Top Ten Yuri Manga of 2011

December 25th, 2011

In stark contrast to last week’s top ten anime list, I liked doing this one…and never before have I liked doing it as much as I have this year. The ONLY downside was having to whittle this list down to ten entries (and, as you’ll see, I didn’t really.) Of course as always, you may all feel free to add your additions or subtractions in the comments. ^_^

It is with great pleasure that I present Okazu’s Top Ten Yuri Manga of 2011…

Honorable Mention) Collectors  – Nishi UKO’s delightful series about Shinobu and Takako, two women who share passion for collecting completely different, mutually exclusive, things. This is the after happily-ever-after story I’m always looking for and I just adore it. Shinobu and Takako do not have a perfect relationship, but they have a good relationship. They and their friends are very real, and people I would totally have over for lunch.

When it gets collected into a volume, it’s Number 1. Right now, it’s just disparate chapters in Rakuen Le Paradis magazine. Nonetheless, because it really is exactly everything I keep asking for, I really wanted to give it a place at the table, so I squeezed a chair in for it.

10) Tsubomi/Pure Visual Anthology Hirari/Comic Yuri Hime/MangaTime Kirara/Comic High/ IKKI/Rakuen Le Paradis  – The magazines that are bringing us this good Yuri definitely deserve recognition. Without these magazines investing in Yuri comics, we’d be back in the days of a character here and one over there and thinking that, gee, wouldn’t it be great if only there was a whole series? Well, there are whole series…there are whole *magazines* of Yuri now. And, slowly, carefully, they are coming over here. Time and market size will make the difference. It’s worth thinking about what the Yuri market will look like in ten more years (then getting back to work making that future happen!)

9) Sasamekikoto/Octave/Girl Friends – These three series are entirely different, they have nothing at all in common, except that they are really decent stories about two females in love that didn’t spend too much time pandering, and spent alot of time inside the heads of women figuring it all out, with support from friends, but not from society. When I’m old, these kinds of stories will seem bizarre (what was the big deal?! kids will say,) but right now…they are critical. And they were all, in their own way, good stories.

8) Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi – I cannot express how glad I was for this story. It ran in the queen of shoujo magazines, Nakayoshi. And it ended with the girl getting the girl! Blue Friend was fine, but Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi was the perfect Yuri entry, with all of the most enduring and popular Yuri tropes.

I hope it inspires a lot of young women to create more Yuri. More specifically, I hope that one of the young women who read this series becomes the next Konno Oyuki.

7) Cardcaptor Sakura – This is not hardly a Yuri story, but it is a Yuri classic. Without Tomoyo, none of you would have had a Tamao. And heck, it got my nephew reading shoujo manga, so it goes on the list! It’s still a little bizarre that Dark Horse is the one rebooting this series, but good on them to bring it back. I’d forgotten how much fun it was, and I’m thrilled to read it all over again. Oh…and…Sonomi. Just sayin’.

6) Renai Joshika – Morishima Akiko continues to slide the bar slowly, steadily towards sensible discussions of relationships between women, all with moe art and hideous amounts of adorableness. Her work is the best of both worlds, something for every Yuri fan, femme or butch, man or woman, moe fan or not. Although I will never care about wedding dresses for myself, I love the unrepentant girlyness of this series. I forgot to mention this in my review of Volume 2, but inside the dust cover, Morishima-sensei wrote “I am happy to draw a Yuri series about adult women.” I am also happy that she drew one.  ^_^

 

5) Ame-iro Kouchakan Kandan – There are no lesbians in this series, but there are women who are, magically, mystically “together.” Together for 50 years, by your side, they say, without actually saying they like one another or want to kiss or anything, but you know…I don’t care. Spending time at the Amber Teahouse is a gentle, calming experience, like a cup of Blue Sapphire Ceylon tea from Betty’s. Delicate, sweet, and gentle, this series lingers pleasantly on the palate and leaves a delightful memory behind. (I’m not being facetious here, either, this tea is exactly like this. If I could send Fujieda-sensei a message, I would send him this tea and say “Your story tastes like this.”) Both tea and story are perfect way to warm up on a cold day.

