Our top 9 boys in Boys Love (BL) visual novels

 Our top 9 boys in Boys Love (BL) visual novels

After discussing Boys Love (BL) as a starting guide earlier this month, I wanted to dedicate an article to what I love most about these games; the best boys from each game. Unlike the criteria of only Love Interests (LI) in otome games as the list picks, I’m going to be doing something different for the BL contenders. These could be either a love interest, or the player character, because despite what you might initially think, a few BL titles have much more interesting protagonists compared to its LI’s unlike its maiden game counterpart. Let’s see what this ends up looking like!

Clear from DRAMATICAL MURDER

DRAMATICAL MURDER is monumental in the BL genre of video games. With extremely appealing and colorful artwork in its setting and characters that translates to its consistently charismatic and memorable cast, DRAMATICAL MURDER is nitroplus’ most prolific title, spawning many spin-offs and an anime. With such notable high points with, admittedly, a few missteps (Mink was a mistake is my slogan and I deny the existence of both Trip and Virus on a daily basis), most of its cast are unforgettably brilliant, equipped with incredibly engaging character arcs that can lead to depressingly despair filled bad ends, creating a set of characters players truly care about and feel aligned to.

My personal pick for these reasons is Clear, who is the product of most of my tears shed playing this game during his route alone. He has a lot to hide underneath that cool design of his for players to discover on his route. In Aoba’s initial meeting of him, Clear appears childish, eccentric and misplaced in its world, the first indication of how much of a cinnamon bun he is! What develops from there is up to you, as many sides of Clear will be discovered in its many endings, and much like every other LI in DRAMATICAL MURDER, this is just one reason why this game of nitroplus’ is considering the best. When it comes to its characters, each are so interesting and well explored, but none are as worthy of our attention as much as Clear is, in my humble opinion of course.

Motomi from Togainu no Chi

When I experienced Togainu no Chi, it was when my short lived preference in older men in visual novels was apparent (eg. Sweet Fuse’s Ayumu Shirabe was my favourite otome LI back in 2015). This would set up my play through of Togainu no Chi with an easy first choice; my eyes were set on the mature, smoking (hot) Motomi. After playing through every other route that were even more engaging as the plot thickened through each LI encounter, what I realized by the end of this journey was that Motomi was the best suitor for our protagonist, Akira.

He’s at the top as he exceeds every other LI in the game due to being only one out of two LI’s to acknowledge the importance of consent between the pair. This is also the case with Rin, the trap character who I also feel must be lying about his age because he looks uncomfortably young to me. This is also the only reason I prefer Motomi as the older type will always be the better option over the shota trope in my books, despite both being just as brilliant of routes. Before Motomi and Akira do the deed together, Motomi explicitly asks Akira if he wants the same thing. Such a simple act isn’t only none existent in many other routes of the game, but is also a prolific problem in many BL games specifically. This nicely (or not so nicely, in this case) leads into my next choice.

Ichinose Youya from Naked Butler

To this day, I cannot believe Hadaka Shitsuji (Naked Butler) was fully translated by MangaGamer and even published uncensored on Steam. Extremely notorious to visual novel players for its hardcore BL material consisting of excruciatingly uncomfortable explicit scenes most often played up for humor, Naked Butler left a bad taste in my mouth ever since I played it which I have yet to overcome. For a product so unforgiving shameless in its un-consensual, sadistic, and over-the-top kinkiness, Ichinose Youya is too much of a sweetie for this game. Of course that’s the point, as he’s the masochistic character, but I still want to protect him at all costs!

As an absolute sweetheart who suffers from low self esteem and social anxiety, Youya finds solace in taking care of the mansion’s garden and nature surrounding it. His awkward social skills are exemplified by him talking in the third person, and he is often alone in his own company. I would had rather the game left him completely alone then and shunned him of our attention and Maeda Tomoaki’s actions, because the innocence and sweetness of Youya is completely tarnished and corrupted by the worst player character I have ever had the misfortune to play as. Some CG’s will remain burnt into my memory no matter how much I don’t want them, no thanks to Tomoaki. Bottom line is, Youya is a good boy who deserved better.

Hiroyuki Akiyama from No, Thank You!

Following after Ichinose is another LI who deserved a better partner than what he got in No, Thank You!. Hiroyuki Akiyama (pictured right) is the popular boy of this BL title with its fans, but he may not believe it himself. As the token virgin love interest of No, Thank You!, the majority of his route is filled with the most romantic and fluffy events (not like this makes the final blow any easier to handle that is!), and the most consensual and lovingly developed relationship of the bunch. He is such a good boy who is both kind to and considerate of others, honest to himself and those around him, and endearingly shy when it comes to women and sex. His route has him slowly opening up to the player character Haru, making for plenty of adorable moments and with the only verbal confession uttered between Haru and his love interest. His choice of t-shirt never fails to make me giggle too. I’m sure this adorable, pure dork doesn’t even realize what it says.

Youji Sakiyama from sweet pool

sweet pool really speaks out to me with its depressingly dark premise, unusual horror elements, and its extremely relatable protagonist. Youji may be the most questionable choice of a favourite boy in a BL title, let alone one of my favourite visual novel protagonists ever, as much like many other player characters in plenty other visual novels, Youji is mostly a silent, blank slate for players to project themselves onto. But dig deep, and you find one of the most broken leading main character within the visual novel genre.

