Yuri 101 – A Beginner’s Guide to “Must-See” Yuri anime and Manga
One of the most common questions asked on the Yuricon Mailing List, is “Where do I begin?”, i.e., what Yuri anime and manga are really the best to start enjoying (and understanding) Yuri.
It’s an amazingly hard question to answer, for two reasons: 1) Yuri is not a genre in and of itself – it crosses all genre lines and can be found in anime and manga targeted to nearly every age group and gender; 2) Personal tastes are different. What one person thinks is “excellent” Yuri, another might find uninteresting – or even offensive.
We took an informal poll at the Yuricon Mailing List to determine what regular posters felt were the “Must-See/Read” Yuri anime and manga. The results were overwhelming. While all of the top three are from the shoujo i.e., “girls’” genre, the majority of the top 12 were shounen, i.e., “boys’” series. The population of the Yuricon Mailing List is split nearly equally between male and female, so there may be no conclusion one can draw from this other than this – good Yuri can be found anywhere.
Based on the poll, here are the top dozen anime and manga series that all Yuri (shoujoai/shoujo ai, etc.) fans, and people who want to begin to enjoy Yuri should see. Where an English-language version is available, the English name of the series is provided. All series available on the Yuricon Shop are linked.
The Top 3 Must-Read/Watch Yuri Anime and Manga:
1) Revolutionary Girl Utena/ Shoujo Kakumei Utena
Caveat: This series is quite surreal, so the audience has broken down into two strongly opiniated factions – “I don’t get it” versus “Oh my god that was great!”
2) Sailor Moon/ Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon
Caveat: This series is a classic “magical girl” anime. Older viewers might get bored with repeated transformation footage and Monsters of the Day.
3) Maria-sama ga Miteru (The Virgin Mary Watches)
The newest of the yuri poster child anime series, this story is based upon a series of novels. Not (yet) available in a licensed version for the US, Marimite, as it is known to fans, has single-handedly created a whole new generation of yuri fans. Manga, anime and novels all have covert and overt yuri and Satou Sei, the openly lesbian character, remains the single most popular character in the series, both in Japan and the West.
Caveat: This series is entirely character driven, with a strong emphasis on the emotional over the physical. Little to nothing *happens.* Action fans and the impatient with “chick stories” may want to avoid.
Following these are, in order of popularity:
4) Oniisama E (Brother, Dear Brother) – anime and manga
A timeless tale of coming of age by Riyoko Ikeda, author of Berusaiyu no Bara (Rosde of Versailles) and a perennial favorite for fans of 70s shoujo manga.
Caveat: Like Maria-sama Ga Miteru (which draws strongly from Ikeda’s work,) the emphasis here is on emotional crisis. There is explicit drug use and suicide/homicide references. Probably not all that appropriate for the squeamish and younger folks. (Although, if you’re old enough to be looking for Yuri, then it shouldn’t be a problem!
5) ROD/ROD The TV/Read or Dream – anime and manga
Caveat: Can’t think of any…this story is exceptionally well done.
6) Noir – anime only
Bee Train’s first Yuri story. An action anime lover’s dream, with good music and great voice acting.
Caveat: Little to no overt Yuri, some overuse of repeated footage, no real ending to the plot. Very little character devlopment – shoujo fans might get bored with the constant gun battles.
7) Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Log) – anime and manga
While this is technically a manga for men (it runs in “Afternoon” magazine, a magazine geared towards adult men) the sensibility and art transcend the tropes of the genre. No action, little happens, the stories are quiet “slice of life” vignettes, with soft focus and soft yuri. Take it as it comes, enjoy the beautiful art and the wonderful characters.
Caveat: VERY slowly paced. If you’re looking for a plot, you’ll be bored.
8) Kannazuki no Miko – anime and manga
A short-run anime, this story has perhaps one of the most overt yuri couples to date. There is overt yuri in both anime and manga – in fact the lesbian relationship is part of the plot. This series is great for mecha fans and fans of shounen anime and manga – in fact, it’s a classic example of the genre.
Caveat: The story has violence, and sexual violence. The plot is somewhat less developed than the yuri. If you like well-crafted action stories, stick with ROD.
9) Azumanga Daioh – both anime and manga
Caveat: The Yuri relationship is played for laughs. But on the positive side, it *is* funny.
10) Devilman Lady – anime much more than the manga
This campy horror anime has several yuri plot complications, with both main and supporting characters, with a very overt climax. It might even be seen as a “harem” anime in which the main character is the center of several other female characters’ desire. No happy ending, however, as this is a horror story. There is extreme violence in both anime and manga. The manga has yuri only in the beginning, but is even more violent than the anime.
Caveat: Major violence in places, creepy weirdness and some sexual violence in the anime. The manga is nothing but blood, gore and rape.
11) Stellvia – both anime and manga
A generic, yet amusing, space opera. One of the subplots follows the complex and tragic relationship of two of the female characters. In the anime, they reconcile, followed by a public “coming out” confession. In the manga they reconcile privately with intense emotion and vows to remain together. The characterization is excellent, too – everyone sounds their age.
Caveat: This is really a space opera. If you don’t like “Human beings band together in spaceships to save the world from alien invaders in spaceships”-type stories, then you will not probably enjoy this series.
12) Pieta – manga only
Two high school girls meet, only to fall in love, almost without realizing it. One of them lives in an explosive and harmful family situation, which colors their relationship. A happy, but not overt ending.
Caveat: An older “classic” Yuri story that subtly links lesbian tendencies and mental disease. Some parental abuse and suicide.
And there you have it – a beginner’s guide to the Top 12 Yuri anime and manga series as suggested by the members of the Yuricon ML. For more information on these series, or to ask about any of these or any other yuri anime, manga or anything else, join us on the Yuricon Mailing List!