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The blur between BL and gay roles is not as distinct as it was decades ago. Because of the demand from today’s BL audience, there have been lots of lists featuring (mostly) actors doing BL. But to appreciate the sort of ‘evolution,’ here are 24 names who did gay and BL roles through the years. What makes them different? What makes them amazing? Here we go!

—Edited by TheFNGee

The fact is, the BL universe remains passionate and obsessed with Thai actors doing romantic and love scenes. Yet, I think it’s just about time to try and enjoy watching Japanese BL (and gay movies) too! Remember, it all started in Japan, and what better way to appreciate Boys Love than to take a look at some of the movers and shakers in Japanese BL. Warning: Eye candies abound!

Some of the Japanese actors cast in BL films and Series produced in Japan are a bit on the mature side (25 to 35 years of age); there are also some new faces (18 to 24 years of age) who can match the youthful appeal of their Thai, Taiwanese, and South Korean counterparts.

#24 – Shota Takasaki – 高崎翔太

Shota Takasaki on the cover of his photobook | Photo Credit Amazon Japan

Circa 2010 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

10 years ago (back in 2012), 23-year-old Shota Takasaki was cast as one of the leads in Fujimi Orchestra, a role he got after playing a supporting character in the fan-favorite 5-episode BL film Takumi-Kun. It was not a big hit, but it paved the way for the actor to enter the Japanese film industry. Today at 33, Takasaki has amassed about a dozen movies and a renaissance in his drama career with back-to-back roles starting in 2018.

#23 – Yagi Yusei – 八木勇征

Yagi Yusei | Photo Credit EXILE TRIBE Wiki

Circa 2020 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

25-year-old Yagi Yusei plays soccer and is into J-pop as a member of the group Fantastics. In My Beautiful Man (Utsukushii Kare – 2021), he plays the popular and vain Kiyoi Sou, whose ambition is to become a male Japanese idol. He’s secretly in love with the gang’s gopher, and their developing relationship is the main highlight of the series. While not yet a fully accomplished actor, viewers appreciate his character delineation with a sensitive and heartfelt performance while taking note that his eye candy level is way up there!

#22 – Sanari -さなり

Sanari featured in an interview | Photo Credit OK Music Japan

Circa 2020 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

Rising rap and music artist who started making YouTube videos in his early years, 19-year-old Sanari expanded his career reach by diving into a BL role and came out a winner. He plays a most-sought after character in Given (ギヴン – 2021) – Mafuyu – that famous tortured, angsty, talented youth who can sing but is afraid to do so. If you have not seen this live-action adaptation, then you have yet to witness those full close-up shots showing Sanari’s pretty and expressive face!

#21 – Sota Ryosuke – 曽田陵介

Sota Ryosuke photo taken from Twitter

Circa 2020 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

With more than a dozen drama series to his credit, Sota Ryosuke, 24 y.o., plays Fukuhara Kota, the unluckiest boy in school (and elsewhere) in Mr. Unlucky (Fukou-kun wa Kiss Suru Shikanai!). The portrayal is both wacky and unsophisticated, making it super entertaining. More about his performance in our Series Impressions.

#20 – Yamada James Takeshi – 山田ジェームス武

James Takeshi models for Jiggy Shop | More photoshoots available at this Tumblr account

Circa 2015 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

Model-actor-designer Yamada James Takeshi was 25 when he made waves in the 2015 double movie Seven Days, with Hirose Tomoki. Japanese BL was in decline at that time, after the Takumi-Kun craze a few years back. Yet, Yamada’s exuberance and sensual physicality made Seven Days worth watching. A rare breed amongst BL films, it has a Japanese slice-of-life touch with romance that was never overpowering.

With Filipino-Spanish heritage, James Takeshi maintains a strong social media presence on Twitter and YouTube.

#19 – Akaso Eiji – 赤楚衛二

Akaso Eiji photo from a recent interview by Yahoo Taiwan | Photo Credit トライストーン

Circa 2020 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

Akaso Eiji – 28 y.o. – belongs to an elite group of Japanese actors known as Kamen Riders. In Cherry Magic, he transforms himself into a shy, hard-working employee who remains a virgin at age 30. He has also gained the ability to read minds! With a long series title of 30-Sai made Dotei Da to Mahotsukai ni Nareru rashii, Akaso proves he still has what it takes a carry a drama. One of 2020’s best BL dramas, his on-screen chemistry with Machida Keita works quite well.

#18 – Narita Ryo – 成田凌

Narita Ryo on the cover of Men’s NON-NO | Photo slides inside the magazine is available from the Chinese website Sina.

Circa 2020 – Gay Character in the Main Role

A favorite cover model for Men’s NON-NO, Narita Ryo’s career move to play Imagase Wataru in The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese (窮鼠はチーズの夢を見る) opposite Okura Tadayoshi appears to have been a risky one. But to be directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Yukisada Isao (Pink and Gray, River’s Edge, Crying Our Love, In the Center of the World) was simply too good an opportunity to pass up! Ryo plays his character with a certain degree of danger and dread, adding to the overall chemistry between the actors. The film is not for BL fans looking for something fluffy and easy.

#17 – Inukai Atsuhiro – 犬飼貴丈

Inukai Atsuhiro poses during an interview with Screen Online Japan | Photo Credit Screen Online

Circa 2020 – Boys Love (BL) in the Main Role

In the 25th Junon Super Boy Contest in 2012, he won the Grand Prix from among 13,816 total applicants. Fast forward to 2017, Inukai Atsuhiro becomes part of the Kamen Rider franchise, and in another 4, he becomes the object of desire among young men living in a BL world. That’s gotta be one of the weirdest transitions for any Japanese actor! As Mob in A Man Who Defies the World of BL (絶対BLになる世界VS絶対BLになりたくない男), Inukai brings his amazing sense of humor, making the TV show hilariously entertaining.

We’ll have more names coming up!

John Ken

Author John Ken

Just a blogger.

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