What it comes down to is the feeling and knowing of Youji’s helplessness and inability to defy his fate in the story. In many of its unforgettable endings, he’s met with betrayal, taken advantage of, or left with his “true” partner who just so happens to be just as problematic as many other love interests who fails to understand the meaning of consent (the omega/alpha dynamic of the duo hinders this even more so). With each bad ending met, I wished for a finale where Youji can be happy, because overall, the crushing feeling of loneliness a protagonist manages to penetrate through your screen has never been as effective as with Youji. Not only does Youji’s personality reflect this by him listening more than speaking to those around him and has difficulties expressing and understanding his emotions, his past forever haunts him even at the beginning of the game.

Youji has only one friend when returning to school after being hospitalized for a year, is a slower learner due to his declining health, and his one family member has left their home to live with her husband who continues to help him financially, causing him to feel guilt. Youji is broken even before we take the reins in altering his fate, with no real help along the way or happy ending no matter what we do. Through the clever decision on making him as quiet as he is, it makes for such a haunting, silent call for help. Just recalling how much this game affected me is making me tear up so now let’s get a move on.

Lusca from Enzai

In a game I have previously spoken of my disdain towards, Enzai is filled with such gritty and depressing materiel that I found it hard to finish. What did keep me barely sane however were two characters who happened to be the best LI’s Enzai has to offer. Evan was a supportive and thankfully cheerful breath of fresh air as an LI to Guys during its difficult prison segments, but my favourite route lies with Guys’ lawyer (pictured left). With just enough angst through the development of Lusca’s alcoholic dependency to becoming free of such shackles and retaining his confidence in his work to rescue Guys, this is balanced out wonderfully with the scenes of Lusca’s gradual crushing and acceptance of his love towards Guys. Enzai is a notoriously rough visual novel to get through, but if you manage to overlook its questionably harsh material, then there are still worthy characters to get to know, love and journey with through wonderfully executed character arcs with a deserving pay off in its good endings I have never been so grateful for.

Gian Carlo from Luckydog1

Luckydog1 is a very popular BL title even before its localisation being announced in 2018 by MangaGamer, which we hope to receive in the near future! Luckydog1 has garnered attention in the West thanks to the amazing dedication and passion from translator terracannon876, with the majority of the game being translated on their wordpress here. It’s almost unanimous if you ask its loyal fanbase who their favourite member of CR-5 is, and it just so happens to be my pick as well. Our player character is Gian Carlo (pictured central), short for Giancarlo Bourbon del Monte, who has had many prison visits for his crimes, but has a talent in escaping which explains his nickname of “Lucky Dog” as each escape he manages to pull off is miraculous. We follow Gian and four of this Mafia famigilia to once again escape from the slammer, and there is supposedly a prize for their escape in the form of being a top dog in their family when they return.

Where my fondness for its protagonist lies is in his imperfections. He has a bad habit of being unhygienic, smoking often, and flip flopping between being too laid back in certain aspects and too emotional in other cases. However, he’s also hilarious, intelligent, and a classic tsundere when the romance builds up between him and his partner. Gian is an awesome protagonist, and we feel appreciative playing as a truly charismatic and exciting player character for once.

Mat Sella from Dream Daddy

Right off the bat, Dream Daddy features a diverse cast which is especially notable for its inclusion and progression in depicting realism in a dating game that we do not often see. As there are plenty of single and loving fathers to meet and woo in the game – as you would expect from its name – my absolute favourite love interest is the owner of Coffee Spoon, whose hobbies revolve around improving his recipes and coffee brewing. Players will also learn of his interests in music, as he frequents record shopping and live concerts.

With this hobby, it opens up a wonderful character arc as Mat currently does not utilize his talents in performing live music after the death of his spouse. What I love most about him however is his social anxiety even in his adult years, an indication of this in his habit of rambling due to feeling uncomfortable around others. I feel drawn and compelled to him for such similarities to myself, and on top of this he’s unapologetic-ally, unknowingly a cinnamon bun. Game Grumps has done us all a great service with both their game creation and bringing to life such a good daddy in Mat.

When your favourite movie genre is “shit with subtitles” and your ideal date is going “to the animal shelter and seriously consider adopting a cat”, my heart is immediately available to you.

Yukimura Yoichi from Camp Buddy

I actually have a lot of crushes on many guys from BlackMonkey-P’s video games, from Bacchikoi!’s perfection of a man Masaharu Nakahara and the stupidly playful and cute player character of Sleepover, Haruyuki Kano. Camp Buddy isn’t only a favorite recommendation of mine as a starter for BL visual novels for newcomers, but it has one of the most endearing and layered love interests you wouldn’t have initially expected.

Yoichi beats every competitor with an aggressively sympathetic backstory, a fellow companion of a cute, loyal dog, and complexity in his character development. Yoichi’s unusual design that is already appealing hints to his past situations that led him down the path of being in the camp. Yoichi is initially viewed as a bully for picking fights with the other campers, but what comes to light is Yoichi always meaning well with his actions to help and protect his friends, while also denying showing any affection towards those he likes. He even has a tendency to give nicknames to those around him which come off as teasing, but are instead indications of him caring about the person. Not only does this wolfboy have a soft spot for his animal friends and human friends that he just simply finds difficult in expressing due to his troubled past, the cherry on top is that he’s a right tsundere underneath his supposed rough and tough exterior.

Have I missed out a favourite guy of yours? Let us know in the comments below!

Lilia Hellal
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