Another awesome convention has come and gone, leaving behind wonderful memories of the first BishounenCon. BishounenCon is a new East Coast convention run by the company behind YaoiCon (Digital Manga Incorporated) with staff gathered from Yaoi North (part of Anime North), Anime Boston, and elsewhere in the New England region. Meant to be somewhat classier, BishounenCon is a more adult-themed version of YaoiCon, and also offers content beyond yaoi (m/m erotic manga) by expanding into the rest of the LGBTQ spectrum. While most of the programming this year was yaoi-themed, the hope is to expand more LGBTQ content as more people offer to run a variety of panels and events next year.
The main focus of BishounenCon was, as the name implies, the bishounen, a Japanese term meaning "pretty boy," and there were quite a few on-site to run the main events, namely the Host Club, Masquerade Ball, and Bishounen Bingo. I didn't have a chance to attend the first two events, but from the peeks I got, and the rave reviews of other attendees, they were fun for everyone who wanted to converse and dance with the bishounen and other attendees. Bishounen Bingo was wild. Each bingo winner got to choose the name of one of the bishounen from a blind selection and that bishounen would come on stage to lose a piece of clothing. The boys were real showmen and seemed to be really into their performances, much to the delight of the crowd.
The guest of honor, Velvet Toucher, was wonderful. I'd never heard of her work before the con, but there were a number of die-hard fans in the crowd eager to see her. Her first translated work, Lost in the Snow, was on-hand through Yaoi Revolution. There is a Kickstarter campaign for her second translated work, Eden's Mercy. She classifies her work as yabara, meaning manga that features smoother graphics similar to that found in classic yaoi with characters and storylines closer to the rougher bara aesthetic. From her panel and following conversation, she seems driven to bring more authentic gay characters to the manga marketplace, a nice turn from the old stereotypes that have driven yaoi for years (though that's been changing lately).
There was a combined Dealer's Room/Artist Alley that had tons of great merchandise for sale. Art prints were everywhere and I didn't see a single booth that didn't have something gorgeous on display. DMI's manga imprint June had a double booth near the main entrance, featuring manga new and old (and at a nice discount). The bara (a genre similar to yaoi with more muscular men that is primarily by and for gay men) titles they had on hand were gone in the first day, primarily due to the influence of the main guest, Velvet Toucher. There were three LGBTQ romance publishers in attendance—Less Than Three Press, Jordan L. Hawk, and Mischief Corner Books—along with comic/mixed-media publishers Sparkler Monthly and Yaoi Revolution. Notable webcomic artists in attendance included Avialae/Lucky Juice Press, Magical Boy Basil, Romeo x Julien, and Stay.
There were two full rooms of panels, all of which received numerous compliments by attendees. Notable favorites were yaoi meta-analysis topics such as Breaking The Seme/Uke Dynamic and But We’re Both Guys: Unpacking BL Cliches as well as gay culture topics Gay Life: Fact vs Yaoi and Gay Sex 101. Mischief Corner Books author Freddy MacKay gave an amazing presentation on gender and sexual variation from a geneticist's point of view in LGBTQ+: Going Beyond Gay. There were also historical topics such as World History of Homosexuality and History of Yaoi (full disclosure: I ran the history panel). Writing-related panels were very popular, including Character Development in Fiction, Do I Need An Editor?, and Writing Sex, all of which included attending authors among their panelists. Panels also went beyond the novel/manga realm into So You Want To Make A BL Game run by attending game creators and Sparkler Monthly's presentation on Writing a Comic Script.
News of whether BishounenCon will have a second year is still pending, but it seems likely. I've heard nothing but positive feedback from attendees, along with a lot of really good suggestions for improvements for a second year that are sure to make it even more inclusive. The convention will likely not be returning to Rhode Island, but will be sticking to the East Coast, primarily the New England region. Stay updated via their website, Facebook, or Twitter.