Top Ten Yuri Manga of 2009

December 22nd, 2009

Here we are once more, looking back at a year that is never going to end fast enough. lol

This year has been pretty special in a lot of ways both good and bad but, in terms of Yuri – it’s been pretty darn good. The odd-year Yuri phenomenon hit once more and this time we were practically *inundated* with good, bad and indifferent Yuri series. Yay us!

One of the striking differences for me, as I started to work on my Top Ten Lists, was that for the very first time since I began this (somewhat tedious) round-up of the year, the Top Ten Anime list was easier to build than the Top Ten Manga. Not because there wasn’t good manga, mind you – there was actually too much manga – but for once we had more than enough anime to choose from.

I can see another striking difference, but I’m going to wait until the very end to explain. See if you can see it too, as you read the list.

Because the English-language picks in manga this year were, with only a few exceptions, utterly lame, I’ve combined my Japanese and English picks into one consolidated list.

Let’s all take a deep breath – here we go!

10. Gunsmith Cats Burst Volumes 4 & 5 (Japanese & English)

We knew it, didn’t we? Despite the disclaimer in Misty’s bio, we always knew she had the hots for Rally. And sheesh, how obvious was Goldie’s obsession? But mostly, we knew all along that Rally’s gay and just more in love with her car and her guns than with any other human. Sonoda finally, finally got around to showing the world what we always knew – Rally Vincent is a lesbian magnet – and what we guessed – she’s a damn good kisser, too. lol

9. Hayate x Blade (Japanese & English)

I’m besotted with this series for any number of reasons. I’m well aware that it’s actually pretty low on the Yuri scale, with only Jun playing overtly for our team, and everyone else stuck in akogare or shinyuu space. But hell, it’s about sisters-in-arms fighting for their pride, their lives and their loved ones. It’s about guts and glory and reaching for the stars. It’s basically the one manga that makes me laugh, cry, laugh and snort in like, 4 panels. And it makes me want to hit the lottery so I can start a high school just like Tenchi Academy and become Hitsugi. lol

It’s really my favorite series in English or Japanese. It’s number 9 on this year’s list.

8. Linkage/Butterfly 69 (Japanese)

One of the things I look for in collected volumes is variety. I want shiny stories, and silly stories, and moving stories, and passionate stories. I want a creator to show off their art skills and their writing skills. Both of these collections have exactly those qualities I look for. There’s depth even though the stories are short, there’s variety of personality and voice. These collections have young women dealing with their first love and older women dealing with their true love.There’s passion in the story telling, and sometimes in the story itself. They are a delightful mix of everything – just the way I like it.

7. Tsubomi/Comic Lily/Shoujo Yuri/Yuri Hime/Yuri Hime S/Yuri Monogatari (Japanese & English)

Good heavens – 6 Yuri anthologies in one year. I’m…flabbergasted. It’s a landslide of Yuri, from brand new artists, from established artists, from well-known doujinshi artists that have never been seen by the “mainstream” audience before. I don’t know what the next 5 years will bring, but 2009 brought as close to an explosion of Yuri as we’re likely to see for a while. Wow. Let’s wallow in all the companies that see Yuri as an area for expansion – and let’s let them know that there’s an overseas market by buying their books!

6. Papaya Gundan (Japanese)

This manga was a sleeper hit for me. It came out of nowhere, told a story I hadn’t read seventy-five thousand times already, the girl got the girl – even asked her to marry her – and the alternative family built from the affection the hostess bar workers have for each other wins. There’s no way you’re likely to see this any time soon in English, but if you can read Japanese, it’s a surprising, fun read.

5. Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan (Japanese)

Squee. Seriously. Only Fujieda has the magic to make me squee over something so moe. Another story about an adult and the young woman who loves her, with a slow, slow, slow relaxed pace that make me feel at ease – just like a good cup of tea. I’m in no rush at all for Sarasa and Seriho to get together because I’m enjoying them being clueless. lol All I ask is that when they do get together, I want a massive cross-over with all of Fujieda’s characters, darnit. (Like there’s a chance that that won’t happen…! lol)

4. Sasamekikoto (Japanese)

Where Maria+ Holic took the typical tropes of Yuri and stomped all over them with jackboots, Sasamekikoto presents them with humor – not afraid to poke and tease, but subtle enough to know when to stop. It’s a comedy, it’s a drama, and it’s nowhere near resolved. I’m interested to see where this series takes Ushio and Sumi. It transfered much better than I expected to anime, as a bonus. :-)

3. Hanjuku Joshi/Girl Friends (Japanese)

For most fans of “Yuri” right now, there are two indomitable names – creators who have forged their own path in the genre when there was barely a genre to create in. Morinaga Milk and Morishima Akiko both have transformed the Yuri landscape over the years. These two series are gently, but irrevocably, shifting the boundaries of Yuri into realistic story-telling about women in love with women. Like a Yuri glacier, they’ve told our stories – our real stories – about fear, and loss, and hope and love.

It’s my sincere pleasure to put these two series at Number Three and I hope that one or both will one day make it over the ocean to these shores soon.

2. Aoi Hana (Japanese)

Like the above names, Shimura Takako’s name would have to be added to the Yuri Hall of Fame. The anime sort of overtook the manga in the news and in the discussions, but this manga series is still magnificent. There’s a real story in here, told beautifully, sensitively, about a girl you can imagine you know and about her dealing with her feelings for other girls. It’s about the friends and people around her that care about her and support her, and the people whose lives she affects. It’s a gentle story that doesn’t shy away from harsh reality and bad decisions, but always comes back to a place of simple pleasure in friendship. Like the old school buildings Fumi falls in love with, I’ve fallen a bit for Fumi and her friends and I’m glad to return over and over to what I consider to be the second best series of the year.

