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.
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.
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.
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….
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!