not intentional.


nevermind, I see it now

This said, I am not so naive as to think that’s always the case. Anime creators do often throw in suggestive same sex scenes as a form of fanservice. It’s a very common trope. But is it actually queerbaiting?

Before we get into it, let me tell you what I’m not going to touch on in this post. I’m not going to make any morality calls. I’m not going to discuss whether queerbaiting or queer fetishizing or using queer implications for fanservice are either *good* or *bad*. I’m also not going to discuss the potential impact on society or the LGBTQ+ community. Those are all great topics that deserve serious consideration and their own posts. I really just wanted to examine whether all these are in fact the same thing in the context of Anime.

Queerbaiting is a fairly new term. In broad it can be defined as a marketing strategy for media where a piece of entertainment hints at a queer relationship, either in publicity or even in the piece itself, but the relationship is never actually portrayed as such. The point is to entice an LGBTQ audience into watching by dangling the prospect of representation while not alienating viewers that may not be as comfortable with it.

At first glance you can see why that accusation gets lobbed at anime a lot. I use to follow a number of Yuri sites and it seemed like every single cute girl or more show that came out had fans anticipating Yuri content when actual explicit romances are in fact very rare. If you just go about it from the point of view of implied but never realized romances, there’s definitely an argument to be made that it’s particularly prevalent in anime.

yuri on ice
different Yuri

The last part may also apply. The not wanting to alienate a certain part of the audience. Although that may have as much to do with cultural biases as it has to do with marketing strategy. It’s not necessarily a queer relationship that is likely to alienate the audience (well maybe in the case of BL it is) but any explicit physical relationship has a chance to change the character archetype in anime. In fact if a physical relationship *has* to be present, I think a Yuri one might go over better with a lot of people….

But to me there can’t really be any queerbaiting without the “baiting” part. The western shows that get accused of queerbaiting very openly target the demographic. They publicly associate with movements like Pride, they use rainbow patterns or choose advertising channels that reach those audiences when using queerbaiting as a marketing tool and might even play down the aspect when advertising through other less queer friendly channels. It’s a targeted approach which makes it feel more personal and potentially more insulting.

Admittedly, I don’t know how anime is being advertised in Japan. It may genuinely be a concern there but based on the embarrassingly little I know if the culture, I somehow have a tough time imagining that. As far as international promotion of anime goes though, I wouldn’t say anime purposefully gives a false impression of representation. You know right from the start what you’re getting with CGDCT or moe (apparently there’s a difference between the two) or pretty boy shows. And there are in fact more and more mainstream actually Yuri and Yaoi shows available if that’s what you’re looking for.

they tend to have mixed reveiws

From first hand anecdotal experience, I have never known any queer viewer feel like they were tricked into watching an anime because they thought it would feature a queer relationship that turned out not to be there. In the interest of disclosure, my data gathering technique involved asking 10 gay people I know (4 guys and 6 girls) that occasionally watched anime if they ever felt it took part in queerbaiting. So it’s not exactly the most impressive sample size. Nevertheless, the views correlated well with general impressions on the subject I’ve gathered from various sources throughout the years.

So I propose today that anime in fact engages in far less queerbaiting then it gets accused of, and even less than popular western media. In my opinion. I would love to hear your views on it though. My sample size really could use some bulking up.

This said I do think anime does do a lot of queer fetishizing, sometimes in very blunt and uncomfortable ways but that’s another post.

exhausted Rini

32 thoughts

      1. Here in the states, there are more pressing issues that need exposure, why have you not done a black lives matter post, we count as well you know

        1. You do and I have. Not on an anime blog as that would be disrespectful and obviously I’m not in the states

        2. May I cut in, I’ll help myself thanks. First of all, who the hell are you to decide what content goes up on her blog. Last time I checked, Irina ran this blog, not some random person, that did next to nothing in helping her in any shape or form.

            1. But you said you were really into strong people like Roki. Ae you being shy now and playing hard to get?

            1. What makes you think I haven’t gone out on a date with her. Saving them cents won’t get you laid dude, not even for a quickie.

  1. Many people are very quick to put the most negative spin possible on what they see. They’ve grown accustomed to being put down so they start seeing put-downs everywhere, even when none was intended. Or perhaps they’ve been told repeatedly the world is full of attacks on their validity as human beings, so they get paranoid and start seeing them everywhere. If something appears to be offensive, you will be a happier (and wiser) person if you don’t take offense until you’ve allowed for all reasonable interpretations by people of different backgrounds.

    To the extent it exists, queerbaiting is just a marketing technique. You can “bait” any identifiable segment of society. “Bait and switch” is a time-honored technique among retailers everywhere. I can understand being disappointed that the product wasn’t as advertised but it isn’t just a problem in the queer community. I get pized off at false advertising as well. Don’t take it personally.

    I have a principle of trying not to take *anything* personally unless it explicitly has my name attached to it. It makes me more effective in talking to people I disagree with, keeps my blood pressure low and reduces my general level of anxiety.

    One could find a kind of back-handed affirmation in it because it recognizes “queer culture” as an important market demographic. Within fairly recent memory that would not have been an option. One of the very few advantages of being old is the opportunity to experience the changes in society over a long timeline rather than just the last few years.

