Top Ten Yuri of 2009

December 31st, 2009

We’ve had plenty of build-up, let’s jump right in to

The Okazu Top Ten Yuri of 2009

10) Hayate x Blade & Maria-sama ga Miteru

Neither series is heavy on Yuri, but they are heavy on everything else that makes a story compelling. The Yuri is merely the spicy mentaiko on the top for flavor. ;-)

Hayate shows that manga can be dorky good fun without losing anything in translation and Marimite shows that shoujo can be profitable even in anime, now can we *please* just accept that and move on? Both Seven Seas and RightStuf have shown us repeatedly that there *is* a successful way to balance fandom needs and market forces.

There’s still more of both on the way for 2010, so we can look forward to a few more hours in the company of what I consider to be some of the best characters in anime and manga today.

9) Morishima Akiko

Morishima-sensei is not on this list for her art, really. She’s here because she is pushing hard to bring stories of adult women who love women into the Yuri world. In her most recent collection, Rui-iro Yume, she says specifically that she asked the editors at Ichijinsha if she could drawn more stories about adults. The fact that that is still revolutionary is both annoying and enthralling. lol (“You got your lesbians in my Yuri!” “Well you got your Yuri in my lesbian manga!”)

I look forward to a 2010 filled with Yuri – with actual lesbians – because of Morishima-sensei.

8. Octave

I’ve already said everything I had to say about this series in the Top Ten Yuri Manga list. It’s about adult women, it’s real and realistic, it hurts when it’s supposed to and feels good when it’s supposed to. More great characters…another great Yuri title.

7. Twitter/Okazu Readers

Twitter was the rising star on the manga/anime stage this year. It got off to a bang with great manga journalists leading the way and hasn’t slowed down since. It is *the* place to be for intelligent manga and anime conversation. Even more importantly, it’s blurred the boundaries between the Japanese Yuri community and the American one. A space that is egalitarian, open for global communication and on 24/7 – Twitter may be the field of gold for us Yuri fans. ;-)

I mention my Okazu Readers nearly every year and every year it bears repeating – YOU make my Top Ten List once again. You challenge me, you support me, you are my heroes (sometimes, my villians,) you make me laugh, you are the reason I bother. For everything you have do, are doing and will do, you make my Top Ten Yuri of the year.

6. Crunchyroll

I know that Crunchyroll is not universally loved. I know that European Yuri fans, particularly, often feel left out by them. However, in 2009, Crunchyroll made a concerted effort to promote, support and provide Yuri anime to an English-speaking audience. They didn’t hide it, or pretend it was something else than it was; they put it out there as Yuri and promoted it to the Yuri – and lesbian – audience.

I should probably note that it this is the second conflict of interest on the list for me, but I don’t care – even without me, Crunchyroll is promoting Yuri. That should be worth *something* and in this case, it’s worth 6 on my Top Ten. :-)

5. Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan

This series had an obscure beginning in a not-well-known Yuri doujinshi anthology, and appeared more as an element in other series than as its own entity for years.

Then, all of a sudden, it was a thing! There was a whole story, with a beginning, a middle and a (somewhat inevitable) end. It has its own spin-off, “Pink Princess” and Drama CDs and finally, a whole collected volume of work, with more to come. I’m an unrepentant Fujieda fangirl, with a fetish for his calendar art. :-) I was so happy to get this volume and all the Drama CDs (whee!) that it made number 5 on this year’s list!

4. Yuri Hime/ Yuri Hime S

I don’t love everything Ichijinsha does. In fact, I’m pretty critical of a lot of it. Beyond the service and the moe there is, all too often, stuff that makes me feel downright icky. But there is no doubt that the money and effort Ichijinsha has put behind it’s two Yuri publications, the book signings, the advertising in their other magazines and their promotions at Comiket, are working. They are slowly, surely increasing the size of what will always be a niche of a niche.

For all their efforts, for all that they have done and for the pleasure 8 times a year of reading Yuri Hime and Yuri Hime S, Ichijinsha and their Yuri magazines are Number 4 this year.

3. Sasamekikoto

I wrote a while back that Umberto Eco defined anything as “literature” that escaped the confines of its original media. In a sense, any successful manga series is forced to do that, as the company seeks to expand the franchise. Drama CDs, toys, anime, all push the manga further along into the realm of literature, as long as the audience buys in.

I really wasn’t sure the audience would buy in with this series. It was a bit too self-consciously “for the fans.” It was a bit annoying, a bit hopeless. But with the advent of an anime, in which the comedy (especially the physical comedy) translated well, and the following expansion into anything the company could expand it into, Sasamekikoto has moved a little closer to “literature” than it was at the beginning of the year. Will it stand the test of time – I rather think not. But it certainly made a splash this year, and so it’s #3 on this year’s list.

2. Aoi Hana

Let’s be honest, shall we? I’m biased. Where Sasamekikoto is a parody and a comedy, Aoi Hana is a romantic drama that is serious, without taking itself seriously. It can lighten up and laugh, too. Where Sasamekikoto is written by a man for an audience of men, Aoi Hana is written by a woman for an audience of…whoever. I’m biased, yes.

