Recently finished Bara no Ki ni Bara no Hanasaku and it's one of the bl games with the best plot that I've played. Even though I'm a fujoshi I don't read yaoi manga because... I just cringe at the really bad "plot?what plot?" that plagues a lot of the them. I don't like stuff where the moe fan service is the only selling point and frankly, it just looks like a lot of yaoi mangaka aren't even trying to tell a story, sorry. I mean, how many times is it just about aggressive suave evil(?) semes finding ways to take advantage of the innocent and beautiful uke consensual or not, and I just.. close the book. My college cartooning professor told me he finds shojou manga fascinating and I immediately thought about the recent plotwhatplot shojou manga and said I didn't like it. But then I found out that he reads 70~80s shojou manga and manga at that time were heavily reliant on storytelling, Rose of Versailles was one of the best reads I had, well recently though, a lot of times moemoekyunkyun kawaii desu sells. He probably found it fascinating because there isn't a comic genre in Western comics that dedicates to female readers I guess? I enjoy works by Kaori Yuki and Clamp a lot though.
Bara no Ki is a very unknown game at least outside of Japan, maybe because it's a very old game back from 2003. Being used to the interface and quality of recent visual novel games it took me a while to get used to the old 90s midi game music. And this game actually is only partially voiced, due to (bad) experiences from other bl games around that era I didn't expect much from the seiyuu but they did an exceedingly great job on that. But the most unique part of the game is that you can literally pair anyone with everyone and choose who tops, which gives a chance to develop many side stories and see from various perspectives. It has some of the most well-played stories on one-sided love crush, sweet yet melancholic. And since everyone of the characters can have their own stories detached from the main character, it gives much chance for in-depth character development.
Have I mentioned this story takes place in early Showa period, I'm absolutely in love with stories taking place in early 20th century China and Japan pre-ww2. The writer and artist for this game is Kusaka Matsuri, who is also the writer for the recent hit (in Japan) Noli Me Tangere. Her writing is wonderful, so much that even when the game text is unvoiced I went along with it to read although I find it a headache to read Japanese (depends I can only understand 50~80%), since her writing style is truly enjoyable and well-thought. The art style is very 80s shojou but it definitely is the most fitting for the setting of the game. I don't find Noli Me Tangere as engrossing as Bara no Ki since chars in the latter are linked to everyone else one way or another, not all revolving only around the main character. It creates a much more full-flavored story.
Another manga that takes place in Taisho period is Sakura Gari by Yuu Watase, one of the yaoi manga I enjoyed the most. Looking at her recent works I almost forgot she can actually write, and very well at that. But then again yaoi is a small sub genre so it wasn't nearly as noticed as her other works, but I think it's her most mind-blowing drama piece.
Actually, I'm sort of ok with pwp in doujinshi as this is an expansion on fantasies of another structured story that someone else created. Whereas for original yaoi manga, when fan service is all there is with no backbone of a story to fall back on, it's really hollow.
Bara no Ki Illust