Bara is a Japanese genre of manga and art (usually) by and for gay and bisexual men. With heavy focus on the masculine features and appeal of men.
While mostly dependent on an artist's personal tastes, the ‘bara’ archetype features 3 main body types:
- Bear-type bodies, (typically tagged as plump or fat), are generally softer and rounder looking, with varying degrees of visible musculature.
- Hunks/Jocks or Muscular-type bodies, in contrast to the chiseled triangular look of professional bodybuilders, have defined musculature that is usually more proportional overall, similar to that of athletic strongman, with a wider waist (comparison), though the more chiseled appearance can be a stylistic choice (see Nikism for reference).
- Twunk or otter-type bodies, tagged toned, or muscular (especially with younger or sometimes older mature males).
Musculature, when depicted, is typically more exaggerated for emphasis (e.g. pecs) along with the bulge (implying an exaggerated penis size), and both are usually rather noticeable even when the subject is wearing clothes - abnormally so. When this exaggeration is paired with the points above, which assert a softer approach when drawing the male form, the 'bara' archetype becomes noticeable.
Common masculine features on subjects include: different degrees of facial and body hair (especially the happy trail leading to pubic hair) - or a complete absence of it in the case of younger characters (depending on the artist's tastes), thick, cut or bushy eyebrows, sideburns, buzz cut, large hands, scars, tattoos, bandaids, bandages, wrinkles (visible with mature and old men), etc.
All of these characteristics lend the style a degree of flexibility that allows for further stylization as well as broader cultural mixing between communities; for instance, despite bara’s roots in opposition to them, there is substantial cross-over with the larger Boys' Love community - which can be seen in some artists' styles (E.g Yotti, Arima). It can also be applied to non-human and humanoid characters, such as furry males (E.g Wafu, Boogbogex).
History and meaning
The word "bara" literally means "rose" in Japanese. The term originally comes from the magazine Barazoku, Japan's first gay men's magazine, with the term traditionally referring to more bishounen-esque men. The word "bara" as used here is primarily Western, stemming more from its application on art more commonly known as "gei comi", "gei manga", or "mens love" in Japan, a practice that began on Japanese imageboards, where they intentionally misappropriated the term, this interpretation later being exported abroad. Note that, like most Manga Demographics, bara is commonly defined in terms of the target audience, not the authors or the subject matter.
Bara conceptually often contrasts with yaoi, which is gay male media traditionally made by heterosexual women to appeal to other heterosexual women. Whereas bara is gay/bi male media made by gay/bi men for gay/bi men, that generally features romantic and sexual relationships between muscular mature men and realistic(ish) relationships, often including LGBTQ issues, yaoi generally features androgynous, idealized, effeminate characters and melodramatic plots devoid of LGBTQ issues (like most yuri, for similar root reasons). By its nature, it is also heteronormative, whether by stereotypically depicting overly emotional relationships or using concepts such as "uke" and "seme," and includes themes of homosociality, which contributed more to the clash between fans of the two genres, though nowadays there's a grey area between the two. What they share in common the most though is the fact that non-Japanese audiences have misappropriated them, with yaoi having become a generalized weeb term for anything involving gay men.
- muscular male
- fat man
- mature male
- old man
- muscular uke
- LGBT pride
- male focus
- manly - overly masculine traits that were not neccessarily homoerotic
- Cho Aniki
- Kuso Miso Technique
- Wikipedia: Bara
- TVtropes: Bara genre
- Futekiya: What is bara
- Muscular body comparison