The Atlantic

The Gay Teen-Boy Romance Comic Beloved by Women in Japan

Moto Hagio's Heart of Thomas series markets a male homosexual love story to women—and it works.
Source: Fantagraphics

At first glance, Moto Hagio's classic Japanese manga (or comic) The Heart of Thomas looks suspiciously like a serialized soap opera. There are hyperbolically unrequited crushes, stolen kisses, vertiginous swoons, shocking secrets revealed, tragic death after tragic death till the protagonists can barely emote their way around all the beautiful corpses—and even, at the center of the plot, an improbable pair of distantly-related doubles, whose identical features spurn the dry touch of genetics for the sweeping caress of melodrama.

There is one thing, though, that definitively and obviously sets Heart of Thomas apart from daytime serials. Hagio's story is set in a German boarding school. In case the implications aren't clear, that means that all the characters are boys, and all the romances are gay.

is, in (with half a million copies sold, and that's not counting the anime adaptation) and (which spun off into an anime series, a live-action TV drama, and a live-action Korean movie). In 1974, though, when Hagio began serializing , boys' love was experimental and even in some sense avant garde. The first story in the genre had just been published in 1971 by Hagio's roommate, Keiko Takemiya.

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