Top Ten Yuri Manga of 2010

December 19th, 2010

As always, writing this list is a struggle. Am I telling you the 10 I liked the most? Including lesser titles because I know you can get a copy? Am I merging English and Japanese titles to fill spaces, or separating them so I can include more?

There was a nice pile of manga on my possibles list when all was said and done, so I am going to separate out the English titles, otherwise they’d never appear on the list at all. Which means you’re getting a Top 5 in each language.

Let me remind you, as I always do, that these lists are *in my opinion* and therefore may not be your opinion. You are most welcome to add items you feel were noteworthy in the comments. Without further ado, here are my Top Yuri Manga Lists for 2010

Top Five Yuri Manga in English

10) Jormungand – Right, the Yuri is barely there, but what there is is openly portrayed for the one-sided (but not rejected or mocked) crush it is. Otherwise, it’s a ridiculous story full of guns and chases and people dying – i.e, a good action story.

9) K-ON! – One of the abiding qualities of anime and manga fandom is the insistence on seeing relationships where there are none. Mugi does that for you, so you don’t have to. Oh and by the way, the series is a delightful slice-of-life comic strip with charming characters.

8) Azumanga Daioh OmnibusAzumanga Daioh was the first 4-koma style story to make it big over here, very likely because the anime hit first. It set the bar for those following it and when Yen put out a new edition, they brought us back to that magical moment when we discovered the Japanese comic strip. For letting us relive that, and reminding us what we’re looking for, the new edition gets #3 on this list.

7) Hayate x Blade – I’m not done talking about this series, even though this may or may not be it for us in English. (I don’t know Seven Seas’ plans any more than you do, so don’t ask.) For getting as far as Hitsugi and Shizuku being awesome in battle (background music and all) and giving us the slightest taste of Sid and Nancy, as well as all the wonderful shinyuu pairs and their Yuri-ish sensibility, Hayate x Blade is forever in my Top Two.

6) Gunsmith Cats Burst – The final moment of this series came with exactly the right note of melancholy, hope, sex and danger. Surrounded by car chases, gun fights, explosions and drugs, Rally Vincent conceded the one thing she could never truly keep to Goldie. And the story bowed out with a recognition of all that we had ever thought was true. In English, in the year 2010, this is my Top Yuri Manga.

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Top Five Yuri Manga in Japanese

5) Ohana Holo Holo – This story was an unexpected find. It’s not a “Yuri story,” but this tale of an alternative family far surpasses the confines of any category. A past love shapes a current relationship and there’s some sense that that love may not yet be dead. However, that’s not the point of the story. The point is that the family we make is as strong as any family we are born into. This is an excellent manga and I look forward to more.

4) Octave/GIRL FRIENDS/Aoi Hana/Renai Joshika/Sasamekikoto – These series are all, in their own way, creating a revolution. Dramatic, funny, sexy, cute, every one of these books did something special – they looked at love between women not as a fetish, but as a relationship. These books took us step by step through the process of feeling scared, ecstatic, alone, fulfilled, all the many and various ways that we can feel when we find ourselves attracted to another woman. These stories capture everything from first love to old loves rekindled in an refreshingly honest, no-punches-pulled way. This is the revolution we’ve been waiting for. Here it is. Girls loving girls, women loving women, portrayed with honesty and depth by artists who care to tell a story, not just frame a sex scene.

(Yes, yes, this is a cheat, by making this a 5-way tie, but it’s because the stories themselves take back seat to the intent here. I can sleep at night with this, so don’t complain. ^_^)

3) Rakuen Le Paradis – By far and away, my favorite of the quarterly anthologies I’m reading right now. Artists I like, telling stories I like, with a decidedly “talking to the adults in the room” flavor. This is not for the kiddies, and moe fans will be turned right off by most of what’s here. This is the magazine I’ve been waiting for for years. If I could give Yuri Hime one piece of advice, I suggest it use Rakuen as a role-model, so it grows up into a beautiful, poised woman.

I almost fudged this again and went for a tie. But no, I’m going to force myself to make a decision. It could have easily gone the other way. But here we go. My top two series of the year are:

2) Gunjo – There’s just about nothing left I can say about this series that I haven’t already said. Nakamura Ching-sensei is one of my heroes. She tells this remarkable story with her whole heart and soul and every single chapter I am flattened by it. Volume 1 is one of my prize possessions. Brutal, dark, touching, sublime…this series is still the most amazing thing I have ever read and I still have no idea where she’s going with it. Like I said, this easily could have been Number 1 this year. Gunjo is a masterwork.

1) Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi – The sole reason this series made number 1 is because it led the pack in bringing Yuri back to shoujo manga. Yuri in seinen has never been a surprise, and in shounen has been used as a plot complication for many years, and it’s resurgence in josei has been on the rise for the past few years…the one place it was missing was shoujo. Shoujo Yuri is what got me into the genre and this series, this child of Maria-sama ga Miteru and Strawberry Panic!, has led the genre back full-circle. The series is utterly melodramatic, romantic, creepy, sexy – a perfect Yuri soap opera. Because I’m apparently a sap for Yuri in shoujo manga, Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi makes my #1 spot for the year.

What was your top ten for 2010? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments!

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6 Responses

  1. Cryssoberyl says:

    Thanks for your efforts as always. Your remarks on the “5-way tie” filled me with pleasure, because I agree that after so many years of waiting, works like these (and many others) have finally brought Yuri to a place of dignity, worth, and commercial sustainability. It’s a pleasure stifled by dread, though – with the passing of Bill 156, my fears for the healthy future of the genre are grave.

  2. darkchibi07 says:

    Ohhh, “Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi” sounds like something I could get into especially if its a love child between Marimite and Strawberry Panic!

    The fact it’s a Kodansha title gives it another barrier on the unlikeness of it getting licensed here. ;_;

  3. Ellen says:

    I’d really appreciate it if you mentioned right at the top of the review whether the manga was in English or Japanese. Your second language may be Japanese; mine is French.

  4. @Ellen – I did. Right at the top of each list, the title of the list told you whether it was the “Top Five Yuri Manga in English” or the Top Ten Yuri Manga in Japanese.

    For everyday reviews, I note in the title of the review whether the manga is in English. The post title will read:

    Title of Series (English)

    And I have “English Manga” as a category on the sidebar which you can click and read my reviews of English manga.

    If there is notation that a series is in English, it is in Japanese.

  5. Ellen says:

    Erica – I wasn’t referring to this specific post – you did label things right at the top, as you said. It just seemed the place to put the comment.

    And now that you mention it, I see it says “English” in big letters at the top of some of the reviews. It’d be nice to have “Japanese”, or “Nihongo” if you will, or just give the title as presented in Japanese. Absence of the word “English” never penetrated my head as meaning “Japanese”.

    If I were to review an Asterix the Gaul book, I’d title the review Asterix en Helvetica if I were reviewing the French version,Asterix in Switzerland if it were English. It does make a difference – as I told a friend who wanted to know what I was laughing at, “It’s a pun, Tony. It doesn’t translate.”

  6. Ellen – The default here is Japanese. Any other language is noted up front. You are of course welcome to do it any way you want, the way I do it is as above.

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