 

4) Fu~Fu – It’s true that there are no lesbians here, either, but there are couples that are long-term, living together. There are a wife and her wife. They do every day things, like eat together, shop together, spend days and nights together. Above all things, they love each other, and I gotta tell you, there is NOTHING more important to me in a Yuri series that that. For hours on end of domestic bliss, and a sense that someone out there “gets” the whole women in love thing, and isn’t afraid to tell the Yuri Danshi out there about it,  this series makes number four for this year. On any other year, it might well have been number one. In years past it might have been  my screamingly over-the-top zOMG! I can’t believe that this exists manga. It’s a testimony to how far we’ve come that this *only* makes Number 4 this year.

We’ve reached my top 3 Yuri manga for 2011. Looking back at the list, there are even more Yuri stories about adult women than ever before. I’m, as we say, kvelling. But what makes the top three so special is something we have never, ever had before on this list.  All of my top three manga have…lesbians.

 

3) GUNJO – This may seem like the series is slipping a bit in my esteem, but I assure you, it is not. GUNJO is not the third best thing I’ve read this year, it is the very best thing I have ever read. I dread it, I fear it, I am addicted to it. There are two chapters left; I cannot wait to know what will happen, but I don’t want it to end.

This series has a character who is a lesbian. She was in a lovely, supportive, long-term relationship, with a woman who wanted to marry her and live together until death do them part. She walked away from that, and then death parted them and she has no idea what awaits her, death, life, retribution, punishment. Whatever it is, the blonde is still a lesbian, and during the course of the story, she has discussions with her brother and his wife, and the brunette about just what that means to her – and to us.

 

2) Aoi Hana – Yes, Fumi is “that way.” What that might mean to her is as yet unknown. She’s young, with her whole life ahead of her. It’s hard to imagine that she and Akira are likely to be together five years, ten years, twenty years from now. But that’s not important to Fumi right now. Right now, she’s in love. With her best friend. And she knows this about herself, that she is gay and her love includes physical intimacy.

This story is not only beautifully drawn and beautifully told, but I completely believe that there is a 15 year old kid out there hanging on to this story, telling herself it’s okay. For that, for that kid, I love this story with all my heart. Because it is okay, and one day, that kid is going to change the world. so everyone else knows it’s okay too.

For once I can, with 100% assurance say…you never saw this coming….

 

1) Omoi no Kakera/Kila Kila/Seasons – In 2011, Takemiya Jin-sensei kicked all your asses and you never even noticed.

In all three of her volumes released this year, at least one of the characters was an out lesbian. In all three of her volumes, she used *gay words.* Not just “lesbian” but things like “tachi” and “neko” and even slangier versions of slang like “bari” (a reversed form of “riba,” which means reverse, a lesbian that switches neko/tachi roles.)

She talked about the fact that what women (or men, for that matter) do in bed has only some bearing in “being gay.” And she created Mika, a confident, likable, out high school student, who likes older women.

In her work, Takemiya-sensei is not afraid to confront stereotypes or tropes. Her work tends to stay in school settings, but within that oh-so-typical setting, she gets a lot of miles out of human relationships.

She mentioned lesbian sex and love hotels and emotional connections, and what it means to be gay or lesbian and, no seriously, what does that mean? I have loved her work for years and years and this year, if I could hug her, I would. My number one manga for the year 2011 are all Takemiya Jin creations.

I very much hope to read more and more of her work in the days to come.

And there you have it folks, my Top Ten Yuri Manga for 2011. I gotta tell you something, this was my favorite list to write, ever. I almost want to lay these books down and roll on them they all make me so damn happy.

One last list to go and it promises to be a low content, rabid pile of fangirlish squeeing. ^_^

 

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9 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    Because it is okay, and one day, that kid is going to change the world. so everyone else knows it’s okay too.

