Yuri Network News Special Report on Shopping for Yuri in Tokyo, November 2012

November 24th, 2012

One of the questions I get the most emails about is something along the lines of “I’m going to Japan, where can I get Yuri?” The answer is not as straightforward as “go here” or “nowhere.” It’s important to remember that things change all the time in manga stores in Japan, just as with any store. They move stuff around, highlight different things, close stores, move locations, etc. So what I experienced last year in Tokyo is likely to have changed when you go next spring. In fact, things have changed quite a bit since I was in Tokyo ten months ago.

I’m going to focus on three sections of the Tokyo Metropolitan area in today’s report: Akihabara, Ikebukuro and Nakano, because those three areas have well-developed personalities.  None of this may apply outside Tokyo, even in chain stores, except for this, which is is pretty universal in all Japanese book stores:

To effectively shop for manga in Japan, you need to know three things. Books are not generally shelved by genre, but by imprint. So first you need to know what age/gender demographic you’re looking at, then publisher/imprint, then author. I’ll explain more about this in a bit.

Ikebukuro has changed quite radically in the past year. The Animate has moved, is much larger than it used to be and is much more strongly focused on female consumers.  That meant that they really didn’t have any Yuri manga at all, not even in publisher sections. The goods were largely the same, but it was clear that the fujyoshi was the focus (you could tell – the store had way bigger, nicer, bathrooms). 

Because of this new dedication to the buying needs of female fans, even with a familiarity with publishers/authors, Ikebukuro has been basically shorn of any Yuri. On the day Yuri Hime Comics was released, we had to go to Akihabara to get the new books. And Toranoana in Ikebukuro has moved from its location to a much smaller space nearer the train station,  only selling BL doujinshi and a small section of mostly straight, loli porn. This was a huge disappointment for us, as the Ikebukuro Toranoana was previously our favorite store.

2013 Update: This has changed again. You can find Yuri once more. I guess enough of the customers requested it. Not as much as in Akihabara, but it’s there.

The different K-Books stores are still on Otome Road, but are rapidly converting to more space dedicated to BL, and the old Animate space is going to re-open as something “for girls”. Unfortunately for us, Japan’s obsessive gendering of everything is turning Ikebukuro into a BL-only section.

So, for the first time, we had to go to Akihabara to shop.

Animate in Akihabara has a Yuri section:

…actually most of their Yuri was shelved elsewhere, by publisher, as always. Most of what’s under this sign is Mangatime KR comics. One needed to find the Ichijinsha/Hobunsha section to find the rest:

And that’s the way it goes – know if the book you’re looking for is for girls (少女), boys (少年),for women (女性), for men (男子) – these  are not often listed as sections in the bookstore, you just need to know who the title you’re looking for is targeted to. Then look for the publisher, (Hobunsha 芳文社, Ichijinsha 一迅社, Futbasha 双葉社) then look for the imprint (YH Comics, Tsubomi Comics, Mangatime KR Comics) then look for the author. If you are new to this, and don’t read Japanese, take a printout of the cover you’re looking for. And take a look at the spine of the books you do have and memorize the characters. The publisher is listed at the bottom of the spine, the imprint along the top. Get to know your books!

The same is true for Toranoana in Akihabara. There is a Girls’ Love sign, but most of the Yuri books are near, next to, around it, or across the store in another section.

And this, in a nutshell, is why we’re not going to see any anime for Yuri manga I like. Yuri is sold in Akihabara to guys. So, since guys are the audience for anime, not women, ever, we’ll never see an anime for Morishima Akiko’s moe, but awesome and about adult women, Renai Joshi series. Anime is for man-boys who obsess about school-age girls.

Proving my point, Animate had a metric ton of Yuru Yuri goods, but the only figurines were in bathing suits. Of course.

Interestingly, despite the series’ insistence that Kyouko is the lead character, everywhere we went, Yui goods were the most sold out.

Animate is still the best for goods. It was ramping up for the release of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s The Second movie (and, there are three Nanoha manga series running concurrently right now: Vivid, Innocent and Force), so there was a great deal of Nanoha goods on shelves.

Including this fascinating bit of papercraft.

And there was a fair amount of Fate/Zero stuff hanging around.

I don’t have pictures, but let me conclude with a paragraph on Nakano Sun Arcade. Up until last year, it was the place to go for older, obscure items, things you couldn’t get any more. It was awesome – but not cheap. Now, if you’re looking for figurines – go there first. We saw figurines there a good $40 cheaper for the same exact item than in Rashinban (which has never been a cheap store, but still!) Don’t buy in the first store you see, either. I saw a Mawaru Penguindrum Princess of the Crystal figurine for $48, then $30, then $25 and finally $13.00. I didn’t get it, because it was quite large, and I have nowhere to put it, but at $13.00 I thought about it hard. If you’re looking for really old stuff, Mandarake in Nakano and Shibuya are like rummaging through someone’s attic. Yes, you can find the Sailor Uranus and Neptune henshin wands there with their original lip gloss – for $1000.

