Yuri Manga: Comic Yuri Hime Wildrose, Volume 1 (百合姫 Wildrose)

December 13th, 2007

Comic Yuri Hime: Wildrose, Volume 1 (百合姫 Wildrose) is an anthology from Ichijinsha, the folks who put out Yuri Hime magazine. Many of the artists are already contributors to YH, and some are known for outside series.

The stories in the collection are variations on the “two schoolgirls in love” theme, much like the ES ~ Eternal Sisters and Yuri Tengoku anthologies. Most of them involve sex, very few of them involve plot or characterization.

The entirety of the collection can be summed up by describing one story, drawn by Morishima Akiko, in which the two protagonists, having kissed, wonder out loud “What’s next?” And as they progress to “what’s next” we get a sort of shortened version of every lesbian’s internal coming out – without the lesbian identity, of course.

Which leads me to today’s digression. Recently, on the Yuricon Mailing List, we had a discussion about how few Yuri characters are “out and proud.” The majority of posters said that it was enough for a character to be “obvious” to be considered “out,” with me disagreeing, as usual. lol I feel that in order to be considered out, one has to actually be able to say, “I am a lesbian.” Otherwise, you’re just “obvious.” Not the same thing at all to me.

This all made me realize something I hadn’t ever put into words before, so here we go – “Yuri” is, almost by definition, a character with lesbian interest who is *not* lesbian-identified.

Even my beloved Queens of Yuri, Haruka and Michiru, never came out. They were obvious, but never once did they say “we’re a couple” or “we’re lesbian.” Yes, the creator later said that. And yes, they were characters in a shoujo manga in 1994. But the point is – they are not “out” in the context of the canon. In fact, when confronted directly in the anime, Haruka denies that they are a couple (I have a theory about that, but I’ll skip it for now) and in the manga asked in return if it really mattered whether she was a man or a woman? This was probably as close as Takeuchi could get to coming out at the time, but it was still ambiguous enough for many people to deny their “obvious” relationship.

If a character self-defines as a lesbian, then she’s out. But the LARGE majority of Yuri characters are not out – they are “just, in love” with this-person-who-happens-to-be-female. Much like the large proportion of BL characters who are amazingly not gay, although they only have sex and relationships with other men.

When pressed, obviously “lesbian” characters in manga will often say, “I like women” or “I don’t want to be labled” rather than say “I am a lesbian.”

I imagine that some of this can be chalked up to the Japanese preference for obfuscation and some to the fact that ambiguity sells better. And to add to this, the fact that long-term couples in real life don’t walk around saying “Hi, we’re lesbians,” so in actual *lesbian* manga (and real life,) you still don’t have overt “outness.” Rica and Miho going to Gay Pride, are rare indeed. There’s far more like Nene and Jun, who have sex, fall in love, and generally are a couple, without *ever* acknowledging that that is what they are. You know – “More than friends, less than lovers.” (A phrase that I later commented allows a person to have her cake and eat it too. Pun intended.)

So most of the stories in Wildrose are in this space – girls in love, having relationships – and sex – with other girls, but they’re not lesbians. Just, you know, in love.

Here is what I thought was the best story of the collection. It begins with Yumi and Sachiko clones. The Yumi clone, Mari, tells us – and all her classmates – that she and the Sachiko clone, Michika, are in love. And we see them sitting next to each other in class where Michika passes Mari an eraser, their eyes briefly meeting not particularly meaningfully. Then Mari tells us that they go out for a bite after school together, so we see them sitting next to one another at a snack counter – but apart as if there is no connection. In fact, it becomes apparent that the relationship is one-sided and our cheerful little Yumi clone is a stalker. Her friends freak out and try to stop her, but she gets away from them as she follows the subject of her desire. Her friends go one way, but we see behind the wall where the two girls are now together, embracing passionately. Mari and Michika make love, and Michika apologizes for not being more forthcoming recently. Of course she is forgiven. The next day at school, the classmates all demand to hear that they have a relationship directly from Michika’s mouth. “From my mouth” she says, and leans over to kiss Mari. The classmates all apologize for their doubt and we’re left smiling, because it was a stupid, but fun, almost-Marimite parody story. With no lesbians.