I enjoy Sasamekikoto, but I think Aoi Hana is “Art.” Quietly drawn, beautifully rendered into anime, even the music is appealing to me. For me, Aoi Hana was “literature” when it was born, before anime and Drama CD pushed it into new media. Once again, I’m moved by a character-driven manga. Shocker. :-) Moved enough to call Aoi Hana the second best Yuri of the year.

Which leaves us with only one thing left that could be better.

My Number 1 Yuri of 2009 is….

1. Gunjo

It didn’t make the Manga list only because it wasn’t collected. I still believe that one day you too will be able to read this story. You might not like it as much as I did, probably not, because my “like” for it is inexpressible.

This intense story of a woman escaping an abusive life accompanied by a woman who threw *everything* away to be with her, is…indescribable. I have never, ever read anything like it.

It’s dark, it’s ugly, it’s violent and dysfunctional. It’s beautiful, sublime and magnificent. In the middle of ridiculous unreality, it’s totally real. Surrounded by pain and suffering is tenderness. It’s about love and not about love, all at the same time.

Gunjo blasted into my world with the manga equivalent of a serious beatdown. I never quite recovered and I keep coming back for more. :-)

Gunjo is my absolute Best Yuri of 2009…and possibly, Ever.

***

And with that, we bring this amazing year of Yuri to a close.

I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year!

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11 Responses

  1. Emma says:

    I take your point on the Sasameki Koto vs Aoi Hana debate. I have to say, each month I look to the new release of Sasameki koto with more anticipation, perhaps because the pace is that much faster (or contrives to seem that much faster, lol, despite the fact that progress has not actually happened. (Well.)). Now, Aoi Hana I truly love, and when I have it all in a collected series I know I will read it again and again- but I feel I can wait for it? lol.

    I guess what I’m saying is that sasameki koto is my instant gratification manga, whereas Aoi hana is the Manga I’m gonna marry someday . . . :D

  2. @Emma – that kind of comment is exactly why Okazu readers make #7. It totally made me LOL.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Could you make your top for this decade? it would be very nice. ^^

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sasameki koto and Aoi Hana are both good ^^ I love both ^^

    but.. there’s always a but xD

    But Sasameki koto…. a lot of people can identify with Sumika, idk, her story, her life is familiar for me and for more people.

    Aoi Hana is art, of course (: but I love more Sasameki xD

    need season 2, of both

    sorry for poor english

  5. @Anonymous – Probably not. It’s all I can do to choose over a year’s worth. A decade would slay me. :-)

  6. Anonymous says:

    uh..just out of curisity, is this Yuri=lesbian concept a common sense in western Yuricons?

  7. @Anonymous – It’s hard to know if you’re asking about lesbian identity (which is not all that common in Yuri) or just the content.

    If you are asking about the former, then my desire for Yuri to represent actual lesbians is not typical of Japanese fandom, but is something we promote at Yuricon.

    If you are asking about the latter – Girls Love and Yuri are basically babout girls in love with other girls. In the West and in Japan.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Have you read volume 4 of Aoi Hana yet? (SPOILER SPACE)

    Seems like maybe Fumi and Ah-chan might get it together. Or at least, that’s what Fumi’s pining over now. Lol, all that cover art finally makes sense! It’s weird, in a series I’ve been following this long, that I’ve only just recently realized who the main couple are supposed to be; but looking back it really was there to see all along, how in love with Ah-chan Fumi is.

    And god damn, Fumi sure is brave, just coming right out and saying it.
    “I love you, A-chan!”
    “I love you too, Fumi-chan.”
    “No, I mean the SEX kind of love. I want to SEX YOU UP.”
    (This is how I remember that scene.)

    Well, I don’t know how it will work out! But in some ways, I can see a Fumi/Ah-chan ending that isn’t implausible, which I have to say, 1 volume ago I wouldn’t have guessed. I love this manga. :DDD

  9. Motormind says:

    In Aoi Hana, I always thought that Akira has very deep feelings for Fumi as well. It’s in the details, in little things Ah-chan says and how she sometimes looks at Fumi-chan. Fumi’s confession forces Akira to get her feelings in order at a much faster rate than she normally would have–which could still go in a lot of directions, good or bad.

    The anime’s opening has quite an addictive effect on me. I can’t count the times I have watched it; it’s just so wonderfully bittersweet.

  10. Akiba says:

    When I first read Sasamekikoto, I thought: oh god, another Yuri story about school girls. Don’t we have enough of these already?

    Luckily I kept on reading, and gradually the story and the characters won me over (with the exceptions of two lolis…). The slow development of the story is agonizing though…

    When one reads Aoi Hana one feels the author understands her audience (well, some at least) well. It’s a delight to see a work where Yuri is presented as a selling point to attract Yuri fans. The story has real depth and substance. I was more delighted to see the high quality of the manga’s artwork was maintained in the anime.

  11. Love your Top Ten Lists! I’m going to have to check out Gunjo!

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