Top (?) Ten Yuri Anime of 2011

December 18th, 2011

I hate doing this list. Have I ever mentioned that? Yuri and anime don’t mix well too often. The best Yuri manga will never, ever become anime and the anime that is popular that includes Yuri is so…blecch…most of the time.

This year I give up. This isn’t a top 10 list, it’s 10 series of interest – for one reason or another – to the Okazu audience list. I’m not even saying they are Yuri series. It’s just things that some Yuri fans might care about, or not.

As always, feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments, you always do. (^_^)b

10. Koi Hime Musou – This is on the list to round it out to 10 and because there is a smidgen of Yuri in it. It sucked in every other way.

9. Sound of the Sky Yeah, there’s pretty much no Yuri here that we didn’t make up in our heads. So sue me. Moe fans liked it, wrote and drew lots of pictures and stories that paired characters up and it made them happy. So shut up with your sensible objections.

8. K-ON! Same as with Sound of the Sky, the Yuri here is entirely in ours and Mugi’s head. But it’s a sincerely adorable story and if it makes people happy to see Ritsu and Mio as a couple, who am I to stop them?

7. Fate/Zero No Yuri here either, but I DO NOT CARE. Saber was made to look extra butchy cool and be all knightly at Irisviel. This is my kind of service. There is no other reason I even bothered watching this, so it works for me. The animation for this series is super swell, if that kind of thing is important to you.

6. Digimon Tamers – On Hulu! I was so inordinately happy to see Ruki again, I creeped myself out a bit. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this, watch it. It’s really quite excellent. Good story, great characters and Ruki’s got to be one of the best babydykes in all anime.

5. Wandering Son – This story isn’t Yuri, it isn’t lesbian, but of definite interest to anyone interested in LGBTQ stories which, I’m pretty sure I can say the Okazu audience is. This series probably wins on storytelling for the year, overall. It was overlooked by way too many anime fans both in Japan and the west, but it was a genuine masterpiece about gender and sex and sexuality.

4. Yuru Yuri – I can’t really like it, I don’t get why anyone likes it, but sales tell me I’m wrong, wrong, wrong. Yuru Yuri is the first “Yuri” anime made as such, and I’m very glad for Ichijinsha that it’s so popular. I just wish it was good.

As always, when we come to the top three, I don’t expect anyone to be surprised.

Here are what I consider to be the Top Three Yuri Anime of 2011.

3. Revolutionary Girl Utena – Juri was, for many Yuri fans, their first “Yuri” character. Her one-sided relationship with Shiori colored a whole generation of Yuri fans’ perceptions. And for so many people who watched the series, Utena and Anthy’s relationship, as complex as it was, was wonderful and remarkable. And then they drove off into a blue sky kissing, naked and seriously, it changed a lot of things in anime.  Thanks to Nozomi/RightStuf we can experience the whole thing again and it’s just as wonderful and remarkable this time around.  For a purely compelling narrative, I consider this series to be a masterwork.

2. Mawaru Penguindrum – While not technically *better* than Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum is new, is just as compelling and is wholly, uniquely Ikuhara. The fact that ten years after Utena changed everything, Ikuhara is back, doing it again and being just as compelling, means we really need to pay attention to this guy. he’s no fluke. He’s not afraid to consciously embrace Yuri tropes like predatory lesbians, Takarazuka, Rose of Versailles and then stand them on their heads in a way that actually makes the series more interesting, not less. I’m very much hoping that someone will license this, because everyone who likes anime should watch it – it’s really made for anime fans. Much like my number one choice for the year.

(This series has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks for 2012, so look for pre-order info in our Yuri Network News posts.)

And here we go….the number 1 Yuri Anime for 2011 is…

1. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – This series also took well-known tropes and turned them inside out. We all know magical girls, but we don’t know anything about magical girls, this series says flat out to us. I’m very interested to see how it does in sales here in the west. If you haven’t already put this on your 2012 to-buy list, let me suggest you do.  With insanely popular moe design, with a return to really good storytelling (something way too many anime avoid) this series carried itself consistently all the way through a story that was visually interesting, well-written and made sense.

This series is licensed and released by Aniplex in English in 2012.