IMHO, the Number One best Yuri Manga of the year was…

1. Octave (Japanese)

I don’t know where to begin with this series. It’s…spectacular. I get angry, I laugh, I cry, I wait patiently for Yukino to become her own person.

It’s about sex and love and attraction and affection. Both of the leads are adult women, arguably both of them are bisexual, which is remarkable in a serious manga. The relationship between them is real and lovely. This would make a stellar live-action drama.

I can’t think of a better series to offer up as consideration to any company that might want to bring a really excellent Yuri series over here. Targeted towards adults, who are the ones who actually *buy* manga these days, Octave would rock the josei manga world if someone let it.

For all these things Octave is my Top Yuri manga series of 2009.


So, did you see the striking difference? In seven spots out of ten at least part of the story included an adult woman in love with another woman. Think about it….think about how amazing that is compared to past years which were all schoolgirls, all the time. Sure, there’s still plenty of school girls and you know, that’s okay. It’s just cool to note that slowly, Yuri is starting to look a little like stories about and by lesbian and bi women.

Feel free to join the Top Ten fun and add your nominations for #1 manga series of the year in the comments – I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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17 Responses

  1. I thank the god of Yuri for finally moving in the right direction.

  2. grace says:

    a most awesome list!! i am glad about Aoi Hana in particular – such a wonderful, character-driven work. thanks for sharing with us, Erica!

  3. The Denominator says:

    I can’t say that 2009 was a disappointment Yuri-wise. I find over the years, it was hard even getting one good Yuri manga, but this year outdid itself with several.

    Octave is particularly one of the most discussed series out right now (other than Girl Friends, but GF has a wider fanbase. You know, because of school girls), and people either love it or hate it–but they’re still reading it.

    It is again the best manga of 2009 Yuri-wise honestly, because it just so happens to not only be a good Yuri manga… it’s a damn good manga on the whole. A lot of manga generally shies away from presenting honest and raw emotion, simple drama and sex all in one go. But Octave does that.

    I think you once mentioned that you know a series is good if you can replace the two girls with two guys or a guy and a girl, and the effect will be the same (at least, I believe you said this). I think Octave can do that.

  4. @The Denominator – You’re close. I actually said that a manga is a bad Yuri manga if you replace the girl doing the icky thing with a guy and it skeeves you. LOL

    But you’re right – a good story is a good story regardless of gender. If Yukino and Setsuko were men, or one was male and the other female, it would still be a well-written, realistic story.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with almost all of this but I have to say I’m a bit surprised that Gunjo didn’t end up on the list.

  6. @Anonymous – It was never released in a collected volume, so I passed on it, in hopes that I will be able to include it in a future edition.

  7. Cryssoberyl says:

    A great year, and a great list because of it. I found myself agreeing a lot. Thanks for doing it.

  8. Yurigirl29 says:

    I love Hanjuku Joshi and Girlfriends. Octave in #1? Hmmm.. I guess so.

    I’m surprised you don’t have Gokujou Drops on your list? I mean your top 10 is also 90% similar to my favorites except for Gokujuo Drops (which is my #1) I was just wondering =)

  9. Ahms says:

    Really cool list! I love how the top ones are the stories that focus a lot more on the fun little nuances of relationships (not the other others don’t at all or anything, they just do it more) :)

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m just wondering… Maria Sama Ga miteru is not in the list… I mean this is the year they’ve bid us farewell.

    But I do see that the list are greatly thought of.

    Thank you, really appreciated :-)

  11. @Anonymous – This is a Yuri Manga list only. The Maria-sama ga Miteru manga ended some time ago. Technically 2008 was the year the series as we know it bid us farewell, but have some patience and you may see it yet on a list. :-)

    @Yurigirl29 – The answer to your question is the same as it always is – if you do not see a title in my Top Ten List that you liked, then it’s a sure bet I didn’t think it was as awesomne as you did. In fact, I found Gokujou Drops to be okay, but not fabulous. I fail to see the awesome in the adequate art and “plot, what plot?” story telling. Not only did it not make my Top Ten, it likely would not make a Top Twenty, since there are dozens of better series out there.

  12. zookeeper says:

    Papaya Gundan sounds interesting, could we know more about it (if you’ve already written about it, sorry for the inquiry, and could I please have the link)? Any other sleeper-hit recommendations?

    Top twenty sounds good too!

  13. Yurigirl29 says:

    I understand. But your Top 10 list was awesome too. I love your blog..

  14. @zookeeper – Use the search box in the top left corner of the blog and your wish shall be granted. :-)

    There’s two Volumes of Papaya Gundan – both have been reviewed here.

  15. sinisterpurr says:

    Thanks for the list! I recently started reading Octave because of your blog and I love it. It is such a relief that -someone- takes the time to consume manga as you do and passes on the good stuff.

  16. zookeeper says:

    ahh! right, the search function. haha

    i’m excited to read your top anime list.

    i wonder if To Aru Kagaku no Railgun is on the list.
    it has been one of my favorite this year.

  17. Anonymous says:

    is octave manga finish yet? i’ve read it up to chapter 19, i think, and im hooked. so is there anything yet for octave?

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