Partially transposed from my Tumblr and edited.
This was originally written for my friends who were willing to try out BL but didn’t want to wade through all the shitty ones with terrible consent problems. I mainly enjoy romantic fluff in which the couple gets together within the first few pages and then spend the rest of the manga being domestic. There are some exceptions (like plot-oriented BL), but mainly that’s what you’ll see here.
Organized alphabetically. Manga title links to mangaupdates, RO links to
either bato.to or the scanlator’s website, DL are download links. More manga will be added whenever I think of more.
Warnings will be given if there is anything problematic.
10 Dance (DL): I’ve always liked Inoue Satou, but 10 Dance just blew me away — it’s just so good! I’m usually not a fan of UST because it’s so easy to make it unnecessarily awkward and drawn out, but it works brilliantly here.
Aishiteru: Everything Fujitani Youko writes is fantastic, hands down. I especially love how she basically starts with the couple getting together and everything after that is basically just everyday fluff. Aishiteru is, I think, the easiest “gateway” Fujitani Youko manga, but I know a lot of people swear by her Rutta to Kodama.
Ameiro Paradox (DL): This is adorable. Probably one of the most “traditional BL”s that will be on this rec list. I’m not usually one for romcom rival love interests, but the characters just work so well together. Natsume Isaku is just really great at writing interesting couple dynamics, and her stuff in general always manages to make me go “awww” even if the premise seems a bit iffy.
A Night of a Thousand Dreams: [cw: dubious consent in the beginning, implied rape in one of the stories (treated as a Big Deal)] This is actually one of my favorite manga ever, though the first few volumes aren’t really that impressive, especially considering that Shahryar is a terrible person. But the character development is super solid, and Shahryar is actually one of the most understandable assholes I’ve ever read. (And his healing through love is slow and believable. Not the instant, “Suddenly not a jackass!” transformation.) Also: Sehara is the greatest protagonist ever. This series was licensed by Yen Press forever ago, and thankfully you can still buy copies of it!
Dear Green: So, I’m a fan of Fujiyama Hyouta in general, though that’s not to say that all her works are not-problematic, but the majority of them are fairly realistic. Dear Green is my favorite of hers, mainly because at the end of it I really, really liked both of the main characters. Lots of slice-of-life moments in here after they get together too, which I appreciated.
Dining Bar Akira: Yamashita Tomoko is great, both for BL and josei, and Dining Bar Akira is no exception. This one shot up my list the moment I read it. Awkward, sweet romance between two adults. It’s available from Netcomics in English.
Endou-kun no Kansatsu Nikki (DL): OK, this one was just so adorable. I was frankly amazed by how much I felt for the characters at the end. The whole thing is drawn in a way that’s very calming, and it has a really strong slice-of-life feel throughout, even if it is focused primarily on the romance. It’s kind of like those really cute romance movies you see on TV where two people like each other but are awkwardly cute about it, haha. (Also totally rec’ing Hayakawa Nojiko‘s other stuff because they are also wonderful.)
Harenochi Shikibu (DL): A super adorable, full-color 4koma. Little to no drama, with really beautiful artwork and a great, slice-of-life atmosphere throughout. I like how the boys kind of fall into a relationship accidentally but that both of them take this in stride, and you can actually feel how much they care for one another at the end. Just plain sweet, honestly.
Koisuru Barairo Tenchou (DL): What is this mind-numbing cuteness?! So sweet it’ll give you a toothache! About a man who opens up a flower shop and falls in love with a single father. Surprisingly, my favorite character was Satou, the straight man (both comedically and, I assume, sexually) underling who somehow manages to help the two main characters work things out…? He’s so “???” about everything it’s hilarious.
Mainichi Seiten!: I am going to go ahead and recommend this whole series because it’s just a whole bunch of adorable sweetness. The first few volumes aren’t really that interesting, but as the series progresses, you really get close to the characters, and I just really started to like everyone, OK. The first arc of this series was licensed by DMP, I believe. As was the first LN.