I don’t think there’s any question that the number one Yuri Anime of 2011 was Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica.

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21 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know the series is no doubt trash, but my friend told me to watch for the lesbian witches in ‘Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere’ – Episode 10, after their battle (which they won and they didn’t die) they have a kiss scene and I must say they actually handled it very well. Romantic long kiss, no slobber, romantic dialogue, sunshine, I was very surprised. I also saw in the character chart that they’re the only paired couple in the show listed as ‘lovers’ with hearts and everything. Just an update about Malga and Margot the lesbian witch couple.

  2. Catherine says:

    And the corresponding Crunchyroll links:

    10. Koi Hime Musou
    9. Sound of the Sky
    8. K-ON – not carried
    7. Fate/Zero
    6. Digimon Tamers
    5. Wandering Son
    4. Yuri Yuri
    3. Revolutionary Girl Utena – not carried
    2. Mawaru Penguindrum – not carried
    1. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – not carried

  3. I admit I read the title about an hour before I had a chance to sit down and read the article proper, and I was thinking how odd it is to choose ten different shows from a year. I kind of think there just isn’t enough anime made in a year for a list of ten shows in any category to contain no bad apples.

    I love your twist on the concept this year, though. :)

    Also, it’s worth pointing out that Digimon Tamers is available on Crunchyroll as well.

  4. Catherine says:

    I thank you very much for the list, even if you do hate making it! For me, anime are much more accessible than manga because many are available with subtitles… and because I have a Crunchyroll subscription. A year of Crunchyroll costs barely more than a single shipment from amazon.jp!

    However, finding good Yuri – well, good, mature anime period – on Crunchyroll is challenging. I loved Wandering Son, Sasameki Koto, and Moribito, but am now fumbling for something else really good. If there are enough Okazu readers to form a Crunchyroll “group”, I would be so, so happy… the only Yuri group I know of on there is a big disappointment.

  5. @Catherine-

    There’s links to Yuri groups on the right side of this blog too:

    Yuricon Mailing List: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Yuricon

    Yuricon on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YuriconALC

    You’re most welcome to hang out there (for free, without even a subscription) and chat about Yuri. ^_^

  6. Jin54321 says:

    Yes, about Mawaru Penguindrum – I had stopped watching in the episode with Yuri doing her rope-bondage/attempted rape thing waiting for your final verdict before finishing the show. As you obviously praise it I’m to assume the plot complication involving Momoka and Yuri and Yuri’s actions was something I was hasty about in being turned off? Or is this anime good enough to look past certain things and enjoy the overall work?

  7. @Jin54321 – This will be a personal decision, of course, but I thought it was well worth sticking with it. It actually gets less pleasant as we peel away delusions, but I definitely find it compelling story telling.

  8. BruceMcF says:

    @Catherine ~ I never accept group invites on CR ~ but for a Yuri group on the other end of the spectrum than the current one, I’d make a big exception. I’m agila61 there.

    But I don’t think there are that many more series there … if it was just for the Yuri, I’d only have subscribed for the Aoi Hana and Sasemeki Koto seasons. Chihayafuru is great, but its a 1 girl x 2 boy love triangle wrapped in making a kids word card game into a sport. Fate/zero is great fun, but Saber & that red eyed woman are comrades, no more. Etc. They had a k-drama with a Yuri subplot … but their license expired.

  9. Atarun says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one to bemoan the lack of Yuri in anime this past year.

    I’m also glad I followed your recommendation and bought myself the complete Utena series (http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B003ZI091Y).

    I remember very vaguely watching some episodes when I was much younger. Seeing it now, with adult eyes, after seeing so many series that were inspired by it… it is priceless.

    Thanks, Erica. ^^

  10. Anonymous says:

    I thank you so much for taking the time to do these lists every year. As a closet Yuri fan it is so nice to read your blog and I love checking out all of your recs. Thank you so very much for your hard work.

    Desiree

  11. @Desiree – Thank you so much for the kind words! I’m very glad to know you enjoy the blog. ^_^

  12. @Anonymous – Thanks for the heads up on that. I probably won’t watch it, so if you are interested in writing up a review of the series, let me know!

