What is Bishounen when it comes to Anime and Manga? This entry into the Otaku Encyclopedia should clear things up!
Bishounen (Hiragana: びしょうねん; Kanji: 美少年), sometimes written as Bishōnen, is a Japanese term that roughly translates into “Pretty Boy” or “Beautiful Youth.” This word is used a little differently between Japan and English speaking countries, but it is always used to describe a certain type of character in anime, manga, and video games.
In Japan, Bishounen are male characters under the age of 20. Older characters would use the term Bidanshi (Kanji: 美男子), which means Handsome/Pretty Man. These characters often have a feminine physical appearance, but may still have manly traits such as physical strength and superb athletic ability. Characteristics often include long hair, slender eyes, no facial hair, and a slender body.
In other places around the world, Bishounen are often male characters with feminine physical appearances, but they are not always under the age of 20 like the original Japanese definition. Again, these characters usually have long hair, no facial hair, slender eyes, and a slender body. Sometimes the term Bishounen is also given to homosexual male characters and androgynous characters. Furthermore, English speaking fans often say Bishounen characters are moody, sensitive, and often have a dark past.
And that’s all you need to know about Bishounen. You can find more information on subcultures and terms just like this in my growing Otaku Encyclopedia!