In conclusion, we’re both in a better place and a worse that we were last year. Yuri is more plentiful, but more segregated. Yuri, in Japanese publishers minds, is for guys. We are now required to shop in Akihabara, rather than our beloved Ikebukuro, (instead of it being a nice-to-do) but on the good side, there’s a a lot more Yuri to shop for!

Remember, things change all the time in Tokyo, so this guide will probably be useful for 6 months, then not any more. Don’t assume that anything you know from last year is true now. But if you learn one thing – learn your publisher, imprint, author and title, and you’ll be able to find what you want to buy. ^_^

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26 Responses

  1. redfish says:

    Junkudou in Ikebukuro has a very nice selection of commercial manga, artbooks and ranobe in the basement for all demographics (except ero). They also often highlight new releases from smaller imprints like YH Comics. I’d say the Yuri selection is better than Akihabara’s Toranoana.

  2. @redfish – Interesting, then that’s changed recently, too. ^_^ Last time we were there, they had barely any Yuri, just a few new releases.

  3. redfish says:

    Could be. I was there in September, back then Toranoana seemed to have trimmed down their Yuri section from the previous year and pickings were slim all around. But perhaps they have revamped it since then.

    This wasn’t a particularly comprehensive look at either, since I was mostly looking for new releases. Junkudou doesn’t seem to really do genre sections though, demographics are lumped together at a publisher level but a large one like Kodansha (including its sub-imprints) is mostly in two large piles (shoujo and not-shoujo). So there’s more hunting for stuff.

  4. J says:

    I’m pretty sad to hear about the Ikebukuro TnA moving, I happily remember spending hours there after work.

    I think you got your animate / TnA pictures mixed up — the first set is from TnA and the second from animate (mascots and the colour of the shelves).

    Can’t tell sure whether the TnA pictures were taken in store A or store B (looks like store A?), but if they were taken in store A then store B likely still has a small Yuri section as well (next to the handful of extant bara manga — including, in theory, some by the guy you met at C80). I found it useful to search both stores, as sometimes one had something that was sold out in the other.

    Shop A also has a shelf or two dedicated to original Yuri doujinshi on their all-ages doujinshi floor, but what they chose to stock there was relatively unimpressive, imho.

    One shop I’d definitely recommend adding to the list is Comic ZIN. They have a delightful selection of Yuri manga and many older volumes still come with special extra postcards! They also stock some Yuri doujinshi on the same floor, and while the selection is small (by necessity) they had Amano Shuninta’s latest original doujinshi the last time I went, as well as a couple of other original Yuri works.

    I would also recommend hitting up the K-Books to check for used copies of what you’re looking for, either to save a little money or to try and score bonus items. Mandarake also has used manga with bonus items, but I haven’t had great luck with Yuri manga in the Akiba location.

    Melon books is good if you’re there around the release of a new volume of Tsubomi — for some reason they tend to have swanky extras like clear files and posters.

    Messe Sanoh used to be good for miscellaneous material related to the Sono Hanabira series of Yuri doujin games (specifically the doujin novels they put out once in a while as a supplement to the games). The Messe Sanoh chain seemed to be shrinking the last few times I went back though, sadly.

    And don’t discount Lashinbang outright! It occasionally will serve up a surprisingly good deal (though not usually in figs, no).

  5. Thanks for the correction J. One of the reason’s we liked the Ikebukuro Toranoana was for the special extras they did with book releases. too.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I miss the Yuri aimed at women. Last good Yuri I read was Prism. I don’t like yuru Yuri or yuru Yuri swimsuit despite being male. I prefer hanabira (a kiss for the petals) over that. BTW any chance for a review of any of hanabira visual novels? The novels are availble only in japanese but english translations exist on the net.

  7. @Anon – “Miss”? There’s TONS of Yuri for and by women..in manga. just not as anime.

    Aoi Han is coming out on the 29th on JManga.

    Collectors is being released on the 30th in Japan – this is going to be my number one pick for manga for 2012.

    And, btw – Prism is written by a guy. ^_^

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yuri is deader than disco

  9. @Anonymous – Based on empirical evidence, you’re wronger than the GOP’s rape comments, but thanks for playing.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @Erica Friedman

    Considering your taste, I thought you’d agree with me. Yuri as romance between females is dead, Japan’s ideal of Yuri is Yuru Yuri.