  13. @David Phillips – I do this every year, and because I combine series that are out in English and Japanese, I typically can squeeze out a list of ten. This year was more difficult than others.

    I do two more top ten lists, Manga and then an Overall List, before the year ends, as well.

  14. LeVar H. says:

    Wow…I can honestly say that with the except of one of those titles (Koi Hime Musou), I’ve seen all of those shows and enjoyed most of them. Okay, so I never did get to finish Digimon Tamers or Utena, but at least I now have a chance to do so.

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand Mawaru Penguindrum (despite my probably mistaken attempts at trying), but I’ve actually enjoyed the series. The characters are as compelling as they are mentally screwed.

    Madoka Magica has pretty my altered my perception of magical girl shows, which hadn’t been done since Nanoha, and I loved every minute of it. I have all three volumes of the US release preordered already, as I liked what I heard of the English performances.

    Wandering Son handles its drama and character development in the most realistic and mature way I’ve seen in an anime. No over-the-top melodrama, which is a definite plus for me.

    Thanks for displaying the list, even though you hate doing it. Who knows, maybe 2012 will be a better year for Yuri. I’d say we’re about due.

  15. Senbei says:

    I am not a big fan of leaving an obnoxious, know-nothing comment on a blog post that is ostensibly personal preference but…

    No love for Last Exile 2? Admittedly the Yuri in the first series was less pronounced, but this time around is much different. I’ll make a brief attempt to outline with concrete evidence. The fifteen year old female protagonist Fam Fan Fan has no male love-interest (the only male she ever comes in contact with is the previously established gay Dio), but does take drastic measures in several episodes to protect the fifteen year old young princess Millia (whose interests she’s made clear are more important to her than her childhood and closest friend Giselle). All of which is putting aside the simple fact that Alister and Tatiana (the subtle but much talked-about lesbian couple in the first series) have returned as adults who are captain and first mate on a pirate vessel (in the original series these offices were held by Alex and Sophia, who were in love) and seem to share the same cabin… To me there is more Yuri in this show than Yuru Yuri.

  16. @Senbei – Best friends=/ lovers, no more than it does in K-ON! or any other series. As I point out, both Soranowoto and K-ON! have active (if delusional) Yuri fanbases, which is why they got on the list this year.

    I watched some of LE2:FtSW and I saw exactly what you and Felix saw, and cannot make it read Yuri in my head. Perhaps because I am a girl and I know that we can be friends (and love each other deeply, even) and it not be anything at all even remotely like “being in love.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    Unless you really like old-school, what happened to Yuri in Penguindrum can’t be called Yuri. Just a collection of dusted tropes that should have long been dead.

  18. Yurilover says:

    I think Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica deserved to be at the top. Not only is it the darkest magical girl anime I’ve ever seen, but also has a great story line and even greater opening. The creators also gave some Yuri fan service here and there especially at the end of the series which wasn’t a total loss for an anime about friendship.

    Yuru Yuri was an OK anime to watch in between other series. The Yuri was mostly in my head, “and appearantly Chitose’s head lol” but overall it was really cute and funny especially in the last episodes.

    The only anime that I’ve heard many good reviews about and have yet to finish it is Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’ve really tried to get past the”old” art style and just focus on the story but my attempts always end up failing.

    My attempts dialog:

    – Watches first 4 episodes of the series.
    – Starts to lose interest after 5th episode
    – Accidentally stumbles upon new Yuri manga/animes on Okazu blog.
    – Excitedly runs off to watch/read them
    – Attempts to continue watching Revolutionary Girl Utena after running out of things to watch/read.
    – Stops again at episode 4.
    ~continues infinitely…

    So yeah…Think the only way to get me to watch the whole anime is if someone decides to tie me up to a chair and make me watch it lol. Am still working on it though so hopefully, one day I can actually finish it.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I think Strawberry panic is best Yuri ever. I LOVE Shizuma. No-one here watches Yuri, but me, so they think i am lesbian. But still, I always draw Shizuma and Nagisa kissing. I cant help it, i love that anime.

  20. @Anonymous – Yeah, it was a fine anime in 2004, when it came out.

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