Some anime featuring queer men are fantastic. Others, not so much. What are the best (and worst) anime starring queer guys?
The representation of gay, bisexual, trans, ace, and queer men in anime is a mixed bag. Tons of anime over the years have featured queer men in positive and fascinating lights, offering nuanced portrayals of characters existing under these umbrella terms. There has also been a ton of fetishistic yaoi that present uncomfortable, homophobic stereotypes.
If you're going to explore anime featuring queer men, it's essential that you understand going in what portrayals are positive and constructive and which ones are destructive.
BEST - Yuri On Ice!!!
This one is fairly obvious. Yuri on Ice!!! received global acclaim upon release for its positive portrayal of interracial queer relationships. The world of Yuri on Ice!!! lacks any homophobia or bigotry, making it a beautiful ideal. Just about every male character in the series is queer. While characters like Victor and Yurio might be gay, Yuri Katsuki -- the main Yuri -- express interest in both his female childhood friend and, of course, his future fiance Victor. Yuri also demonstrates fluidity in his gender expression and possibly his identity, as seen during his Eros performance where he identifies as a "femme fatale." What the show does so well is it demonstrates how two men can help each other grow and overcome personal obstacles to, essentially, make history. A movie prequel is still in the works.
WORST - Loveless
Loveless is at its heart a murder-mystery, focused on 12-year-old Ritsuka diving into a conspiracy of magic to determine who killed his brother. On the surface, this doesn't seem too extreme. However, in order to solve the mystery, Ritsuka needs to work alongside his brother's 20-year-old friend, Soubi. In Loveless, virginity is represented by having cat ears. It's implied that Soubi lost his ears to Ritsuka's brother (possibly without consent), but now might either be grooming Ritsuka for a relationship when he's of age or actively seducing him. Keep in mind, Ritsuka is 12. Eww.
BEST - Banana Fish
The Banana Fish manga ran from 1985-1994, but it wasn't adapted into an anime until 2018. The story follows Ash, a gang leader in New York City, trying to uncover the mystery of a mysterious drug known as Banana Fish which might have tied into his brother going crazy during the war. Dragged into the mix is the naive and sweet Japanese photojournalist Eiji, with his survival depending on Ash and Eiji's combined wits and strength. The series is simultaneously a compelling crime mystery and queer coming-of-age story. While Banana Fish includes plenty of depictions of sexual violence, said violence is never framed in a romanticized light like it is in Loveless.
WORST - Fish In The Trap
Fish in the Trap is a three-volume manga with a single episode OVA prequel, and all of it is pretty bad. It's bad enough Fish in the Trap is boring, stiffly animated and somewhat incoherent. What makes its queer representation worse is that, much like Loveless, it romanticizes sexual assault. In this case, every sex scene is non-consensual with relatively young characters assaulting one another. The story indicates the characters turned gay thanks to rape, which is wrong on so many levels.
BEST - Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the greatest anime of all time. It's also a great example of queer representation. Yes, Shinji expresses interest in only one man, but this is an example of the Kinsey Scale at work. The Kinsey Scale indicates that sexuality exists on a spectrum, with bisexual people often having a preference for one gender or another. This does not invalidate Shinji's bisexuality nor Kaworu's queer identity, especially in Rebuild of Evangelion or other spin-off manga. That said, not all of the spin-off material is as positive. In the manga The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Asuka and Rei gang together to keep Kaworu from turning Shinji gay. Really.
WORST - Marginal Prince
Marginal Prince is based on the dating sim of the same name, though the anime changes the female viewpoint character to male. It's a harem series, essentially, where the dumb protagonist meets several pretty boys distinguishable only due to their hair color. The series is bad in two respects. The first being that it's just a poorly written hot mess that lacks real conflict or driving action. The second is that it's a textbook example of queer-baiting. The series is categorized as Boy's Love, but despite teasing tons of homoerotic relationships, the show never delivers on anything. It's superficial teasing, and nothing more.
BEST - Antique Bakery
Seriously underrated in the West, Antique Bakery is a four-volume manga that has been adapted twice, once as a live-action series and once in 2008 as an anime. It centers around four men who run a bakery. In high school, Ono was rejected by his high school crush, only to grow up to be both a world-class baker and an incredibly seductive playboy. Years later, when he's hired to work at the Antique Bakery, run by his high school crush, Keisuke, returns, being the only man who isn't in love with him. Joining them is Ono's apprentice and Keisuke's crush (who also has a crush on Keisuke). This anime is just plain cute, with every sweet romantic love-triangle trope rolled into one story.
WORST - After School In The Teacher's Lounge
After School in the Teacher's Lounge is another '90s yaoi OVA focusing on two teachers engaged in sexual escapades. There is nothing that distinguishes After School in the Teacher's Lounge from any other cheap yaoi OVA from the '90s. The writing is bad. The relationship dynamics are set in the seme-uke dynamic of dominant and submissive. There's hentai with better writing than this anime. It is representative of a tapestry of cliches anime is only now crawling out from.
BEST - Devilman Crybaby
One of the greatest anime in recent memory, Masaaki Yuasa's Devilman Crybaby takes the queer subtext of Go Nagai's original Devilman and amps it up to overt text. While going into spoilers about the second half of this masterful series, it's clear that Akira, though he has a relationship with Miki, has an incredibly complicated, homoerotic relationship with his childhood friend Ryo Asuka, who is far more than he appears. The gay subtext is only part of the complex tapestry of ideas woven in this masterful saga.
WORST - Gravitation
Gravitation was for years the poster child of yaoi, super popular in the early 2000s, but it's a queer romance for non-queer people, relying on so many harmful stereotypes to function. Feminine, overly-emotional Shuichi wants to be a famous musician, with cold distant Eiri as his love interest. Eiri has a dark past. There's lots of will-they-won't-they stuff. This is anime written for people who think two guys kissing is hot. It isn't for anyone who wants anything more.