My annual disclaimer for this list – it is a random concatenation of things. I notice that this year it is almost completely made up of people with a few companies thrown in for good measure. There’s no deep meaning about this, except that this list is meant to highlight accomplishments in the Yuri genre, as opposed to just neat stuff to watch and read. This year we had so much to choose from it took a lot of effort whittling the list down (and some of my usual fudging) to make a list of ten. ^_^
10) Okazu Readers – Every year, I make a point of including you, my dear readers. My reasons for this are manyfold; You are the Yuri Network writing in with great ideas, news and heads-up for me to share with other readers. You write Guest Posts that make me smile. You support Yuri by purchasing anime and manga and by making sure your voice is heard and valued by the companies that produce Yuri. You are amazing commenters, providing me with unique and valuable perspective that is not my own. You correct me when I’m wrong – I can never thank you enough for that. You answer questions I cannot, you take up issues I know nothing about, you add infinite value to Okazu. I don’t hesitate to say this – You make Okazu what it is and for that, I am always, inexpressibly thankful. Once again you make my Top Ten list without reservation.
9) Comic Yuri Hime/Hirari/Tsubomi – Comic Yuri Hime this year shifted to a new format, and entered the English-language market in partnership with JManga. Tsubomi is making chapters available online, and offering print versions of collected volumes. Hirari continues on as before and hopefully, we’ll see some of their manga on JManga at some point. The publishing landscape is changing in Japan and Yuri magazines are right there trying out new ways to reach their audience. We continue to wish them all the very best and look forward to new innovations!
8) Rica Takashima – For 20 years, Rica has been creating manga that accurately reflects the life and loves of young women who love other women and she’s been doing it with humor and kindness (and a little bit of snark for spice.) Tokyo Love ~ Rica ‘tte Kanji!? is the terminal of that journey, and you can read it online, for free. I thank Rica for all her patience and perseverance with this project. I’m really proud of this effort and hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
7) Riyoko Ikeda – The way you know something is “classic” is that no matter how old it is, it remains relevant, powerful and compelling. No matter how many times I watch or read something by Ikeda-sensei, I’m reminded that she is Tezuka’s closest counterpart. Rose of Versailles and Dear Brother back in one fell swoop, wow. It’s time to rediscover Riyoko Ikeda’s genius. Go, watch, learn, enjoy.
6) Seven Seas and Morinaga Milk – I gotta give Seven Seas points for perseverance, too. ^_^ After launching their Strawberry imprint they ran into a number of issues outside their control. Hayate x Blade jumped publishers, Ichijinsha chose lukewarm titles to start with (my #1 complaint with Japanese publishers). But Seven Seas hasn’t given up on Yuri, for which they absolutely deserve credit. This year they’ve connected with Futabasha (who seems generally much more flexible than other publishers) and Morinaga Milk-sensei, giving us Girl Friends this year and Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink next year. It’s a good fit and I’m very glad for all of us! ^_^
5) RightStuf – Not only has RightStuf persevered with Yuri, they’ve had their ears and eyes firmly fixed on us as a market. (THIS is why I’m always on about buying what we want, rather than downloading. Money talks, and a Yuri audience that spends money on things is a market worth courting.) They’ve asked us what we wanted to see and by god they’ve rolled up their sleeves and gotten us a lot of it! Rose of Versailles on DVD will take up much less space on my shelves than those old VHS tapes. Sweet Blue Flowers on DVD will fit neatly next to that, squee! They know what we want and are doing what they can to get it. It’s good to have them on our side. ^_^
4) JManga – Along with Seven Seas and RightStuf, JManga has made a commitment to the Yuri audience precisely because we’ve been a good market for them. We’re up to 12 series on their Yuri page, many of them multi-volume. They support Yuri as a separate genre, something I feel is much needed. They work with multiple publishers, so you get a nice variety of Yuri (and Ichijinsha has learned their lesson from the past – and is bringing out some strong titles.) JManga listened to you when you asked for international access, they listen to you as they continually evolve their site and apps. I’m thrilled to be able to partner ALC with them to bring you more and more Yuri manga in English!
I also want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Erin, Elina, Simona, Bill and Mari, the amazing translators who worked invisibly so that you could enjoy Yuri on JManga. They do a *lot* of work to make the manga you read enjoyable and comprehensible. If you’ve never noticed that you are reading a translation, you have them to thank!
Okay, we’ve made it to my top three Yuri anythings for the year and, like previous years, it always comes down to one thing for me. ^_^
3) Morishima Akiko – Morishima-sensei’s most recent work, Renai Joshi File, may be her best work to date, but it’s the surprisingly excellent Hanjuku Joshi that we’re just now seeing in English.
Consistently, since her doujinshi circle days, Morishima-sensei has been in the education business. With her circle Girlish, she educated young lesbians about love and sex, with her professionally published manga, she educates non-LGBTQ readers about what LGBTQ love, life, sex – and slang – are all about. You know me, I’m a sucker for Yuri manga that includes Japanese lesbian words.
If ever a person deserved to be on this list for her tireless, realistic, adorably cute and frequently sexy lessons about lesbian life, it’s Morishima-sensei.
This is a quiet revolution, but if there’s a creator out there who can carry it off, It’s Shimura-sensei. Her work is simple, accessible and sublime, with edges so finely honed, you don’t notice the cuts until they start to sting, if they sting at all.
Hers is the voice of sexual and gender minorities in manga in English right now and because that voice is so sweet and gently persuasive, Shimura-sensei is my number 2 pick for the year. ^_^
1) Nishi UKO’s Collectors – Can you tell what the “one thing” it comes down to is yet? I’ll give you a hint: realism.
In reality, lesbians do not die after high school. In reality, lesbian relationships do not end with holding hands, or a kiss.
In reality, lesbian relationships can be long-term, totally functional (and ordinarily dysfunctional) and full of good and bad and a lot of in between.
I told you last year that this would top my list, so you can’t be all that surprised, really. ^_^ Collectors is about as real a couple as you’re going to see in manga. I adore Nishi UKO-sensei’s art; the characters are all adults, there are moments of elegance and awkwardness. But what it comes down to for me is Shinobu recognizing Takako from a distance, even with a completely different hair color, when no one else in the group did. Because that is what a relationship actually looks like.
My number on Top Yuri pick for 2012 is Collectors. Just like I told you it would be. ^_^
WAAAAH! In response to being named #1 for the year, Nishi UKO-sensei has sent over a glorious picture of Shinobu and Takako. She says she’s okay if I share it with you, so here it is!
I hope we can *really* blow her away by making Collectors a best-seller. ^_^