The Okazu "Top Ten" Yuri Manga Countdown

December 30th, 2004

As of today, Okazu has been written 165 times in 2004, with an average of 14 posts a month, bring you reviews and news about yuri anime, manga and events.

You’re welcome. :-)

As with yesterday, I will do a quick countdown (and you know…I think maybe I might make this a annual thing, becuase it’s more fun to do that I orginally thought it would be – and a lot harder than I thought, too) of 2004’s best yuri manga. Expect to be surprised.

Without further ado, asides or digressions….

The Okazu Top 10 Yuri Manga Series of 2004

10) Yuri Tengoku, Eternal Sisters, et al.

These shoujoai anthologies, and the many, many other rip-offs spawned by Marimite and Yuri Shimai have got to at least get a mention in my top ten for the year. While individually none are really exceptional, as a whole they mark a positive new trend for shoujoai and yuri manga. While they are probably more popular with the guys, it’s nice to know that there are folks, both men and women, out there, striving to get them published. I’ll add an honorable mention here for ALC Publishing’s Yuri Monogatari which is doing the same exact thing here in the west. It begins here, kids, with the individual circles, the small groups of dedicated people, where change happens. That’s why I’m always encouraging you all to show your support with cash, not words, because that’s the way we measure success in the real world. Buy these anthologies and show the publishers that there’s a market. Scanlations are nice…but they don’t pay the bills.

9) Shin Hana no Asuka-gumi

How many series can come back eighteen years later and still be as whacked, as cool and as impenetrable as it was when it first appeared? Asuka is still 15, and although cellphones now exist in her world, and Hibari-sama now prefers her favorites dressed in Goth Lolita, as opposed to uniforms (sob!)…still the gangs of Tokyo fight, and Miko and Hime and Asuka move through the internecine politics and sexual tension of life in and out of the Zenchuu Ura with an aplomb that few teenagers are ever likely to experience. Asuka’s story plays out slowly, but the combination of Asuka saving a damsel in distress every arc, combined with the inevitable confrontation between Asuka, her erstwhile body double and Hibari’s current favorite, Mari, and the insane Hibari-sama herself, *still* makes for one wild ride. We might miss Yohko and Asuka’s tragic love for her, but Asuka still reigns supreme in Shinjuku.

8) Himitsu no Anjerisu

I just reviewed it last week, and only read it a week before that, but this little series has enchanted me. The best of the derivative Marimite genre, flavored with a little Three Musketeers leaves me smiling – and wanting more. Although it’s as new as Asuka is old, I had to add it to the top ten of the year.

7) Kaguya-hime

I’ve tried time and again to explain how cool this most shounen of shoujo series is, but, like Asuka, the story is simply too complex to be rendered simply. A combination of mythology, sci-fi, suspense, action and sexual thriller make this series a must-read for fans of yuri (and yaoi, incest, straight and just plain freaky stuff.) Every volume has all of the above, and I’m never bored – no matter how many people die. Kaguya-hime wins for a level of insane that keeps me coming back for more. It’s eleven years old now and I expect to be reading it in my retirement. Long live the Princess of the Moon.

6) Air Master

The art is horrible, the story is ridiculous, the fanservice is…fanservice-y, but I love it. At least, in the 23 volumes of this series, the art has at least settled down into a particular style of awful. If you’re not sure that Mina really *wants* Maki, read the manga. If you’re not sure that Maki returns the feeling, read the manga. As with the anime, Sakiyama Kaori is the best psychotic ever, ever, ever. And she uses a sort-of whacked version of Taijiquan, so I’m doubly fond of her. (Her “sou-an” technique is real…really. It’s not even an advanced technique. LOL) While there’s nothing really socially redeemable about this manga, it wins for sheer entertainment.

5) Maria-sama ga Miteru

Like I said yesterday, any time spent in the company of these characters is time well-spent. The art in the beginning was a little rough, but the characters are all recognizable, and the expansion on the bits left out of the anime is always welcome. For folks who will never read the novels, the Marimite manga will make a great addition to the information they have about the characters. And the added splash pages, cover and silly side drawings really make the manga a worthy purchase. Where else will you see Sei dressed as a cowgirl? LOL

4) Yajikita Gakuen Dochuuki

Perhaps the goofiest shoujo manga series *ever*, Yaji and Kita returned to print after nearly 20 years this year…with a bang. Like Asuka the new series was created for old fans, so you were screwed if you didn’t know who everyone is already. But oh my goodness, have they notched up the yuri! More Kita being harrassed by women…more, more! Stick her in a tux as often as you want, guys, you’ll get no objection from me. Girls who fight, massive gang and Yakuza wars, some really dumb conspiracies, corporate espionage, yaoi, yuri, and nothing ever happens – YajiKita is pure gold. Did I mention that it’s a manga for *girls*?

3) Maka-Maka

Purely service, but is it really? In many ways, this sex-filled manga is the most honest I’ve ever read. Jun and Nene seem more realistic to me than many, or most, manga characters out there. Quality-wise, this manga is tops – all color, beautifully rendered from the online monthly Flash issues, with color posters and a double cover, this may well have been the best “for your money” manga buy of the year. The fact that Jun and Nene have alot of sex is very nice, too. I sincerely hope a second volume is forthcoming.

2) Yuri Shimai

It started out a little weak, but by Issue 5 is now rolling along pretty well. I just reviewed it, so I won’t beat it to death, but…looks like we got a winner. Here’s hoping that Yuri Shimai goes monthly and lives a long, productive and healthy life, bringing us many excellent yuri manga series that go on to become collected volumes, become best sellers and spark a new wave of more quality yuri. Here, here. And kudos to Sun Publishing for having the money and belief that yuri as a genre can support itself. Now, let’s all go out there and prove them right!

And for the number one yuri manga of 2004 – drumroll, please….

1) Free Soul

Yamaji Ebine’s fantastic story of a woman with a life and another woman with a life, now collected into a single volume, proves several things all at once. 1) A really good yuri story does not have to be about children; 2) Manga art does not have to be flowery and over the top; 3) Typical conventions of butch/femme and seme/uke really have no meaning anymore and can be dropped without the story suffering one iota; 4) There *is* something between shoujoai melodrama and hentai yuri sex.

Free Soul is by far and away the best of this year’s yuri. The fact that so few people here in the west have ever heard of it, or Yamaji Ebine, makes me a little sad. It’s everything yuri can, and should, be. Along with Rica Takashima, Yamaji Ebine is one of the very few female manga artists out there drawing yuri manga for adult women that defies convention and ends up being better than all of the rest. I deeply, deeply hope that one day someone, if not ALC, then *someone*, will bring her work to the English-speaking manga audience. In the meantime, if you want to read some really decent, wonderful yuri manga, drop the kiddie stuff and the crappy hentai and reach out for Yamaji Ebine’s work. You won’t be disappointed.

And there you have it. Tomorrow, to end the year, I’m going to do one last list, one which basically is just my best of the best of the best of everything I saw/got/read/watched/listened to over the whole year.

And one last reminder for the year…if you’ve read these entries and enjoyed them, disagreed with them, have more information, want to chat about some of the series mentioned, please do come and join us on the Yuricon Mailing List, because that’s what it’s there for! :-) We love a good discussion of all things yuri and yuri-related. So, don’t be shy, drop by and jump right in. :-)

Anyway – see you tomorrow with the last post of 2004!

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