In addition to my normal disclaimers, I want to make the point that I do not consider digital to be a separate thing. From this day forward, digital will be part of this list. It’s just another means of distribution. However you buy it – local comic store, online shopping, book store, digital – it’s all manga.
And with that, away we go!
10) Tokyo Love – Rica ‘tte Kanji!? – Modesty prevents me from putting this higher, but this year ALC released a 20-year retrospective edition of Rica Takashima’s Yuri Manga and we put it online for free. As I worked on the book, I was reminded of why I liked it in the first place. Rica and Miho feel “real” in a way that so few manga characters do. It’s funny and charming and snarky. It’s still online for free – so give a gay kid a smile for the holidays and share it around. ^_^
9) Poor Poor Lips – whether you’re reading it in Japanese or on JManga in English, you have the chance to read a rare item – a comedy that tells a serious story in a way that has some meaning. Poor Poor Lips is not a masterwork, but it transcended its 4-panel comic strip format and its Yuri genre to become an object lesson in a changing world. Quite probably, the story will be meaningless and obsolete in a few years, I certainly hope so at any rate! ^_^ I’m glad it had the ending it did. I’m glad JManga has made it available to you. It deserves a place on this list.
8) Candy/Prism – These two series were, again, surprisingly realistic explorations of first love. In a sense they are groundbreaking, simply for getting the story and the emotions right. It’s been a long time that we’ve been reading stories that don’t really resonate with reality, it’s so refreshing that Tsubomi has published these.
7) Sailor Moon – Do I even have to tell you why this is on this list? As the series approaches a 20 year anniversary, can we just say it’s timeless and call it quits? ^_^ Haruka and Michiru will forever be the Queens of Yuri in my mind, and here they are…helicopters and all!
6) Girl Friends – Speaking of “reality,” this extended look at the evolution of a relationship is notable for itself and even more so for making it to English this year. Digitally on JManga or in print from Seven Seas (Volume 1 | Volume 2), it’s a sweet, cute look at what happens when an introvert and an extrovert fall in love. ^_^
5) Renai Joshi File – I said that this was Morishima-sensei’s best work to date and I stand by that. Another few moments of realism injected into the world of Yuri manga, not only about falling in love, but this time, about falling out of it, as well, and a nice dose of a couple who has been together for a long time, sets this book apart. Call me crazy, but I think we need more of this.
4) Sasamekikoto – This story floored me. It began as something silly and ended as something remarkable and memorable, The ending was nowhere near what I expected, but it was so far beyond expectations I almost have no words to express my feelings. Relief? Well, yes, but no. Celebration? That’s it! So here I am celebrating the way this series ended by putting it on my Top Ten List. ^_^
I sat here looking at this list for a long time and there is just no way I can decide between the next two, so I’m calling it a tie for 2nd Place this year between two of the differentest series I’ve ever read:
2) GUNJO and Sweet Blue Flowers – GUNJO ended in a way that I had hoped, but also feared. Sweet Blue Flowers continues in a way that also leads to hope and fear. Both stories are, in their own way, sublime. These two series practically define the continuum of “best of Yuri” for me. Sweet Blue Flowers is currently available on JManga in English.
The most amazing things about both these series for me, are the way that the writers delve into the psychological lives of the characters. Neither narrative feels forced, awkward or full of that exhausting exposition so often seen in manga, in which characters “explain” what is happening through tortured dialogue. (This is seen most painfully in shounen action series, where attack combinations are explored in mind-numbing detail while the characters simply stand there, listening patiently to their enemy.) In both these series, the characters act and speak consistently with their age and life experience.
Fumi, for all that she’s a very mature teen, with a calm temperament, will have outbursts and rants (mostly internal, as befits a “good girl.”) Akira speaks without thinking (or perhaps, thinks out loud).
The brunette in GUNJO is broken before we ever meet her, pounded into bitter resignation by a life that didn’t have to be as hard as it was. The blonde’s idealism is shattered, rebuilt, re-shattered, rebuilt, until she finds an inner strength she had no idea she would ever need. Each of these characters is unique, three-dimensional and real in a way that I long for, but never really expected to see in manga.
1) Collectors – I’ve said this before and I hope to say it more often in coming days – THIS is the book I’ve been waiting for.
It’s got all the qualities I have been hoping for in Yuri Manga:
It’s about two adult women who are in love with one another and have been together for a long time.
It’s about the after happily-ever-after that is actually happily.
It’s about the moments of domestic bliss, the bullshitting, the teasing, the small conflicts and romantic moments of a relationship that has matured, but is not in danger of failing.
And it has art by one of the best artists in manga today. Not moe in the least, Nishi Uko’s art is adult and beautiful, just like her story.
I’m so very pleased to be able to say that Collectors is my number one Yuri manga of 2012.
Here’s to many more years of fantastic Yuri Manga!