Mauri to Ryuu (RO): I am totally adding Moto Haruhira to my favorite BL mangaka list. She writes some really adorable BL speculative fiction, and this oneshot collection is no exception! I don’t know if fantasy BLs are rare or if they just don’t get as much attention, but I love reading them, and Moto makes them especially adorable as heck!
Mirai no Kioku: [cw: drunken sex in chapter one] Kunieda Saika is my favorite BL mangaka, bar none. And this manga was the one that made me fall in love with her. It’s just so funny and sweet. While it’s yet another story in which a previously straight man ends up dating a gay man, it’s realistic in almost every other way. (Not to say the previous scenario doesn’t happen in real life, just that it’s way too common a trope in manga.) This is a comedy, though, so real, hard-hitting issues aren’t really dealt with, but it’s nice to just sit back and read an uncomplicated story about love once in a while. Read the sequel Kaze no Yukue too. This one was licensed by, uh, June, I think? It’s out-of-print, unfortunately, though you can probably still find copies floating around somewhere.
Namae mo Shiranai Machiawase (DL): This series is slightly different from the others on this list because there is a ton of sex involved, especially in the title story. However, it’s worth recommending because the title story features a protagonist who enjoys a lot of sex with a lot of different people and is never shamed for this. He and his partner eventually decide on a polyamorous/open relationship, and it’s actually really sweet?? For a genre with a whole lot of explicit sex, it’s actually rare to see such a wholeheartedly sex positive representation. Note, though, that there are two additional stories to this collection, and they’re both slightly more problematic, with one of them featuring a teacher/student relationship (chapter 3) and the other having some dubious consent (and a transphobic slur) (chapter 4).
Otona no Mondai: Ima Ichiko is just wonderful if you’re looking for some realistic BL. This is a really nice manga about the modern dysfunctional family. While I wouldn’t label this as a “BL manga” exactly (the main character’s father is gay and has just married a man, but that’s the only slightly BL thing about it), but it deals with the idea of the ever-changing ideal of the nuclear family.
Souteigai Love Serendipity: [cw: drunken sex] The reason I enjoyed this isn’t so much the title story, though that’s decent (and where the drunken sex comes in), but the first story, which stars a gay man who feels like he’s fallen into a rut with his longtime lover. They discuss this and end up trying to spice up their sex lives via tips/toys from coworkers (the main couple in the title story). It’s a very everyday, mundane sort of story, and it’s all the more sweet because of it. It’s rare to see an established relationship in a BL manga, and even moreso without any unnecessary drama!
Tokyo Babylon: [cw: for Seishirou being a total creepy bastard is this an appropriate warning??, discussions of rape, murder, etc.] So, I’m just going to slip Tokyo Babylon in here because it is amazing and wonderful and awesome. It has such great social commentary going for it. The discussions about housing and the rising cost of land and the not-quite-PSA about bullying still stuns me with how they manage to still hit problems that we are still suffering from today. Really, sometimes I wonder. Is it that Tokyo Babylon has aged well or is it that we as humans are stagnating with our changeless ways? This series has been licensed by Dark Horse.
Tsuki to Sandal: This one is actually Yoshinaga Fumi‘s debut work, and I think it’s my favorite of her really romance-oriented BL because it’s just so… down-to-earth, I guess is the way to say it? There’s just something about it that makes me feel as if I’m reading about a real romance rather than a very idealized version of it. Her currently ongoing series What Did You Eat Yesterday? is also great and everyone should read it because it features an established, long-running relationship with minimal drama!!
Yamete Kudasai, (DL): Oh, wow, is this series cute or what? The art also adds a lot of softness to the thing overall. It’s a very slice-of-life-esque romance series about two boys who like one another. Nothing earth-shattering, but just really, really sweet.
I also recommend anything by Yamada Yuugi, since her stuff are usually fairly realistic, slice-of-life-ish, coming-of-age stories. I never seem to remember them in any detail other than that I enjoyed them, though, so I can’t give a concrete recommendation.