  2. Between my loves, I basically run the entire gamut on queerbait – magical girls quite infamously include queerbait or can be interpreted as such, while shows with substantial male casts do the same but for a different audience…plus my stomping ground was Tumblr for a few years, which says a lot about my tolerance for queer interpretations of things which may not actually be queer – so I’ve grown used to sharing my space with the fujoshi crowd (but they can still get annoying when they edit wiki pages with furthering love of their ships in mind). Personally, so long as I’m having fun or gaining some meaning out of my own reading of the text, I couldn’t care less about how others read it. (This is one reason I say “I only ship canon ships” – so then I don’t step on any people’s toes, shipper of queer couples or otherwise. If the shipper thinks a queer ship is canon, most of the time if I’m familiar enough with what they’re going on about and “squint enough”, as the fanfic writers call it, I can see evidence pointing in their favour – it’s all a matter of open-mindedness, empathy and perspective.)

  3. Not really a bait show but I actually liked Kiboyoshi and even Citrus ( Citrus actually had a lot of female personal and influence which I thought helped out with the story) for showing lesbian relationships without being too exploitive . Now the new Manaria Friends : Rage of Behumuth was a total queerbait show and pretty expoitive . I couldn’t finish it was so bad .

  4. It is a rare anime that ever lives up to its hype. All kinds of stuff is dropped in to catch the eye of this or that demographic. If you drop a scene into an OP that doesn’t actually happen in the story, is that “baiting”?

    Examples? “Null and Peta” and “Boogiepop” both have explicit nudity with varying degrees of sexualization in their OPs. “Null and Peta” adds in the extra flavors of incest and lolicon while Boogiepop sure looks like yuri to me.. Nothing of the sort actually happens in either anime.

    Is that baiting?

    1. I’m not sure.
      Like I said, all the dictionary definitions I found called it a marketing practice specifically meant to attract queer audiances. I don’t know if any of those images were used in the promotional material. Although in BoogiePops case the OP is clearly shown as surreal since it’s the same girl that splits into two versions of herself and tries to reconcile that. It would be though to get the idea of romance from that OP.

  5. It may be that gays are more sensitive to it than straights are? I don’t know. None of my gay friends ever watch anime. Ever. I don’t have a frame of reference.

    When I have no frame of reference, I fall back on the concept of symmetry. Let’s say that if queer baiting exists, there must also be a version of straight baiting. Hmmm… how often does an anime imply a heterosexual romantic relationship to get straight romance lovers to watch and not deliver? To have the same forbidden fruit aspect, it would have to be a heated relationship worthy of the same degree of controversy.

    Lessee here… Incest? Adult-minor? Lolicon and shoutacon? Sadism? How often do we see those baited in the promo and hype but not delivered? It happens but it isn’t common enough to catch my attention. There is plenty of the real deal out there, so what is the point of baiting it?

    Off-hand I can think of one example. I blogged about it. Of all anime, it is that moe-fest “Null and Peta”. An anime that is pure innocence and adorableness and love. Yet when you watch the OP, this shows up:

    That picture is 100% incest + lolicon + maybe even a bit of yuri bait. It is entirely unrelated to anything that happens in the anime. If that had anything to do with the anime it would be different. There is zero sexuality of any kind in the show, let alone yuri or lolicon or incest. It is just there to catch the eye of certain narrow demographics.

    But let us look at the intro for another anime I blogged about, Boogiepop. What do we make of this?

    Nothing of the sort ever happens in the anime. Looks (to me) like a feminine looking girl kissing a boyish-looking girl. And it isn’t a quick image, it’s an extended sequence full of urgency and nakedness and longing and ending in a kiss as the two finally get together.

    But likewise, there is zero sexuality of any kind in the actual anime, let alone yuri. Touka and Boogie are two personalities in the same body and Touka is unaware of her alter ego. This could be a fantasy of the writer’s or maybe symbolic of something. However, it is teasing something that never happens. Izzat queerbaiting?

    Aoi Hana has an opening that clearly shows a romantic (and probably physical) relationship between Fumi and Akira. Never happens in the anime. Should I be angry that it doesn’t?

    Personally, I think we get much too wrapped up in what we want to see in an anime rather than what is actually there. Disregard the hype and watch the OP with a grain of salt until you are familiar with the story. (I don’t have lots of sympathy for people who get wrapped up in the hype and are disappointed.) It is the rare anime that ever fully lives up to its hype. They are all “baiting” one or another audience.

  6. As a Queer person myself, I really don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people think.
    I mean it kinda happens in real life as well, there’s straight girls that flirt back with another girl, if you look at two girls while going out all dancing like they do I never see anyone walk up to them and go… you should not pretend to be interested into girls , shame!

    I think we kinda create things to hate. When our favorite couples did not get together in the past we were powerless. Now we slap on words like these and strong-arm people into getting the yuri or yaoi couples we want, at least it feels like that to me.

