Arrrghhhhh! How on earth am I supposed to pick a Top Ten? There was so much with dribbles of Yuri and so little that was *good*. I could do a Top 4 easy, 3 anyway. lol Again, to ease my
indecision crisis of conscience, I’m splitting the list into English and Japanese…and cheating by having a bunch of Honorable Mentions. It’s not like this is a science or I get extra points for precision or anything. lol
English Language Manga
Honorable Mentions: Because they made the Top Ten lists last year and because I’ve beat them to death here at Okazu, I would like to give Honorable Mentions to both Read or Dream and Strawberry Marshmallow. I can’t get enough of them, but I’m sick to death of singing their praises. :-)
5) Kedamono Damono
This series is a go nowhere dead-end shoujo romance story where the Yuri is meant to provide comedy and ballast for the straight romance. But as far as the volumes I read went, the *only* part of the romance that was even marginally functional was the Yuri part, so, despite my personal disinterest in the story, we’ll give it fifth place.
4) Yuri Monogatari 5
This year’s anthology from ALC is almost *exactly* the book I want to publish. With 6 stories by Japanese artists and 8 by artists from the rest of the world, this is an awesome book. Happy sad, realistic, fantastic, there’s something for everyone. I don’t personally love every story, but every story taught me something. As the only example of josei Yuri by women for women out there, I’d be remiss if I ignored it out of humility. If I hadn’t published it myself, it would have still made this list – and probably at a much higher rank.
3) The Last Uniform
How I wish I liked this series. But I don’t. I don’t care for the endless gavotte these girls dance around one another and I have never liked the art. But Seven Seas does an exceptional job of reproduction and it’s the only really Yuri manga they mangaged to get on to the shelves in 2007, so I could point to it and say, “this is Yuri.” For the sheer Yuriness of it, The Last Uniform comes in third.
2) Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl
I was so very, very sure when I first read this series, that Hazumu was going to end up the series as a boy. I’m very pleased to have been wrong about that – and about every other thing in regards to this series that I predicted. lol The story had some serious handwaves to overcome, but is fairly solid as a love story and a Yuri one at that. And extra points to Seven Seas for what continues to be the best adaptation of a manga into English that I’ve seen.
1) Iono-sama Fanatics
I can’t tell you how excited I was that this apparently obscure Yuri manga was translated. It’s whimsical, fun, action-filled and well…Yuri. Fujieda Miyabi’s art is moe to the max, and yet it really grew on me. He writes sweet, somewhat goofy stories that don’t adhere to most of the tropes of Yuri. No schoolgirls here, just a Queen and her handmaidens, ridiculous adventures and Yuri love. While Infinity definitely can improve in their adaptation of the book, the story and characters carry this series far above and beyond the rest of this year’s lot. The winner, without question for this year’s best Yuri manga in English – Iono-sama Fanatics.
Japanese Language Manga
Honorable Mentions: These go to Kools which I have yet to read, but am adding to this list solely on the basis of Erin’s glowing recommendation. :-) And Gunsmith Cats Burst for bringing back Evil Psycho Lesbian Goldie and notching up Misty’s campaign to stay near Rally in a way that will surely start a new round of fanfic somewhere. lol
5) Sakura no Kiwa
No one paid the least bit attention as I reviewed this ridiculous series by the same artist that created Transistor ni Venus. lol It has a passive-agressive lesbian couple – in all sorts of denial – and slacker family members, and way too many cats. In a sane universe I would have loathed and despised it, only, I didn’t. In fact, I’m really hoping against hope for a 4th volume I know will probably never come. No one’s gonna scanlate this. No one cares. No one but me, that is. Fifth, dammit.
4) Kawaii Anata
Like many of the Yuri Hime collections, these stories work better as an anthology than they did as separate stories in the magazine. Hiyori Otsu also eschews the typical tropes for older, sometimes randomly cracked characters, but even the typical characters seem to have some depth. The art is pleasing, the stories don’t make one want to bang one’s head against the wall, so it comes in at an easy fourth.
3) Hatsukoi Shimai
This series, with two volumes out now in Japanese with a third around the corner,and one out any day in English, is so stereotypically “Yuri” that it hurts. Like The Last Uniform it is about love among students at an all-girl’s school. Unlike The Last Uniform, the girls actually get together, with admissions of love and kissing (necking, even) and all the stuff that so frequently is missing from schoolgirl Yuri. And it has Touko-sensei, whose inappropriate and unethical relationsip with Akiho is my most favorite couple in the series. :-) When they get together, this series goes up a rank. Third place for this Yuri Hime serial where the girl actually *gets* the girl.
2) Hayate x Blade
In reality, there is only one lesbian character in this series. But there are dozens of couples. Hitsugi and Shizuku, Kiji and Michi, Akira and Sae, Momoka and Isuzu…the list goes on and on. But above all of them, Jun, with her openly proclaimed love and desire for women and Hayate with her openly proclaimed love and desire for Ayana, make this baka school/action/comedy win for Yuri fans everywhere. With Hayashiya Shizuru at the helm, you can be sure to get laughs and Yuri love aplenty.
Envelope please…this year’s winner for best Yuri Manga in the Japanese language is….
1) Aoi Hana
Technically, this book was published right at the end of 2006, but I bought, read and reviewed it in the beginning of 2007. Sweet Blue Flowers is yet another schoolgirl Yuri story. With a simple, quiet feel, an understated realism and touching, interesting characters, this story, like Hatsukoi Shimai is practically a poster child for the genre. I was honestly hoping to have Volume 3 by now to review, but I’ll be sure to pick it up asap in Tokyo. Fumi and Yasuko’s relationship has few fireworks, but the drama is solid. For taking the same old story and doing something *good* with it, Shimura Takako’s Aoi Hana takes top prize.
We have one winner from the boy’s side – Iono-sama Fanatics and one from the girls’ side – Aoi Hana. How balanced we are here at Okazu!
Tomorrow – the final countdown for the year! Bring popcorn!