Ratings (variable, so everything is averaged):

Art – 6
Stories – 6
Characters – 6
Yuri – 9
Service – 7 (lots of undressing)

Overall – 6

If what you like best is young women finding love and sex with one another Wildrose is perfect. If you’re looking for something with more awareness of lesbian identity, go re-read Rica tte Kanji?! :-)


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7 Responses

  1. Shoujofan says:

    I agree with you, most of the Yuri characters are not “out” in the Western sense. They are not gay proud or do not think themselves as lesbians at all. I’ll not risk to say that Japanese authors will get to this one day, because I think the most part of them do not think a lot about the case, they just think, I suppose, love is beautiful, in yaoi or Yuri form is also beautiful. And Yuri, most Yuri, are thinking about male readers fantasies. Not the case of shoujo Yuri, of course, and I’m not thinking about doujinshi.

    Talking about Michiru and Haruka, I see them as lesbians that really “came out”. They are very firm and visible in their choices. And think that it’s not just a 1994’s manga, it’s a manga from an almost child magazine. It counts and the message was wonderfully sent. ^_^ The most close I’ve seing is Paros no Ken and I’ve not decided if Herminia is really a lesbian or something as a “man trapped in a woman’s body”, like Claudine.

    Talking about “being out” the first Brazilian lesbian couple in a soup opera remain in shadows till the last chapter when we descvered that the two women were not just friends living together. The second was literally exploded together with many other marginal characters, when the great Tower Mall was destroyed by a bomb.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What about characters who declare that they are together, and continue to do so without hiding and ‘regardless what other people say or think’? And then just are a couple? I know of several examples like that.

    Sure, they do not say “lesbian” outright, but isn’t that just semantics?

    I generally don’t run around “I am a lesbian! Look!” when I am together with my girlfriend. I don’t tell people either, I just introduce my girlfriend as my girlfriend. And we didn’t have some talk “We totally are lesbians”, either.

    Am I a wrong lesbian now? :P

    This issue seems to be a very american one to me.

  3. anon – you must have missed the bit where I wrote “And to add to this, the fact that long-term couples don’t walk around saying “Hi, we’re lesbians,” so in actual lesbian manga, you still don’t have “outness.”

  4. Anonymous says:

    and Jun, who have sex, fall in love, and generally are a couple, without *ever* acknowledging that that is what they are.

    But they just aknowledged what they are, by having sex and falling in love.

    Sigh, americans. So much focus on names, so little focus on the actual meaning of the term.
    According to your definition, I’m not a lesbian. Yet, well, I am. But the only place I’d have to aknowledge that is to annoying people like you, who insist that the only way to be one is to loudly proclaim it.

    That is pointless. Equality isn’t about “look, here I am”. Equality is about simply being, without it being extraordinary.

    I guess it shows that in the US, homosexuals still have a long way to go, if you focus so much on terms and declare that only those people are lesbians that actively declare it.

  5. anon – You have managed to *completely* misunderstand my point.

    One – equality is about getting equal rights. That discussion is entirely irrelevant to this post. And it has nothing at all to do with just being who you are – it has to with your governing body recognizing that who you are is as worthy of legal and financial protection as anyone else.

    Personally, I don’t care in the least if people say they are lesbian. My point was simply that many “obvious” couples to fandom are not obvious even to the couples. Jun and Nene would deny being “a couple.” They tell us repeatedly that they are straight. Their relationship with one another is for fun only, not a “relationship” at all. More than friends, less than lovers.

    The point being that you see them as a lesbian couple. They see themselves as straight women having sex with a freind.

    And that is why lesbian identity *is* important. Because as long as they are straight women having sex together the male audience for which this manga was intended will naturally think of the day when he is included in that sex. If they ever once said “meh, we don’t need men, we have each other” that audience would be excluded.

    Generalizing that all Americans are into labels is not only false, it’s plain insulting. I am not a fan of forcing things into buckets, but it makes conversation easier.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It could be too that by coming out, that implies that the lesbian is flying in the face of Traditions and Traditional Values, and that they may actually still agree with some of them. Being a lesbian doesn’t mean that one necessarily wants to fly in the face of everything that’s normal. Trouble is, heterosexuality and “normal” are sometimes conflated together?

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