Top Ten Yuri Manga of 2014

December 29th, 2014

So often, I find this Top Ten list the easiest to write. There’s frequently a book or two above and beyond all others and nothing comes close. This year was a little harder than usual, with so many books that were very good but nothing that made me stop and catch my breath and think, “THIS.”

The list is a mixture of English-language and Japanese this year, which is always nice. ^_^ Without further ado, here is the Okazu 2014 Top Ten Yuri Manga List!

 

10. Lepakkoluola

lepakkoluola_350This collection from Team Pärvelö had so many qualities that I liked. Variety in art, and story and setting – protagonists of color in a queer manga anthology, how wonderful is that? (Finland seems especially good at diversity in representation.)  Refreshing, delightful, fun, smart. Lepakkoluola is the kind of thing that gives me hope for the future of Yuri. I know Hanna-Pirita’s gonna have a heart attack when she reads this, but Team Pärvelö – you did good. Your collection is #10 on this years’ list. ^_^ Please keep drawing and writing!

Lepakkoluola is available by direct purchase from Team Pärvelö.

 

9. Gakuen Polizi

downloadI wasn’t really sure that this was even a Yuri series after the first volume, but I liked the energy, and the characters and the use of the setting to tell some real, not always all that pleasant, stories about girls’ lives. And then it ended up being Yuri after all. And Morinaga Milk was once again able to draw girl cops. ^_^

Gakuen Polizi is available in Japanese from Futabasha (Volume 1 | Volume 2) and English from Seven Seas on Amazon (Volume 1 |Volume 2) or RightStuf.com (Volume 1 | Volume 2)

 

8. Rock It, GiRL! 

download (1)Tanaka Minoru’s Rock It, GiRL! was different. The art was intentionally ugly, the characters, too, and the story never went where one might expect. And in the end, it was a loopy, quirky, and kind of charming look at nothing anyone of us would ever see. This isn’t cute idols or meteoric rise to fame – this was a story about blood and guts and singing your heart out and hoping like hell someone might listen, then being told you’re not good enough. I liked it precisely because it wasn’t the same story we’d seen time and time again.

Rock It, GiRL! from Ichijinsha, available on Amazon JP Volume 1 | Volume 2

 

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7. Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo

anokoThis story was a bit of a dark horse this year. I figured it was a one-shot, lame Maria-sama ga Miteru clone, with no real meaning, but I was dead wrong. Not only was it delightful, it continues!

I’m always pleased when I’m this wrong about a series. ^_^ If I’m stuck reading about school rivals, it might as well be this pleasant.

Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo from KADOKAWA/Media Factory, available on Amazon JP (Volume 1 | Volume 2)

 

 

6.Philosophia

philosophiaAmano Shunita’s Philosophia is, as I mentioned in my review, suited to adult tastes. It’s not going to be for people looking for sweet, cute or happy. There’s a decidedly bitter taste to the story, one that lingers long after the pages have been shut. I’m thrilled to pieces to have the whole collection now and savor that taste. In a world that so often is filled with fluffy, sugary confections, stories like this stand out as special.

Philosophia from Ichijinsha, available on Amazon JP.

 

 

5. game

gameI’ve raved about Takemiya Jin’s work a million times. I love, love, love her characterization, and she captures shocked realization in a way that I adore. What really sets this volume of her manga apart, is her unrestricted and unrepentant embrace of not only lesbian culture, but also otaku culture. This book is about us, with our fetishes, and our obsessions, our lusts and loves. Reading game is like looking into a disturbingly accurate funhouse mirror at ourselves, the otaku-rezu who read (and create and write and talk about) Yuri. ^_^;

game from Ichijinsha, available on Amazon JP.

 

4. Kanojo to Camera to Kanojo no Kisetsu

From volume to volume I had no expectations for this series. I never knew where it might take me. And right to the very end, I had no idea whether it was going to string me along and dump me, or lift me up. As an emotional roller coaster, it was pure brilliance. The art, the story telling and the tension all combined to make this series one of my favorite manga of the year.

Kanojo to Camera to Kanojo no Kisetsu, from Kodansha, available on Amazon JP (Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5 )

 

Year after year, I find myself juggling and re-juggling the top three entries. Why? Because I ask myself, am I favoring art over story, skill over entertainment? I never know until the thing is actually done how it will come out.

Here are my top three manga for 2014.

 

3. Whispered Words

ww1Whispered Words marks two major developments in English-language Yuri manga. A new publisher, One  Peace Books, is setting up shop on the block and a major Yuri series that I didn’t think we’d ever manage to get over here is here! Sasamekikoto explores every possible Yuri trope all at once and manages to be sad and moving and funny and wonderful. And now we have it. I can guarantee that unless something *amazing* comes out in 2015, Volume 3 will be my top slot next year. ^_^ The ending is just that good.

