Seeking the Light for Those Who Still Believe in Love
By Weng Chi-An ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer
Jan 16, 2024

(This article is originally published at Readmoo)

According to the definition in researcher Mizoguchi Akiko’s book On the Evolution of BL, the boy’s love genre (BL) is made up of “all kinds of stories that develop from the love relationships between two men, yet the creators and readers are mostly heterosexual women”. She further states that the love affairs between men found in the plots of BL stories provide readers a temporary escape from the shackles of reality by creating an artificial world where love and sex can be pursued freely. By representing a utopia where gender diversity is respected to a greater degree than in our present world, BL works become more than entertainment – they present a subtle challenge to contemporary society, or even a push towards reform. 

With their massive market and loyal fan base, BL comic books are a consistent mainstay of comic book publishing. With minimal exaggeration it could said that BL comic books are a touchstone of the health of the entire comics industry. When BL sales are strong, the industry has a stable core, and can weather any storm or challenge. However, to those who have never read the genre, particularly male readers, the appeal of BL can be difficult to comprehend. One has to spend some time getting acquainted with the genre to understand its irresistible charms. Among the best introductions to the genre is Day Off, the new comic from artist Dailygreens and publisher Rusuban Studio, and winner of the 2022 Golden Comic Award’s Best Editor category.

Set against the backdrop of office life at a large enterprise, the story follows the evolving relationship between the head of the planning department and his attractive subordinate. Their devoted exchanges of affection emanate a healing warmth and sincerity, but their relationship is far from perfect. As with all couples, there are episodes of jealousy and self-doubt, as well as the difficulties of keeping their relationship secret from coworkers, and, of course, the discomfiting gaze cast upon them by society. But through all of these setbacks, their relationship grows stronger. The strength of their bond, and the support of some family members, give them the energy to face the challenges, and fills them with hope for the future.

Day Off began as a web comic strip consisting of quickly-resolved independent episodes (which now constitute the first three chapters of the comic book). The elegantly composed swathes of color and distinctively warm palette of these short narratives set a tastefully breezy and comforting tone that kept readers coming back for more. It also attracted the attention of Huang Szu-Mi, BL author and Editor-in-Chief of Rusuban Studio, an established publisher of BL fiction and comics. At Huang’s suggestion, Dailygreens began working with Rusuban to adapt Day Off into a full-length comic book.

The change in format, however, doesn’t diminish the appeal of Day Off. If anything, the book-length format further develops the potential of the original characters and setting, and gives Dailygreens a larger canvas on which to showcase her talent for visual storytelling. The interactions of the main characters unfold in an unhurried manner, revealing the full emotional spectrum of their relationship, and the strength and comfort each finds in the other. Those who’ve experienced love will find themselves reliving their own past loves, or possibly wishing that they could. The workplace setting adds an element of interest, and, for many readers, wish fulfillment. Through its tight arrangement of narrative elements, Day Off envisions the unattainable ideal of pure love in the real world, all within the framework of BL comic books. This is what makes it such an excellent introduction to the genre. Lacking in steamy artwork, the book may come across as somewhat chaste to hardcore fans of the genre. But for general readers, Day Off’s refreshingly unsensational approach will evoke the sweetness of past relationships, and reaffirm their faith in the possibility of love.

Huang Szu-Mi once said in an interview that the process of creating a comic book is like assembling a team of heroes to defeat an evil tyrant; the editor plays the supporting role of the wizard while the comic book artist is the courageous warrior, always fighting at the front lines. Indeed, Dailygreens has shown great courage and strength. In this dark era where all traces of pure love seem to be gradually fading away, she has sought out the light on behalf of all those who still believe in love. In a separate interview, Dailygreens stated, “That’s just how I am. I hope that there still people in this world with the gentleness of Hsiao-Fei, or bosses who are as kind as (his lover) the department head.”

Don’t we all.