    I so agree. The whole “being okay” thing is something I really struggled with, and I’m fortunate that I found Nancy Garden’s Annie on my Mind at the right time in my life.

    Did you see the picture of the Navy petty officer and her girlfriend at the end of a cruise? That made me cry happy tears, because I wanted that so desperately when I was in the Navy….

  2. @Jenny – Yes, I posted it around quite a bit. It was lovely. The 11-year old me who wanted to be a Marine in the worst way (but who was way too sickly, then way too gay and never did) was very happy.

  3. Maria says:

    I seriously wonder about you, sometimes, since sometimes, your postings kinda make me despair.

    There’s a kind of lesbian I know. They keep identifying people like me for us, claiming we aren’t lesbian.
    Why? Because we don’t sort ourselves into stupid categories (I for example have nearly-anime-long hair, which is apparently very un-lesbian, since it’s too cute (or moe, as you’d say)), because we don’t tell everyone we are lesbian, because we figure that “I have a girlfriend” is seriously enough.

    I am a lesbian, and yet, some lesbians seem to believe they have the right to label me as not one. Apparently, there’s a checklist, and to be a “real” lesbian, you need to keep telling your girlfriend that you are. Every time you’re in public. Even when it makes no sense. I sure haven’t told any girlfriend I ever had that I was gay. Why would I need to?
    If my life were a manga, you’d be here, stating I wasn’t lesbian.

    Yes, you really strike me as one of those every time I read the “no lesbians” in stories like Fu~Fu, which is a sentiment so ridiculous, so nonsensical, I really don’t know what to say.

    And it feels kinda hurtful too, in fact. Maybe it’s a cultural difference, I don’t know.

    Just like the butch/femme sides you apparently are forced to take, this part of american lesbian culture seems just crazy to me.

  4. @Maria – I was rejoicing in the unusually positive portrayals of people who identified as lesbian, something I consider to be an extremely good thing.

    I was not in any way dissing anything you perceive me to me dissing, your despair and depression is a construct of your radical misinterpretation of both my words and intent.

    If it depresses and offends you that I find the increased presence of characters who define themselves as “lesbian” (and related open discussion of sexuality and same-sex relationships) to be a wonderful thing, worth celebration, then I strongly suggest you do not read this blog.

    I love all the manga on this list. How you can manage to find an insult in that (or why you would choose to do so) is frankly beyond me.

    Furthermore, I refuse to apologize or be made one iota less ecstatic by my choices, because *you disapprove* for reasons you have made up in your head.

  5. I feel that I should get around to mentioning that your reviews of ‘Fu~Fu’ were the reason I was able to stand up at an LGBT manga/anime panel at Anime Boston and inform people eagerly asking after manga concerning LGBT people who have children that I knew exactly the story they were looking for.

    Looking forward to another year of Yuri and of your blog.

  6. @A Day Without Me – Wonderful.

  7. Pam says:

    Congratulations again for this ranking.

    I totally agree that this year was fantastic for Yuri manga, as much as it was dull for anime (except Madoka w. Yuri goggles).

    Regarding the Top 3, I also agree that they’re a league above the others, not because of storytelling, but because they take the discussion further than before.

    Since we got flustered when introduced to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune living together 15 years ago, we could tell when there were each new fundamental step towards talking about lesbians.

    Gunjo, Aoi Hana and Takemiya Jin’s stories talk about people that could be your neighbour. And it’s not about discovering their identity or learning how to live with it against prejudice, but about stories with lesbians as main characters who live different situations where homosexuality may or may not play a part in their decision. Basically lesbians who happen to have their own personality, beyond the usual tropes and clichés. (btw, I really liked the comment on slang which really brings the manga home to the queer culture.)

    Similar to that, my dream manga would be one which traces the life of Octave’s Setsuko before she met Yukino. I want to see her dwelving into the music world as the fox that she is and tell everybody that neko and tachi don’t mean anything to her but she’d rather bari.

    May the Santa Claus of Yuri hear me.

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