In the mean time, we have Volume 1 and 2 and every possible tear has been wrung out of us. For all the Yuri all at once, Whispered Words makes my top three for 2014.

Whispered Words from One Peace Books. available from Amazon (Volume 1| Volume 2 | Volume 3) and RightStuf.com (Volume 1| Volume 2 | Volume 3 link TBA)

 

2. Couleur de Bijoux d’Amour

download (2)I’m unabashedly besotted with Nishi UKO’s artistic sensibility. Her people are people – okay, ridiculously beautiful people, but people, nonetheless. They can be petty, snarky, obsessed, in good moods and bad, hungry, lonely, and she communicates these emotions with simple, short stories, exquisite art and a mature aesthetic that is rarely found in manga, much less Yuri.

For all these reasons, it was a given that Couleur de Bijoux d’Amour would make my top three for 2014.

Couleur de Bijoux d’Amour from Hakusensha, available on Amazon JP.

 

And here we are, at last. After the dozens, maybe hundreds, of manga I read this year, my Top Yuri Manga for 2014 is….

 

1. Obento to Kase-san

kaseThere’s a load of expectations wrapped up the idea of “Yuri” right now. It will be a girls school story, it will be a coming of age story, about falling in love and lust. And I, like so many long-time Yuri fans, get a little bored with the whole thing. But every once in a while, a series comes along that is a cool, refreshing breeze, and makes one remember that even the tritest plots can be done well. “Kase-san” was that series.

Sure, it’s the same old story, but without being creepy or trite, without featureless moe faces, or featureless Yuri romance.  Kase and Yamada’s romance is adorable and we can watch it develop without feeling like sick voyeurs, more like the adults we are, merely happy to see the children so happy together.

For being so very, very stereotypically “Yuri” and still managing to be delightful, Takasaki Hiromi’s Obento to Kase-san is the best Yuri manga of the 2014.

Obento to Kase-san, from Shinsokan, available on Amazon JP.

 

Yuri has come so far in the last 12 years. When I first began the Top Ten Lists in 2004, I scrambled every year for good, much less current, Yuri series. Yuri Shimai was just about a year old and we were planning a Yuricon in Tokyo event.  Now Comic Yuri Hime is the last magazine standing and who knows how long that will last? But in the mean time, we’ve got a lot of very good Yuri to read, and the genre we love has survived – and thrived – despite everything. Here’s to a great 2015 for Yuri manga!

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11 Responses

  1. Jye Nicolson says:

    Great list! Did your copy of Omoi no Kakera not make it on time though? :)

    game, Omoi no Kakera 3, Philosophia and Coleur de Bijoux Amour would be my top 4, with Coleur taking out top spot. It’s not just the people that are ridiculously beautiful in Nishi-sensei’s work, her art is just incomparable. And she just keeps producing wonderful stories about adults; I expect she couldn’t cope with having to draw school uniforms all the time :)

    But hmm Mika is still my favourite character in Yuri, I think Coleur can beat OnK 3 but not the series as a whole. So difficult!

    Kase-san would be somewhere in the next 6, but otherwise I’d have to check my shelves as to what came out this year. I expect some rereading would retroactively change my opinions too, I’m still not great at Japanese but I’m a hell of a lot better than I was in January!

    Tonari no Roboto is actually pretty good as well, and of course the art is magnificent. Probably 5 on my list?

    (Also in terms of competition for Whispered Words 3 next year, surely we’re due Collectors 2)

  2. EJ Daniels says:

    Soooo glad to see Kase-san at the top. I truly enjoyed the story and never finished a part of it without a smile on my face. Oh and I can’t wait for the third volume of Whispered Words! I’ve already read the first 2 volumes twice over!

  3. pucca says:

    Just to say i think there is a little mistake in Nishi Uko’s manga title, it’s ” couleur” and not “coleur” in french ( since the title is in french):-)
    Anyway, i’m looking forward to read it and Kanojo to camera to kanojo to kisetsu, they are the only ones i’ve not read yet.

  4. PigeonSquid says:

    So excited that Seven Seas has licensed the “Kase-san and…” series!

  5. Missy says:

    You missed Citrus and Girlfriends my two favourite yuri mangas! Their both super cute! Thanks for the list! 😊

    • Hi Missy! GIRL FRIENDS was on previous years’s list. I did not miss Citrus, I think it is a terrible manga. So much so that I have other people review it because I cannot stand it. It will never make into the top 10 here. I’m glad you enjoy it.

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