    I think that always a work of fiction is the author’s and their creative team’s and theirs alone. We should not condemn them for telling the story they want to tell…unless that story is hate inciting or something of course… if you don’t like how they throw in a tease then don’t buy the works.. simple as that. It’s their show at all times so why would we need EVERYTHING to be questioned.

    I mean even IF anime would be queer-baiting… it’s not like we don’t have a choice.
    It’s not like I automatically will enjoy a character more if they are genuinely queer or that I feel the desperate need to see it. It might be a character I can relate with more.. but I also related to soda-cans or whatever.

    I think we should focus on what we love about anime as it’s fans and not try to acuse it of every single little thing we can think off. Does a show queer bait to get some more views? Well maybe.. but if that means it sells more, we can also all enjoy more of it. I don’t think anime plays more with emotions than other stuff does. A few days ago a girl at the baker flirted with me make me buy an additional pastery. I did , not because I felt she was genuinely interested in me.. but no because I had fun, I felt accepted for a bit and I had a little fantasy I could play out in my head. I did not toss rotten apples at her for baiting me…it kinda happens everywhere.

    We can nag about how it’s wrong to not get what we are promised but that is simply based on our expactations and setting them to high. We have become soo spoiled that we want our money back if a show doesnt completly pan out the way we want.
    To me part of the fun of anime is creating my own little side stories. What Subaru DID choose Rem. What if that Bromance.. actually turned into romance, It doesn’t HAVE to be real or canon. Have some fun imagining things… and just enjoy anime or games or whatever instead of focussing where to kick. Don’t make seem like just because we are queer we deserve to be represented and one should not play with our “urges and desires” to see couples.
    I mean have you seen how much straight couples are teased but never happen?
    Have you seen how western media depicts all teenage girls as girls who rile each other up with hot fluffly pillow fights? I don’t think anime in actuality does this more than other media. I just think we can relate to this source better as anime is more open about the themes so maybe it stands out more?

  7. It’s difficult. Show’s that don’t commit to an intimate pairing being a romantic/sexual one might be stumbling into it. Maybe the writers think they’re gay, and the director doesn’t? Maybe the key animator cheekily drops in an in-crowd hint that no-one else on the cast gets? Anime tend to have many, many people involved.

    It might be a marketing strategy. But again it’s complicated. How do the people who make the show respond to questions? Sometimes they don’t commit (I think there were interviews about Noir, but I might be mistaking the show), and sometimes they actually say they’re just friends (notably with Samurai Flamenco). My overall impression is that it’s not really a drawn-up strategy, and when people are being ambiguous, it probably says more about the makers’ attitude towards authorial intent than about their marketing strategy.

    CGDCT shows tend to be more about voyeurism, and I wager Class-S framing is strong here (“it’s just a phase”). You get vaguely sexualised content, without a sense of rivalry to mar you fantasies, or something. That’s compatible with a “whatever-you-want” response in interviews, and thus also with a baiting strategy, though how organised that is I’m not sure, because if it’s a production-committee-induced strategy, you’d have to make sure everyone involved has the same response ready.

    All in all, I’d say it’s probably more an opportunistic response than calculated strategy, and if it’s a calculated strategy it probably isn’t all that well organised. But, well, I’m far from an expert. I don’t seek out interviews, and when I hear about this its always second hand (I don’t speak Japanese) and incidental. So in the end: who knows?

  8. I rather have a original character who is likable because of their personality and actions and not purely based around their personal identity be it sexuality,gender or racial background. And the romance happens naturally based on mutual attraction not because of forced in shipping to pander in to a certain demographic.Or if the story was not revolved around romance in the first place either.
    I found this article to be a very refreshing and reasonable take on lgbtq related characters and themes in anime and i agree with you on every point.

  9. If anything, I like how open and inclusive anime (and related media) is to all types of relationships. I find it quite refreshing how some shows and games can be quite clearly gay without making a big song and dance about it.

    That “big song and dance” is where a lot of Western media tends to get it wrong; the feeling that a show or game is going “LOOK AT THIS, WE’VE GOT GAY PEOPLE SO WE ARE GOOD”. And it’s even worse with trans characters; attempts by Western game developers to incorporate trans characters into their narrative have been exceedingly clumsy at best.

    Contrast with a lot of Japanese popular media, where it tends to just be “these characters like each other, and it doesn’t matter what their respective genders are”. Okay, in specifically designated yuri titles you might get a bit of the classic “b-b-but we’re both girls…!” if the work in question is exploring someone’s sexuality awakening, but in stuff that just happens to have a majority or exclusively female cast, it’s just… a thing that no-one seems to think twice about. Which is how it should be, really. I feel like the best kind of representation is when you don’t notice it happening.

    Outside of homosexual relationships, I’ve also enjoyed a number of works that depict things like polyamory. LOVE³ -Love Cube- was a particular highlight of last year for me, simply because it looked at a polyamorous relationship from a distinctly practical perspective, and managed to remain super-sexy without ever getting sleazy about it.

    I like having my eyes opened to different stuff, and I feel like reducing this sort of thing to “queerbaiting”, as unfortunately happens a bit too often these days, does material that strays from the well-worn path a bit of a disservice.

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