  11. @Anonymous – Except that never before has there been so much excellent Yuri written by and for women available. Morinaga Milk, Takemiya Jin, Morishima Akiko, Nishi UKO and many other women are creating excellent Yuri manga.

    Perhaps you are limited by reading what has been scanlated, rather than what’s actually out there. (Since Prism is not licensed, I presume you’re reading scans.)

    There are three Yuri anthology magazines, and KR Comics and Hakusensha’s Rakuen Le Paradis also have Yuri titles. Take a look at my posts here and you’ll see tons of good Yuri. So, sorry, but you’re just wrong if you think Yuru Yuri is the only Yuri manga out there. In fact, if that’s what you think, then you just aren’t looking.

    JManga has a page with their Yuri titles, all but a few of which I have liked and there is more on the way, much of which is excellent.
    http://www.jmanga.com/list/genre/Yuri

  12. Anonymous says:

    Don’t assume that @anon is the same as @anon :) and I guess besides prism the Yuri before that was girlfriends by morinaga milk. Bought as a hard copy ,amazingly enough.

  13. @Anon – You should take a look at Takemiya Jin, Morishima Akiko and Nishi UKO’s work as well, for exceptionaly Yuri drawn for women.

    If PRISM and Morinaga’s work are what you’re reading, you’re skipping all the women drawing for women.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t known about Takemiya Jin but the other two I have defintely read, but it seems that not very much manga is available in english for any of these writers (the fun things you read on airports early in morning :) ).
    Girlfriends is supposed to be for men?? I see mostly women in the inoffical voting on who is reading girlfriends. It is not like I can tell who the target audience is unless it is BL and all the men are feminine and love with each other, but even then I can’t tell if it is a man or woman who wrote the manga.

  15. Yes, Girl Friends was published in Comic High, a magazine for men.

    This is why I recommend JManga.com, they are making an investment in Yuri manga in a way that print publishers simply cannot afford to. As I have said many times, the Yuri-manga buying audience is not large enough to support the cost of printing Yuri in English. I’ve written about this at length – unless and until that changes, very few publishers have the money to print Yuri that they can only sell a thousand copies or two of.

  16. Roxie says:

    Well that was useful, I still remember the last time I was in Japan 4 years ago, hunting all over Akihabara just to find Girl Friends, and it was in the Ikebukuro Animate store in a small section next to the Futanari (with floors devoted to only BL). Hayate x Blade newest volume was dead center at store entrance :) Thanks for letting us know about the many store changes.

    Don’t know when I’ll see Japan again, so I guess I’ll just suffice for now and look for Yuri in Taiwan. I think there’s a new (2nd) Animate store there now I could try out.

  17. that pesimistic anon says:

    How female mangakas would be able to sell female-aimed Yuri mangas if they were expulsed from Ikebekuro?

    Considering otaku’s stand on female sexuality, I seriously doubt they’re interested in something beyond boobs grabbing and lame jokes.

    After the Ikebekuro fiasco, we have to admit Yuri female readers aren’t big enough to maintain the genre profitable and male readers aren’t that invested in romance without a male self-insert.

  18. @Anon 10:40 – We do not have to “admit” any such thing.

    Your question doesn’t make sense. Ikebukuro stores are taking on one personality, Akihabara another, Nakano another. This is like one mall near your house being high-end, another not. It *doesn’t* mean that we can’t get inexpensive jeans just because the high-end mall is high-end.

    Crichey folks – There is MORE YURI THAN EVER BEFORE. Sales are good – or there would not be *more*.

    Stop being a bunch of sad-sacks and whiners. There is more Yuri being written by women and men for women and for men – that is the beauty of Yuri. It doesn’t fit neatly into other genres.

    What the heck do you care if Akihabara or Ikebukuro is where one goes to find Yuri manga? Really? Are you buying it there? Are you buying it at all or just whining randomly about stuff?

  19. Anonymous says:

    “Yuri is deader than disco”

    In a way, this is true – in that music for dance clubs (once called discoteques) is still alive with new tunes coming out all the time. It’s even branched into multiple genres of the stuff!

    So yeah, Yuri is deader than disco – in that manga and anime about lesbians is not dead and music for dance clubs is even less dead. ;)

  20. @Anonymous – Well said. ^_^

  21. Karin says:

    Hi Erica,

    thank you very much for the Toranoana recommendation. I just went there today and found a pretty big Yuri corner. I think it was even bigger than when you went there last year. They had two shelves full of Yuri manga on 3F, sorted by magazine. Also there was a list of the top 10 Yuri 2014, Aoi Hana, Kanojo to Kamera and Hoshikawa Ginza Yonchome among them. For those they had samples you could browse through. I didn’t see any figurines in that corner though.

    Greetings from Tokyo,
    Karin

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